I received this book via Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.
The Renaissance is always seen by popular culture as the reestablishment of learning and art after the lull of the Dark and Middle Ages, whether this correct or not it is the view Alexander Lee takes on the outset of his book “The Ugly Renaissance.” Lee focuses on exposing the dark underbelly of the Renaissance period hidden behind the veneer of the wondrous art that we only view today.
Lee uses the lives of various artists and the work they did to illustrate the various facets of the ugly Renaissance from the vast poverty and inequality to sex and scandals, of corrupt bankers to murderous warlords patronizing fabulous works of art along side irreligious popes and priests who hide their scandalous ways by showing the grandiose moments in church history whether based on fact or fiction, and how art was used to further bigotry and prejudice of any race or culture not white, Christian, and European.
The moments in history that Lee highlights at first seems to show the greatness of popular view of the Renaissance, but then Lee shows that all is not what it seems in the highlighted moments. While everything Lee brings forth backs up his assertions these moments aren’t exactly new to those interested in history, which unfortunately makes “The Ugly Renaissance” a rehashing of history that many already know to be true. While Lee can be given credit for attempting to inform the wider public of what also happened during the Renaissance besides the masterpieces of da Vinci and Michelangelo, his prose is dull that even I had to stop myself from zoning out several times.
The history of the Renaissance world, beyond the artistic and literary masterpieces most remember, for the popular crowd is a laudable effort by Lee. However the tone of the overall book and the dull prose, undermine the overall produce for students of history that want to go beyond “popular” history. So while this book has good information, be aware of the prose and tone before you read.