We must not be deceived by superficial phenomena and local successes. Picasso's shows still draw crowds, and T. S. Eliot is taught in the universities; the dealers in modernist art are still in business, and the publishers still publish some "difficult" poetry. But the avant-garde itself, already sensing the danger, is becoming more and more timid every day that passes. Academicism and commercialism are appearing in the strangest places. This can mean only one thing: that the avant-garde is becoming unsure of the audience it depends on -- the rich and the cultivated.
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Although the transfiguration of Christ was a popular scene to depict at this time, Raphael—always intrepid and undoubtedly trying to pull one over on Michelangelo once again—decided to combine two biblical scenes in his version. The bottom half shows a boy being exorcised of his demons; the top half portrays Jesus ecstatically reveling in his body’s divine glory (and overawing his onlookers) before he ascends into heaven. The painting ranks in the top three of this list because of its sheer uniqueness: There is no pictorial tradition for this conflation, and none of the interpretations —political, liturgical, theological, or otherwise—offer much insight. It is as idiosyncratic as it is enigmatic. As Christian K. Kleinbub says :