Material World

The Intersection of Art, Science, and Nature in Ancient Literature and its Renaissance Reception


The interplay between nature, science, and art in antiquity and the early modern period differs significantly from late modern expectations. In this book scholars from ancient studies as well as early modern studies, art history, literary criticism, philosophy, and the history of science, explore that interplay in several influential ancient texts and their reception in the Renaissance. The Natural History of Pliny, De Architectura of Vitruvius, De Rerum Natura of Lucretius, Automata of Hero, and Timaios of Plato among other texts reveal how fields of inquiry now considered distinct were originally understood as closely interrelated. In our choice of texts, we focus on materialistic theories of nature, knowledge, and art that remain underappreciated in ancient and early modern studies even today.

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Guy Hedreen, Ph.D. (1988, Bryn Mawr College) is Amos Lawrence Professor of Art at Williams College. He is the author of three books, most recently The Image of the Artist in Archaic and Classical Greece: Art, Poetry, and Subjectivity (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Director’s Remarks
Michael W. Kwakkelstein

List of Figures
Notes on Contributors

Introduction: The Material World and Its Limits
Guy Hedreen

1 Plato’s Attitude toward Painting and Mathematics
Ernesto Paparazzo

2 The Vitruvian Body in De architectura’s Third Preface: Architecture and Rhetoric between Nature and Art
Marden Fitzpatrick Nichols

3 Cera d’api: la storia naturale di un medium archetipico
Verity Platt

4 ‘We Penetrate the Earth’s Innards and Search for Riches’: Pliny’s Hierarchy of Materials and Its Influence in the Renaissance
Sarah Blake McHam

5 Moving Wood, Man Immobile: Hero’s Automata at the Urbino Court
Courtney Roby

6 Terremoti artificiali. La sismologia aristotelica nella guerra sotterranea del Rinascimento
Morgan Ng

7 The Heptaphonon and the Architecture of Echoes
Carolyn Yerkes

8 A Changing Earth: Strabo and Leonardo’s Scientific Humanism
Domenico Laurenza

9 Into the Wild: Living Landscape and Wonderment in Renaissance Art
Dennis Geronimus

10 Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Lucretius and Empedocles
Gordon Campbell

11 Fantasia and Speciation: Traces of Empedocles in Ancient Poetry and Renaissance Art
Guy Hedreen

Coda: Temporality and the Reception of Ancient Culture: An Example from Dürer
Guy Hedreen

Index of Primary Literary Sources
Index of Works of Art
General Index
Readers interested in ancient materialist thought and its reception in philosophy, cultural criticism, poetry, art, and scientific writing, in antiquity and the Renaissance.
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