Review Of "Michelangelo Architect" By G. C. Argan And B. Contardi, Translated By M. L. Grayson

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The Italian edition of this book (Milan, 1990) was the last crowning achievement of the late doyen in the study of Renaissance architecture. It is a magnificent volume, with 522 photographs and visual documents, and the most complete monograph on the subject since J.S. Ackerman's seminal The Architecture of Michelangelo (1961; 2nd ed., 1986) and the massive Michelangiolo architetto, ed. by P. Portoghesi and B. Zevi (1964). Contardi's catalogue raisonné, comprising 31 items, is a readable compilation providing convenient historical/documentary summaries. These are arranged in four groups: painted and sculpted works, Florentine designs, the Campidoglio and the Farnese Palace, and St. Peter's and after. Argan provided the prologue, four critical essays introducing the four sections, and the epilogue. Argan's elegant prose, with its layered phrasing and cadences, does not translate well, and this translation is often awkward; his penetrating critical mind is nevertheless evident: analytical acumen, incisive descriptions, and breadth of historical perspective. His analogy between architecture and poetics is unsurpassed. The bibliography, carried up to 1990, somewhat slights American scholarship. Essential for all libraries.


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