L’era contemporanea, ossia il rifiuto della tradizione

Timothy Verdon


Sommario: 1. Radici lontane. 2. Dal Neoclassico al Neogotico. 3. Il problema della modernità. 4. La demolizione di strutture mitiche. 5. Esteti e futuristi. 6. L’arte come cosa di poca importanza. 7. Tardivo aggiornamento dell’arte sacra. 8. Una nuova arte sacra.

Abstract: To conclude the thematic journey charted in these pages, from Greco-Roman mimesis to the mystagogy of Early Christian art, and from Medieval symbolism to Renaissance humanism, an essay on the contemporary age is clearly necessary, even if it must above all underline discontinuity--or, rather, total rupture with the past. Indeed it is no exaggeration to describe the entire period from the mid-nineteenth century to the present as a pondered refusal of the artistic and aesthetic tradition which Christianity had inherited from the classic world and had transformed in accordance with its own needs. And among the rejected components of the tradition there is also the supposition that art and the sense of the beautiful have a relationship with the sacred. The essay opens with a work by the Mexican photographer Daniela Rossell, Ricas y Famosas (Last Supper), of 2002, in which, in a sumptuous but vulgar room, we see a young woman in an abbreviated evening gown sitting at a dining table beneath a large reproduction of Leonardo's "Last Supper". The woman's look of sadness and her inward gaze mimic the tragic interiority of da Vinci's Christ, just as the Hollywood-style magnificence of the room mimics the Reniassance elegance of the chamber he depicted. This work, brilliant and amusing in its mix of sex appeal, kitsch taste and conventional religiosity, sums up the "refusal" of which the essay speaks, inviting viewers to see Leonardo's sacred masterpiece as a relic to be exploited for purposes of social advancement. Beginning with this extreme example, the essay reconstructs the mutation that took place between the end of the Baroque era and the nineteenth century in the concept of what art is and in the idea of its function. 

Keywords: Christian art, Greco-Roman mimesis, Renaissance humanism, Medieval symbolism, aesthetic tradition.