Chinese porcelain was in centuries gone by considered the finest in the world. This ewer, ca. 1720, gives us an idea why. (Actually, I'm not sure this piece really qualifies as "beautiful," but it is so handsome I am unable to resist posting it here.)
At first glance, this drawing of Warwick Castle, 1752, by Canaletto (pen and brown ink, with gray wash) looks ordinary enough. On exploration, though, using the zoom feature, its quality begins to become apparent. Peace descends, one's muscles relax. That is, for me, one of the main signs of art, of beauty -- the physical effect on the body. (It is one of the main things I look for in choosing works for this site.)
As a rule, I don't think of American sculpture as anything particularly special. And then I happened across five (5) nineteenth-century works in marble at the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and all that changed --
Francis I, king of France, was not a handsome man, but an artist managed to create a beautiful medal using his silhouette. There is something about the intensity of this small piece, combined with its clarity, that gives me a lift every time I look at it.