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Michelangelo Out Of Focus: Medievalism As Absent Life In Italian Renaissance Art

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Chapter Summary

Before asking what qualified as 'medieval' for Italian Renaissance writers and artists, this chapter first investigates what defined 'modern' painting for them. It shows that the Renaissance discovered its own origins-its modernity not so much in the Greco-Roman past but in the presence of life in the work of art. At least within the realm of painting, this model defines the renaissance as a birth of life rather than a re-birth of culture. The chapter focuses on Michelangelo, whose art came under attack in the years after 1500 because it purportedly foregrounded life and biography at the cost of religious subject-matter. Michelangelo countered those arguments in paintings and drawings that cancel biography through an erasure of the traces of life, an erasure that defines 'medievalism' as the figuration of death-both of the author and lifelike art.

Keywords: Italian renaissance art; medievalism; Michelangelo; modern painting



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