The figures chiseled out of Etruscan boulders include a 19-ft.-high elephant crushing a warrior in its trunk, a giant dismembering a man, a goddess with each pubic hair clearly delineated, and a 20-ft. satanic head whose mouth opens into a large chamber. These overwhelming creations are 50 miles north of Rome. It is known only that they were carved between 1555 and 1585 at the command of Duke Pier Francesco Orsini.
But are they part of a kinky Renaissance Disneyland for a bored nobleman or projections of a tortured soul? When he visited Bomarzo, Argentine Art Critic and Writer Manuel Mujica-Lainez opted for the latter. He had moreover, an odd feeling of having been there before—perhaps in another life.
Combining a scholar's passion for detail with a novelist's fertile imagination, Mujica-Lainez set about constructing from the few known facts a sumptuous fictional Doge's Palace of the mind. Like that famous seat of the Venetian Republic, whose ceiling, walls, and floors constitute a convulsion of visual splendor, Bomarzo's pages glitter with descriptions of processions, land and naval battles, landscapes, and courtesan's sultry rec room and a cabalist's murky study.
Mujica-Lainez conveys not only the well-known creative energies of the Renaissance but its less understood anxieties as well….
Mujica-Lainez focuses this aesthetic and religious conflict in the mind and body of...
(The entire section is 504 words.)