Papers by Art History Students at the University of Minnesota Duluth Spring 2016
Florence and the Courts
Written by Stephanie Phillips Designed by Shana Froehling
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Paganism and Christianity in the Tempio Malatestiano Written by Jeremy Schaupp Designed by Alec Hogstad
Written by Rachel Bruhn Designed by Madison Young
The Dutchess: Reimagining Lucrezia Borgia as Pious, Virtuous, and Magnificent Written by Erin Burke Designed by Gannon McDonald
The Renaissance in Dubrovnik, Croatia: An Appropriation and Translation of Italian Renaissance Characteristics Written by Kira Lapinsky Designed by Haley Reardon
Written by Chev Arnold Designed by Cara Thompson
La Bella Simonetta and the Florentine Myth Written by Alexis Littrell Designed by Jennifer Degen
Written by Brooke Joyce Designed by Matt Knowles
Using the Image of the Virgin to Enhance Secondary Messages in Renaissance Artwork Written by Mary Ethier Designed by Andy Pearson
A L L E B A I S
E S T E
B Y S T E P H A N I E
P H I L L I P S
I sa bella D Esteâ€™s St u diolo...
...she collected and showed off
many forms of art. Through commissions such as The Battle of Love and Chastity, Isabella d’Este used her patronage to illustrate her power at the Gonzaga Court in Mantua and it sets herself apart from her contemporaries. Isabella d’Este, born in the court of Ferrara on May 18, 1474, grew up under the watchful eye of her mother.1 Her mother and father, Elenora d’Argona and Ecole d’Este, created an environment that allowed their
However, her wit and intelligence were greatly honored. At a very young age, Isabella showed great knowledge of Latin and literature. Her knowledge of these subjects were supplemented be her parents vast collection of artworks and antiquities.
As Isabella grew older, along with her humanist
education, she became known for her musical talents; she sang and played the lute.3 Her appreciation for the musical arts came from her mothers love of music. Isabella also gained an appreciation for the fine arts including painting, sculpture, and collectables like coins and gems. Much of her childhood was spent in a country home that was owned by the Este’s in Sans Souci. While in this house, Isabella would have seen the work of a famous series of hunting and pastoral subjects.4 Throughout her life, this appreciation of art enlightened Isabella of the patronage of her parents from local and foreign masters.5
2 3 4 5
by those closest to her as “not as beautiful as her younger sister.”2
art, and antiquities. The eldest daughter, Isabella, was described
Cartwright, Julia, and Isabella d’Este. “Marchioness of Mantua 1474-1539.” A studi of the renaissance. I-II. London (1903), 3 Cartwright, 9 Cartwright, 10 Cartwright, 12 Cartwright, 13
daughter to be well educated and gave her access to literature,
RANCESCO 6 7
At age fifteen, Isabella married M
15, 1490, in Ferrara.6 Isabella d’Este’s re Gonzaga, is often overshadowed by her
Gonzaga did not often spend his time w
managing the court. Francesco was of
source states that he and Isabella made d
of artworks, but the interest is not foc
Francesco Gonzaga.7 The artworks Isabe own studiolo often inspired the works
Isabella’s studiolo that she expressed he
Isabella gain much of the power and pre
Soon after she arrived in Mantu
her parents and began plans for her ow was filled with paintings and sculptures
As part of the Gonzaga court, Isabella c
her studiolo, however, she also commis
became an important part of her studiolo
Isabella’s Studiolo became a plac
within her new court. Like her husband
her studiolo as a place of collecting and
While her husband was often away from
it was left to Isabella to run the court a
from which she did these proceedings.10
studiolo not only represented her likes a
used to indicate one’s personal credentia
Cartwright, 15 Cockram, Sarah DP. Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: power sharing at the Italian Renaissance court. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013, 54 8 Cartwright, 11 9 Nassim, 95 10 Rossi, Nassim E. “Confronting the ‘Temple of Chastity’: Isabella d’Este in the Context of the Female Humanists” Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 34.1 (2003), 97 11 Shephard, Tim. “Constructing Isabella d’Este’s Musical Decorum in the Visual Sphere.” Renaissance Studies 25.5 (2011), 13
elationship with her husband, Francesco collecting and art patronage. Francesco
working with his court artists, but rather
ften busy with military business. One
dual decisions about the commissioning
cused on the works commissioned by
ella commissioned and collected for her for Francescoâ€™s own study. It is within
er knowledge of the arts which helped
estige she held in the court of Mantua.
ua, Isabella followed the example set by
wn studiolo.8 Her motherâ€™s own studiolo made by both local and foreign artists.9
commissioned many works from him for
ssioned from Perugino. These artworks
ce for her to create an identity for herself
d, father, and even mother, Isabella used
d rest, but also for conducting business.
m the court dealing with military matters,
and her studiolo became the main place
The images in which she decorated her
and fascinations, but it was also imagery
Marquis Francesco Gonzaga on February
Isabella co Perugino to scene ofTh C d n a e v o L display in h
ommissioned o paint a f o e l t t a B he Chastityfor her studiolo.
