“ To be champion requires more than simply being a strong player; one has to be a strong human being as well. ”
Few writers have inspired so many artists, so deeply and for so long, as Dante Alighieri. His epic poem the Divine Comedy (find in our collection of Free eBooks)has received striking illuminations at the hands of Gustave Doré, Sandro Botticelli, Alberto Martini, and Salvador Dalí — to name only those we’ve featured before here on Open Culture. The names Priamo della Quercia and Giovanni di Paolo may mean relatively little to you right now, but they’ll mean much more once you’ve taken a look at the illustrations featured here and at The World of Dante, which come from an illuminated manuscript of the Divine Comedy at the British Library known as Yates Thompson 36. Produced in Siena around 1450 for an unknown original patron, “the codex belonged to Alfonso V, king of Aragon, Naples, and Sicily,” and includes “110 large miniatures and three historiated initials.” (See all here.) Della Quercia illustrated the Inferno and Purgatorio and all three historiated initials; di Paolo illustrated Paradiso.
“This makes for two distinctly different styles,” continues The World of Dante’s page. “Priamo’s work reflects the more realistic style of late fifteenth-century Florentine painting, an influence which is particularly noticeable in his use of contours and outlines in the depiction of nudes. Giovanni di Paolo’s style is closer to that of late fourteenth-century Sienese artists,” producing results “greatly admired for their visual interpretation of the poem: the artist doesn’t just transcribe Dante’s words but seeks to render their meaning.” The British Library’s medieval manuscripts blog describes it as “certainly a lavish production” that “must have been an expensive undertaking,” given the status of the men doing the illuminating as “two of the preeminent artists of the day.” But when it came to visualizing Dante’s journey, quite literally, to hell and back in 15th-century Italy, no artist ranked too highly. Even today, I can’t imagine any artist reading the Divine Comedy, illuminated or no, without getting a few vivid ideas of their own.
More images can be found on the British Library web site (scroll down the page).
via Open Culture
War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich — many of us have felt the influence, to the good or the ill of our own reading and writing, of Leo Tolstoy. But whose influence did Leo Tolstoy feel the most? As luck would have it, we can give you chapter and verse on this, since the novelist drew up just such a list in 1891, which would have put him at age 63. A Russian publisher had asked 2,000 professors, scholars, artists, and men of letters, public figures, and other luminaries to name the books important to them, and Tolstoy responded with this list divided into five ages of man, with their actual degree of influence (“enormous,” “v. great,” or merely “great”) noted. It comes as something of a rarity, up to now only available transcribed in a post at Northampton, Massachusetts’ Valley Advocate:
WORKS WHICH MADE AN IMPRESSION
Childhood to the age of 14 or so
The story of Joseph from the Bible - Enormous
Tales from The Thousand and One Nights: the 40 Thieves, Prince Qam-al-Zaman - Great
The Little Black Hen by Pogorelsky - V. great
Puskin’s poems: Napoleon - Great
Age 14 to 20
Matthew’s Gospel: Sermon on the Mount – Enormous
Sterne’s Sentimental Journey – V. great
Rousseau Confessions - Enormous
Emile - Enormous
Nouvelle Héloise - V. great
Pushkin’s Yevgeny Onegin - V. great
Schiller’s Die Räuber - V. great
Gogol’s Overcoat, The Two Ivans, Nevsky Prospect - Great
“Viy” [a story by Gogol] – Enormous
Dead Souls - V. great
Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches - V. great
Druzhinin’s Polinka Sachs - V. great
Grigorovich’s The Hapless Anton - V. great
Dickens’ David Copperfield - Enormous
Lermontov’s A Hero for our Time, Taman - V. great
Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico - Great
Age 20 to 35
Goethe. Hermann and Dorothea - V. great
Victor Hugo. Notre Dame de Paris - V. great
Tyutchev’s poems – Great
Koltsov’s poems – Great
The Odyssey and The Iliad (read in Russian) – Great
Fet’s poems – Great
Plato’s Phaedo and Symposium (in Cousin’s translation) – Great
Age 35 to 50
The Odyssey and The Iliad (in Greek) – V. great
The byliny - V. great
Victor Hugo. Les Misérables - Enormous
Xenophon’s Anabasis - V. great
Mrs. [Henry] Wood. Novels – Great
George Eliot. Novels – Great
Trollope, Novels – Great
Age 50 to 63
