“This means that we are a people who now live in that shadow world of quasi-existence. What matters to us is not necessarily what is real, but what is possible given the state of things. This is a big change, and constitutes a fundamental shift in the way we understand the world.”
Seeing a paint brush on the floor, the emperor reached down to retrieve it and presented it to the painter. Had Charles bestowed a golden scepter upon Titian, the honor would have been no greater. Artists were still viewed as artisans by most of the nobility of Europe. In sullying his royal hands with a tool of Titian’s trade, Charles paid him the ultimate compliment.
To look at one of the treasures on display in this wonderful exhibit, the Kennicott Bible, is to view an example of the shared heritage of Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is the key note of Crossing Borders. The Kennicott Bible and the other stunning, hand-written works on display show the “cross-pollination” of art and ideas among the cultured elites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam during the Middle Ages. More to the point, it is a testament to the shared devotion of these three faiths to the same God.
The Venetians during the Renaissance were a confident and resilient people. Even as their dominions were threatened by the Turks and global trade routes shifted away from the Mediterranean Sea, they found the inner resources to cope with these challenges. You have only to look at the magnificent portraits from the Accademia Carrara at the Metropolitan Museum to understand why the Republic of Venice lasted until Napoleon’s invasion in 1798.
But before he retreated into his private realm of race horses and ballet dancers, Degas was fully engaged with the contest of light and shadow in the spirit of Rembrandt. Degas was greatly affected by Rembrandt’s drawing skill, and the accomplished way that he reproduced his line art in etchings and dry point. The etchings of the Dutch master were an education in themselves.
In his Portrait of a Young Man, painted in 1478, Antonello fused the psychological intensity of Byzantine icon painting with a close regard for his subject’s unique, personal identity. Antonello died the year after he painted Portrait of a Young Man, but with this and a handful of similar works, he blazed a trail for all of the great portrait painters who came after him.
More importantly, the good-for-you, vitamin-enriched Renaissance we know today is itself a fairly recent, and largely American, historical construction.
Living in close proximity to the growing Jewish population of Amsterdam, the biblically-minded Rembrandt experienced an artistic epiphany of lasting significance. Why not paint the portrait of Jesus, a 1st Century Jew from Galilee, using a live model with Jewish features? The resulting portraits, seven out of a likely eight that were painted, now grace the walls of a landmark exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The shepherds look up in bewilderment at the announcing angel whose golden halo, rose-pink robes, and orangey-bronze wings seem to glow. Surely, this is what a supernatural visitation should look like. And yet the effect of nocturnal shadow shows the painter to be as interested in earthly experiences as heavenly ones – here already is the keenly observational eye of the Renaissance.
In his most serious brawl, about which the documents provide an entirely new account, Caravaggio killed a man. The brawl, like a Los Angeles fight between rival gangs, had been planned ahead of time with eight participants, whose names are now known.
Born nearly five hundred years ago, Montaigne was one of the last great thinkers of the Renaissance. He can also stake a claim to be the first recognizable writer of modern times. Montaigne’s Essays are stocked with insights of such relevance, inspiration and humanity that they might well have been written yesterday – or tomorrow.
Saramago’s ability to wring delightful dialogue out of his characters will charm just about anybody. The compassion and love for a flawed humanity he brings to his work is much too rare in a literary world and broader society that seem to devalue these qualities at a time when they are desperately needed.
The earlier prints from each series are flatter, the lines more bold and calligraphic, the details stranger. The later images show the rising influence of the renaissance: the figures bear their weight in sophisticated contrapposto stances, the realistically-rendered bodies are more beautiful. It’s illuminating to see these works grouped together, to follow their stories in and out of changing historical styles and Dürer’s own artistic and intellectual development.
Before dawn on the morning of February 18 a group of Florentines entered the church stealthily and stole Michelangelo’s body, which they concealed on a farm cart. Upon arrival of the corpse three days later in Florence, thousands of citizens turned out spontaneously, dressed in workmen’s and artists’ smocks like those Michelangelo himself wore. Many wept as they accompanied the bier in an improvised procession through the dark streets. No such a procession, as if for a saint, had ever been seen there before.
Born in Antwerp in 1554, Bril was working in Italy at the end of the century, where his landscapes marked the transition between what Paolucci called the “autumn of Mannerism” of the Renaissance and the birth of the Baroque style. The change was enormous, and Bril is acknowledged as among its authors.