Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 03.19.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Mark Lamster

Artist! Lover! Swordsman!




“No man could outfight him — No woman could resist his charm.” So reads the copy on this pulp cover from 1953. I picked it up for a buck from an antique shop a few blocks from my home. The packaging suggests a historical bodice-ripper and in fact the contents delivers on that torrid promise. It is not, however, an (entirely) fictional account. The book is actually the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, one of the great sculptors of the Renaissance.

Cellini is best remembered today for the Perseus and Medusa he crafted, on order of Cosimo de Medici, for the Loggia de Lanzi in Florence. It's a gory affair, and one senses that the artist, who claimed to have used his own sword in brutal fashion, saw himself in Perseus, a sense that is affirmed by the fact that he signed the sculpture, prominently, on a strap that crosses the hero's chest. (He probably would not have been pleased to learn that the esteemed Renaissance scholar Frederick Hartt called his masterpiece "remarkably inert.") Cellini fits squarely into that long tradition of artist rogues of which Caravaggio is only the most notorious. We have rather romantic notions in these modern times about what an artist should be (a tortured genius) and we like painters who fit into that paradigm.

Rubens, a most conventional UHB, was not that kind of artist, and I sometimes feel he suffers for it. His writing is a case in point. Familiar as they are with Cellini's rather purple and lurid precedent, even the most serious of art historians tend to dismiss Rubens the author as a colorless writer of arcanely detailed diplomatic treatises. This is not only crazy ironic (art historians making accusations of boring, jargon-y writing?), but a gross mischaracterization. Beyond his almost preposterous erudition, Rubens was in fact an elegant prose stylist who wrote with great personal conviction and with a rich vocabulary, a keen sense of metaphor, and a gift for a quotable turn of phrase. If some of his correspondence is necessarily technical, it was because he was conducting complex international diplomacy. Rubens, essentially, was an intellectual writer, a writer for the high-brow, and like so many high-brow (and middle-brow) writers in our day, he is suffering for it. Today we value the sensational. Cellini would have fit right in.
|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Lamster is the architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News and a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture. A contributing editor to Architectural Review, he is currently at work on his third book, a biography of the late architect Philip Johnson. Follow: @marklamster.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









RELATED POSTS


The Public Library
“The public library is a singularly American invention.” An excerpt from the new book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.

De Vinne at the Grolier Club in New York
A review of the Grolier Club’s quiet, yet noteworthy exhibition, “The Dean of American Printers: Theodore Low De Vinne and The Art Preservative of All Arts”.

The Filmic Page: Chris Marker's Commentaires
The French director Chris Marker’s book Commentaires is as innovative as book design as his documentaries are as films.

Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again
Raoul Hausmann’s photomontage Tatlin at Home is much pinned on Pinterest, but what has become of the original?

Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound
Just as a poet weaves the intent of his poem into its sound and craft, so did Lissitzky, as designer, hope to marry intent with the typography and the design of the book itself. But did he?