Renaissance

The Renaissance holds an undying place in the human imagination, and its great heroes remain our own, from Michelangelo and Leonardo to Dante and Montaigne. This period of profound evolution in European thought is credited with transforming the West from medieval to modern; reviving the city as the center of human activity and the acme of civilization; and, of course, producing the most astonishing outpouring of artistic creation the world has ever known. Perhaps no era in history was more revolutionary, and none has been more romanticized. What was it? In The Renaissance, the great historian Paul Johnson tackles that question with the towering erudition and imaginative fire that are his trademarks.

Johnson begins by painting the economic, technological, and social developments that give the period its background. But, as Johnson explains, "The Renaissance was primarily a human event, propelled forward by a number of individuals of outstanding talent, in some cases amounting to genius." It is the human foreground that absorbs most of the book's attention. "We can give all kinds of satisfying explanations of why and when the Renaissance occurred and how it transmitted itself," Johnson writes. "But there is no explaining Dante, no explaining Chaucer. Genius suddenly comes to life, and speaks out of a vacuum. Then it is silent, equally mysteriously. The trends continue and intensify, but genius is lacking." In the four parts that make up the heart of the book--"The Renaissance in Literature and Scholarship," "The Anatomy of Renaissance Sculpture," "The Buildings of the Renaissance," and "The Apostolic Successions of Renaissance Painting"--Johnson chronicles the lives and works of the age's animating spirits. Finally, he examines the spread and decline of the Renaissance, and its abiding legacy. A book of dazzling riches, The Renaissance is a compact masterpiece of the historian's art.
Magnifico is a vividly colorful portrait of Lorenzo de' Medici, the uncrowned ruler of Florence during its golden age. A true "Renaissance man," Lorenzo dazzled contemporaries with his prodigious talents and magnetic personality. Known to history as Il Magnifico (the Magnificent), Lorenzo was not only the foremost patron of his day but also a renowned poet, equally adept at composing philosophical verses and obscene rhymes to be sung at Carnival. He befriended the greatest artists and writers of the time -- Leonardo, Botticelli, Poliziano, and, especially, Michelangelo, whom he discovered as a young boy and invited to live at his palace -- turning Florence into the cultural capital of Europe. He was the leading statesman of the age, the fulcrum of Italy, but also a cunning and ruthless political operative. Miles Unger's biography of this complex figure draws on primary research in Italian sources and on his intimate knowledge of Florence, where he lived for several years.

Lorenzo's grandfather Cosimo had converted the vast wealth of the family bank into political power, but from his earliest days Lorenzo's position was precarious. Bitter rivalries among the leading Florentine families and competition among the squabbling Italian states meant that Lorenzo's life was under constant threat. Those who plotted his death included a pope, a king, and a duke, but Lorenzo used his legendary charm and diplomatic skill -- as well as occasional acts of violence -- to navigate the murderous labyrinth of Italian politics. Against all odds he managed not only to survive but to preside over one of the great moments in the history of civilization.

Florence in the age of Lorenzo was a city of contrasts, of unparalleled artistic brilliance and unimaginable squalor in the city's crowded tenements; of both pagan excess and the fire-and-brimstone sermons of the Dominican preacher Savonarola. Florence gave birpth to both the otherworldly perfection of Botticelli's Primavera and the gritty realism of Machiavelli's The Prince. Nowhere was this world of contrasts more perfectly embodied than in the life and character of the man who ruled this most fascinating city.
One of the defining moments in Western history, the bloody and dramatic story of the battle for the soul of Renaissance Florence. By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances between the major Italian powers.

However, in the form of Savonarola, an unprepossessing provincial monk, Lorenzo found his nemesis. Filled with Old Testament fury and prophecies of doom, Savonarola's sermons reverberated among a disenfranchised population, who preferred medieval Biblical certainties to the philosophical interrogations and intoxicating surface glitter of the Renaissance. Savonarola's aim was to establish a 'City of God' for his followers, a new kind of democratic state, the likes of which the world had never seen before. The battle between these two men would be a fight to the death, a series of sensational events—invasions, trials by fire, the 'Bonfire of the Vanities', terrible executions and mysterious deaths—featuring a cast of the most important and charismatic Renaissance figures.

Was this a simple clash of wills between a benign ruler and religious fanatic? Between secular pluralism and repressive extremism? In an exhilaratingly rich and deeply researched story, Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts, and political compromises that made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.

From the acclaimed author of Brunelleschi's Dome and Leonardo and the Last Supper, the riveting story of how Michelangelo, against all odds, created the masterpiece that has ever since adorned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Despite having completed his masterful statue David four years earlier, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with challenging curved surfaces such as the Sistine ceiling's vaults. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant: He stormed away from Rome, incurring Julius's wrath, before he was eventually persuaded to begin.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the fascinating story of the four extraordinary years he spent laboring over the twelve thousand square feet of the vast ceiling, while war and the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. A panorama of illustrious figures intersected during this time-the brilliant young painter Raphael, with whom Michelangelo formed a rivalry; the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola and the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus; a youthful Martin Luther, who made his only trip to Rome at this time and was disgusted by the corruption all around him.

