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The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty

The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty

A fascinating and counterintuitive portrait of the sordid, hidden world behind the dazzling artwork of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and more 

Renowned as a period of cultural rebirth and artistic innovation, the Renaissance is cloaked in a unique aura of beauty and brilliance. Its very name conjures up awe-inspiring images of an age of lofty ideals in which life imitated the fantastic artworks for which it has become famous. But behind the vast explosion of new art and culture lurked a seamy, vicious world of power politics, perversity, and corruption that has more in common with the present day than anyone dares to admit.
     In this lively and meticulously researched portrait, Renaissance scholar Alexander Lee illuminates the dark and titillating contradictions that were hidden beneath the surface of the period’s best-known artworks. Rife with tales of scheming bankers, greedy politicians, sex-crazed priests, bloody rivalries, vicious intolerance, rampant disease, and lives of extravagance and excess, this gripping exploration of the underbelly of Renaissance Italy shows that, far from being the product of high-minded ideals, the sublime monuments of the Renaissance were created by flawed and tormented artists who lived in an ever-expanding world of inequality, dark sexuality, bigotry, and hatred.
     The Ugly Renaissance is a delightfully debauched journey through the surprising contradictions of Italy’s past and shows that were it not for the profusion of depravity and degradation, history’s greatest masterpieces might never have come into being. 

Florence, ca. 1491

Introduction: Between Heaven and Earth

PART I - THE WORLD OF THE RENAISSANCE ARTIST

Chapter 1: Michelangelo’s Nose

Chapter 2: In Peter’s Shadow

Chapter 3: What David Saw

Chapter 4: The Workshop of the World

Chapter 5: Michelangelo in Love

PART II - THE WORLD OF THE RENAISSANCE PATRON

Chapter 6: The Art of Power

Chapter 7: The Men with the Midas Touch

Chapter 8: Mercenaries and Madmen

Chapter 9: The Unholy City

PART III - THE RENAISSANCE AND THE WORLD

Chapter 10: Filippo and the Pirates

Chapter 11: Salomone’s Crime

Chapter 12: The Rising Crescent

Chapter 13: Of Human Bondage

Chapter 14: Brave New Worlds

Epilogue: The Window and the Mirror

APPENDIXES

A: The Medici

B: Renaissance Popes

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Illustrations