Is Aesthetic Good? A Study on the Aesthetic and Vitality Judgment of Pictorial Representations of the Dead, Saints and Non-Saints

Behav Sci (Basel). 2022 Dec 13;12(12):507. doi: 10.3390/bs12120507.


In the history of the Western world, there has always been an association between good and beautiful. Starting from a brief history of beauty, two questions arise: is beauty linked to good even in art? How important are people's religious beliefs in aesthetic and vitality judgments? The psychology of art could answer these questions by studying people's reactions to the images of Saints as testimonials of goodness. Moreover, the study of Saints' paintings would allow us to investigate vitality, understood as one's perception of a living being. The research aimed to investigate the aesthetic and vitality judgments of faces representing the dead, Saints and non-Saints. More than a hundred participants were asked to evaluate the aesthetics and vitality of these paintings; moreover, two tests assessing spirituality and religiosity were administered. Overall, these data suggest Saints were judged more beautiful than non-Saints, and non-Saints were judged more vital than Saints. This might suggest a relationship between ethics and aesthetics, also in the perception of art, and offers reflections on the theme of vitality. The religion and spirituality of participants are not correlated to aesthetic or vitality judgments; this fact could support that these judgments are linked to the basic bottom-up reactions to images.

Keywords: Saints; aesthetic; paintings; psychology of art; religious art; vitality judgment.

Grant support

This research received no external funding.