Isabella commissioned Perugino to paint a scene of The
Battle of Love and Chastity for display in her studiolo. The painting is a mythological scene, rather than a religious one. This sets the marchesa apart from other female patrons during the Renaissance who almost exclusively commissioned religious images. The letters between Isabella and Perugino show her expectations for artists and her commissions. The Battle of Love and Chastity is an example of the mythological scenes displayed in her studiolo.
The Battle of Love and Chastity, 1503-5, is placed against a
background of rolling hills and healthy greenery. The foreground of the painting is full of figures engaged in battle. Some of the figures are dressed in contemporary fashions, while others seem to be armed in Greek armor and helmets. A few of the figures hold bows, arrows, and staffs that they use to fight each other. Strewn around the battle scene are a few lounging naked female figures. These figures become part of the battle taking place all around them.
The main subjects are the two partially clothes figures. The
goddess Pallas is on the left wearing Greek armor and holding a lance pointed downwards at Cupid, after breaking his bow and arrow. Cupid, who is engaged in battle with Pallas, also quivers under her lance. This main battle scene is repeated throughout the work with Diana and Venus fighting in the center. Diana fires an arrow at Venus, but it does not hit her body.12 Venus fights back, lightly hitting Diana with her torch.13 Of the main battles taking place, the fight between Venus and Diana appears equally matched. On either side of the main battles, nude female figures lay. They become part of the wider battle, with nymph figures beginning to attack. Nymphs point their bows and arrows at the women while another naked figureâ€™s hair is being pulled by a centaur. In the
emphasis of battle, the centaur is being struck down by an arrow.
THE BATTLE O
OF LOVE AND CHASTITY 12 13
Nassim, 108 Nassim, 108
The background for the painting includes rolling hills, trees, and
a small pond in which few figures and animals swim. In the sky, the god Mercury floats above watching over a nymph that stands next to a casket. Close to the lake stands a female figure know as the goddess Daphne. She stands naked with her arms outstretched upwards as branches grow from her limbs, making her into a tree. Holding onto Daphne, is Phoebus.14 He grabs onto the knees of the goddess Daphne, kneeling on the ground in a begging position. Also within the background stands a man, the god Jupiter. He is armed, looking onto the battle scene happening in the foreground of the painting. Lastly, guarding the casket next to Jupiter, is a nymph called Glaucera, who stands idly as the action takes place.
Within the painting, it focuses on a scene of confrontation between
struggle, we also see other mythological characters, including Jupiter, Mercury, and Daphne. Each of these other characters bring additional elements to the painting, like the inclusion of Jupiter who is the enemy to chastity, and Mercury as an eagle type figure flying over his prey of a casket for the goddess. This fight between love and chastity is also symbolized in the inclusion of Daphne
14 15 16 17 18
in the process of becoming a laurel tree to escape love.15
Nassim, 108 Nassim, 108 Nassim, 109 Nassim, 109 Lawrence, Cynthia. Women and art in early modern Europe: patrons, collectors, and connoisseurs. Penn State Press, 1999. In the archives of the Gonzaga family there are around seventy kept letters of correspondence between Isabella and Perugino about the creation of The Battle of Love and Chastity 19 Ames-Lewis, Francis, 29
against the symbols of love, Cupid and Venus. Within this scene of moral
virtue and love. In the scene, Pallas and Diana fight as symbols of virtue
However, as we see within the painting, Pallas becomes victorious
over Cupid. This victory amplifies wisdom and chastity.16 Although Pallas is victorious over Cupid within their battle, the fight between Diana and Venus is more equally matched. This balance of abilities illustrates that wisdom is needed to be triumphant over love.17 The painting then becomes a symbol for Isabellaâ€™s moral struggles, but overall proving that she attains to qualities needed to be chaste and virtuous. Because of the sensitive subject matter, Isabella was very involoved in the creation of the painting. She wrote back and forth with the artist on the progress of the painting religiously.
