SeeStan ChapLee

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fuseli sees (himself in) the Renaissance

Henry Fuseli's (i.e. Johann Heinrich Füssli's) Aphorisms are mainly devoted to the Italian art of the 16th and 17th centuries: Leonardo Da Vinci, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Tiziano, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Guido Reni, Caravaggio, the Carraccis, Guercino, Parmigianino, etc. With interesting side forays into literature, especially Homer and Shakespeare.

As it has been remarked by editors,* it is a little difficult, at first sight, to recognize Fuseli's own art in the aesthetic criteria he lists. But, by collecting his favorite subjects, and adding a "guilty conscience" method that takes into consideration the authors he seems to reprimand, or at least tolerate, there emerges a self-portrait as follows: the female beauty (see especially the Venetian artists), light and shadow, the splendor and misery of humankind (see Caravaggio), a morbid imagination (see Goltzius), the strength of alternative representational patterns (see Jan Lievens' Raising of Lazarus). No aphorism deals expressly with William Blake, but Fuseli's defense of visionary, independent, despised artists should suffice.

* In this case J. H. Füssli, Aforismi sull'arte, edited by Maurizio Barletta: Rome, Robin Edizioni, 2013.