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The Madonna of the Future

Henry James

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Dutch cabbages and kettles, for the taper fingers and breezy mantles of late-coming Madonnas, for the little blue-hilled, pastoral, sceptical Italian landscapes.  Then there are the days of fierce, fastidious longing—solemn church feasts of the intellect—when all vulgar effort and all petty success is a weariness, and everything but the best—the best of the best—disgusts.  In these hours we are relentless aristocrats of taste.  We will not take Michael Angelo for granted, we will not swallow Raphael whole!”

The gallery of the Uffizi is not only rich in its possessions, but peculiarly fortunate in that fine architectural accident, as one may call it, which unites it—with the breadth of river and city between them—to those princely chambers of the Pitti Palace.  The Louvre and the Vatican hardly give you such a sense of sustained inclosure as those long passages projected over street and stream to establish a sort of in. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The Madonna of the Future is a longish short story whose resonance right now is audible, at the least. The story is an account of an American who has fallen in love with Florence and haunts it as he studies its art--notably Raphael's Madonna of the Chair in the Uffizi Gallery--and prepares himself t

Easily, this is the book I’ve analyzed the most. I think one must read slowly when the lines get jumbled and the words get more complex, but just as slow when the words move fast and the lines look simple, don’t be facile.

Pretty good, especially if you haven't read Balzac's "The Unknown Masterpiece" beforehand; James gives a fairly accurate portrait of a world of faced aristocrats and sexually-repressed people who are not entitled to vote for their representatives in government.

An interesting discussion on artistic ideals VS craftsmanship, the difference between a craftsman, an aesthete, and an artist, what constitutes genuine artistic appreciation, and the position of fine arts in a fast-paced, consumeristic society. It's been three years since I last read a work by Henry

Excelent Story

Henry James wrote the long short story “The Madonna of the Future” (1873) at the age of thirty, but although it features his early, relatively straightforward style, it is subtle in the way it combines its themes: America’s discovery of Europe, the American artist’s particular challenges, the repres

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