The Renaissance has not yet been completely dragged back and absorbed into the Dark Ages, but five hundred years after the painting of the Sistine ceiling it is clearly no longer the benchmark of culture and civilisation it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when writers such as Burckhardt and Pater established it as the crucible of individualism, empiricism and sensualism. Historians now categorise the Renaissance using the bland, belittling term ‘early modern’, and go on ad nauseam about the power of patrons and existing conventions. A loonified Leonardo apart, the museum-going public now dream about Vincent, Claude, Pablo, Marcel, Frida, Andy, Jeff, Damien and Tracey rather than Sandro, Piero and Raffaello.
It is both refreshing and jolting – albeit in a rather retro way – to find such a high-profile and energetic cheerleader for the Renaissance as the prolific Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones. In two books and countless articles he has sought to pulverise the naysayers and reinstate the Renaissance