The Understanding of Ornament in the Italian Renaissance


In this paradigm shifting study, developed through close textual readings and sensitive analysis of artworks, Clare Lapraik Guest re-evaluates the central role of ornament in pre-modern art and literature. Moving from art and thought in antiquity to the Italian Renaissance, she examines the understandings of ornament arising from the Platonic, Aristotelian and Sophistic traditions, and the tensions which emerged from these varied meanings. The book views the Renaissance as a decisive point in the story of ornament, when its subsequent identification with style and historicism are established. It asserts ornament as a fundamental, not an accessory element in art and presents its restoration to theoretical dignity as essential to historical scholarship and aesthetic reflection.

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Clare Lapraik Guest, Ph.D. (2004), Trinity College Dublin, is Visiting Research Fellow at that University. Her publications in Italian Renaissance art and thought include The Muses and their Afterlife in Post-Classical Europe (Warburg Institute, 2014), co-edited with Kathleen Christian, Claudia Wedepohl.
“substantial, deeply learned study […] excellent book […]. One is grateful for the indexes of names, places and subjects which will guide consultation and re-reading. And the illustrations are so apt and so beautiful, and bring together so many of the theoretical and physical elements, that they form a harmonious accompaniment that is also a constant source of astonishment.” - Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Trinity College Dublin (Emeritus), in: Óenach: JFMRSI Reviews 8.1 (2016), pp. 12-19
List of illustrations


Chapter 1 Kosmos
Chapter 2 Rhetoric and Illusion
Chapter 3 Cosmic Décor

Chapter 4 Architecture and the City
Chapter 5 Garland and Mosaic in literary Humanism
Chapter 6 Topics and Style
Chapter 7 Ornament and Disegno, Colour and Perspective
Chapter 8 The City recovered, Triumph and Time
Chapter 9 The Emblematic Continuum
Chapter 10 Spolia and Ornamental Design
Chapter 11 The Grottesche Part 1. Fragment to Field
Chapter 12 The Grottesche Part 2. Signs, Topography and the Dream of Painting


The book focuses on scholarship of the Renaissance and Classical tradition, in art, aesthetics, literature and intellectual history, but will appeal to readers with theoretical interests in art and architecture.
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