During the creation of The Battle of Love and Chasisty, Isabella
corresponded extensively with Perugino about the composition.18 Isabella first wrote to Perugino with the idea for the work. The painting was to be based on a poem featuring Pallas, Diana, Venus, and Cupid.19 The creation of the painting was inspired by a humanist poet that Isabella interacted with. Isabella adapted one of these poems for the creation of the painting. When Isabella began to discuss the creation of the painting with Perugino, she explained in great detail her vision, even sending a sketch with it. Due to the fact that the painting contained images of humanist imagery, Isabella had to describe the meaning of the painting to Perugino. Although frustrating for Isabella when having to describe the meaning of the painting, it was of her intention to make the painting understandable to only her and those with a humanist education.
When it came to correspondence with Perugino, Isabella has been described
as a demanding and ungrateful patron.20 However, in other correspondence with other artists, she is portrayed as tolerant and accepting of artistic decisions.21 Isabella worked with many other artists when commissioning work for her studiolo; Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini for examples. Within Isabella’s correspondence between Bellini and herself, she was easily pleased and loved much of Bellini’s work.22 However, when she wrote to Bellini asking him to paint an allegorical scene for her, he wrote back claiming he could not complete the work. Bellini advised her of previous obligations and how he could not complete her work, and Isabella complied earnestly and withdrew the commission.23 In comparison to her communications with Bellini, Isabella’s correspondence with Perugino was unique for the Marchesa aggressivenes.
Although Isabella’s correspondence with Perugino is far more demanding
than those she had with her other artists, it is the subject matter of the painting that caused such a reaction from the Marchesa. The subject that aligned with the themes of virtue, chastity, and lust became an important signifier of the Marchesa’s own character. Before the creation of the painting, Isabella had clearly stated her description for the painting. And while discussing the work with the artist, she became aware that her instructions were not being followed. In a letter she wrote to Agostino Strozzi, she states her concerns, “Domenico Strozzi has informed me that Perugino is not following the scheme for our picture laid down in the drawing. He is doing a certain nude Venus and she was meant to be clothed and doing something different.”24 She continues on by asking that Agostino examine the progress of the painting with Perugino and that the instructions that had been previously sent to be followed. These instructions Isabella sent also fit into established patterns of communication between patron and painter, especially regarding subject matter and ornamentation.25
20 21 22 23 24 25
Ames-Lewis, 26-27 Ames-Lewis, 27 Ames-Lewis, 32 Ames-Lewis, 32 Ames-Lewis, 28 Campbell, Stephen John. The cabinet of Eros: Renaissance mythological painting and the studiolo of Isabella dâ€™Este. Yale University Press, 2004, 175
most luablething va
Her concerns with the painting had little to do with the
artistic choices, but rather in controlling the visualization of the subject matter. Isabella is described as having a great understanding of artistic aesthetic and visualization.26 Before commissioning The Battle of Love and Chastity from Perugino, Isabella had already recieved paintings from Mantegna. So when she finally received the painting from Perugino, she compared the works as they were planned to hang next to each other. She states in a letter that, “The picture has reached me safely, and pleases me, as it is well drawn and coloured; but if it had been more carefully finished, it would have been more to your honor and our satisfaction, since it is hung near those of Mantegna.”27 Isabella’s displeasure with the work comes with its comparison to those of the work of Mantegna and other artist’s works within her studiolo.
After years of correspondence with Perugino about the
painting, Isabella liked the work, but was not as impressed as she was by the work of Mantegna. However, her main concern with the image was that Perugino planned to paint Venus nude as she is commonly represented. However, for Isabella, this is of great concern. People who would be entering her most private space, her studiolo, where it hung and would be witness to the image, might question the Marchesa’s virtue. The inclusion of a nude woman might allude viewers to imagine Isabella nude, or encourage them to view the Marchesa as sexualized. If Venus had been painted nude, Isabella’s position within the court would have been affected. In response, her husband may have lessened her authority to help re-
thing a woman had. Isabella commissioned a work that illustrated a battle of virtue and love to signify a struggle and ultimate triumph between these two characteristics.
woman was of great importance and considered the most valuable
Ames-Lewis, 27 Ames-Lewis, 28
establish her virtuous representation. The virtue of a Renaissance
Renaissance women spent thier lives devoted
to their children, their homes, and upholding the ideals of chastity, virtue, and beauty.28 Women had no part in the husband’s business. Many wives lived in completely separate parts of the home and only slept with their partner for the sole purpose of procreative sex. While having separate areas of the home allowed for her
arts. These pursuits could be seen hanging on the walls of her studiolo. This disconnect between men and women’s roles in the court is what makes Isabella’s situation and patronage intriguing. Isabella used her patronage to help reassert her feminine virtue while receiving a more authoritative role.
