Dangerous Renaissance

November 30th, 2011
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Dangerous Renaissance

Heresy throughout the ages….


Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael and forbidden beauty…


“I recall my father telling me – and then later on seeing it for myself – that when these paintings by Botticelli and the others began to appear, and the buildings of Raphael and Michelangelo as well: well, everyone knew something strange was happening, something not altogether permissible  – because these works of art were dangerously beautiful: not of this world, and yet strangely belonging to it at the same time. And this is why their beauty troubled the authorities: because they didn’t know whether to clap their hands or order another bonfire. ‘All this beauty!’, they thought: ‘where is it leading?’


“And they were right. Because beauty points to heaven but it also praises this world, which is the ladder to heaven, the gateway to paradise. And the authorities are terrified that you will fall in love with the beauty of the ladder or the gate and not bother to climb them or go through them, so they try and destroy them. – But they don’t realise that then you have nothing on which to climb to heaven, no gate through which to pass into paradise. – This is why my father always spoke up for Botticelli: even though, I may say, it got him into a lot of trouble, a lot of hot water by which our family was burned more than once or twice I can tell you… – On one famous occasion it was my father who single-handedly stood between Botticelli and his birth of Venus, when he, himself, came to burn it, out of great guilt induced by that crepuscular cretin Savonarola.


“What times! Though we have other troubles now, I sigh with profound relief that those days are gone – and yet in some ways they were wonderful and miraculous and I long for their return. Such is the innate treachery of memory – and the eternal ambivalence, perhaps, of human nature itself, no..?


Letters, Gianfranco Cavalcante, (1489? – 1546?) Son of poet Giovanni Cavalcante, friend and follower of Neo-Platonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino, on his father’s friendship with the above.

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