The Vision of Rome in Late Renaissance France


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Margaret M. McGowan

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The extraordinary richness of ancient Rome was a recurring inspiration to writers, artists, scholars, and architects in sixteenth-century France. This engrossing book explores the ways in which the perception of Rome as a physical and symbolic entity stimulated intellectual endeavor across the disciplines.

Examining work by writers such as Du Bellay, Grévin, Montaigne, and Garnier, and by architects and artists such as Philibert de L’Orme and Jean Cousin, Margaret McGowan shows how they drew upon classical ruins and upon their reconstruction not only to reenact past meanings and achievements but also, more dynamically, to interpret the present. She describes how Renaissance Rome, enhanced by the presence of so many signs of ancient grandeur, provided a fertile source of intellectual and artistic creativity. Study of the fragments of the past tempted writers to an imaginative reconstruction of whole forms, while the new structures they created in France revealed the artistic potency of the incomplete and the fragmentary. McGowan carries the underlying themes of the book--perception, impediments to seeing, and artistic transformation--to the end of the sixteenth century, when, she claims, they culminated in the transfer to France of the grandeur that was Rome.

Fellow and former vice-president of the British Academy, Margaret M. McGowan is research professor of French at the University of Sussex, where she was senior pro-vice-chancellor.

“A handsomely illustrated volume. . . . This is a notably scholarly text by Margaret M. McGowan. All students of Renaissance architecture and of literature will learn from her command of the subject.”—Bibliothèque D’Humanisme et Renaissance

“More than a hundred illustrations embellish this patiently compiled and meticulously researched history of French Renaissance emulation of ancient Rome. . . . An impressive survey of the role of vision and memory in the retrieval of the past.”—Eric MacPhail, Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature

“[A] remarkable book. . . . Carefully and lavishly illustrated, this work is an important study of Renaissance perception and creativity and belongs in every university library.”—Choice

Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic title for 2001
ISBN: 9780300085358
Publication Date: November 10, 2000
476 pages, 7 x 10
90 b/w + 4 color illus.