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In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Despite having completed his masterful statue David four years earlier, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with challenging curved surfaces such as the Sistine ceiling's vaults. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant: He stormed away from Rome, incurring Julius's wrath, before he was eventually persuaded to begin.
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the fascinating story of the four extraordinary years he spent laboring over the twelve thousand square feet of the vast ceiling, while war and the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. A panorama of illustrious figures intersected during this time-the brilliant young painter Raphael, with whom Michelangelo formed a rivalry; the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola and the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus; a youthful Martin Luther, who made his only trip to Rome at this time and was disgusted by the corruption all around him.
Ross King blends these figures into a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Italy, while also offering uncommon insight into the connection between art and history.
At the heart of this activity, which bestselling author Ross King relates in his exhilarating new book, was a remarkable man: Vespasiano da Bisticci. Born in 1422, he became what a friend called “the king of the world’s booksellers.” At a time when all books were made by hand, over four decades Vespasiano produced and sold many hundreds of volumes from his bookshop, which also became a gathering spot for debate and discussion. Besides repositories of ancient wisdom by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Quintilian, his books were works of art in their own right, copied by talented scribes and illuminated by the finest miniaturists. His clients included a roll-call of popes, kings, and princes across Europe who wished to burnish their reputations by founding magnificent libraries.
Vespasiano reached the summit of his powers as Europe’s most prolific merchant of knowledge when a new invention appeared: the printed book. By 1480, the king of the world’s booksellers was swept away by this epic technological disruption, whereby cheaply produced books reached readers who never could have afforded one of Vespasiano’s elegant manuscripts.
A thrilling chronicle of intellectual ferment set against the dramatic political and religious turmoil of the era, Ross King’s brilliant The Bookseller of Florence is also an ode to books and bookmaking that charts the world-changing shift from script to print through the life of an extraordinary man long lost to history—one of the true titans of the Renaissance.
On August 19, 1418, a competition concerning Florence's magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore was announced: "Whoever desires to make any model or design for the vaulting of the main Dome....shall do so before the end of the month of September." The proposed dome was regarded far and wide as all but impossible to build: not only would it be enormous, but its original and sacrosanct design shunned the flying buttresses that supported cathedrals all over Europe. The dome would literally need to be erected over thin air.
Of the many plans submitted, one stood out--a daring and unorthodox solution to vaulting what is still the largest dome in the world. It was offered not by a master mason or carpenter, but by a goldsmith and clockmaker named Filippo Brunelleschi, then forty-one, who would dedicate the next twenty-eight years to solving the puzzles of the dome's construction. In the process, he reinvented the field of architecture.
Brunelleschi's Dome is the story of how a Renaissance genius bent men, materials, and the very forces of nature to build an architectural wonder we continue to marvel at today. Award-winning, bestselling author Ross King weaves this drama amid a background of the plagues, wars, political feuds, and the intellectual ferments of Renaissance Florence to bring the dome's creation to life in a fifteenth-century chronicle with twenty-first-century resonance.
Claude Monet is perhaps the world's most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Monet intended the water lilies to provide "an asylum of peaceful meditation." Yet, as Ross King reveals in his magisterial chronicle of both artist and masterpiece, these beautiful canvases (featured in black and white images throughout, as well as a 16-pg color insert) belie the intense frustration Monet experienced in trying to capture the fugitive effects of light, water, and color. They also reflect the terrible personal torments Monet suffered in the last dozen years of his life.
Mad Enchantment tells the full story behind the creation of the Water Lilies, as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny and a new generation of younger artists, led by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, were challenging the achievements of Impressionism. By early 1914, French newspapers were reporting that Monet, by then seventy-three, had retired his brushes. He had lost his beloved wife, Alice, and his eldest son, Jean. His famously acute vision--what Paul Cezanne called “the most prodigious eye in the history of painting”--was threatened by cataracts. And yet, despite ill health, self-doubt, and advancing age, Monet began painting again on a more ambitious scale than ever before.
Linking great artistic achievement to the personal and historical dramas unfolding around it, Ross King presents the most intimate and revealing portrait of an iconic figure in world culture.
In his compelling new book, Ross King explores how--amidst war and the political and religious turmoil around him, and beset by his own insecurities and frustrations--Leonardo created the masterpiece that would forever define him. King unveils dozens of stories that are embedded in the painting. Examining who served as the models for the Apostles, he makes a unique claim: that Leonardo modeled two of them on himself. Reviewing Leonardo's religious beliefs, King paints a much more complex picture than the received wisdom that he was a heretic. The food that Leonardo, a famous vegetarian, placed on the table reveals as much as do the numerous hand gestures of those at Christ's banquet.
As King explains, many of the myths that have grown up around The Last Supper are wrong, but its true story is ever more interesting. Bringing to life a fascinating period in European history, Ross King presents an original portrait of one of history's greatest geniuses through the lens of his most famous work.
The Judgment of Paris chronicles the dramatic decade between two famous exhibitions-the scandalous Salon des Refuses in 1863 and the first Impressionist showing in 1874-set against the rise and dramatic fall of Napoleon III and the Second Empire after the Franco-Prussian War. A tale of many artists, it revolves around the lives of two, described as "the two poles of art"-Ernest Meissonier, the most famous and successful painter of the 19th century, hailed for his precision and devotion to history; and Edouard Manet, reviled in his time, who nonetheless heralded the most radical change in the history of art since the Renaissance.
Out of the fascinating story of their parallel lives, illuminated by their legendary supporters and critics-Zola, Delacroix, Courbet, Baudelaire, Whistler, Monet, Hugo, Degas, and many more-Ross King shows that their contest was not just about Art, it was about competing visions of a rapidly changing world.
The author of The Prince—his controversial handbook on power, which is one of the most influential books ever written—Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) was no prince himself. Born to an established middle-class family, Machiavelli worked as a courtier and diplomat for the Republic of Florence and enjoyed some small fame in his time as the author of bawdy plays and poems. In this discerning new biography, Ross King rescues Machiavelli's legacy from caricature, detailing the vibrant political and social context that influenced his thought and underscoring the humanity of one of history's finest political thinkers.
London, im 17. Jahrhundert. Ein mysteriöser Auftrag ereilt den Buchhändler Isaac Inchbold: Die geheimnisvolle Lady Aletha bittet ihn, ein überaus wertvolles Manuskript ausfindig zu machen, welches einst aus ihrem Besitz verschwand. Obwohl das Buch bereits Vater und Ehemann der Lady den Tod brachte, erklärt sich Inchbold bereit, sich dem gefährlichen Rätsel zu stellen. Dabei stößt er auf Spione und Gelehrte, Alchimisten und Ketzer – und ist schon bald in ein undurchsichtiges Netz aus Intrigen verstrickt, das auch sein eigenes Leben bedroht ...
„King ist ein ausgezeichneter Roman gelungen, den man auf verschiedenen Ebenen goutieren kann: als Kriminal- und Abenteuerschmöker, als historischen und bibliophilen Roman oder als Netzwerk von Zeichen und Motiven.“
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
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