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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

November 10, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

FLORENCE: A Portrait by Michael Levey (Harvard University Press: $35, 498 pp.). It is a beautiful, violent history; founded by Julius Caesar, home to the Medicis, but first and foremost an Etruscan city. Reading about Florence is almost like reading about a mythical city. Levey, director of the National Gallery in London from 1973 to 1986 and author of, among other things, "Early Renaissance," leads us to the heart of the city through its poets, painters and sculptors: Petrarch, born in Florence and appropriated by the Florentines; the artistic competitions that led, among many other works, to Ghiberti's bronze doors on the Baptistry; the collaboration between Masaccio and Masolino that led to the frescoes in the Brancaci Chapel of the Carmine; the mentors and family trees that passed from Botticelli to Filippo Lippi and his son Filippino Lippi.

It's a long stroll with an elderly uncle, and it will leave the reader fascinated by the violence and charmed by the gentleness of Florence.

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