Mozart, Goethe, Bernini, Talleyrand, Jaques Louis David, Henry Clay Frick, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Mikhail Psellos here are some of the great achievers that most people have heard of. But few know much about their extraordinary lives; fewer still, realise that alongside their grand public persona there was a darker, less attractive one that is reflected in their work. Why have such factors been ignored or underplayed? Deliberate concealment? Difficulty in discovering them? Or a misguided belief that great achievers must be left standing, shining on their pedestals. Modern psychobiography doubts the last reason but accepts the difficulties and dangers that accompany the collation and assessment of relevant information. This book attempts a candid narrative, warts and all of the lives of some great figures from the worlds of painting, sculpture, politics, philosophy, law, and business but does so also by placing their lives in the context of their times. The result, a series of essayistic portraits built around themes close to the lives of those described and brought into greater relief by the inclusion of over ninety beautifully reproduced colour illustrations.
The aim is to allow the general, educated reader to learn more about the genius of creation. Those interested in history, biography, psychobiography, and the arts, and also believe in the need of a broader culture in times of excessive specialisation, will enjoy this candid and wide-ranging book written by a widely travelled and acclaimed author.
Sir Basil Markesinis was born into a family that was for over ten generations involved in politics, law and the world of letters. He holds a Doctor Iuris (Athens), a Ph.D. and LL.D. (Cambridge), and a DCL (Oxford). He is an honorary doctor of the Sorbonne, the Universities of Ghent, Athens and Munich and has held tenured posts at Cambridge, London and Oxford. He holds the Jamail Regents Chair at the University of Texas. He has been elected as Fellow of the British Academy, a Foreign Fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei of Rome, the Royal Belgian Academy and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Corresponding Member of the Institute de France and the Academy of Athens. He is a Member of the American Law Institute and a Bencher of Grays Inn. He was knighted and has received high civic honours in France, Germany, Greece, and Italy.