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  • Spenser’s Gardens of Adonis¹Force and Form in the Renaissance Imagination
  • Harry Berger Jr. (bio)
Harry Berger

Assistant Professor of English Literature, Yale University; author of The Allegorical Temper (1957)


1. This is a considerably revised version of a paper read before the Graduate English Club of Brown University at the invitation of Professor Leicester Bradner, in March, 1919. I should like to thank Richard B. Young for much helpful criticism.

2. The Notebooks of Leonarda da Vinci, tr. and ed. Edward MacCurdy (New York, n.d.). 1, 80–1. Arundel MSS., no. 263, p. 156v., British Museum.

3. De Amote, II, 2, tr. Sears R. Jayne, in Marsilio piano’s Commentary on Plato’s Symposium, University of Missouri Studies, vol, XIX, no. 1 (Columbia, 1944), 133–4.

4. Of Learned Ignorance, 1, xi, tr, Germain Heroa (New Haven, 1954), 25.

5. The reasons for this, the differences between mediacval and later concepts of style, and the development from the first to the second, may be found in Erwin Panofsky’s important essay, “The History of the Theory of Human Proportions as a Reflection of the History of Styles,” in Meaning in the Visual Arts (Garden City, 1955), 55–108, See especially 88–99. Panofsky emphasizes the practical autonomy of schematic and decoracive canons in Byzantine and Gothic—canons which ate not only independent of “nature” but whose relation to dogmatic content is accidental. Two reasons may be adduced for this: (1) Mediaeval culture is dominated by a form of constitutive imagination, called analogical or allegorical, which clearly separates the sensible from the supersensible “levels” of existence. The sources of resemblance between levels are ascribed to the higher invisible forms which God incarnates in a cosmos whose perceptual and symbolic characters are given together in a single creative act; (2) yet perceptual information—especially that given by sight—provides the basic language of forms in terms of which the realities of spirit and thought are envisaged. The system of analogical relations, the hierarchic organization of visible and invisible worlds, the very attribution of this work to God—these are all, from a. purely epistemological viewpoint, projections of imagination onto reality. Thus, for example, once the analogy is established between metaphysical and physical light, between spiritual and physical place, height, magnitude, and so on, investigation in each sphere may proceed according to its own formal requirements. Given the primacy of religious concent, styles are free to develop according to their own practical and decorative needs (it was precisely this primacy which was nut given during the Renaissance and which brought on the reforms and counter-reforms). Given the primacy of perceptual form as a module for constructing reality, the purely visual qualities of any style will always be susceptible to complementary aesthetic a od metaphysical interpretations. See J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages (London, 1949), 222–43; Richard Krautheimer, “Introducton to an ‘Iconography of Medieval Architecture,’” Journal of the Warburg and Courcould Institutes, V (1942), 1–32; Meyer Schapiro, “On the Aesthetic Attitude in Romanesque Art,” Art and Thought, ed. B. Iyer (1948), 130–50. See note 7, below, for works dealing with the concept of Baroque.

6. E.g., Panofiky, Gothic Architecture and Schohstirism (New York, 1958), and Otto von Simson, The Gothic Cathedral (New York, 1956). Panofsky, the more boldly speculative of the two, tends to lean precariously on merely verbal analogies in the second half, after opening with a brilliant description of the style of scholastic thought.

7. On the problem of defining Mannerist and Baroque criteria, see the symposia in Journal of Aesthetics and An Criticism, V (1946), 77–128, and XIV (1955), 143–74; Nikolaus Pevsner, “The Architecture of Mannerism,” in The Mint, ed. Geoffrey Grigson (London, 1946), 116–39; Ernest C. Hassold, “The Baroque as a Basic Concept of Art,” College Art Journal, VI (1946), 3–29; Otto Benesch, The Art of the Renaissance in Northern Europe (Cambridge, Mass., 1945), 127 ff.; Rudolf Wittkower, Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600–1750 (Baltimore, 1958), chaps. 1, 7, and 15.Wittkower’s account of the relations between Tridentine religion and art is especially relevant.

8. The increasing quantity of theory and biography written...


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