The Mirror of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Renaissance Art by Malcolm Bull - review by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Pandora’s Paintbox

The Mirror of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Renaissance Art

By

Penguin 480pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

Art-historical scholarship is usually dry and forbidding, so it is a treat to come across a densely learned book which also provides fascinating details about the lives and tastes of people who lived in the past. Malcolm Bull, who is the head of art history at Oxford’s Ruskin School of Drawing, has brought together all we know about the rediscovery of classical mythology and its penetration of the subject matter of art, which was perhaps the most important single feature of the early Renaissance. His book is full of information and is a joy to read.

The great Low Countries scholar J H Huizinga once remarked that medieval art was essentially applied art. It was an embellishment of activities which had quite another purpose – the teaching of the Christian religion by holy pictures, or the celebration of family status and achievements by portraits and visual

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