A Dialogue on Art

virginal-chaste robes
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Syrian rhetorician, 2nd century A.D. A master of Greek language and literature, Lucian wrote many of his works in the style imitated here -- the Platonic dialogue. Lucian was noted for his biting satire of contemporary intellectual life.

Solomon's seal
A plant with a green and white flower. Solomon's seal was often used to seal and close up wounds.

Astartes and Molochs
Astarte was the Phoenician goddess of sexual love, the equivalent of Aphrodite. Moloch was a Canaanite god to whom children were sacrificed as burnt offerings; his name has since become a metaphor for any object to which horrible sacrifices are made.

Magdalen Hospitals
Asylums established for the reformation of prostitutes.

Penelope's web
In the Odyssey, Penelope wove a tapestry during Odysseus' long absence. Pressed by aggressive suitors, Penelope vowed to accept one when her tapestry was finished, but every night she would unravel the weaving she had completed that day.

jasper throne
The Book of Revelation speaks of a vision of God seated upon a jewelled throne:
And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. (Revelation 4: 2-3)

Greek artist, 5th century B.C. Best known for his huge statues of Athena and Zeus, although he also produced paintings and engravings. Phidias' name was well known in nineteenth-century England -- he was said to have produced some of the decorative work on the Pantheon, which was transported to the British Museum by Lord Elgin in 1801.

things that shall be hereafter
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Orcagna, Ghiberti, Masaccio, Lippi, Fra Beato Angelico, and Francia
These are some of the most important figures associated with the development of Florentine Renaissance art in the 14th and 15th centuries. They are listed here (roughly) in chronological order (Orcagna was born in 1308; Francia died in 1517). These painters appealed to the PRB variously for their iconographic composition, their use of color, and their treatment of religious subjects. Although they are all technically "Pre-Raphaelite", the work of the later painters already demonstrates the technical innovations of the Renaissance. For example, Masaccio is credited with introducing systematic perspective to painting.

Dead Sea apples
Also known as Sodom apples; proverbially, they have a beautiful appearance, but turn to ashes and dust when one attempts to seize them.

Alcibiadeses and Phyrnes
Alcibiades was a Greek statesman and warrior (450?-404? B.C.) Though a pupil of Socrates, he was apparently notorious for his extravagant and self-indulgent behavior. Phyrne was a legendary Greek prostitute (4th c. B.C.)

Ithuriel's golden spear
Book IV of Paradise Lost relates how a touch from the spear of the angel Ithuriel transformed Satan, disguised as a toad, back into his true form.

A river near Athens; a temple to the Muses was erected near its banks.

Grisildis, or Una, or Genevieve
All three are legendary saintly women. Griselda is the heroine of Chaucer's "Clerk's Tale," and her complete submission to her husband Walter is an allegory for human submission to God's will. Una, a character in Spenser's Faerie Queene, is an allegorical figure for Truth and Religion. Genevieve is the patron saint of Paris; her faith prevented that city from destruction by Attila.

"darkness which might be felt"
Exodus 10:21.

Paduan artist, 1367-1468. Recognized more as a teacher than for his own works of art, Squarcione is credited with bringing knowledge of the Florentine artists and an interest in classical antiquity to Northern Italy.

Andrea Mantegna, Northern Italian painter and engraver (1431-1506) Apprenticed to Squarcione early in his career, Mantegna later became a court painter to the Gonzagas in Mantua. DGR wrote a sonnet for Mantegna's Parnassus, first published in this issue of Art and Poetry.

Academy of the Medici
The first true art academy, founded by Duke Cosimo de'Medici in Florence in 1562, at the instigation of Vasari. Michelangelo and Duke Cosimo headed the Academy, and elected its 36 members. Founded in part to emancipate artists from the oppressive guild system, the Academy won worldwide recognition in its day.