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The Perils of UglytownStudies in Structural Misanthropology from Plato to Rembrandt$
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Harry Berger, Jr.

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823245161

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823245161.001.0001

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Collecting Body Parts in Leonardo’s Cave

Collecting Body Parts in Leonardo’s Cave

Vasari’s Lives and the Eroticsof Obscene Connoisseurship

Chapter:
(p.232) 13. Collecting Body Parts in Leonardo’s Cave
Source:
The Perils of Uglytown
Author(s):

Harry Berger

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823245161.003.0013

This chapter examines the portrayal of Leonardo da Vinci in Giorgio Vasari’s Le Vite de' Piú Eccellenti Pittori Scultori ed Architettori (The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects). First published in Florence in 1550 and reprinted eighteen years later, The Lives explores the idea of the renaissance or rebirth of art, and made it the basis of a historical scheme modeled in part on the human life cycle. Vasari argued that classical and modern art had each gone through a three-stage career of improvement: infancy, adolescence, and maturity. This chapter rejects the idea that there is either a three-stage organizational model or no model at all. Instead, it argues that the motor that drives Vasari’s story has only two gears: low gear drives the first two stages toward one kind of conquest of nature; high gear drives the third stage toward another. The low gear that drives the first two stages the gear of mimesis, and the high gear that drives the third stage the gear of idealization.

Keywords:   art, Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgio Vasari, nature, mimesis, idealization

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