According to Leon Battista Alberti, a woman’s
main concern should be remaining chaste and loyal to their families and husbands.29 However, these duties to Alberti started and ended with, as described by him, “the smaller household affairs.”30 Alberti also goes on to
28 29 30 31 32
Isabella to follow her own pursuits, such as music and the
Alberi, Leon Battista. “The Family in Renaissance Florence.” (1969), 207 Alberti, 208 Alberti, 209 Alberti, 207 Nassim, 93
husband to conduct his business, it also gave space for
state that women were not as elevated in the mind as men and could not handle affairs affecting the country and religion.31 When Isabella began to commission works for her studiolo in themes of humanist teachings, it thrust her into a public realm that men felt would effect her virtue.32
Arguably, Isabella had opportunities given to her that reac
home. Her relationship with her husband allowed her to become
decision making processes. They engaged with each other throug
system of letters which helped them share information inclu
experiences and exploration tales.33 “From the early years of the
Marchese made clear that his wife need not follow conventional ru
she was given her first task by Fransesco to take requests addr
Over time, these responsibilities expanded to protection of trade
33 34 35 36 37 38 39
Cockram, Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: power sharing at the Italian Renaissance court, 50 Cockram, Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: power sharing at the Italian Renaissance court, 69 Cockram, Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: power sharing at the Italian Renaissance court, 63 Cockram, Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: power sharing at the Italian Renaissance court, 64 Cockram, 90 Hutson, Lorna, ed. Feminism and Renaissance studies. Oxford University Press on Deman, 1999, 39 Cartwright, 3
matters and being in charge of public celebrations.36 After only a sh
Mantuan court, Isabella gained the trust and respect of her husba
her to succeed his experienced statesman.37 These responsibilitie
with this continued trust in her abilities. However, her husband’s
Isabella’s intellect opened up opportunities that to some created c
virtue. These opportunities remain the biggest factor when con and Isabella’s partonage.
Considering the opinion of Joan Kelly, it becomes clear th
truly played within their courts. While Alberti argues that the ro
is to deal with the holdings of the home, Kelly argues that a wo
power in the home because of her husband and his power.38 Thes
that women only received power through marriage. While these
the distribution of duties by men to women, it does not conside
of strategic marriages. During the Renaissance, many courts pl
marriages to other powerful families, creating a sense of join Isabella’s family is an example of a strategic marriage, as Ecole into the court of Naples through Isabella’s mother.
ched outside the
e a part of many
gh an organized
eir marriage, the
ules.â€?34 In 1497,
ressed to him.35
e of court based
hort while in the
and that allowed
es became clear
s admiration for
concerns for her
he roles women
ole of a woman
oman only holds
se opinions state
e points support
er the purposes
nt powership.39 dâ€™Este married
Isabella’s mother, Elenora, created experiences for herself not always
experienced by other wives within courts around Italy.40 Coming from the Este, Isabella possessed a higher rank than the Gonzaga family, giving her importance and authority.41 Once Isabella married, she mimicked situations similar to the ones created by her mother, like having a studiolo. While the Gonzaga court was powerful in its own right, Isabella d’Este brought with her her own prestige and power relating back to the courts of Ferrara and Naples.42 This power associated with her mother, gave Isabella her own prestige once
in the Gonzaga court and an appreciation for the Marchesa’s abilities to rule. Exerting her power through her patronage of artworks like The Battle of Love and Chastity, visitors have a visual illustration of the Marchesa’s virtue that they admire among her other talents in leadership and loyalty to both her new home and husband. While Isabella’s commissions and collections are far more revered than those of her husband’s, it has been stated that Francesco approved of Isabella’s artistic pursuits and often followed her lead on the type of commissions.43
These illustrations within her studiolo created an opportunity and
served as a visual representation to illustrate the qualities desired by husbands for their wives. While she continued to make decisions, commissions, and collect many art pieces, her paintings and their allegorical themes reminded the viewer of her good Renaissance woman qualities while not undermining the position of her husband. This allowed Isabella a great deal of freedom and power within the Gonzaga court in Mantua. The images within her studiolo worked as a tool to re-enforce her abilities and feminine virtue. With these artistic tools, Isabella was able to create a small change of power by gaining the trust of her husband and by holding positions within the court.
