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Most people would be hard pressed to name a famous artist from Renaissance France. Yet sixteenth-century French kings believed they were the heirs of imperial Rome and commissioned a magnificent array of visual arts to secure their hopes of political ascendancy with images of overflowing abundance. With a wide-ranging yet richly detailed interdisciplinary approach, Rebecca Zorach examines the visual culture of the French Renaissance, where depictions of sacrifice, luxury, fertility, violence, metamorphosis, and sexual excess are central. Zorach looks at the cultural, political, and individual roles that played out in these artistic themes and how, eventually, these aesthetics of exuberant abundance disintegrated amidst perceptions of decadent excess.
Throughout the book, abundance and excess flow in liquids-blood, milk, ink, and gold-that highlight the materiality of objects and the human body, and explore the value (and values) accorded to them. The arts of the lavish royal court at Fontainebleau and in urban centers are here explored in a vibrant tableau that illuminates our own contemporary relationship to excess and desire.
From marvelous works by Francois Clouet to oversexed ornamental prints to Benvenuto Cellini's golden saltcellar fashioned for Francis I, Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold covers an astounding range of subjects with precision and panache, producing the most lucid, well-rounded portrait of the cultural politics of the French Renaissance to date.
"Rebecca Zorach’s brilliantly written, exhaustively researched, and superbly illustrated book takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the royal court of renaissance France, and the intellectual life of contemporary towns and cities. The French Renaissance may be less familiar to many readers than the Italian, but Zorach proves that the rebirth of ancient Greek and Roman culture was just as vibrant and inventive in France as it was in Italy. . . . A truly original book that deftly encapsulates the meaning of art, materialism, literature, society, and politics in a single readable volume."—Brenda Ralph Lewis, Renaissance Magazine
— Brenda Ralph Lewis
"Readers wil see and understand a profoundly revealed sixteenth century thanks to art historian Rebecca Zorach. . . . The themes she explores -- fertility, sacrifice, and eroticism -- illuminate fundamental aspects of the period that have never been gathered coherently within one conceptual framework. . . . The ready made audience for this work among historians is obvious: cultural historians with a passion for theory. The magnificent and copious illustrations make the material readily available to the reader not intimately familiar with the art. This is an extremely valuable work that renders the aesthetic of the French Renaissance compellingly interesting to the general historian."--Ann W. Ramsey, H-France
— Ann W. Ramsey
"Zorach brings together an impressive array of literary, historical, theoretical and visual references from the sixteenth century to the present day, thus surrounding each work with a rich pattern of associations."
— Catherine Jenkins
"A wide-ranging study of the elite visual culture of France under the Valois-
Angoulême dynasty. . . . The book's plentiful, high-quality illustrations exemplify both the author's arguments as well as the incredible fertility of artistic production during this period."
— Laura M. Hogan
"This book is as rich, copious, and complex as the media it interprets: painting, sculpture, architecture, decorative arts, medals and coins . . . with particular attention paid to the value--both economic and symbolic--of materials either represented or employed in the artistic process."
— Giancarlo Fiorenza
List of Illustrations
Preface: Figures of Excess
1. Incomprehensible Abundance? An Introduction
Sacrifice and Generation at Fontainebleau
The Galerie François Premier
Fontainebleau Nova Pandora
Death and Rebirth
The Death of Adonis
The Aesthetics of Sacrifice
Cybele and Artemis
Fertile Gaul's Fat Breasts
Charles and Elizabeth
The Lust of the Earth
Goods, Design, Desire
Ornament and the "School of Fontainebleau"
Copia and Curiosity
The Golden Fleece
Problems of Number
The Other Side of Increase
The New World
Inflation and the Hubris of Kings
The Golden Age
Circe's Golden Rod
Epilogue: Animation and De-animation