The Florentines: From Dante to Galileo: The Transformation of Western Civilization

Paul Strathern. Pegasus, $28.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-64313-732-2
Novelist and historian Strathern (The Borgias) paints an accessible portrait of Renaissance-era Florence as a city of “revolutionary” ideas where geography, a burgeoning banking industry, and luck contributed to the evolution of humanism, artistic breakthroughs, and the scientific revolution. Strathern notes that Florence had the good fortune to be the birthplace of Renaissance figures including Dante, Petrarch, and Leonardo da Vinci, and benefited from its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, with knowledge from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East passing through the city-state. Vivid biographical sketches cast famous Florentines in a more dynamic light than most modern portrayals. Galileo, for instance, emerges as a brilliant and stubborn youth who “roistered in taverns and bordellos,” while the “prickly” architect Filippo Brunelleschi hid his ambition to unlock the secrets of Rome’s Pantheon even from his traveling companion, the artist Donatello. Strathern draws from the marital correspondence of middle-class merchant Francesco Datini to illustrate the city’s vitality as a trading hub, and lucidly describes the impact of new technologies such as Arabic numerals and oil paints. Buoyed by incisive details and a brisk pace, this is a welcome introduction to the city and the personalities behind the Renaissance. Agent: George Lucas, InkWell Management. (July)
Reviewed on : 04/15/2021
Release date: 07/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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