chapter  1
24 Pages

An Introduction to the Paragone

BySarah J. Lippert

While artists did not take up the paragone in great numbers until the Italian Renaissance, its history began in antiquity. For instance, in sixth-century Greece, Simonides of Ceos, according to both Cicero and Plutarch, became the first ancient writer to compare poetry and painting. In the medieval era ‘ut pictura poesis’ was still prevalent while poetry was upheld as the superior art form, based on the notion that the latter required intellect and learning to appreciate, whereas the visual arts supposedly did not. Words were the art form of the educated elite, while images were the art form of the uneducated masses. Even though he was not primarily concerned with the arts, Dante Alighieri presented a version of divine truth in his epic poem that addressed the status of medieval artists. Early Modernism brought artists out of anonymity and into celebrity through secular patronage and humanism.