Michelangelo’s Sculpture: Selected Essays

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 28, 2018 - Art - 320 pages
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Leo Steinberg was one of the most original and daring art historians of the twentieth century, known for taking interpretative risks that challenged the profession by overturning reigning orthodoxies. In essays and lectures that ranged from old masters to contemporary art, he combined scholarly erudition with an eloquent prose that illuminated his subject and a credo that privileged the visual evidence of the image over the literature written about it. His works, sometimes provocative and controversial, remain vital and influential reading.

For half a century, Steinberg delved into Michelangelo’s work, revealing the symbolic structures underlying the artist’s highly charged idiom. This volume of essays and unpublished lectures explicates many of Michelangelo’s most celebrated sculptures, applying principles gleaned from long, hard looking. Almost everything Steinberg wrote included passages of old-fashioned formal analysis, but here put to the service of interpretation. He understood that Michelangelo’s rendering of figures as well as their gestures and interrelations conveys an emblematic significance masquerading under the guise of naturalism. Michelangelo pushed Renaissance naturalism into the furthest reaches of metaphor, using the language of the body and its actions to express fundamental Christian tenets once expressible only by poets and preachers—or, as Steinberg put it, in Michelangelo’s art, “anatomy becomes theology.”

Michelangelo’s Sculpture is the first in a series of volumes of Steinberg’s selected writings and unpublished lectures, edited by his longtime associate Sheila Schwartz. The volume also includes a book review debunking psychoanalytic interpretation of the master’s work, a light-hearted look at Michelangelo and the medical profession and, finally, the shortest piece Steinberg ever published.
 

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Contents

One The Metaphors of Love and Birth in Michelangelos Pietas
1
Michelangelo at TwentyThree
59
Three The Medici Madonna and Related Works
91
Four Body and Symbol in the Medici Madonna
96
The Missing Leg Twenty Years After
129
Six The Michelangelo Next Door
167
Seven Shrinking Michelangelo
170
Eight Michelangelo and the Doctors
179
Nine What Would You Ask Michelangelo?
184
Notes
185
Chronology
209
Publications 19472010
213
Photography Credits
219
Index
221
Copyright

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About the author (2018)

Born in Moscow, Leo Steinberg (1920-2011) was raised in Berlin and London, emigrating with his family to New York in 1945. He was a professor of art history at Hunter College, City University of New York, and then Benjamin Franklin Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained until his retirement in 1990. Sheila Schwartz worked with Steinberg from 1968 until his death in 2011. She received her PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and is presently Research & Archives Director of The Saul Steinberg Foundation.

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