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Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance

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How to recognize Italian Renaissance art

University of Chicago Press: E. About Contact News Giving to the Press. Paul Klee Annie Bourneuf. Kurt Schwitters Megan R. On Art Ilya Kabakov. Table of Contents. Farisa Khalid PopMatters. Paoletti, Wesleyan University Choice.

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This book promises to be one of the most intensely discussed publications of all those concerned with human perception and the efficaciousness and inherently transformative nature of the visual object during the Renaissance. Clifford Cunningham Sun News Miami.

Influences will be highly regarded by all interested students and scholars of the period. Patrick J. This book will attract a wide audience of scholars and students with interests well beyond art history. Barbara Tramelli Centaurus.


The language is clear throughout the book and complex concepts on optics and mathematics are explained effectively. The book gives new significant insights into the mathematical, philosophical, and astrological cultures of the Renaissance and their application in pictorial works of the period. Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance is a truly significant and original contribution to the field of early modern studies. This alone makes it required reading for anyone interested in Renaissance visual culture, architecture, and history of natural philosophy.

But it can also serve as a model of scholarship. Over the past few decades, it has become far less uncommon for art historians to sink their teeth into premodern intellectual history and history of science. Influences crowns them all in tenaciousness and thoughtfulness.

If astrology was indeed everywhere in the Renaissance, as historians of astronomy have shown, there is no reason to assume that it was not in art and in image theories. Putting forward the original, daring, and timely thesis that astrology was indeed there, this book has the potential to be highly influential as it invites historians of art and science to reinvestigate the role of astrology in Renaissance image theories.

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Christopher S. The second and third chapters shift the discussion to a more direct and even physical relationship between the heavens and intellectuals who studied them. These chapters help the modern reader better understand the early modern reconciliation between theology and astronomy, as well as to comprehend the power the heavens were believed to have over the fortunes of those on earth.

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The author masterfully analyzes such sources as Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and most prominently Marsilio Ficino to demonstrate the complexity as well as the pervasiveness of belief in the ruling power of the stars. The author moves from the theoretical foundation of these ideas to their practical application in the following chapters, using case studies involving urban planning, architecture, and frescoed programs. Her arguments follow logically from the thorough theoretical foundation she has built. For example, it seems eminently reasonable that based on the elaborate study of the stars, patrons would insist on selecting the most optimal sky under which to lay the cornerstone of a significant structure.

Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance

The author further asserts the holistic view of creation with the following statement: "The connectedness between the life of a person and the life of that person's city can be seen within the cosmological understanding that lay behind the astrology - the notion that all celestial bodies were energetically influencing the physical geography of one's city, just as they were influencing the physical matters of one's body" The case studies presented in chapter 6 provide persuasive evidence of the widely held belief among leaders and their intellectual circles in the active power of the stars.

The author uses significant examples of foundation horoscopes for Francesco Sforza's ideal city of Sforzinda, the most significant religious structure in Christendom, St. Peter's Basilica, and the private villa of Agostino Chigi, the richest man of his day.

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These case studies demonstrate that among the most powerful patrons of the Renaissance, the configuration of the stars and the precise alignment of the earth to those stars was carefully considered to ensure future success. The case studies convince us not only of the need to found a city or lay a cornerstone at a particularly favorable sign, but also of the belief that the favorable configuration of stars would continue to have a very real and powerful impact on these structures and those who encountered them.

Upon the strength of these case studies, the author turns in her final two chapters to the question of painted imagery. According to Quinlan-McGrath, both patrons and intellectuals saw astrological imagery as having a powerful effect on the patron, his family and friends, and even his enemies. The cogent and well-supported argument for the intended function of such significant frescoed vaults, commissioned by some of the most powerful patrons of the Renaissance, adds significantly to our understanding of the very real power of imagery as it was felt in the early modern period. She states in her conclusion, "As light Rays carried the vaults' images, and their stored radiation, to the bodies, eyes, and minds of their viewers, they were calculated to serve their patrons and families salubriously and others apotropaically"