Tuesday, July 17, 2012


  There is also very little room for theory in this perceptive guide-book, but it is naturally pervaded by the interpretation of Renaissance art that had become commonplace by the middle of the nineteenth century and is still in evidence, I mean the contrast between the spirituality of the Age of Faith and the sensuality of the subsequent age.  It was a polarity that had been created by the Romantics and used, of course, by Hegel.  We have seen that for him the revival of the arts with their attention to the external world was one of the factors of the disintegration of the Middle Ages.  The few but eloquent lines Burckhardt  devoted in the Cicerone to the 'New Spirit' that came over sculpture and painting in the fifteenth century conform to this conception of the Age.

        'The generalized facial types are now replaced by individualities, the former system of expressions , gestures and draperies is replaced by an infinitely rich truth to life . . . now yields to . . .  clarity  . . .  However, where it still comes into existence, it is a newborn sensuous beauty  which asks for its undiminished portion of what is earthly and 
real . . .  (2, iv, p.186).'

E.H. Gombrich, In Search of Cultural History, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969.

Note:  Visiting the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca and viewing Jacopo della Quercia's marble sarcophagus of Ilaria del Caretto (1408-13) in situ several Novembers ago was one of the transcendent moments of my life.  Lucca as a whole was splendid, of course; so was Vinci, where we stopped on our way back to Florence.  It was during the week when the new olive oils were coming to market and the grey-silver of the olive trees and the feeling of the pervasive cold wind are things I will never forget.

With a portfolio holding his lecture notes in hand, Jacob Burckhardt walks past the Basel Münster on his way to class (1889).

No comments:

Post a Comment