Earthly Delights: A History of the Renaissance by Jonathan Jones - review by Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant

Naked Attraction

Earthly Delights: A History of the Renaissance


Thames & Hudson 336pp £30 order from our bookshop

There’s an argument for saying that the world has no need for another history of the Renaissance. Even the briefest of Google searches reveals enough works to weigh down a couple of wheelbarrows. Added to that is the fact that recent scholarship has tended to question the Renaissance’s status in history, seeing its reception as part of the triumphalist approach to European culture.

Jonathan Jones is not put off by any of this. A long-standing art critic for The Guardian and the author of a number of books, he has had a deep love affair with the Renaissance since a childhood visit to Florence, and he remains unashamedly intoxicated by what he describes as this ‘eruption of curiosity’, which brought with it a ‘new eye for nature, reality and individual people … a new way of experiencing the world’. It is a passion which, in Earthly Delights, he pursues with intelligence, knowledge and some splendidly iconoclastic readings and opinions. 

The opening images lay out his stall. The cover shows a detail from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, the artist’s celebration of man and nature from which this book draws its title. This is followed on the frontispiece by a delicious 1460s fresco from the Palazzo Schifanoia in

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