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The Mother Goddess in Italian Renaissance Art
Edith Balas

Carnegie Mellon
2002 • 216 pp. 89 illus. 8 1/2 x 11"
Art Criticism & Theory / Renaissance History / Italy

$40.00 Hardcover, 978-0-88748-381-3

An examination of the Mother Goddess in Italian Renaissance art by art historian Edith Balas.

Although much has been written over the years about the ancient mystery religions and their influence on the intellectual life of the Renaissance, scholars have neglected their role in art. This is a serious omission in the case of one of the most popular cultic deities, the Mother Goddess, whose colorful myths and exotic rites, described in fascinating detail by classical authors, became a rich source of imagery for Renaissance writers, antiquarians, and artists. She was especially important to the Neoplatonist philosophers of the period, for whom she embodied the idea of love as the great universal bond and conveyor of divine influences to the mortal realm. In this ground-breaking study, Edith Balas draws upon a wide range of humanistic learning to examine the significance of the Mother Goddess and her cult in the works of such major figures as Botticelli, Mantegna, Michelangelo, Titian, and Raphael, as well in those of a host of lesser artists, including Neroccio de' Landi, Baltasare Peruzzi, Giorgio Vasari, and Pirro Ligorio. Dr. Balas not only provides additional keys to solving the often dauntingly complex riddles posed by many Quattrocento and Cinquecento images—images originally intended to be understood only by a learned elite—but also furnishes scholars with a valuable methodological model for analyzing the presence and meaning of other ancient religious cults in Renaissance art.

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Reviews / Endorsements

“Edith Balas's learned discussion of the Mother Goddess imagery in the Renaissance is an important reminder of the longevity and pervasiveness of age-old myths in European culture and will expand the narrowly framed meaning traditionally imposed on the notion of antique revival. “—John Paoletti

“Edith Balas has an unending ability to see familiar things in utterly new and cogent ways.”—David Summers

Edith Balas has been Professor of Art History at Carnegie Mellon University for the past twenty-five years, as well as Research Associate at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to more than twenty articles in American and European journals, her publications include Brancusi and the Romanian Folk Tradition (East European Monographs, 1987; also available in Romanian translation), Michelangelo's Medici Chapel: A New Interpretation (American Philosophical Society, 1995), Joseph Csáky, a Pioneer of Modern Sculpture (American Philosophical Society, 1998), and The Holocaust in the Painting of Valentin Lustig (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002). Dr. Balas has curated a number of exhibitions, the most recent of which, at the University of Pittsburgh featured the work of Valentin Lustig and the German graphic artist Käthe Kollwitz.

Fri, 6 Jul 2018 13:23:59 -0500