Recasting the Ancients
The small but elegant show of Antico on view at The Frick Collection through Sunday comes closer than any earlier attempt to uncovering the enigma of this master’s art. Part of what makes Antico so mysterious for us is the sharp difference of his sensibility from our own. Like so many of the great sculptors of the early Renaissance, Antico was trained as a goldsmith, but unlike, say, Ghiberti or Verrocchio, this experience was fundamental for every aspect of his technique and aesthetic.
July 25, 2012
Trashing Hadrian’s Villa
I first went to Hadrian’s Villa, the incomparably beautiful rural residence of that most cultured of all Roman emperors, in 1967 with my father. I was a teenager for whom the long country road from Rome to the spa town of Tivoli seemed endless, and endlessly mysterious. We climbed over vaults and crept through tunnels, watched the swans and carp navigate the murky green waters of the imperial reflecting pools, drank in the quiet and the breezes that softened the summer heat. If local and regional officials get their way, however, the villa may soon be remembered less for its ancient pleasures than for the stench of modern refuse wafting through its ruins.
June 19, 2012
John Paul II and the Blessed Business of New Rome
Of all the ceremonies staged for the beatification of John Paul II on May 1—the Vatican’s official admission of him into the ranks of the blessed and a crucial step on the path toward sainthood—there may have been none more moving than a Lord’s Prayer sung in Syro-Armenian chant by a Syrian countertenor (Razek François Bitar) in the cavernous Baroque church of Santa Maria in Campitelli.
May 3, 2011
The Worldly Temptations of Lucas Cranach
The phrase “Renaissance man” tends to conjure up images of Italians in tights, like Leonardo da Vinci, or that tireless fifteenth-century self-promoter Leon Battista Alberti. Yet the real early modern masters of a thousand arts seem to have come from parts farther north. Peter Paul Rubens was famously both a student of philosophy and a diplomat as well as painter, but no artist may have diversified his talents as widely as the elder Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), mayor of Wittenberg, tavern keeper, and, more than incidentally, court painter for more than half a century to the Electors of Saxony.
January 15, 2011