restricted access The mastery of nature: aspects of art, science and humanism in the Renaissance (review)
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170 Reviews codes does not necessarily mean that w o m e n were viewed as goods and chattels (p. 63). She refers in a footnote to Fell's work on the use of the O E verb (ge)bycgan. However, the whole discussion takes on an oddly allusive quality as Hollis neither identifies the relevant lawcodes nor quotes them in Old English. This is only one of a large number of similarly suggestive observations that Hollis makes which are not developed or discussed sufficiently to justify their initial inclusion. She would have produced a more satisfactory book, albeit one less ambitious in scope, had she confined her attention to the clerical texts that form the major part of her discussion. This would have made the work less unwieldy in structure and easier to read. The wide range of the bibliography and references demonstrates that Hollis has considerable knowledge of the period she writes about. However, her ideas as presented here will probably not attain the audience they fundamentally deserve. Kathryn A. Lowe Department of English Language University of Glasgow, U K Kaufmann, Thomas DaCosta, The mastery of nature: aspects of art, science and humanism in the Renaissance, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1993; cloth; pp. xix, 325; 69 illustration; R.R.P. US$39.95 The medieval artist looked not at the world, but through it. His colour was symbolic, and not representational. His visual stare was social and moral rather than perspectival, and past, present, and future time were telescoped into simultaneity of incident. As time was anachronistic, so locale was anatopistic. Subjects such as landscape, nude, still life, and the minutiae of daily life were largely absent. Portraiture was emblematic and formal. Above all, the medieval artist was overwhelmingly anonymous, viewed as a craftsmen or artisan rather than as a learned creator and original thinker. Classical antiquity contained no tenth Muse to preside over the work of the graphic artist. Aegidius Sadeler's engraving, after Hans von Aachen, of Minerva presenting painting to the liberal arts, which Professor Kaufmann reproduces as plate 37, indicates how far this world view had changed by 1590. The seven meticulous and intensively researched essays presented here, which Reviews 171 originally appeared in various learned journals, constitute an ongoing investigation of h o w courtly groups of artists, humanist scholars, mathematicians, astronomers, engineers, and the devisers of pageants and processional arches worked, often in concert, to dismantle the medieval world and to inaugurate an aesthetic which was verifiably founded in the nature of physical matter as it is apprehended by the senses. This is the 'conquest of reality . . . the growing visual mastery of nature in art' (p. 3). Georg Hoefnagel's tromp I'oeil manuscript illuminations attempt not merely to imitate nature on the page but to induce the illusion that the depicted object is actually present, casting its shadow, the plants bearing snails which have invaded the volume, the thread or pin by which the make-believe specimen is attached being represented on the reverse. So, 'the curve of naturalistic book illumination may be plotted in a different trajectory against the course of development of independent still-life painting on panels' (p. 28), and the Ghent-Bruges manuscripts are decorated with depictions of the insects, wildflowers,badges, medallions and memorabilia, which the owner would have collected on pilgrimage and affixed to the devotional pages. Fictive image and actual object become interchangeable. The conquest of what is actually 'there' was agonizingly difficult, as Kaufmann's account of Renaissance sciagraphy (Hawksmoor's 'arte of shaddowes') makes apparent. It required the combined brilliance of geometricians as diverse as Alberti, Leonardo, Diirer, D e Caus, Aguilon, and Accolti to lay the groundwork, and the genius of Gerard Desargues to accomplish. The achievement of the Renaissance realists was abandoned at the beginning of the present century. Photography impelled the painter towards abstraction. Freud's new universe demanded the investigation of interiority. Einsteinian relativity, X-rays, and the fashionable pseudo-science of occultism wrought havoc on a world so painfully acquired. Kaufmann's book does not consider the issue whether this world has been too easily abandoned, nor the issue of whether w e need a new visual...