Ovid and the Metamorphoses of Modern Art from Botticelli to Picasso


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Paul Barolsky


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Written in the spirit of Ovid (43 B.C–A.D. 17/18), this lively and erudite book traces the art derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses from the Renaissance up to the present day. The Metamorphoses has been more widely illustrated than any other book except the Bible; for centuries, great artists have drawn, painted, and sculpted its stories, the artists often responding not only to Ovid’s work but to one another’s in their depictions.  Paul Barolsky, a specialist in Italian Renaissance art and literature, explores Ovid’s unparalleled influence on the visual arts, discussing works by many of the most famous artists of the past six centuries.  Broadly interdisciplinary, the new understanding of the themes of the Metamorphoses revealed here will appeal to those in the fields of Renaissance art, humanism, literature, history, and classics, among others.  At once witty, entertaining, and profound, Ovid and the Metamorphoses of Modern Art from Botticelli to Picasso is a meditation on what words can achieve that images cannot, and conversely what images can show that words cannot tell.
Paul Barolsky is professor of art history at the University of Virginia. 

‘As Barolsky takes his reader through his Ovidian story of (mostly) visual responses to the Metamorphoses, he takes on his subjects’ narrative style, weaving different narrative threads through the book.’—Sophie Schoess, Art Newspaper.

"A meditation on art works inspired by the writings of Ovid. . . [For the reader] looking for a journey through the pleasures of the history of art, then this engaging and beautifully illustrated volume will be more than satisfying.”—Rosemary Barrow, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“Barolsky is a superb essayist. Every sentence demonstrates his knowledge and insight, his visual intelligence and poetic imagination. . . . Ovid and the Metamorphoses will become a required text for all comparative literature and art history courses.”—Luba Freedman, Renaissance Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300196696
Publication Date: November 18, 2014
250 pages, 6 x 9
50 color + 65 b/w illus.
Fictions of Art History

Edited by Mark Ledbury; With an introduction by Michael Hat

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