chapter  7
13 Pages

PORK AND PORCELAIN

Art, as understood in Europe-and gradually, under European influence, throughout the world-for the last two centuries or so, is as we have seen not a universal, or even a normal, feature of human cultures. People in all societies that we know about have decorated surfaces, made images of various sorts, organized sound rhythmically and tunefully, engaged in dancing, constructed buildings, put words together with care, and so forth. But-to take the visual arts for examplethe thirteenth-century Italian crucifixes that mark the start of the Renaissance in well-appointed museums were not produced as art as we now think of it. They may have been made to be beautiful, or moving in various ways, but they were made for religious, not aesthetic contemplation. When used to describe their making, the word “art” signified the exercise of special skills, without the sense of an autonomous realm of value that it now has.