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The Raphael Question

Lawrence Gowing, 15 March 1984

by Roger Jones and Nicholas Penny.
Yale, 256 pp., £15.95, May 1983, 0 300 03061 4
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The Drawings of Raphael 
by Paul Joannides.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £65, July 1983, 0 7148 2282 5
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Drawings by Raphael from English Collections 
by J.A. Gere and Nicholas Turner.
British Museum, 256 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 7141 0794 8
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... bien imité, were all really about the Raphael question. When Ernst Gombrich lectured on the Madonna della Sedia I was embarrassed to realise that none of the qualities in painting that were held to be cumulative and communal, in fact impersonal, had much meaning to me.The issue between Raphael and the Romantics was distorted by this very ...

Everybody wants a Rembrandt

Nicholas Penny, 17 March 1983

The Rare Art Traditions 
by Joseph Alsop.
Thames and Hudson, 691 pp., £30, November 1982, 0 500 23359 4
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... Parker on a picture given by William Randolph Hearst to his mistress: Upon my honour, I saw a Madonna Hanging within a niche Above the door of the private whore Of the world’s worst son of a bitch. I’m not sure that this is so inappropriate (whores have often had devotional paintings). It would be more out of place in a museum. He also tells the ...

Preaching to a lion

Nicholas Penny, 22 March 1990

Giovanni Bellini 
by Rona Goffen.
Yale, 347 pp., £39.95, December 1989, 0 300 04334 1
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... geometry of the six stationary saints placed in architectural symmetry around the throne of the Madonna in Bellini’s San Giobbe altarpiece (in the Accademia in Venice) to the rotating circle of restless figures in Leonardo da Vinci’s approximately contemporary Adoration of the Magi. Bellini would never have composed a painting in such a dynamic ...

Skinned alive

John Bayley, 25 June 1987

Collected Poems 
by George Barker, edited by Robert Fraser.
Faber, 838 pp., £27.50, May 1987, 0 571 13972 8
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By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept 
by Elizabeth Smart, introduced by Brigid Brophy.
Grafton, 126 pp., £2.50, July 1987, 0 586 02083 7
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... satisfaction, disembodied from the soldier’s quest. Botticelli’s Venus is a Peruginesque Madonna with no clothes, posed on a pagan shell. The formidable eyeballs of Piero’s risen Christ, separated from the cornea in their upward gaze, forbid any offering from the spectator of devotion or reciprocity. The smile of Leonardo’s famous portrait is ...

Under the Loincloth

Frank Kermode, 3 April 1997

The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Chicago, 417 pp., £23.95, January 1997, 0 226 77187 3
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... area but is probably just checking its sex; the infant is at this moment only an adjunct to the Madonna; and so on. Hope particularly objected to the claim that in such pictures as Ghirlandaio’s Adoration of the Magi in the Uffizi the mage is humbly contemplating the infant penis, unveiled by the Virgin, as proof of total humanation – as evidence that ...


Wendy Lesser: Surfing the OED on CD-ROM, 3 October 1996

... located at the heart of the baby-boomers, roughly midway between President Clinton and Madonna – has taken this tendency to an extreme. We would be likely to believe that no one before us had argued for school desegregation, worried about the apolitical masses, lived in split-level houses, used automated tools, got sick because of ...

Fit for a Saint

Nicholas Penny, 6 April 1995

The Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice 
by Peter Humfrey.
Yale, 382 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 300 05358 4
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Italian Altarpieces 1250-1550: Function and Design 
edited by Eve Borsook and Fiorella Superbi Gioffredi.
Oxford, 296 pp., £45, September 1994, 0 19 817223 0
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... San Sebastiano, which contains the world’s greatest collection of paintings by Veronese, and the Madonna dell’Orto, which contains the most moving and sublime of Tintoretto’s canvases, have been reopened, as have many other churches in the quieter (often eerily silent) quarters of the city, well off the main tourist routes. Venice retains within its ...


