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Ostentatio Genitalium

Charles Hope, 15 November 1984

The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Faber, 222 pp., £25, September 1984, 0 571 13392 4
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... The startling claim of Leo Steinberg’s new book is that over the past four centuries the real meaning of much of the religious art of the Renaissance has been lost. He argues that in representations of Christ, both as an infant and as an adult, the genitals had a particular theological significance to which we are now oblivious because of the modern world’s ‘massive historic retreat from the mythical grounds of Christianity ...

Leonardo’s Shortcomings

Charles Hope, 18 March 1982

Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man 
by Martin Kemp.
Dent, 384 pp., £14.95, August 1981, 0 460 04354 4
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... The career of Leonardo da Vinci must be the most intimidating subject in the history of art. The paintings and preparatory drawings are a major topic in themselves, and any monograph on Leonardo the artist invites comparison with Kenneth Clark’s classic study, one of the best books of its type. Then there are the notebooks, a written legacy unparalleled in scale and range among surviving records of the Renaissance ...

Do you want the allegory?

Charles Hope, 17 March 1983

Piero della Francesca’s ‘Baptism of Christ’ 
by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin.
Yale, 182 pp., £19.50, January 1982, 0 300 02619 6
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Indagini su Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg.
Einaudi, 110 pp.
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Gentile da Fabriano 
by Keith Christiansen.
Chatto, 193 pp., £35, June 1982, 0 7011 2468 7
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... A friend of mine recently went to see Pisanello’s fresco of St George and the Princess in the Church of Sant’ Anastasia in Verona. She was soon accosted by the sacristan, who was eager to tell her the story. When he realised that she already knew it, he asked, ‘Do you want the allegory?’ and proceeded to explain that St George symbolised the Pope, the Princess was the Church, the dragon Heresy, and so on ...

Naming the Graces

Charles Hope, 15 March 1984

The Art of Humanism 
by Kenneth Clark.
Murray, 198 pp., £12.50, October 1983, 0 7195 4077 1
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The Eloquence of Symbols: Studies in Humanist Art 
by Edgar Wind, edited by Jaynie Anderson.
Oxford, 135 pp., £25, January 1984, 0 19 817341 5
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... In the last forty years Kenneth Clark did more than anyone else to create an interest in the art of Renaissance Italy, but Edgar Wind had a much greater influence on the way in which this art has been studied. Both men were outstanding lecturers and gifted writers, and both, in very different ways, were influenced by the work of Aby Warburg. Both, too, were particularly drawn to the early Renaissance in Florence and to the High Renaissance in Rome, to those masterpieces, in fact, which occupy the central place in the English and American canon of great art ...

Useful Only for Scrap Paper

Charles Hope: Michelangelo’s Drawings, 8 February 2018

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer 
Metropolitan Museum, New York, until 12 February 2018Show More
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... A few days​ before his death in Rome in 1564 Michelangelo is said to have destroyed all the drawings in his house. He had done something similar on at least three previous occasions. But despite his efforts more than two hundred drawings are almost universally accepted today as being wholly or in part by his hand, and most experts would argue for a much higher figure ...

Like Mannequins

Charles Hope: Luca Signorelli, 20 December 2012

The Life and Art of Luca Signorelli 
by Tom Henry.
Yale, 456 pp., £50, 9780300179262
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... There used to be a widespread practice in Italy, particularly in the 1960s and in Tuscany, of removing baroque additions of all kinds from old churches, in a usually implausible attempt to restore them to something resembling their medieval appearance. This led to the destruction or dispersal of many fine works of art, and often gave the restored buildings an empty appearance they had probably never previously had, or been meant to have ...

On Saving the Warburg

Charles Hope, 4 December 2014

... On 6 November​ , after ten days of legal argument in the High Court, judgment was handed down in the dispute over the University of London’s obligations towards the Warburg Institute. The institute developed out of the private library of Aby Warburg (1866-1929), a wealthy art historian in Hamburg, who was supported by his four brothers, all of them bankers ...

