A Room with a View
Art and Culture Quotes Page 1
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For one ravishing moment Italy appeared. She stood in the Square of the Annunziata and saw in the living terra-cotta those divine babies whom no cheap reproduction can ever stale. There they stood, with their shining limbs bursting from the garments of charity, and their strong white arms extended against circlets of heaven. Lucy thought she had never seen anything more beautiful; but Miss Lavish, with a shriek of dismay, dragged her forward, declaring that they were out of their path now by at least a mile (2.16).
Lucy, unlike Miss Lavish, is able to appreciate the true beauty of art when it sneaks up on her. However, most of the other characters, including Lucy herself at times, approach art in a very different way, as pretentious critics, rather than open-minded lovers of beauty.
Of course, it must be a wonderful building. But how like a barn! And how very cold! Of course, it contained frescoes by Giotto, in the presence of whose tactile values she was capable of feeling what was proper. But who was to tell her which they were? She walked about disdainfully, unwilling to be enthusiastic over monuments of uncertain authorship or date. There was no one even to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful, the one that had been most praised by Mr. Ruskin (2.22).
Lucy knows that she should feel that Santa Croce is a “wonderful” and exciting place, and she’s positive that the great works of art she came looking for are in there somewhere, but since she has neither guide nor guidebook, she doesn’t know which ones they are. Of course, she wouldn’t – nay, couldn’t – dare make her own decisions on what is beautiful and what is not.
She watched the singular creature pace up and down the chapel. For a young man his face was rugged, and—until the shadows fell upon it—hard. Enshadowed, it sprang into tenderness. She saw him once again at Rome, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, carrying a burden of acorns. Healthy and muscular, he yet gave her the feeling of greyness, of tragedy that might only find solution in the night. The feeling soon passed; it was unlike her to have entertained anything so subtle (2.39).
Lucy, watching George, sees him as a heroic figure out of Michelangelo (he’s also referred to as “Michelangelesque” later – see 12.24). This is a precursor to later comparisons in which Lucy herself is seen as a work by Leonardo da Vinci, and it directly contrasts to Cecil Vyse, who is an austere medieval statue.