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Extended Audio Sample The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence, and Depravity in an Age of Beauty, by Alexander Lee Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Alexander Lee Narrator: Arthur More Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A fascinating and counterintuitive portrait of the sordid, hidden world behind the dazzling artwork of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and more

Renowned as a period of cultural rebirth and artistic innovation, the Renaissance is cloaked in a unique aura of beauty and brilliance. Its very name conjures up awe-inspiring images of an age of lofty ideals in which life imitated the fantastic artworks for which it has become famous. But behind the vast explosion of new art and culture lurked a seamy, vicious world of power politics, perversity, and corruption that has more in common with the present day than anyone dares to admit.

In this lively and meticulously researched portrait, Renaissance scholar Alexander Lee illuminates the dark and titillating contradictions that were hidden beneath the surface of the period’s best-known artworks. Rife with tales of scheming bankers, greedy politicians, sex-crazed priests, bloody rivalries, vicious intolerance, rampant disease, and lives of extravagance and excess, this gripping exploration of the underbelly of Renaissance Italy shows that, far from being the product of high-minded ideals, the sublime monuments of the Renaissance were created by flawed and tormented artists who lived in an ever-expanding world of inequality, dark sexuality, bigotry, and hatred.

The Ugly Renaissance is a delightfully debauched journey through the surprising contradictions of Italy’s past and shows that were it not for the profusion of depravity and degradation, history’s greatest masterpieces might never have come into being.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Alexander Lee’s The Ugly Renaissance is here to remind us that not far beneath the surface of those brilliant works is a world teeming with dissonance, excess, and greed. With vivid detail, this respected Renaissance scholar exposes the intrigues and sexual escapades of rulers, priests, and bankers, some of whom are remembered best today as benefactors of artists we all revere. The sordid underpinnings of an artistic golden age.”

    Barnes&Noble.com, editorial review

  • “In this fascinating study, Lee…states that patrons influenced and set terms for desired artwork; art was the window dressing they used to hide or atone for a variety of sins including avarice, duplicity, nepotism, murder, and sexual assault…In this well-argued, lively, scholarly work…art emerges as a means for ‘dressing up reality in more socially acceptable terms.’ Verdict: This highly inviting history should appeal widely to both scholars and casual readers.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Lee provides an entertaining frolic buttressed by serious scholarship…An illuminating look at how the flowering of human imagination celebrated in the Renaissance was fertilized by the excesses of human nature.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Arthur Morey conveys an intelligent affability throughout, focusing the listener’s attention on the text rather than his performance. His pronunciation of the frequent Italian is accurate, if not graceful. His skill in pacing and in matching voice to sense is impressive. At times, his pauses or emphases help clarify difficult sentences. Overall, his nuanced, clear reading is actually somewhat superior to the book being read and makes the experience of it more pleasant than it might otherwise have been.”


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