Dave Haslam, 20 July 1995

The Black Album 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1995, 0 571 15086 1
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The Faber Book of Pop 
edited by Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage.
Faber, 813 pp., £16.99, May 1995, 0 571 16992 9
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... of the Raincoats, Björk or Patti Smith and, most curiously of all, only five hundred words on Madonna. There’s stuff about groupies, girls in boutiques and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads: ‘A large group of male fans stood as close to the stage as possible, transfixed by bass-player Tina Weymouth’s lunatic stare.’ remarks a reviewer, colluding with ...

No wonder it ached

Dinah Birch: George Eliot, 13 May 1999

The Journals of George Eliot 
edited by Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston.
Cambridge, 447 pp., £55, February 1999, 0 521 57412 9
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George Eliot: The Last Victorian 
by Kathryn Hughes.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £20, November 1998, 1 85702 420 6
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... Polly, Pollian, together with more dignified and maternal tags in middle age – Madre, Mutter or Madonna. Her surname was harder to lose. Her strong face and still more robust mind did not fit her for the conventions of Victorian courtship and marriage. George Henry Lewes, the man she finally settled down with, was one of the few members of her circle still ...

Why Christ is playing with the Magdalene’s Hair

Nicholas Penny: Correggio, 2 July 1998

by David Ekserdjian.
Yale, 334 pp., £45, January 1997, 0 300 07299 6
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The ‘Divine’ Guido 
by Richard Spear.
Yale, 436 pp., £40, January 1997, 0 300 07035 7
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... points to Northern prints and to a painting by Caroto, and there is also Leonardo’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder), but the particular action depicted was entirely new. The outstretched arm of the child who rolls and wriggles on his mother’s lap is being inserted into the sleeve of a new home-made woollen jacket. Such scenes are familiar from the ...


Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event , 20 April 1995

... number, and had been working the phones to keep people away, everybody came. Or almost everybody. Madonna, who was next to me on the dinner placement, cancelled at the last moment, as is her right. Perhaps she didn’t feel she had been well seated. Never mind; I was able to introduce Alexander Hitchens to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, both of ...

Seconds from a Punch-Up

Andy Beckett: Irvine Welsh, 10 May 2012

by Irvine Welsh.
Cape, 548 pp., £12.99, April 2012, 978 0 224 08790 2
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... like a psychedelic remix of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. In one typical story, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Kim Basinger and Victoria Principal lounge around, bored, in a mansion in Santa Monica, chatting in Leith vernacular about their unrequited lust for Leith removal men, who have become international sex symbols: A pile of glossy magazines ...


George Steiner, 5 June 1980

Instaurations: Essays in and out of Literature Pindar to Pound 
by D.S. Carne-Ross.
California, 275 pp., £10.50, December 1979, 0 520 03619 0
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... programme of an author. ‘When I stand in the small graveyard at Monterchi before Piero’s ‘Madonna del Parto’, I know that I am present at a sacred (not simply a Christian) event. It is quite misleading to say that I am having an aesthetic experience. It would be more accurate to say that is is having me; I seem to do little more than provide an ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: Titian, 6 March 2003

... twenties in the first picture. Around that time he was painting both devotional works like Gypsy Madonna (seen here), in which the reserve and modesty of the Virgins of his erstwhile master Giovanni Bellini is replaced by a more robust humanity, and pastoral pieces like the Louvre Concert champêtre (long attributed to Giorgione, now more often to ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: Caravaggio, 8 February 2001

... Coming upon the Madonna di Loreto away from its proper home, the Church of Sant’ Agostino, is like finding an old neighbour wandering the streets in bedroom slippers. I saw her in Rome a few months ago. Meeting her in the Royal Academy, where she is one of the greatest of the 15 works by Caravaggio in The Genius of Rome, 1592-1623 (the exhibition runs until 20 April), I felt I should take her by the elbow and see her safely back to the church she was made for ...

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