Flowers of Florence

Lorenzo il Magnifico died at Careggi on April 8, 1492. It was an uneasy, conscience-ridden deathbed, attended, as was appropriate, by the philosopher Pico della Mirandola and the poet Politian, and in the presence of his inveterate antagonist Savonarola. A hundred years ago, when the fourth centenary of his death …

How to Read a Fresco

Fresco painting was the main means of visual communication available to Italian painters from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Vasari describes the technique of fresco as “more virile and long-lasting than any other form of painting,” and as requiring greater resolution and confidence of touch. Frescoes were thought out …

The Fall of a Great Museum

To someone who has directed museums the press controversy over the Victoria and Albert Museum in London must appear ill-focused and uninformed. “The Victoria and Albert tries to catch up,” proclaims The New York Times, with a tight-lipped photograph of the new director, Mrs. Esteve-Coll. “Culture clash in South Kensington,” …

Storm Over the Sistine Ceiling

Visiting the Sistine Chapel nowadays is a strange experience. You hurry, as you have always done, the whole length of the Vatican building. “Permesso, permesso,” you say, as you push aside coveys of Germans and Japanese in order to reach the chapel before it fills with tourists. If you are …

Berenson’s Certificate

This scurrilous book—the editor of Connoisseur, with a sharper eye for scandal than for veracity, calls it “one of the most important and engrossing books ever written about the history of art dealing”—has long roots. They reach back over ninety years to the rather improbable setting of Siena, where a …

Centenary of a Cipher

A century ago Raphael was a fact of life. “Should you like to go to the Farnesina, Dorothea?” says Casaubon. “It contains celebrated frescoes designed or painted by Raphael, which most persons think it worth while to visit…. He is the painter who has been held to combine the most …

A Misfit Master

The Maestà the high altarpiece painted by Duccio for the Cathedral in Siena, is arguably the greatest panel painting that has ever been produced. On the unusually wide main panel are the Virgin and Child enthroned with saints and angels. Beneath it and above it are a narrative predella with …

A Revolutionary Artist

“With a new access of brutality, force, this time essentially forcible, was recovered. We are with Antonio Pollajuolo, as a painter one of the principal of the Florentine ‘fauves,’ dead set on the strains and stresses of anatomical working at rest and in movement and conflict.” The writer is that …

Shots of Donatello

I must declare an interest in this book. Three or four years ago—in 1969 I think it was—I was shown some photographs of Donatello’s sculptures. The photographer, Mr. David Finn, was an enthusiast, and as he propped them up along one wall of my office, I did not have the …

Getting at Rembrandt

In books on Rembrandt we often read that compositions are “taken from” some earlier source. When this is said of other artists the words “taken from” can be accepted literally; they refer, as they invariably do with Rubens, to the conscious transposition of motifs. But with Rembrandt their significance is …