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The Aesthetics of Grace

Philosophy, Art, and Nature


Corrado Federici

In The Aesthetics of Grace: Philosophy, Art, and Nature, Raffaele Milani traces the fascinating history of the idea of ‘grace’ from ancient times to the 1700s. Although this term has been displaced by other concepts with the advent of modernism and postmodernism, the complex ideas related to the notion of ‘grace’ remain an important aesthetic category, and Milani presents an impressive panorama of reflections on and interpretations of the subject. The subtitle of the work indicates the broad scope of a study that recounts the origins of the term in Latin gratias (favor, regard, or gift), corresponding to the Greek Kharites (givers of beauty and charm). The volume then goes on to examine the Middle Ages, when the concept acquires a more specifically religious meaning (divine mercy, thanks), the Renaissance, when the terms ‘gracefulness’ and ‘elegance’ come to dominate in the treatises of the time, and the Ages of Romanticism and Neoclassicism, with their particular treatment of the topic. In the process, Milani meditates on the visual representations of these multiple meanings in the form of second-century frescoes, fifteenth-century paintings by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Da Vinci, Mantegna, Correggio, and Carracci, seventeenth-century canvases by Poussin and sculptures by Bernini, and eighteenth-century sculptures by Antonio Canova and paintings by Fragonard. This engaging work weaves with skill and subtlety philosophical, theological, and artistic ideas into a stimulating tapestry.


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Introduction vii Part I. The Machine That Is Grace 1 1. The Setting for Enchantment 7 2. Theological Grace and Sublime Grace 17 3. Eternity and Ineffability 29 4. Metaphysics of Love 39 5. Ecstatic Visions 49 6. States of Grace 61 7. Canons of the Aura 71 Part II. Mythological and Religious Images 79 8. Graces and Furies, Heroines of Opposite Worlds 85 9. Mater Dolorosa, Mater Lacrimosa 95 10. Places of Apparition 103 11. Flight and the Wave 113 12. Zephyrus 121 13. Silences of the Cloister and the Garden 125 14. Contemplation of Nature 129 Part III. Forms of Representation 137 15. Beyond Beauty 141 16. Elegance and Delicateness 149 17. Loveliness and Resplendence 153 18. The Oneiric and the Marvelous 157 19. The Classical, the Baroque, and the Romantic 161 20. Critique of Aberrations 167 21. The Mourning of Art in the Modern Age 173 Bibliography 175 Index 193

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