Books: Godfathers a Renaissance Tapestry: the Gonzaga of Mantua

Kate Simon's travel books and her autobiographical portraits, Bronx Primitive and A Wider World, are admired for their good sense, wit and pithy grace. These qualities serve her well as a popular historian of a period that has set the Western world's standards for art, culture, cynical statecraft and consumer spending. The legacy of the Italian Renaissance is never far from contemporary tastes; its style and egocentricities survive wherever easy money, ambition and ideas flourish. Lofty mindedness and low animal cunning rarely had a better stage on which to interact. As Simon puts it, "The susurrus of silks dragging through pools...

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