All the Gospels in Greek – Enormous
Book of Genesis (in Hebrew) – V. great
Henry George. Progress and Poverty - V. great
[Theodore] Parker. Discourse on religious subject – Great
[Frederick William] Robertson’s sermons – Great
Feuerbach (I forget the title; work on Christianity) [“The Essence of Christianity”] – Great
Pascal’s Pensées - Enormous
Epictetus – Enormous
Confucius and Mencius – V. great
On the Buddha. Well-known Frenchman (I forget) [“Lalita Vistara”] – Enormous
Lao-Tzu. Julien [S. Julien, French translator] – Enormous
The writer at the Valley Advocate, a Tolstoy aficionado, came across the list by sheer happenstance. “On my way to work, I found something just for me in a box of cast-off books on a sidewalk,” they write: a biography of Tolstoy with “something cooler inside”: a “yellowed and fragile New York Times Book Review clipping” from 1978 containing the full list as Tolstoy wrote it. “Gold,” in other words, “for this wannabe Tolstoy scholar.” If you, too count yourself among the ranks of wannabe Tolstoy scholars — or indeed credentialed Tolstoy scholars — you’ll no doubt find more than a few intriguing selections here. And if you simply admire Tolstoy, well, get to reading: learn not how to make the same things your idols made, I often say, but to think how they thought. Not that any of us have time to write War and Peace these days anyway, though with luck, we do still have time to read it — along with The Thousand and One Nights, David Copperfield, The Odyssey, and so on. Many of these works you can find in our collection, 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.
via Open Culture
A waxwork of Jane Austen which has taken three years to produce has been unveiled in Bath.
With no “acceptable likeness” of the author, the Jane Austen Centre claims it is the closest “anyone has come to the real Jane Austen for 200 years”.
It has been created using eyewitness accounts, and the help of Emmy award-winning costume designer Andrea Galer and an FBI-trained forensic artist.
The waxwork went on show to the public in Bath earlier.
The only confirmed portrait of Austen made during her lifetime is by her sister, Cassandra.
Melissa Dring, forensic artist, said she used the small pencil and watercolour sketch as a “starting point” for her pastel portrait, which became the basis for the waxwork.
"[Cassandra’s portrait] does make it look like she’s been sucking lemons," Ms Dring said. "She has a somewhat sour and dour expression.
"But we know from all accounts of her, she was very lively, very great fun to be with and a mischievous and witty person."
Who was Jane Austen?
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose books, set among the English middle and upper classes, are notable for their wit, social observation and insights into the lives of early 19th century women.
Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in the village of Steventon in Hampshire. She was one of eight children of a clergyman and grew up in a close-knit family. She began to write as a teenager. In 1801 the family moved to Bath. After the death of Jane’s father in 1805 Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother moved several times eventually settling in Chawton, near Steventon.
Jane’s brother Henry helped her negotiate with a publisher and her first novel, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, appeared in 1811. Her next novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, which she described as her “own darling child” received highly favourable reviews. ‘Mansfield Park’ was published in 1814, then ‘Emma’ in 1816. ‘Emma’ was dedicated to the prince regent, an admirer of her work. All of Jane Austen’s novels were published anonymously.
In 1816, Jane began to suffer from ill-health, probably due to Addison’s disease. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment, and died there on 18 July 1817. Two more novels, ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ were published posthumously and a final novel was left incomplete.
With a focus on the dynamic interplay between science and imagination, the Huntington Library’s “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World,” exhibition features a collection of written and illustrated work charting the changing role of science over time. There are four main sections—astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light—dividing the collection. To celebrate the exhibition, the Library has digitized a number of the volumes on display, available here.
We haven’t yet, but we shall. Best!