THE PASSIONATE SIGHTSEER, by Bernard Rerenson (11rantes and Hudson, 35s.).
THIS handsome book. with its 168 illustrations, consists of Bcrenson's diaries from 1947 to 1956, introduced by Raymond Mortimer. &reason's death last year robbed the world of a unique being, revered both as historian of art and as a man, but these diaries, posthumously published, bring that ever-enquiring mind and "passionate" intensity of response hack to life for those who knew him.
The diaries combine discussion of his travels (in Italy, Sicily, and North Africa) with ever-fresh reappraisal of the works of art he has visited, whether in situ or in such exhibitions as that devoted to Lorenzo Lotto in 1953, that of Antonello da Memina, and the great show of illuminated manuscripts held in Rome, both in the same year.
THE jottings range from trivialities about hotel accommodation to sudden. vivid evocation of sonic scene that has entranced him: " Woke at 4,45 this morning," he writes in 1953, "and stepped out on the balcony to see the dawn on Etna. Its colour was silver and mauve over a gentle glow from within. A diadem of snow and below a necklace of cloud ."
In passages like this, the beholder's joy is communicated directly to the reader, and words are used as sensitively as a great artist might use pigment.
The illustrations, whether of scenery or works of art, follow the text very closely. Thus, as one turns the pages, one seems to he accompanying the sage of Settignano on these, almost the last of his peregrinations. G.B.