The Renaissance. Revised expanded unexpurgated


This book shows how and why the Italian Renaissance gained 5-star ranking in popular culture around the world. The change began in the late 1800s when trains made travel to Italy affordable for a middle class eager to experience masterpieces from the age of the Medici. Today planes transport millions of people to Italy’s art capitals, and the Renaissance has a mass market. The Da Vinci Code is one of the best-selling books of all time. The Mona Lisa, Birth of Venus, and other icons are replicated in thousands of commodities, most cheap and ephemeral, the reverse of the art they reproduce. To the authors of this book, all such adaptations, however ill-informed or vulgar, are significant. Markers in a reciprocal exchange between the past and the present, they provide invaluable insights into the spectrum of facts, myths, and ideals that have defined the Renaissance since the 19th-century. This rich history is surveyed in the book’s introduction, which takes readers from the Grand Tour to the video game Assassin’s Creed. Essays, often illustrated with contemporary art, divide the book into 9 sections on major themes, ranging from “sex matters” to racism and slavery. Each theme is then developed in several essays on particular topics, from the “discovery” of Michelangelo’s homosexuality to the Renaissance origins of the McMansion, the Jewish ghetto, and “slave portraits.” Many illustrations have explanatory captions so that mere browsing allows the reader to engage with the book’s reassessment of the Renaissance heritage. A team of experts in art, architecture, history, and literature collaborated on this volume, which was planned from the outset as an alternative textbook on the Renaissance. Except for James M. Saslow’s little-known piece on Michelangelo, nothing in it has been previously published. This book is also noteworthy because it proposes new ways of understanding the give-and-take between the Renaissance and its modern admirers. With lively writing and unusual photographs, this book will appeal to all those interested in Italian culture as well as to undergraduate and graduate students in courses on the Renaissance or cultural studies.