The Beauty and the Terror
by Catherine Fletcher
An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance
*A THE TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020*
‘Brilliant and gripping, here is the full true Renaissance in a history of compelling originality and freshness’ Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Italian Renaissance shaped Western culture – but it was far stranger and darker than many of us realise. We know the Mona Lisa for her smile, but not that she was married to a slave-trader. We revere Leonardo da Vinci for his art, but few now appreciate his ingenious designs for weaponry. We visit Florence to see Michelangelo’s David, but hear nothing of the massacre that forced the republic’s surrender. In fact, many of the Renaissance’s most celebrated artists and thinkers emerged not during the celebrated ‘rebirth’ of the fifteenth century but amidst the death and destruction of the sixteenth century.
The Beauty and the Terror is an enrapturing narrative which includes the forgotten women writers, Jewish merchants, mercenaries, prostitutes, farmers and citizens who lived the Renaissance every day. Brimming with life, it takes us closer than ever before to the reality of this astonishing era, and its meaning for today.
‘Terrifying and fascinating’ Sunday Times
‘Enlightening…exactly the alternative history you might wish for’Daily Telegraph