Renewing Beauty and Terror

Tapestries have been the artistic grandeur of the Renaissance era, requiring imagination, skill, patience, and often global alliance.

Renaissance tapestries took 2 different kinds: the traditional Flemish arrangement, together with designs and designs sprinkled across a decorative area, along with the Italian format, that burst with narrative scenes coming to existence amid the silken threads. If Dr. Fletcher’s book have been a tapestry, it might belong to the Flemish category, together with myriad personalities, monuments, and events forming engaging patterns, such as many chapters which shine like gold threads. These patterns of politics, war, faith, technology, and artwork mesmerize the reader as every new detail comes to existence over her twenty five chapters, sweeping the reader from the Fall of Constantinople to the Battle of Lepanto.

Fletcher has undertaken a herculean job, mustering an unbelievable quantity of research, which range from contemporary chronicles and diaries to the most recent scholarship, to recount the thickly interconnecting political, economic, and cultural conditions of 15th and also 16th-century Europe.

To that impressive array, Fletcher includes painters, scientists, writers, preachers, explorers, and historians strutting and fretting their minutes on the webpage. Each character sketch is equally pithy and memorable, however, it requires more than just a little familiarity with the interval to keep things straight. A few diagrams to the most important dynasties, a record of papal successions, plus some avenues to orient the reader below the erratic patchwork of Italian sovereign states, would be very helpful to the reader.

Fletcher’s obvious, goal prose shines here; her tone as she discusses the most debatable papacy of Alexander VI Borgia is a lot more nuanced than that of most other authors. She expands that subtlety into her traces of spiritual figures, distancing both Savonarola and Martin Luther from their normal caricature-like portrayals and at a single stage unnaturally contrasting them with one another. Her strategy can be also distinguished by a willingness to entertain the notion which the piety of their era was true, at least at times, and that God played an essential part in this society, an idea often dismissed by scholars that a-critically proclaim the Renaissance as the absolute triumph of secularism. Her observations of the past often invite comparisons with the current. As she describes the downfall of Savonarola, for instance, she notes that”while the Florentines could have endorsed the rhetoric of moral renewal… heavy-handed policing of everyday lives aroused resentment.” Clients might see a parallel at the reactions to constraints through the 2020 pandemic.

Fletcher’s fast-paced tour through history occasionally pauses to introduce the reader to a number of the most popular artistic wonders of the era. She dedicates pages to the exquisite work of Pinturicchio from the Borgia Apartments at the Vatican Museums and her perspective will do much to rehabilitate this much maligned artist. Interestingly, the most renowned achievements in the visual arts — the Sistine Chapel, Leonardo’s Last Supper and Raphael’s School of Athens–are given cursory treatment compared to the extravagant description of Giuliano Romano’s Palazzo Te in Mantua. Fletcher hence invites audiences to examine Italian Renaissance art otherwise, not as a record of tourism’s top ten, however as varietals from different terroirs, every with its own premier cru –a strategy much valued by this art historian.

Of the many fascinating chapters, few are as enthralling as Chapter 16″War of Words”, that details the growth, diffusion, and effect of the printing press. The thing brims with data which highlights the remarkable opportunities that this new medium offered women. Fletcher introduces the reader to some parade of extraordinary female writers, flanked by testimonies of the various guys who admired and encouraged them.

Women are brought often to the fore during the book. Readers come across the forceful characters of Caterina Riario Sforza and Isabella D’Este, in Addition to the more meditative figures of Vittoria Colonna or Laura Battiferri degli Ammannati. Fletcher’s evaluation of the conditions of women in this era is clear, clear-cut, and well recorded, without the typical handwringing on a perceived”oppressive” and”patriarchal” society.

As the title of the work indicates, the era that produced so much wonder was marked with terror.   Fletcher’s precise, lusty descriptions of departure, combat, and the ever-evolving techniques of killing from the chapter”Weapons of War” could have made her (from the daytime ) the tag of”virago,” a girl using combative characteristics generally associated with guys. Her close scrutiny of the maturation of artillery, combat clusters, and the etiquette vs. laws of firearms pushes home the often-forgotten actuality that brutal and lethal battles were a continuous backdrop to the achievements of the Renaissance. Fletcher retains the constant fear of their Ottoman danger on the horizon, even inviting the reader to look at the Adriatic through Renaissance eyes to observe a sun-speckled sea that might bring boats laden with riches, or vessels carrying out a fatal disease, or warships bristling with aggressive invaders.

The compression necessary for such a colossal endeavor creates occasional trouble in the text, particularly when dealing with matters of religion. Readers will learn less about the real Council of Trent from the homonymous chapter than the politics of its own flaws and postponements, along with the characters in attendance. There are a number of mistakes regarding sacraments, as where Fletcher claims that all Protestants were essentially in agreement regarding the sacrament of communion, when in fact Luther and Calvin disagreed on the topic and the Catholic Church committed much focus in Trent to reinforcing the true presence of Christ at the Eucharist. This may seem a minor point, but this issue would shape the majority of the artwork, structure, and liturgical practice of these century in Italy and other Catholic countries.

Fletcher downplays the menace of Ottoman fleet,” noting that for every Turkish atrocity, Christians have you to match, along with the battle comes across as more of a publicity ploy for the Catholics compared to a true fear of a potential Islamic occupation of Italy. She makes much of the torture and death of Marc Antonio Bragadin at the hands of Ottoman commander Ali Pasha but fails to remember both of the sufferer’s brothers commanded warships from the battle. Nor doesn’t mention –surprisingly, given her attentiveness to women– Maria”Bailiarola,” a dancer/warrior buddy of Cervantes, whose history asserts was the first to board the enemy flagship. The Roman Colonna family, though prominently featured throughout the book, is barely accounted for in the context of the struggle. And the commander of the fleet, Don Juan of Austria, is granted only a passing mention. Inside this battle where merchant ships flanked warfare boats, and economics, warcraft, technology, and religion were so closely intertwined, this seems a missed chance to draw the numerous strands of her tapestry to some neat knot.

Rather, Fletcher brings the narrative to a close with the epilogue,”Hard Power to Soft,” which showcases the lasting consequences of the Renaissance during historyto the present day. This makes for a smooth landing after the raucous ride through that turbulent era and shuts the book on a note of trust.

In 1860, Jacob Burkhardt sparked the creativity of Europe together with his masterpiece The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. The interdisciplinary approach of the Swiss theologian-turned-historian launched art history, galvanized tourism, and settled Italy ardently as the birthplace of modern Europe. Whether or not it was intended, the attractiveness and the Terror marks the 150th anniversary of Burkhardt’s job by renewing admiration for this critical moment in history, at a time when lots of educational associations are downgrading the humanities and sentenced to political correctness.

Fletcher provides in only once to the bait of”wokeness,” in the case of race and slavery. She asserts (without evidence) that the African webpage at Titian’s picture of Laura Dianti is a slave, in line with a modern tendency to regard every man of color in Western art for a indication of”systemic racism.” However, Fletcher also cuts against those modern tendencies, particularly as she shows that Catholic beliefs formed the Origin of the implacable resistance to slavery, ” a moral view of humankind that finally brought about abolition

The attractiveness and the Terror comes at an opportune time in human history, inviting readers to comprehend how 16th century civilization impacts our world these days. The wondrous fruits of Renaissance art, science, literature, and technology grew in a ferment of greed, violence, oppression, and fear. One closes this book hoping that beyond our current strife and terrors, modern society might make a worthy legacy of its own.