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Monday, March 2, 2015

Self-Portrait of an Era: 2. War


A detail from one among the hundreds of tapestries collected by the Italian family Gonzaga during the Renaissance (this one now belongs to the Centre des Monuments Historiques in Châteaudun, France). It shows a very unusual episode of the Bible, "The women and the little ones of Midian being taken captive," from Numbers 31: 9. As a matter of fact, when 16th century art depicted scenes like this, either from the Bible or from classical mythology and literature, it was simply a pretext to show contemporary life, often with remarkable bluntness. The representation of war included cities burned and destroyed, goods plundered, countrymen robbed, women and girls kidnapped for sexual purposes.

The Renaissance was a very though era, but they didn't sweep under the carpet. Not even Cesare Borgia the Duca Valentino would have been so hypocritical to call war a "peace mission" or "humanitarian mission."