The Renaissance holds an undying place in the human imagination,
and its great heroes remain our own, from Michelangelo and Leonardo
to Dante and Montaigne. This period of profound evolution in
European thought is credited with transforming the West from
medieval to modern; reviving the city as the center of human
activity and the acme of civilization; and, of course, producing
the most astonishing outpouring of artistic creation the world has
ever known. Perhaps no era in history was more revolutionary, and
none has been more romanticized. What was it? In "The Renaissance,
" the great historian Paul Johnson tackles that question with the
towering erudition and imaginative fire that are his trademarks.
Johnson begins by painting the economic, technological, and social
developments that give the period its background. But, as Johnson
explains, "The Renaissance was primarily a human event, propelled
forward by a number of individuals of outstanding talent, in some
cases amounting to genius." It is the human foreground that absorbs
most of the book's attention. "We can give all kinds of satisfying
explanations of why and when the Renaissance occurred and how it
transmitted itself," Johnson writes. "But there is no explaining
Dante, no explaining Chaucer. Genius suddenly comes to life, and
speaks out of a vacuum. Then it is silent, equally mysteriously.
The trends continue and intensify, but genius is lacking." In the
four parts that make up the heart of the book--"The Renaissance in
Literature and Scholarship," "The Anatomy of Renaissance
Sculpture," "The Buildings of the Renaissance," and "The Apostolic
Successions of Renaissance Painting"--Johnson chronicles the lives
and works of the age's animating spirits. Finally, he examines the
spread and decline of the Renaissance, and its abiding legacy. A
book of dazzling riches, The Renaissance is a compact masterpiece
of the historian's art.
"From the Hardcover edition."
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