Bellini's Feast of the Gods, a Study in Venetian Humanism

Bellini's Feast of the Gods, a Study in Venetian Humanism

Bellini's Feast of the Gods, a Study in Venetian Humanism

Bellini's Feast of the Gods, a Study in Venetian Humanism

Excerpt

The plan to publish a short series of studies on Venetian humanism originated in two seminars which were held in 1945 and 1947 at the Houghton Library at Harvard University, under the auspices of the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts. The subject of these discussions -- The Dream of Poliphilus and Titian and Pietro Aretino -- will be presented in two subsequent studies. The present essay, which is based on a lecture delivered at the National Gallery of Art, is inseparable from the others both in theme and method, and is here included with the consent of the National Gallery.

In a study of this kind, it is impossible to uphold the boundaries between art and literature; the subject demands that we trespass. While it may be natural for a library to be tolerant of this offence, a prejudice in favor of books is generally suspect among connoisseurs; it smacks of that 'literary approach to art' of which we have been happily cured by a militant generation. But I fear that literature behaves very much like Horace's Nature: it returns even if you drive it out with a pitchfork. It would be far more convenient if art were pure. A literary allusion obstructs our vision -- until it is understood.

The footnotes to this essay may be ignored by readers who trust my argument on sight, but I am confident that there will be few of these. And as I hope that there may be some who would wish to pursue the subject further, I have made the references sufficiently critical and explicit to spare them some of my own trouble.

The help I have received cannot be matched by adequate thanks. I am indebted first and foremost to the director and staff of the Houghton Library, in particular to Philip Hofer, who planned the publication of this essay and nursed it into print. His assistant, Dr. Weinberger, has helped me over many a bibliographical hurdle. For generous aid in ob-

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