Global Interests: Renaissance Art Between East and West (Reaktion Books - Picturing History)

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Global Interests offers a timely reconsideration of the development of European imperialism, focusing on the Habsburg Empire of Charles V.

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Lisa Jardine and Jerry Brotton analyze the impact this history continues to have on contemporary perceptions of European culture and ethnic identity. They also investigate the ways in which European culture came to define itself culturally and aesthetically during the century-long span of to Ultimately, their study offers a radical and wide-ranging reassessment of Renaissance art.

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See any care plans, options and policies that may be associated with this product. Email address. Please enter a valid email address. Walmart Services. Get to Know Us. Customer Service. In The Spotlight. Shop Our Brands. In a more devious and subtle way humanism may also have affected readings of the body, because it regarded the self as overwhelmingly important, and the true self as that which resides within. It becomes acceptable when spiritualised by love; against such a denaturing of the body Donne perhaps protests in 'But yet the body is his book', which with something of a shock reorders the body in the hierarchy by associating it with high culture and intellectual objects such as books.


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Living conditions necessitated a greater tolerance of others' bodies;18 while, in the field of representation, there was a far more lively oral and popular culture whose texts, outside of preachings in church, were not concerned with making hierarchies of matter and spirit. Bodily functions tended to be sources of embarrassment to many a Mr Podsnap in the nineteenth century; so was Keats's vulgar foregrounding of it to his readers.

These critical topics have, for example, loomed large in criticism of Hamlet. That the true part of us is the self which lies within has been a powerful piece of our culture's propaganda. Renaissance texts have repeatedly been used to mount the dubious argument that the later sixteenth century saw the emergence of the modern sense of self, even, recently, by critics who stand well aside from many of the assumptions of Renaissance humanism.

It ceases to be, in the depictions of art, an imitation but rather a construction or a creation. Nowadays, the traditional readings of the human figure in the Renaissance invite comparison with those beautiful Viennese facades which, Freud instructed his daughter Anna, hid very different realities. Critical practices based on psychoanalysis, on Bakhtin and popular Introduction 7 culture, on Foucault, and on Feminism give rise to another set of pictures. For example, the idea of the perfectly proportioned human figure, so attractive in its claim to universality, harmony and unity, has been shown by Svetlana Alpers to depend on its opposite, the idea of a body less than masculine, less than ideally proportioned, that is, the female body.

One feature of these essays is their interdisciplinary framework. Our aim is also to avoid the violent polarisation of critical disputes that has infected both literary and art historical scholarship over the last twenty years, the polarisation between, broadly speaking, structuralism or post-structuralism, and humanism. Ironically, an awareness of the imprisoning force of thinking in terms of binary oppositions has not deterred either 'side' from attacking the other.

Hence, these essays display a wide range of critical approaches rather than strict methodological unity. This is deliberate. For even if the two sides cannot ever become one, there should at least be room for difference, a climate in which various essays using a range of approaches can thrive.

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The distance between critical positions in the volume can be illustrated by the difference between the Belseys' essay and that of Tamsyn Williams. The first makes a frankly post-structuralist reading of its texts, such as would not have been available to a reader in the Renaissance; the second is concerned with the recovery of contexts that will allow us to begin to read images hitherto neglected.

A title-page formerly deemed to be poverty-stricken in its meaning and to employ crude images begins to acquire the density we associate with a literary or artistic text. Such readings are often described as reductive. But established critical modes have a knack of becoming selfnourishing, as in the very process of continuing they nurture the critics' own myths; and in the face of this tendency, a so-called 'reductive' reading can provide a salutory change of diet. But while the precise critical approaches may vary, all the essays in this collection are involved with the themes and problems outlined above.

Many of them concern depictions of the human figure that would have been ignored 20 or 50 years ago, on the grounds that they were not art. The power of the human image is plentifully acknowledged here, but not because it displays idealism or the artist's grasp of a 'great tradition' which, as the embodiment of inherent quality, should be studied, admired and taken as an example. Instead its power is seen to come from the discourses of which it formed a part.

Tamsyn Williams, for example, investigates the human figure in the visual language of polemical seventeenth-century prints. Here the images were effective because of a wide consensus about what was and what was not considered normal; these popular wood-cuts were deployed for their directness, accessibility and called for no esoteric readings. They were meaningful to a wide audience who were not accustomed to ignoring images because they lacked inherent quality in our modern sense of 'art'.

The anatomised human body - which is the physical body of the criminal subjected to legal authority - is the subject of Jonathan Sawday's essay. He considers the image not as an icon of disinterested scientific observation but rather as the product of contradictions as strong as the contrast between the dissected bodies and the tranquil pastorals in which they are sometimes set. Thus he recovers some sense of the complex cultural practices surrounding anatomy and makes us aware of the allusions to dissection by English writers in the early seventeenth century.

The outlawed body is also the subject of Sue Wiseman, who discusses the dramatic presentation of the female body, controlled and violated by men, and turned into a site of symbolic meanIng. Three essays deal with portraits of women. The social construction of gender in the portrait of the widow is the subject of Elizabeth Honig, who shows how the image is given traits of the dead husband.

