The extraordinary richness of ancient Rome was a recurring inspiration to writers, artists, scholars, and architects in sixteenth-century France. This engrossing book explores the ways in which the perception of Rome as a physical and symbolic entity stimulated intellectual endeavor across the disciplines.
Examining work by writers such as Du Bellay, Grevin, Montaigne, and Garnier, and by architects and artists such as Philibert de L'Orme and Jean Cousin, Margaret McGowan shows how they drew upon classical ruins and upon their reconstruction not only to reenact past meanings and achievements but also, more dynamically, to interpret the present. She describes how Renaissance Rome, enhanced by the presence of so many signs of ancient grandeur, provided a fertile source of intellectual and artistic creativity. Study of the fragments of the past tempted writers to an imaginative reconstruction of whole forms, while the new structures they created in France revealed the artistic potency of the incomplete and the fragmentary. McGowan carries the underlying themes of the book--perception, impediments to seeing, and artistic transformation--to the end of the sixteenth century, when, she claims, they culminated in the transfer to France of the grandeur that was Rome.