Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
The conception of the Renaissance in Russian and Western art studies was to the large extent creation of Modernist discourse. From Heinrich Woelfflin’s nietzschean classics and Walter Pater’s aestheticism to Clement Greenberg’s “Eliotic Trotskyism” and Hubert Damisch’s “Maoism” Renaissance art remained testing ground for the latest ideological and methodological strategies. The Renaissance was phantom pain of Modernism caused by the lost and impossible alternative to the capitalist reality. The main avant-garde myths, categories of superhuman and extrasocial, principles of historicism and catastrophism were tested on the material of Renaissance art through the production of new cultural products, which received such tried and true labels as “Raphael”, “Leonardo”, etc. Eminent art
historians, Lionello Venturi and G. C. Argan, A. Chastel and P. Francastel, M. Dvorak and H. Sedlmayr created new forms of reception according to the rules of Modernist discourse. In this situation we should speak not so much about the rehabilitation of some mythic “true” Renaissance — the very formulation of a problem looks naive — but about the necessity of deconstruction of those complex rhetorical and philosophical systems which contributed to our understanding of the past. Russian “Silver age” with its diversity of “extremist” approaches to Renaissance art (from Dmitry Merezhkovsky to Aleksandr Gabrichevsky), varying over a wide range of ideologies and life styles (from eli-
tism and dandyism to proto-fascism and shamanism) is also a remarkable example of Modernist invasion into scientific sphere, the consequences of which could be seen in Soviet and post-Soviet art criticism.