Pliny and the artistic culture of the Italian Renaissance: The Legacy of the ‘Natural History’
Yale University Press (Inbooks), $110 hb, 336 pp, 9780300186031
When the intellectuals, writers, and artists of the Renaissance sought a theoretical basis for the new styles they were developing – at a time when the new meant all’antica and the term modern was still coloured by associations with the Middle Ages – they found that ancient sources were relatively abundant in some areas and scarce or non-existent in others. Poets could find inspiration in Horace’s Ars Poetica, and later in Aristotle’s Poetics. And there was a wealth of material on rhetoric – Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Tacitus – in fact an abundance out of all proportion to the practice of the art in an age when public speaking was represented by sermons and university lectures rather than by the deliberative and forensic oratory that were the lifeblood of Greece and Rome.