European Diary

Letter From a Hot Town

Cimabue the painter, passing on the road to Bologna, saw, as he walked through the village of Vespignano, a boy called Giotto drawing a sheep on a flat piece of rock.  This was the moment with which, more than a century later, Lorenzo Ghiberti, the sculptor and the first art historian of the Renaissance, began his Commentaries.  And so I, in London on a brief sojourn, with the wistfulness of an exile who longs for a glimpse of his homestead even if it should cost him his life, witnessed a scene that represents modern sensibility as the crouching form of young Giotto signaled the Renaissance.

A young woman wearing vertiginous heels, which, history records, were part of the new season’s Miu Miu collection, had clambered aboard the No. 11 bound for St. Paul’s and was rummaging in her handbag to find her ticket, when, by opening the doors at a bus stop, the driver caught the woman’s shoe in one of them.  In the space of a gasp the lacquered stiletto seemed to hold sway over the life of the bus, recalling the voluminous crinoline that dominated the life of Baudelaire in Manet’s portrait of the poet’s mistress.  Clearly the driver, an older man, had been cognizant of the woman’s charms, which culminated, as it were, in the acumination now in peril.  Instinctively, he shut the doors, very nearly maiming the first in the crowd of passengers who had begun boarding. ...

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