She also explores the complex relationship between a living sitter and their representation in words or paint. Elizabeth Pope, a classical and illusionist prototype is modified to make an image formed by conventions of heraldry, miniature and masque, as well as of panel painting. An aspect of royal portraiture is reassessed by the Belseys; they consider the significance of the way clothing covers and obscures the body in some portraits of Elizabeth I, leading to a view of the portrait as propaganda for Elizabethan imperialism and distinguishing between, on the one hand, individuality in the sense of character and, on the other, individuality considered as power, authority and wealth.

Modern academic discourse creates frameworks of expectation for the analysis of the styles in which the human figure is represented. Nigel Llewellyn, in interpreting Tudor royal tombs, does not follow the criteria of sculpture considered as art-objects but instead discusses the cultural meaning of funeral effigies in terms of such factors as location and materials. Architecture's relation to the human figure is taken up in two essays. John Peacock shows how, while not figurative in the obvious sense, architecture can be designed on the basis of principles gleaned from the study of the human form and therefore transmits the kinds of moral messages traditionally read into such representations.

Maurice Howard takes on quite a different problem: the creation of a social and political identity via patronage. Using the concept of self-fashioning, he suggests that a group of mid-sixteenth-century patrons commissioned buildings embodying notions of Protestantism, nationhood and commonwealth.

If Howard posits the human figure constituted, as it were, through a building programme, Anna Bryson focusses on the image of gentlemanly stance and gesture as constructed by courtesy books, and their coding of moral qualities, so that the body's movements manifest superior civility and inner virtue. These essays deal with the familiar and the remote, the human figure and the Renaissance text. The body is the most quotidian part of our landscape and the most potent signifier known to us.

Yet there is no easy way of reading its meaning. Vasari as Peacock reminds us believed that figure painting should strive for the life-like, but in whose terms and according to whose ideals can such veracity be defined? We seem not to be able to trust Nature to be truthful for as Anna Bryson shows us many social theorists in Renaissance England felt that the natural body should be restrained.


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The remote enters with the ancient objects of English Renaissance culture that are the material of these essays. Some would say they can only be made to speak with our voices, so that any enterprise to interpret them other than from a twentieth-century viewpoint is doomed to failure. Whether we are 'recovering' meaning or inventing meanings through a complex process of 'reading' is perhaps a question for each reader to answer. Brilliant lighting falls directly on the Queen, eliminating almost all shadow.

The white lace ruff and the enormous pearls in her hair complete a circle, radiating outwards against a dark background from a face which seems in consequence to be the source of light rather than its object. Elizabeth gazes out to the left, beyond the frame of the painting, contemplating a destiny invisible to the spectator. She appears remote and a little austere.

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George Gower's 'Armada' portrait ? Her richly jewelled dress, meanwhile, and the ropes of pearls round her neck, are palpable signifiers of magnificence. The skirt and the bodice, with its long sleeves hanging behind, are of black velvet, all bordered with a single row of pearls held between gold edging. Silk bows, matching the rose-coloured lining of the outer sleeves, are held in place by rubies and emeralds. The satin underskirt and sleeves are embroidered with pearls and with devices in gold thread which resemble the sun. Only the face and hands are visible. The exaggerated sleeves and the gigantic skirt efface between them all other indications of a human body.

The effect of the richly lined oversleeves is of a sumptuous casing which, without attributing to the Queen anything so specific as broad shoulders she has, indeed, no bones at all , extends the dimensions of the figure to make of the arms an anatomically improbable, embracing, encompassing semi-circle.

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This image of Elizabeth invites comparison and contrast with the body of Henry VIII, famously portrayed by Holbein as an icon of masculinity and power p. Woburn Abbey.

Global Interests: Renaissance Art Between East and West (Picturing History)

King and his family in , Henry stands, legs astride, arms akimbo, the feet aligned with the shoulders in a posture that combines aggression with strength. The King meets the spectator's gaze, requiring submission. Elizabeth must have been aware of the implications of the Holbein portrait, then hanging in the Privy Chamber at Whitehall.

And she was, after all, happy for dynastic reasons to recognise her resemblance to her father. But the same artistic-political strategies were not available to a woman. Henry's magnificence resides in his muscularity, in the picture's exaggeration of his physical attributes. However, in the sixteenth century as in the twentieth, because of the cultural construction of gender, an emphasis on the physical character of the female body connotes something quite different: not authority but availability, not sovereignty but subjection.

Where Henry's right to dominate is confirmed by his virility, represented in the extraordinarily prominent codpiece, Elizabeth's depends by contrast on sexuality subdued, on the self-containment and self-control of the Virgin-Queen. National Portrait Gallery, London. At the base of the triangle made by her stomacher, and foregrounded by a white ribbon tied in a bow, hangs an emblem of the Queen's chastity. Indeed, the composition of the portrait insists on the pearl's emblematic significance.

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