Creating the "Divine" Artist from Dante to Michelangelo

Creating the "Divine" Artist from Dante to Michelangelo

Creating the "Divine" Artist from Dante to Michelangelo

Creating the "Divine" Artist from Dante to Michelangelo

Synopsis

Turning a skeptical eye on the idea that Renaissance artists were widely believed to be as utterly admirable as Vasari claimed, this book re-opens the question of why artists were praised and by whom, and specifically why the language of divinity was invoked, a practice the ancients did not license. The epithet divino is examined in the context of claims to liberal arts status and to analogy with poets, musicians, and other uomini famossi. The reputations of Michelangelo and Brunelleschi are compared not only with each other but with those of Dante and Ariosto, of Aretino and of the ubiquitous beloved of the sonnet tradition. Nineteenth-century reformulations of the idea of Renaissance artistic divinity are treated in the epilogue, and twentieth-century treatments of the idea of artistic ingegno" in an appendix."

Excerpt

There was a thing called the soul and a thing
called immortality.

The Italian Renaissance marked the beginning of a general respect for artistic genius. Michelangelo serves as the premier example, or at least as one of the principal types, of that artistic genius. He was the linchpin of Vasari's Lives of the Most Famous Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, published in 1550, when the artist was seventy-five. In 1975, the five hundredth anniversary of the artist's birth, Howard Hibbard's popularizing biography claimed: “Michelangelo is the most famous artist who ever lived and many would say the greatest.” Vasari, however, had made a stronger and less circumspect claim. In his account, Michelangelo was sent by a merciful God, to be for us:

a spirit who, working alone, was able to demonstrate in every art and
every profession the meaning of perfection in the art of design, how
to give relief to the details in paintings by means of proper drawing,
tracing, shading, and casting light, how to work with good judgement in
sculpture, and how to make buildings comfortable and secure, healthy,
cheerful, well proportioned, and richly adorned with various decorations
in architecture. Moreover, He wanted to join to this spirit true moral
philosophy and the gift of sweet poetry, so that the world would admire
and prefer him for the wholly singular example of his life, his work, the
holiness of his habits, and all his human undertakings, so that we would
call him something divine

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