Florence

Matter of Taste
December 10, 2004

"Raphael: From Urbino to Rome" is now on exhibition at the National Gallery in London. It is a show I truly long to see not only because there are so few Raphaels in America that it is difficult to experience firsthand the oft-described transcendent force of "the immortal Raphael," as Vasari called him, but also because for a number of years now I have been working on a book in which the place of Raphael in the aesthetic imagination has become a central concern of my story.

Pop Esoterica!
August 16, 2004

The Da Vinci Code By Dan Brown (Doubleday, 454 pp., $24.95) The Rule of Four By Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason (The Dial Press, 372 pp., $24) Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Asking By Darrel L. Bock (Nelson Books, 188 pp., $19.99) Q By Luther Blissett (Harcourt, 750 pp., $26) DESPITE PREVAILING GOSSIP in the groves of academe, people still like their Renaissance, with its prancing nymphs, striplings in hose, and Venus on the half-shell, an endless Primavera with Lorenzo de' Medici presiding benignly over the pagan rites.

Lost Cause
August 02, 2004

Florence, South Carolina—On a Saturday afternoon not long ago, Walt Hilderman was standing in a soggy horse pasture here—a .75-caliber musket in one hand, a Confederate flag in the other. He was participating in a reenactment of an 1865 Civil War battle called the Skirmish at Gamble's Hotel. A retired police captain with bowed legs and a drooping silver moustache, Hilderman wore the rebel-gray uniform well. In fact, if you forgot he had been swigging from a bottle of Coke shortly before the battle, it wasn't hard to picture Hilderman fighting some 140 years earlier.

Lost Cause
August 02, 2004

Florence, South Carolina- On a Saturday afternoon not long ago, Walt Hilderman was standing in a soggy horse pasture here—a .75-caliber musket in one hand, a Confederate flag in the other. He was participating in a reenactment of an 1865 Civil War battle called the Skirmish at Gamble's Hotel. A retired police captain with bowed legs and a drooping silver moustache, Hilderman wore the rebel-gray uniform well. In fact, if you forgot he had been swigging from a bottle of Coke shortly before the battle, it wasn't hard to picture Hilderman fighting some 140 years earlier.

Pleasing Decay
February 23, 2004

In Ruins By Christopher Woodward (Pantheon Books, 280 pp., $24) Click here to purchase the book. For travelers who have experienced the grandeur and pathos of ruins that were once the glory of ancient Athens or Rome, it comes as a surprise to learn that what we are seeing today are tidied-up--its critics would say sterile--archaeological sites that are only as old as the last century.

The Mystic Smile
July 22, 2002

Becoming Mona Lisa: The Making of a Global Icon by Donald Sassoon (Harcourt, 337 pp., $30) One of the most extraordinary but least remarked upon features of paintings and sculptures is their persistence as actual, physical objects from other times and places.

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