cover image The Panorama of the Renaissance

The Panorama of the Renaissance

Margaret Aston. ABRAMS, $45 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-3704-8

This lavishly illustrated survey of Renaissance art provides a clear framework for understanding the diversity of what was achieved as the modern world emerged from the Dark Ages. Stressing reinvention and recovery of classical science and culture, Aston, a fellow of the British Academy, begins, in an overview of magisterial brevity and richness, by noting that ""antiquity was reborn not merely to be re-experienced or re-created; it was to be transcended."" Aston is an astute scholar of Italian humanistic culture and the mechanics of its transmission throughout Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, and the integration of pictures and text highlights how a remarkable confluence of historical forces made an era of reawakening almost inevitable. In separate chapters devoted to key aspects of the period--the political background, religion, urban development, daily life, scientific discovery and commerce as well as art for art's sake--a parade of more than 1,000 images combines with spare but efficient captions and summaries. Scores of familiar masterpieces, from manuscripts to paintings to sculptures and buildings, plus lesser works wisely chosen for their ability to illuminate a subject, are masterfully organized into page spreads and linked by a user-friendly system of cross-referencing, encouraging interactive odysseys. (Dec.)