Under the Loincloth

Frank Kermode, 3 April 1997

The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Chicago, 417 pp., £23.95, January 1997, 0 226 77187 3
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... Gowing, Michael Levey, Richard Wollheim, Marina Warner and, singled out for a special treatment, Charles Hope – are, in this new edition, keenly reprehended. It should be said that Steinberg, a lively and resourceful writer, could not with any justice be charged with irreverence or lubricity. That he greatly enjoyed researching, writing and defending ...

Titian’s Mythologies

Thomas Puttfarken, 2 April 1981

Titian 
by Charles Hope.
Jupiter Books, 170 pp., £12.50, June 1980, 0 906379 09 1
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... of 1877, biographies of Titian have almost invariably been biographies of his pictorial style. Charles Hope’s book, although in scope and ambition much more restricted than Crowe’s and Cavalcaselle’s, marks in this respect a most welcome change. It is the first truly informative account of Titian’s life published in English in recent ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: Titian, 6 March 2003

... of Venus and The Andrians for Alfonso d’Este, he found a way of telling stories which, as Charles Hope puts it in the introductory essay to the catalogue, ‘has proved so seductive that we still see mythology through the eyes of Titian and his later imitators’. Contemplative, even slightly melancholy pastoral has been replaced by a dance-like ...

Not very good at drawing

Nicholas Penny: Titian, 6 June 2013

Titian: His Life 
by Sheila Hale.
Harper, 832 pp., £30, July 2012, 978 0 00 717582 6
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... between Paul III and Ottavio, and that for that reason the picture may have displeased the pope. Charles Hope, in his Titian of 1980, rightly dismissed this sort of interpretation as anachronistic, adding that Titian was the ‘last person to indulge in such criticism of his sitters, least of all when he was trying to obtain favour from them’. Hale ...

Momentary Substances

Nicholas Penny, 21 November 1985

Patterns of Intention 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 148 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 300 03465 2
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The Enigma of Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Martin Ryle and Kate Soper.
Verso, 164 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 86091 116 0
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... was present in a discussion of Piero by a colleague of Baxandall at the Warburg Institute, Charles Hope, published in the London Review of Books in March 1983 (Vol. 5, No 5). Both Baxandall and Hope point out that a function of this kind is hard to reconcile with the esoteric symbolism and concealed topical ...

Goddesses and Girls

Nicholas Penny, 2 December 1982

... though she inhabits a 16th-century bedroom and confronts the beholder far more boldly. Charles Hope, in his remarkable monograph on Titian, like Michael Jacobs in a brisk and entertaining polemic on the nude in painting, rejects the idea that this is a painting of Venus.1 It represents simply ‘a mortal female lying on a bed’, as ...

The Sea Will Do Us All Good

Ruth Padel, 4 December 2008

... head a Beethoven sonata and cadenza.In autumn 1850 Darwin’s ten-year-old daughter Annie was ill. Charles and Emma took her to Ramsgate.Every day behind a stripy awning,    Blue Woman lowers Annie into sea.But Annie catches cold. Then influenza.    He takes her, with sister Etty for company,to Malvern. Emma, seven months pregnant, stays ...

Young and Old

John Sutherland, 15 October 1981

Life Stories 
by A.L. Barker.
Hogarth, 319 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 7012 0538 5
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Many Men and Talking Wives 
by Helen Muir.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1613 7
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Good Behaviour 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 9780233973326
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A Separate Development 
by Christopher Hope.
Routledge, 199 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7100 0954 2
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From Little Acorns 
by Howard Buten.
Harvester, 156 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7108 0390 7
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Fortnight’s Anger 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 85635 376 0
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... as far as Thackeray: gentility’s struggle to preserve itself against invading shabbiness. The St Charles family is first discovered living a pre-war, prosperous ‘leisured life’. 1914 brings catastrophe and gradual decline. The heroine’s dashing father loses a leg in the Great War and survives a whisky-sodden philanderer. The family’s only son is ...

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