Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History and the Humanities at Princeton University. His most recent book is The Culture of Correction in Renaissance Europe.


A Hero of the European Mind

‘Landscape with Roman Ruins’; detail of a painting by Herman Posthumus, 1536

Peiresc’s Mediterranean World

by Peter N. Miller
Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637) was the exemplary polymath of an age that swarmed with them. His curiosity embraced everything: the deep past and the immediate present, exact sciences and applied ones, philology and philosophy, fossils and antiquities. He collected manuscripts and printed books, curious vessels and engraved gems. His …

The Ravishing Painting of Piero di Cosimo

Piero di Cosimo: Prometheus Fashioning the First Man, circa 1510–1515

Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence

an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., February 1–May 3, 2015; and the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, June 23–September 27, 2015
Great nineteenth-century critics taught us to imagine the Italian Renaissance as a world of nymphs walking gracefully on flowery meadows. They liked Piero di Cosimo, who painted his share of nymphs, but they did not have a great deal to say about him. Jacob Burckhardt praised the “extraordinarily solid composition …

A Great Master at the Met

‘The Conversion of Saul’; tapestry designed by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, 13 feet 10 5/8 inches x 24 feet 6 5/8 inches, circa 1529–1530, probably woven in Brussels before 1563

Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, October 8, 2014–January 11, 2015
Everyone who was anyone in the sixteenth-century art world liked Pieter Coecke van Aelst. The skilled artisans who wove tapestries and crafted stained-glass windows eagerly used his designs. The greatest patrons paid happily through the nose for the immense tapestries, eight or nine to a series, in which Coecke and those who executed his designs told biblical and classical stories, put the cardinal vices on parade, or celebrated the victories of great men.


Piero le Fou

Piero di Cosimo: The Adoration of the Child, circa 1505

“Like Botticelli, Piero di Cosimo worked in many different fields of art,” Anthony Grafton writes in the New York Review’s May 7 issue. He produced some of the most handsome and dignified religious paintings of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. But he also crafted “startlingly vivid portraits of individuals and strangely evocative images of religious objects.” The works included in the exhibition “Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence” at the National Gallery “open up a world of ravishing visual interest.” We present here a series of Piero’s works, with commentary drawn from Grafton’s review.

Scrawled Insults and Epiphanies

In Readers Make Their Mark, an exhibition of annotated books from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, you can see readers writing in books of every kind, for every imaginable reason. Sometimes they are learning the basics. Sometimes they are making proclamations about their own books. And sometimes they respond to their books in ways that still seem familiar .

Reliving the Renaissance

'Descent from the Cross'; triptych by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, circa 1540-1545, central panel 8 feet 7 1/8 inches x 5 feet 7 3/4 inches; left and right wings each 8 feet 11 7/8 inches x 2 feet 9 1/8 inches

Reviewing the Metropolitan Museum’s show “Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry,” Anthony Grafton called Coecke (1502–1550) “a master who devoted his best talents and energies to tapestries and other collaborative enterprises, and who, for that reason, has never had the fame of the great masters of fresco, portrait, and sculpture.” Here we present a series of Coecke’s paintings, drafts, and tapestries with Grafton’s commentary.

The Wrong Way to Lower College Costs

A poster for the national Day of Action to Defend Public Education on March 4, 2010

Want to know how to solve the problem of ever-increasing college costs? A lot of people have answers. One of the Very Serious People who can give you one is the economist Richard Vedder, professor at Ohio University, Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. In a recently issued report Vedder and two researchers use data provided by the University of Texas system, which includes nine universities, to argue that the state “could move towards making college more affordable by moderately increasing faculty emphasis on teaching”—and, more remarkably still, do so “without importantly reducing outside research funding or productivity.”