As the story unfolds, Manetto wonders increasingly who he is.
Eventually the simple carpenter Manetto is convinced that he is not himself but is indeed Matteo. Not only are the names of Manetto and Matteo similar, composed mostly of the same letters, but it should not escape our attention that the author, Manetti, and his antihero, Manetto, share essentially the same name, a fact of interest in a story that is all about identity. As an early example of identity theft, the joke is both funny and cruel in its various details. It reflects the literary tradition of Boccaccio—for example, the tale in the Decameron in which an abbot convinces Ferondo that he has died and gone to purgatory.
If Calandrino is famous as a simpleton, then the carpenter, in his consciousness of his similarity to the simple painter, is, paradoxically, not altogether ingenuous. We might well say that one loses oneself in a pictorial perspective or illusion in the same way that one loses oneself in a good book.
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It is more accurate to say, however, that the fable is true to the type of story told by Boccaccio and his followers about simpletons—many, like Calandrino, themselves artists—who are duped. As history becomes fiction in the life of Raphael, fiction becomes history in the biography of Brunelleschi, a fictional story true to what the artist in fact did when he made his perspectival illusions. We have already alluded to Hephaistos as an exemplar whose image remains alive in the modern period either explicitly or implicitly, and we can even describe the idea of God the Creator as originary artificer as a form of Judeo-Christian mythology.
But the history of art and fiction about artists is also informed by, or at least brings to mind, myths of the modern world, those of Don Quixote, Don Juan, and Faust. In his obsession with perspective, for example, the simple Calandrino-like painter Paolo Uccello is quixotic; in his obsessive quest for scientific knowledge Leonardo is Faustian; and in his obsessive pursuit of women so important to both his art and his biography Picasso is a type of Don Juan.
All three of these mythic beings, Don Juan, Faust, and Quixote, who took form in the early modern period within a century of Vasari, are the epitome of obsession—whether the obsessions of sexual desire, the obsessive desire for knowledge, or the obsession with chivalric romance or pastoral poetry; in other words, art. The history of the modern artist is, in short, the story of artistic obsession, the unending pursuit of what is unattainable, and the various stories of obsessive artists all undermine the idea of art history as progress toward an idea or goal, since that goal is ultimately beyond reach.
What we call obsession is not unrelated to the older notion of possession, of being possessed by a demon, the devil or Satan. This sense of possession persists in the story of the modern Faustian artist, who is diabolical.
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In other words, fiction is part of the reality of these real-life nonfictional painters. Fiction is essential to the reality of their imagination. Picasso is a fitting subject with whom to conclude our narrative because his persona is so bound up with the important ideas of the artist that we find in the Bible, Ovid, Vasari, and Balzac. I have surely not written "the" history of the artist. There is no such thing. For there are many stories of the artist, and mine is only one among many.
The major claim of my essay, as I have said, is that the history of the artist is inseparable from historical fiction about the artist.
A Brief History of the Artist from God to Picasso
I hope my essay, my attempt to sketch out a possible history of the artist, will stimulate the reader to see other possibilities, to imagine histories of the artist previously unimagined. Each time that they reappear I do not merely repeat the same stories about them or by them. Rather, I try to fill in details from these stories or show these tales in a different light, as I pursue their relations to the larger fabric out of which they are woven—a text, which, I hope, provides clues to future narratives.
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In that case it has no validity as a measure of truth — it was predetermined either by chance forces at the Big Bang or by e. These are age-old problems without easy solutions but I would expect a scholar to present both sides of the argument, not a populist one-sided account as Harari does.
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Moreover, in Christian theology God created both time and space, but exists outside them. But to the best of my knowledge there is no mention of it even as an influential belief anywhere in the book. And the funny thing is that unlike other religions, this is precisely where Christianity is most insistent on its historicity. Peter, Paul, the early church in general were convinced that Jesus was alive and they knew as well as we do that dead men are dead — and they knew better than us that us that crucified men are especially dead!
The very first Christian sermons about AD 33 were about the facts of their experience — the resurrection of Jesus — not about morals or religion or the future. Harari is right to highlight the appalling record of human warfare and there is no point trying to excuse the Church from its part in this. I have written at length about this elsewhere, as have far more able people. If the Church is cited as a negative influence, why, in a scholarly book, is its positive influence not also cited?
It was the result of political intrigue, sexual jealousy, human barbarism and feud. If the Church is being cited as a negative influence, why, in a scholarly book, is its undeniably unrivalled positive influence over the last years not to mention all the previous years not also cited?
Both sides need to feature. Tell that to the people of Haiti seven years after the earthquake with two and a half million still, according to the UN, needing humanitarian aid. Or the people of South Sudan dying of thirst and starvation as they try to reach refugee camps.
There are sixty million refugees living in appalling poverty and distress at this moment. But there is a larger philosophical fault-line running through the whole book which constantly threatens to break its conclusions in pieces.
His whole contention is predicated on the idea that humankind is merely the product of accidental evolutionary forces and this means he is blind to seeing any real intentionality in history. It has direction certainly, but he believes it is the direction of an iceberg, not a ship. That is, he assumes from the start what his contention requires him to prove — namely that mankind is on its own and without any sort of divine direction. Harari ought to have stated his assumed position at the start, but signally failed to do so.
The result is that many of his opening remarks are just unwarranted assumptions based on that grandest of all assumptions: that humanity is cut adrift on a lonely planet, itself adrift in a drifting galaxy in a dying universe. Evidence please! This last is such a huge leap of unwarranted faith.
Actually, humans are mostly sure that immaterial things certainly exist: love, jealousy, rage, poverty, wealth, for starters. His rendition of how biologists see the human condition is as one-sided as his treatment of earlier topics. His rendition, however, of how biologists see the human condition is as one-sided as his treatment of earlier topics. Recent studies have concluded that human behaviour and well-being are the result not just of the amount of serotonin etc that we have in our bodies, but that our response to external events actually alters the amount of serotonin, dopamine etc which our bodies produce.
It is two-way traffic. Our choices therefore are central. The way we behave actually affects our body chemistry, as well as vice versa. The first sentence is fine — of course , that is true!