The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry

Walter Pater

Introduced by Michael Prodger

This seminal book was an influence on Oscar Wilde and other aesthetes. Introduced by Michael Prodger, with paintings by Botticelli and Michelangelo.

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The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry

'She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her …’

With these words, the scholar Walter Pater described one of the world’s greatest paintings: the Mona Lisa. Part cultural critique, part aesthetic creed, and, as introducer Michael Prodger writes, ‘a work of art in its own right’, The Renaissance was Pater’s greatest and most influential work.

Production Details

The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry book

Bound in buckram.

Set in Bembo with Golden Cockerel Initials and Ornaments display.

200 pages.

Frontispiece and 16 pages of colour plates.

Book size: 9½" x 6¼".

A new, subjective way of writing about art

Unlike the other famed critics of the Victorian era, Walter Pater espoused a new, subjective way of writing about art that focused on the ‘sensations’ it evoked in the viewer. For him, the art of the Renaissance made the most direct appeal to the senses. On publication in 1873, The Renaissance provoked outrage; Pater’s so-called hedonism was considered an affront to Victorian morals. However, it became a touchstone for the aesthetes of the fin-de-siècle, including Oscar Wilde. One of Pater’s most memorable phrases was adapted as their manifesto: ‘To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.’

‘The golden book of spirit and sense, the holy writ of beauty’

This edition features 16 pages of colour plates including paintings by Botticelli, whom Pater first brought to the attention of the British public, as well as works by Michelangelo, Verrocchio, Titian and Giorgione. In his introduction, art critic Michael Prodger describes the particular nature of this work, ‘of equal potency and poetry’. The binding design has been adapted by artist Frances Button from a Victorian interpretation of a 16th-century textile design.

About Water Pater

Walter Pater (1839–94) was an English critic, essayist and academic. His first book, The Renaissance (1873), became a touchstone of the Aesthetic Movement and Pater acquired a reputation as a daring aesthete, wit and stylist. The Renaissance was followed by a novel, Marius the Epicurean (1885), and a collection of short stories, Imaginary Portraits (1887). Amongst his academic works are Appreciations (1889), Plato and Platonism (1893) and Greek Studies (1895).

About Michael Prodger

Michael Prodger studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute. A former literary editor of the Sunday Telegraph and judge of the Man Booker Prize in 2009, he writes on art and books for a wide range of newspapers and journals, including the Sunday Times, Financial Times, Guardian and Spectator, and is currently the art critic for Standpoint magazine.


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