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The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing$
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J. B. Bullen

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198128885

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128885.001.0001

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Renaissance Men and Women Browning

Renaissance Men and Women Browning

9 Renaissance Men and Women Browning
The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing


Oxford University Press

The similarity between John Ruskin’s account of Italian Renaissance tombs and Robert Browning’s imaginary tomb in St Praxed was so striking that Ruskin drew attention to it in the fourth volume of Modern Painters. The verse of Browning’s poem ‘The Bishop Orders his Tomb at St Praxed’s Church’ has none of the assertive moral certainty of John Ruskin’s prose. The changes in style of the tombs of northern Italy are representative of the growth of a larger concept — Renaissance ‘Pride of State’ — and this in turn contributes materially to the corruption and fall of Venice and hence to the rest of Europe. There can be little doubt that Browning, like Ruskin, is drawing energy from that combination of religion, history, and art which was such an explosive one in the 1840s. Even though the term ‘Renaissance’ is not a part of Browning’s vocabulary, he seems to favour a complex form of ‘realism’ rather than the more naive ‘idealism’ which was so fashionable in current Renaissance historiography.

Keywords:   Robert Browning, Renaissance, John Ruskin, tombs, Italy, religion, history, art, historiography, realism

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