The Quest for ArcadiaBook - 2009
By the end of the nineteenth century, Florence was a key destination for cultured travelers from Europe and America. Writers such as Wilde, Rilke, and Mann; painters such as Degas and Klee; and not least, the young art historian Aby Warburg and his wife, Mary, flocked to Florence to escape the encroachments of modern life at home and to revel in the city's rich artistic and cultural past.
This beguiling book fuses narrative and ideas to consider how the encounter between modernism and Renaissance culture was experienced by both visitors to Florence and its inhabitants. Based on Aby Warburg's letters, diaries, and notebooks; on Italian and German archives; and on conversations with E. H. Gombrich (director of the famous Institute that Warburg founded), the book is an intimate guide to life in Florence and the theaters, restaurants, galleries, and salons frequented by visiting cultural exiles. At the same time, the book paints an evocative picture of a city at the cusp of the modern age, adjusting to electricity and the motor car on one hand and to social unrest and a clash of cultures on the other.