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Nicholas Penny

19 December 1991
The Altarpiece in Renaissance Italy 
by Jacob Burckhardt, edited and translated by Peter Humfrey.
Phaidon, 249 pp., £75, October 1988, 0 7148 2477 1
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The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy 
by Jacob Burckhardt, translated by S.G. Middlemore.
Penguin, 389 pp., £7.99, December 1991, 9780140445343
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The Altarpiece in the Renaissance 
edited by Peter Humfrey and Martin Kemp.
Cambridge, 273 pp., £35, February 1991, 0 521 36061 7
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Painting in Renaissance Siena 
by Keith Christiansen, Laurence Kanter and Carl Stehlke.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 386 pp., $45, July 1989, 0 8109 1473 5
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... Today the Roman Catholic priest celebrating Mass stands on the far side of the altar, facing the congregation, in accordance with the prescription of the Second Vatican Council of 1963. In doing so he is adopting the position which was normal before the 13th century. On the modern altar an altarpiece is an impossibility: it would get in the way. It was the same in 1200. Much else has, however, changed ...

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