Culture Critic Hannah Bell discusses the University's Nöel Coward exhibition at the Cadbury Research LibraryWritten by Redbrick on 13th October 2015
Alexander Lee’s ‘The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Disease and Excess in an Age of Beauty’
Our writer Timothy Romain takes a closer look at some of the 'Beautiful' artworks of the Renaissance and it's hidden messages
“Far from being concealed from the historians of today marks of intolerance are displayed in plain sight, at least for those who know what to look for.
Deciphering such ugliness behind art is the theme of Alexander Lee’s new book, and was the subject of his talk given as part of the Book to the Future festival last Saturday. Concentrating on anti-Semitism in his presentation, he used other artworks to further illustrate the extreme prejudices of the age and told a chillingly familiar tale of denouncements, book burnings, public humiliations, scapegoating all followed by legal demarcations and restrictions. Yet northern Italy was considered a relative safe haven for the Jewish people at the time. He told the story of Salamone, a man who had his livelihood stolen from him by the Florentine courts in a scandal that pre-echoed the Dreyfus Affair of late 19th century France. He also showed the darker side of Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Presentation at the Temple revealed in the Virgin Mary’s earrings.
Both Lee’s knowledge and passion are inexhaustible, his clear enthusiasm shining through in his divergence from the pre-prepared text and the questions he answered at the end. The presentation was fascinating despite its lack of sex, disease and excess as advertised in the title and gave a wise warning against the deceptive charms of beautiful art.