ÊPerhaps one day the bodies of Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky will be the objects of scrutiny for cultural historians rooting for manifestations of genius and grace in late 20th-century life. For it is the physical actions of these present-day superheroes around which images of greatness are currently fashioned. Pioneering historian Simon Schama has taken such a unique approach to the understanding of the Old Masters in Rembrandt's Eyes. Schama breaks down all the stifling conventions of art and cultural histories in this micro/macroscopic journey through the life and works of Rembrandt van Rijn. A comprehensive visual treatise on the great painter, Rembrandt's Eyes is both an innovative unearthing of the master's optical training and a panoramic probing of the many eyes looking back at the viewer from the artist's oeuvre. Schama subtly confesses the genesis of his innovative approach to this book by discussing the shame befalling historians accused of a vulgar glorification of Rembrandt in the latter half of this century. He writes, . . . allergy to genius talk has virtually become a professional obligation. We can only be thankful that the writer refused to allow this code of conduct to impede his impassioned approach to the subject. Rembrandt's Eyes begins with a lively, near-fictional rendering of various historical events coalescing into two important themes of the painter's life: the motivations driving Rembrandt's first important patron and Rembrandt's meeting the parents of Peter Paul Rubens, his foremost artistic influence. These two threads magically intertwine to heighten the importance of Rubens's work on the younger Rembrandt. The brilliance of Schama's method exists in his ability to dote on not one, but two of the greatest painters who ever lived, casting Rembrandt's work in the shadow of Rubens. Curious and unexpected section headings like Honeysuckle, Making Faces, and The Sufficiency of Grace alert the reader from page one that 12 cups of coffee and an unabridged dictionary will not be required to make it through. You will find yourself only wanting to make more complete your enjoyment of a subject which, through the eyes of a less- skilled author, could easily put you to sleep in the blink of an eye. Chris Wyrick is a painter and teacher in Athens, Georgia, currently finishing his master's degree at UGA.

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