Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, 2005 - 314 pages
Most people would be hard pressed to name a famous artist from Renaissance France. Yet sixteenth-century French kings believed they were the heirs of imperial Rome and commissioned a magnificent array of visual arts to secure their hopes of political ascendancy with images of overflowing abundance. With a wide-ranging yet richly detailed interdisciplinary approach, Rebecca Zorach examines the visual culture of the French Renaissance, where depictions of sacrifice, luxury, fertility, violence, metamorphosis, and sexual excess are central. Zorach looks at the cultural, political, and individual roles that played out in these artistic themes and how, eventually, these aesthetics of exuberant abundance disintegrated amidst perceptions of decadent excess.

Throughout the book, abundance and excess flow in liquids-blood, milk, ink, and gold-that highlight the materiality of objects and the human body, and explore the value (and values) accorded to them. The arts of the lavish royal court at Fontainebleau and in urban centers are here explored in a vibrant tableau that illuminates our own contemporary relationship to excess and desire.

From marvelous works by Francois Clouet to oversexed ornamental prints to Benvenuto Cellini's golden saltcellar fashioned for Francis I, Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold covers an astounding range of subjects with precision and panache, producing the most lucid, well-rounded portrait of the cultural politics of the French Renaissance to date.

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Incomprehensible Abundance? An Introduction
The Galerie Fançois Premier
Fontainebleau Nova Pandora
Death and Rebirth
The Death of Adonis
The Aesthetics of Sacrifice
Copia and Curiosity
The Golden Fleece
Inanimate Reproduction
Problems of Number
Living Gold
Royal Responses

Impossible Bodies
Nature France
Cybele and Artemis
Fertile Gauls Fat Breasts
Charles and Elizabeth
The Lust of the Earth
Natural Antiquity
Ornament and the School of Fontainebleau
The New World
Inflation and the Hubris of Kings
The Golden Age
Counterfeit Bodies
Animation and Deanimation

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About the author (2005)

Rebecca Zorach is assistant professor of art history at the University of Chicago. She is coeditor of Embodied Utopias.

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