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Egyptian Renaissance: The Afterlife of Ancient Egypt in Early Modern Italy

by Brian Curran University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 428 pages
AU$109.00 NZ$114.78
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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Fascination with ancient Egypt is a recurring theme in Western culture, and here Brian Curran uncovers its deep roots in the Italian Renaissance, which embraced not only classical art and literature but also a variety of other cultures that modern readers don’t tend to associate with early modern Italy. Patrons, artists, and spectators of the period were particularly drawn, Curran shows, to Egyptian antiquity and its artifacts, many of which found their way to Italy in Roman times and exerted an influence every bit as powerful as that of their more familiar Greek and Roman counterparts.

Curran vividly recreates this first wave of European Egyptomania with insightful interpretations of the period’s artistic and literary works. In doing so, he paints a colorful picture of a time in which early moderns made the first efforts to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, and popes and princes erected pyramids and other Egyptianate marvels to commemorate their own authority. Demonstrating that the emergence of ancient Egypt as a distinct category of historical knowledge was one of Renaissance humanism’s great accomplishments, Curran’s peerless study will be required reading for Renaissance scholars and anyone interested in the treasures and legacy of ancient Egypt.

List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Egyptian Renaissance
1 The Memory of Egypt
2 Egyptian Monuments from Antiquity to the Middle Ages
3 Huamnists and Heiroglyphs
4 Egyptian Monuments for Renaissance Princes
5 Sacred Writing: from Hermes Trismegistus to Heiroglyphic Epigraphy
6 Egyptian Ancestors: Alxander VI and Annius of Viterbo
7 Egypt in Venice: Francesco Colonna and Gentile Bellini
8 Cleopatra and the Second Julius: Egyptology and the Dream of Empire in High Renaissance Rome
9 Egyptian Lives (and Afterlives) in the Rome of Medici Popes
10 Heiroglyphic Studies in the High Renaissance
11 The Scepter of Osiris: Egyptian Mysteries in the Missal of Carinal Pompeo
Conclusion: The Egyptian in the Mirror
Selected Bibliography

"The text is packed with information, but the narrative flows easily, leavened with humour. . . . Curran has performed an enormous service in so firmly defining the beginning of this engagement with Egypt as a 'renaissance' in its own right."
Brian Curran is associate professor of art history at Penn State University.