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

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9780226922843: Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance
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Today few would think of astronomy and astrology as fields related to theology. Fewer still would know that physically absorbing planetary rays was once considered to have medical and psychological effects. But this was the understanding of light radiation held by certain natural philosophers of early modern Europe, and that, argues Mary Quinlan-McGrath, was why educated people of the Renaissance commissioned artworks centered on astrological themes and practices. "Influences" is the first book to reveal how important Renaissance artworks were designed to be not only beautiful but also - perhaps even primarily - functional. From the fresco cycles at Caprarola, to the Vatican's Sala dei Pontefici, to the Villa Farnesina, these great works were commissioned to selectively capture and then transmit celestial radiation, influencing the bodies and minds of their audiences. Quinlan-McGrath examines the sophisticated logic behind these theories and practices and, along the way, sheds light on early creation theory; the relationship between astrology and natural theology; and the protochemistry, physics, and mathematics of rays. An original and intellectually stimulating study, "Influences" adds a new dimension to the understanding of aesthetics among Renaissance patrons and a new meaning to the seductive powers of art.

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Review:

"This pathbreaking book brings the areas of theology, mathematics, science, art, philosophy, and optics under the umbrella of astrology and shows how they were understood as interrelated and informative practices during the Renaissance. . . . 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. . . . Essential."--J. T. Paoletti, Wesleyan University "Choice "

"A richly detailed exposition that sheds new light on our understanding of the Italian Renaissance."--Clifford Cunningham "Sun News Miami "

"A splendid synthesis of astrology, astronomy, optics, and theology that brings the art back to life. . . . This book will attract a wide audience of scholars and students with interests well beyond art history."--Patrick J. Boner, Catholic University of America "Renaissance Quarterly "

"Compelling . . . [and] carefully researched. . . . 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."--Barbara Tramelli "Centaurus "

"Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance is stimulating for Quinlan-McGrath's praiseworthy effort to bring together theories too often studied separately (optics, natural philosophy, astrology, and visual art) in an attempt to expose a complete worldview that supports the understanding of Renaissance art 'images.' Unavoidably, such a global proposal entails singling out a few well-known authors and theories and hence sometimes leads to general reassessments; but, as the last chapter shows, her approach is fruitful and her analysis of Renaissance astrological vaults will shed new light on a long-discussed issue: the links between science, magic, and art in early modern Europe."--Nicolas Weill-Parot "Isis "

"Influences is a meticulously well-researched, thoughtfully laid out book--an invaluable guide for students, teachers, and enthusiasts alike. . . . Quinlan-McGrath's book accomplishes what successful art historical books set out to do: it clarifies a great deal of complex information in an engaging, accessible way as it enhances our understanding of the art and history of the Italian Renaissance."--Farisa Khalid "PopMatters "

"A clear, insightful, and unique assessment of the question of how the Renaissance dealt with the confluence of astronomy and astrology on the early side of any real scientific investigations of the heavens. Influences will be highly regarded by all interested students and scholars of the period. For those intrigued by the larger implications of Quinlan-McGrath's study, it will be apparent that she has peered through a very interesting portal onto what is a growing interdisciplinary interest in understanding the intersection of spiritual and material reality."--Charles Carman, University at Buffalo, SUNY "CAA Reviews "

"The book is exceptionally well researched and meticulously documented. . . . Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance is a truly significant and original contribution to the field of early modern studies."--Andrzej Dziedzic, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh "Sixteenth Century Journal "

"Quinlan-McGrath's fresh look at these astrological canopies opens up entire new vistas of Renaissance intellectual life. 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."--Steven Vanden Broecke, Ghent University "British Journal for the History of Science "

"Astrology was everywhere in the Renaissance. Criticized, censored, and feared as the work of the devil, it nevertheless pervaded a wide spectrum of human activity. This book, ranging from Greek and Arabic science to some of the greatest works of Italian painting and architecture, explains the how and the why of astrology and helps us understand, even empathize with, a fundamental substrate of Renaissance art and thought."
--Joseph Connors, Harvard University

About the Author:

Mary Quinlan-McGrath is associate professor of art history at Northern Illinois University.

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