To most of his contemporaries Blake seemed merely an eccentric, and his genius was not generally recognized until the second half of the 19th century.
The present volume reproduces with excellent clarity all 135 plates that Doré produced for The Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. From the depths of hell onto the mountain of purgatory and up to the empyrean realms of paradise, Doré's illustrations depict the passion and grandeur of Dante's masterpiece in such famous scenes as the embarkation of the souls for hell, Paolo and Francesca (four plates), the forest of suicides, Thaïs the harlot, Bertram de Born holding his severed head aloft, Ugolino (four plates), the emergence of Dante and Virgil from hell, the ascent up the mountain, the flight of the eagle, Arachne, the lustful sinners being purged in the seventh circle, the appearance of Beatrice, the planet Mercury, and the first splendors of paradise, Christ on the cross, the stairway of Saturn, the final vision of the Queen of Heaven, and many more.
Each plate is accompanied by appropriate lines from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation of Dante's work.
Starting on a personal note, Hughes takes us to the Rome he first encountered as a hungry twenty-one-year-old fresh from Australia in 1959. From that exhilarating portrait, he takes us back more than two thousand years to the city's foundation, one mired in mythologies and superstitions that would inform Rome's development for centuries.
From the beginning, Rome was a hotbed of power, overweening ambition, desire, political genius, and corruption. Hughes details the turbulent years that saw the formation of empire and the establishment of the sociopolitical system, along the way providing colorful portraits of all the major figures, both political (Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, Nero, Caligula) and cultural (Cicero, Martial, Virgil), to name just a few. For almost a thousand years, Rome would remain the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world.
From the formation of empire, Hughes moves on to the rise of early Christianity, his own antipathy toward religion providing rich and lively context for the brutality of the early Church, and eventually the Crusades. The brutality had the desired effect—the Church consolidated and outlasted the power of empire, and Rome would be the capital of the Papal States until its annexation into the newly united kingdom of Italy in 1870.
As one would expect, Hughes lavishes plenty of critical attention on the Renaissance, providing a full survey of the architecture, painting, and sculpture that blossomed in Rome over the course of the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, and shedding new light on old masters in the process. Having established itself as the artistic and spiritual center of the world, Rome in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries saw artists (and, eventually, wealthy tourists) from all over Europe converging on the bustling city, even while it was caught up in the nationalistic turmoils of the Italian independence struggle and war against France.
Hughes keeps the momentum going right into the twentieth century, when Rome witnessed the rise and fall of Italian Fascism and Mussolini, and took on yet another identity in the postwar years as the fashionable city of "La Dolce Vita." This is the Rome Hughes himself first encountered, and it's one he contends, perhaps controversially, has been lost in the half century since, as the cult of mass tourism has slowly ruined the dazzling city he loved so much. Equal parts idolizing, blasphemous, outraged, and awestruck, Rome is a portrait of the Eternal City as only Robert Hughes could paint it.
From the Hardcover edition.
In this eminently fascinating work, author Philip Ball makes sense of the visual and emotional power of Chartres and brilliantly explores how its construction—and the creation of other Gothic cathedrals—represented a profound and dramatic shift in the way medieval thinkers perceived their relationship with their world. Beautifully illustrated and written, filled with astonishing insight, Universe of Stone embeds the magnificent cathedral in the culture of the twelfth century—its schools of philosophy and science, its trades and technologies, its politics and religious debates—enabling us to view this ancient architectural marvel with fresh eyes.