The illustrations that accompany the text are chosen to suggest the background of pictorial reality against which the Renaissance poets were writing.
Author: Judith Dundas
The painting and the poetry of the Renaissance shared the same goal of imitating nature. English poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries frequently underlined the force of ut pictura poesis - the ancient analogy between poetry and painting - by means of ekphrases, or descriptions of works of art, and through metaphors drawn from the visual arts. The present study is concerned with various kinds of allusions and what they can tell us not only about Renaissance poets' attitudes toward the visual arts, but also about their attitudes toward their own art of representation. In their poems lies a neglected source of art criticism. Since, in her view, the language of Renaissance criticism offers our best approach to an understanding of the poetry of the period, Judith Dundas begins her book with Sir Philip Sidney and ends it with John Dryden - the two poet-critics who most clearly enunciate the importance of the analogy between poetry and painting. Between these boundaries are chapters on Shakespeare, Spenser, Chapman, Jonson, a group of seventeenth-century minor poets, and Milton. The order of the chapters is partly chronological and partly thematic - depending on the interest of particular developments in the poets' allusions to the visual arts. The illustrations that accompany the text are chosen to suggest the background of pictorial reality against which the Renaissance poets were writing. They also show the painters' response to the accomplishments of poetry that are, in themselves, a response to nature. In including illustrations, Dundas does not wish to blur the distinction between poetry and painting, since it is in their very difference of medium that the arts achieve their triumphs. These triumphs led to the debate, known as the paragone, about which art is the superior; but, as Dundas notes, the significance of this debate is that it served as a topos for discussing the relationship of art to truth.