Ross King blends these figures into a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Italy, while also offering uncommon insight into the connection between art and history.
“In this insightful, fascinating portrayal, Elizabeth Lev brings Caterina Sforza and her times very much to life.”—Kathleen Turner, actress and author of Send Yourself Roses

A strategist to match Machiavelli; a warrior who stood toe to toe with the Borgias; a wife whose three marriages would end in bloodshed and heartbreak; and a mother determined to maintain her family’s honor, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici was a true Renaissance celebrity, beloved and vilified in equal measure. In this dazzling biography, Elizabeth Lev illuminates her extraordinary life and accomplishments.

Raised in the court of Milan and wed at age ten to the pope’s corrupt nephew, Caterina was ensnared in Italy’s political intrigues early in life. After turbulent years in Rome’s papal court, she moved to the Romagnol province of Forlì. Following her husband’s assassination, she ruled Italy’s crossroads with iron will, martial strength, political savvy, and an icon’s fashion sense. In finally losing her lands to the Borgia family, she put up a resistance that inspired all of Europe and set the stage for her progeny—including Cosimo de’ Medici—to follow her example to greatness.

A rich evocation of Renaissance life, The Tigress of Forlì reveals Caterina Riario Sforza as a brilliant and fearless ruler, and a tragic but unbowed figure.

“A rich, nuanced portrait of a highly controversial beauty and military leader, and her violent, albeit glittering, Italian Renaissance milieu.”—Publishers Weekly

“Well-written and meticulously researched, The Tigress of Forlì recreates the world of Renaissance Italy in all its grandeur and violence. At the center stands a remarkable woman, Caterina Riario Sforza. Mother, warrior, and icon, Caterina is unforgettable, and so is the exciting story that Elizabeth Lev tells here.”—Barry Strauss, author of Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership
The New York Times bestselling author of 1421 offers another stunning reappraisal of history, presenting compelling new evidence that traces the roots of the European Renaissance to Chinese exploration in the fifteenth century

The brilliance of the Renaissance laid the foundation of the modern world. Textbooks tell us that it came about as a result of a rediscovery of the ideas and ideals of classical Greece and Rome. But now bestselling historian Gavin Menzies makes the startling argument that in the year 1434, China—then the world's most technologically advanced civilization—provided the spark that set the European Renaissance ablaze. From that date onward, Europeans embraced Chinese intellectual ideas, discoveries, and inventions, all of which form the basis of western civilization today.

Florence and Venice of the early fifteenth century were hubs of world trade, attracting traders from across the globe. Based on years of research, this marvelous history argues that a Chinese fleet—official ambassadors of the emperor—arrived in Tuscany in 1434, where they were received by Pope Eugenius IV in Florence. The delegation presented the influential pope with a wealth of Chinese learning from a diverse range of fields: art, geography (including world maps that were passed on to Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan), astronomy, mathematics, printing, architecture, steel manufacturing, military weaponry, and more. This vast treasure trove of knowledge spread across Europe, igniting the legendary inventiveness of the Renaissance, including the work of such geniuses as da Vinci, Copernicus, Galileo, and more.

In 1434, Gavin Menzies combines this long-overdue historical reexamination with the excitement of an investigative adventure. He brings the reader aboard the remarkable Chinese fleet as it sails from China to Cairo and Florence, and then back across the world. Erudite and brilliantly reasoned, 1434 will change the way we see ourselves, our history, and our world.

This is D. V. Thompson's definitive English translation of Il Libro dell'Arte, an intriguing guide to methods of painting, written in fifteenth-century Florence. Embodying the secrets and techniques of the great masters, it served as an art student's introduction to the ways of his craft.
Anyone who has ever looked at a medieval painting and marveled at the brilliance of color and quality of surface that have endured for 500 years should find this fascinating reading. It describes such lost arts as gilding stone, making mosaics of crushed eggshell, fashioning saints' diadems, coloring parchment, making goat glue, and regulating your life in the interests of decorum — which meant shunning women, the greatest cause of unsteady hands in artists. You are told how to make green drapery, black for monks' robes, trees and plants, oils, beards in fresco, and the proper proportions of a man's body. ("I will not tell you about the irrational animals because you will never discover any system of proportion in them.") So practical are the details that readers might be tempted to experiment with the methods given here for their own amusement and curiosity.
Today artists are no longer interested in specific directions on keeping miniver tails from becoming moth-eaten. The Craftsman's Handbook, in which these are ordinary parts of the artist's work, appears quaint and naïve to us. And that is much of its charm. But when we remember the magnificent mosaics, paintings, and frescoes these methods produced, the book takes on an even greater value as a touchstone to another age.
"Recommended to the student of art." — Craft Horizons.
"Obviously of great merit." — Art Material Trade News.
"Delightful flavor." — New York Herald Tribune.
Recommended in Harvard List of Great Books on Art, Shaw's List of Books for College Libraries.
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