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Title: Lord Lindsay and James Dennistoun : two Scottish art-historians and collectors of early Italian Art
Author: Brigstocke, Hugh
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1976
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When in 1886 J.A. Symonds denounced Italian seicento art as the embodiment of a "hysterical, dogmatic, hypocritical and sacerdotal" religion - not Christianity indeed, but Catholicism galvanised by terror into reactionary movement" - and went on to suggest that "nothing short of the substitution of Catholicism for science and of Jesuitry for truth in the European mind would work a general revolution of taste in favour of the Eclectic artists" he had apparently forgotten the quite different situation which had prevailed only half a century earlier. Then accusations of Popery were more frequently directed at the determined minority of writers and collectors who had ventured to express admiration for the devotional style of fifteenth century Italian artists such as Pre Angelico. And indeed, it had been largely due to the impact of De La Poesie Chrdtienne, a volume published in 1836 by A. Rio, an extreme French Roman Catholic Royalist, that a taste for some aspects of pre-Renaissance Italian art had developed in Britain beyond detached antiquarian curiosity to a pleasantly nostalgic and melancholy awareness of its spiritual purity, uncontaminated by the antagonistic forces of scientific naturalism and paganism which together later threatened to overwhelm it. These underlying links between religious sentiment and artistic appreciation during a period of the 19th century which was greatly preoccupied with the question of Papal aggression may be relatively familiar, yet we still have remarkably little first hand information about many of the most influential mid 19th century art-historians and collectors. The purpose of this study is therefore to investigate, from the evidence of their unpublished papers, the experiences and developing taste of two of the first British critics to write sympathetically about early Italian art, Lord Lindsay and James Dennistoun, both of whom also deserve our attention as discerning picture collectors. Each of these writers was acutely aware of the difficulty confronting a convinced Anglican who wished to justify his admiration for the spiritual and artistic qualities of pre Reformation art. For Lindsay the solution lay in the dialectics of a complex philosophical thesis which he entitled Progression by Antagonism. Dennistoun took refuge, more soberly, in the argument of historical relativism, and thereby helped to clear the way for the more objective critical approach of connoisseurs such as Crowe and Cavalcaselle, contemporaries of Symonds, in the next generation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available