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Egyptian Renaissance: The Afterlife of Ancient Egypt in Early Modern Italy

Overview

Fascination with ancient Egypt is a recurring theme in Western culture, and here Brian Curran uncovers its deep roots in the Italian Renaissance, which embraced not only classical art and literature but also a variety of other cultures that modern readers don’t tend to associate with early modern Italy. Patrons, artists, and spectators of the period were particularly drawn, Curran shows, to Egyptian antiquity and its artifacts, many of which found their way to Italy in Roman times and exerted an influence every ...

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Overview

Fascination with ancient Egypt is a recurring theme in Western culture, and here Brian Curran uncovers its deep roots in the Italian Renaissance, which embraced not only classical art and literature but also a variety of other cultures that modern readers don’t tend to associate with early modern Italy. Patrons, artists, and spectators of the period were particularly drawn, Curran shows, to Egyptian antiquity and its artifacts, many of which found their way to Italy in Roman times and exerted an influence every bit as powerful as that of their more familiar Greek and Roman counterparts.

Curran vividly recreates this first wave of European Egyptomania with insightful interpretations of the period’s artistic and literary works. In doing so, he paints a colorful picture of a time in which early moderns made the first efforts to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, and popes and princes erected pyramids and other Egyptianate marvels to commemorate their own authority. Demonstrating that the emergence of ancient Egypt as a distinct category of historical knowledge was one of Renaissance humanism’s great accomplishments, Curran’s peerless study will be required reading for Renaissance scholars and anyone interested in the treasures and legacy of ancient Egypt.

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Editorial Reviews

Anthony Grafton

“Brian Curran’s learned and eloquent book traces a new path through the art, culture, and scholarship of High Renaissance Italy. He recreates the many roles that versions of Egypt—some imaginary, others based on surprisingly precise observation of original objects—played in Italian culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. And in doing so he reveals an erudition, insight, and imaginative sympathy that would do credit to the great humanists he studies.”
Patricia Fortini Brown

“A fascinating journey into one of the most intriguing and yet heretofore dimly lit recesses of the Renaissance imagination. Meticulously researched and brilliantly written, this magisterial study illuminates a major aspect of the revival of antiquity and reminds us that it was inspired not only by classical Greek and Roman culture, but also by the mysterious world of the pharaohs.”
Bloomsbury Review - Patricia Anne Cross-Laing

"[Curran] presents a convincing case that there has always been a fascination with Egyptian culture, even during the Italian Renaissance. . . . A scholarly work, heavily footnoted with a wealth of information."
TLS - Lucy Hughes-Hallett

"With its scrupulous cataloguing of Egyptian and Egyptianizing artefacts present in Rome in the fifteenth century, its exhaustive descriptions and detailed lists of sources . . . [Curran's book] is a useful work of scholarship and, with its copious illustrtions, a handsome production."
Renaissance Quarterly - Kathleen Christian

"Meticulous research backs up every line, and each topic is covered with admirable clarity. . . . No doubt, the book's scholarly rigor will make it a central text in the study of Renaissance archaeology and antiquarianism. . . . [The] book adds another cultural sphere and another few millennia to the 'antiquity' revived in Renaissance Italy, bringing Egyptology out of its long-lived obscurtity and granting wide acess to a topic at the core of Renaissance antiquarian studies."
International Review of Biblical Studies

"Curran tells the whole story of Italian Egyptomania, from the identification of the pyramids with Joseph's biblical granaries to the Egyptian mysteries in the missal of Cardinal Pompeo Colonna. . . . Well written and illustrated, this is a most valuable resource for cultural historians."
Ancient Egypt

"This book will be of interest to Renaissance scholars, but also to anyone who is interested to learn about the artistic and architectural legacy of ancient Egypt."
Journal of the History of Collections - Helen Whitehouse

"The text is packed with information, but the narrative flows easily, leavened with humour. . . . Curran has performed an enormous service in so firmly defining the beginning of this engagement with Egypt as a 'renaissance' in its own right."
Ingrid D. Rowland

“A tour de force that is deceptively easy to read. The fluidity of Curran’s writing makes his crystal-clear analysis of stubbornly elusive topics—such as the bizarre forgeries of Annius of Viterbo—look simple and straightforward. There should be no mistake about the fact that he is dancing through a minefield, and doing it with Renaissance sprezzatura. The Egyptian Renaissance will be the definitive study of its kind.”Ingrid D. Rowland, author of The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226128931
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 428
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Curran is associate professor of art history at Penn State University.

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Table of Contents


Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements

Introduction: The Egyptian Renaissance

1 The Memory of Egypt

2 Egyptian Monuments from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

3 Huamnists and Heiroglyphs

4 Egyptian Monuments for Renaissance Princes

5 Sacred Writing: from Hermes Trismegistus to Heiroglyphic Epigraphy

6 Egyptian Ancestors: Alxander VI and Annius of Viterbo

7 Egypt in Venice: Francesco Colonna and Gentile Bellini

8 Cleopatra and the Second Julius: Egyptology and the Dream of Empire in High Renaissance Rome

9 Egyptian Lives (and Afterlives) in the Rome of Medici Popes

10 Heiroglyphic Studies in the High Renaissance

11 The Scepter of Osiris: Egyptian Mysteries in the Missal of Carinal Pompeo

Colonna

Conclusion: The Egyptian in the Mirror

Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

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