Do the best things always

Do the best things always come first? Every movement seems to produce its classics at the beginning like Athena springing full-grown from the head of Zeus. (Sorry if that’s too high-flown!)

That applies to modernity too. For us the seventeenth century is the century of genius, because it was when modernity achieved full development in the work of men like Newton, Descartes, Bacon and Hobbes. Pascal’s discussion of the spiritual consequences of the new situation has never been bettered. What have Nietzsche or the deconstructionists added to it?

The Gentileschi exhibition displayed artistically the results of the sudden loss of a natural place for human impulses—the violence, the perverse sexuality, the Caravaggiesque interest in both the details of ordinary life and the shockingly dramatic, and the attempted flight into mysticism or, as in the picture of the lutenist, into technical intelligence.

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