It is through the commissions of Isabella that we see a shift of power
40 41 42
Nassim, 94 Nassim, 97 Cockram, 4 Elenora d’Argona, born and raised in the Naples court, married into the court of Ferrara; there she continued her excellent education and passed it down to her daughter. She is stated as “taking administrative powers into her own hands by lack of abilities of her husband.” This illustrates the role of female power within Isabella’s home. Cockram, Sarah DP. “Isabella and Leonardo: The Relationship between Isabella d’Este and Leonardo da Vinci.” (2013), 77
arriving in Mantua and opportunities for authority.
BIB LIO GR A Alberti, Leon Battista. “The Family in Renaissance
Campbell, Stephen John. The cabinet of Eros: Renaissance
mythological painting and the studiolo of Isabella d’Este.
Yale University Pres, 2004.
State Press, 199
Cartwright, Julia, and Isabella d’Este. “Marchioness
Rossi, Nassim E
of Mantua 1474-1539.” A studi of the Renaissance. I-II.
Isabella d’Este in
Comitatus: A J Studies 34.1 (20
Cockram, Sarah DP. “Isabella and Leonardo: The Relationship between Isabella d’Este and Leonardo da
Vinci.” (2013): 606-U343
Decorum in the V (2011): 684-706.
Cockram, Sarah DP. Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: power sharing at the Italian Renaissance court. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013.
PHY ed. Feminism and Renaissance stiudies.
ty Press on Demand, 1999.
nthia. Women and art in early modern
ns, collectors, and connoisseurs. Penn
E. “Confronting the ‘Temple of Chastity’”:
n the Context of
the Female Humanists.”
Journal of Medieval and Renaissance 03): 88-134. “Constructing Isabella d’Este’s Musical
Visual Sphere.” Renaissance Studies 25.5
ndo Malatesta, m and nity mpio ano
Sigismon Pandolfo Paganism Christiani in the Tem Malatestia
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Paganism and Christianity in the Tempio Malatestiano Essay by Jeremy L Schrupp, 16.12.15
ndo Malatesta, m and ity mpio ano
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, according to Pope Pius II: Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, according to Pope Pius II:
He was such a slave to avarice that he was ready not only to plunder but also to steal. His lust was so unbridled that he violated his daughters and his sons-in-law. When he had a lad he often played the bride and after taking the womanâ€™s part debauched men. No marriage was sacred to him. He ravished nuns and outraged Jewesses; boys and girls who would not submit to him he had murdered or savagely beaten. He committed adultery with many women to whose children he had been godfather and murdered their husbands. He outdid all barbarians and cruelty. His bloody hand inflicted terrible punishments on innocent and guilty alike. He oppressed the poor, plundered the rich, spared neither widows nor orphans. No one felt safe and under his rule.1
This Passage shows how the life of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (Figure 1) has been described; it shows a life governed by misdeeds, cruelty, tyranny and vice. The famed poet Dante even condemned members of the family to hell.2 It is not so extraordinary that when Sigismondo decided to switch sides during the Italic war and side with Florence, Pope Pius II chose to condemn him to hell.3 The pope even went so far as to condemn the newly renovated San Francesco in Rimini as nothing more than a pagan temple dedicated to Sigismondo’s heretical glorification and self-idolatry. This seems more politically than religiously motivated. Nevertheless, the pope’s sentiment has made a lasting impression. Historian, Anthony Grafton, implores us to recognize that all forms of art are or become a hybrid of myth, story and history.4 It is all in the manner in which we, as historians, consider or perceive the past. Traditionally, we have been taught to analyze and understand a work of art from the artist’s and or patron’s contemporary viewpoint. But what happens when the artist/patron wants the work to be understood from multiple perspectives? What if their goal was to convey a singular message to an unidentified audience, positioned somewhere in the unknown future, without the possibility of misconsecption? If a patron, during the Renaissance, wanted to express such a message, how would he or she go about doing so?
1 Evan Rhodes. “Forms of Havoc: The Malatesta Cantos and The Battler.” Modernism/modernity 17.2 (2010): 371. 2 The name Malatesta has sustained a bad reputation since the founding of their dynasty in the early 13th-century; see Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 67. 3 Helen S. Ettlinger. “The Sepulchre on the Facade: A Re-Evaluation of Sigismondo Malatesta’s Rebuilding of San Francesco in Rimini.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 133. 4 Anthony Grafton. “Historia and Istoria: Alberti’s Terminology in Context.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 8 (1999): 55.
Leon Battista Alberti believed that you could draw analogies between literature and art and in the center, in the mean, was the place that would improve the viewer or instruct them and engage them in a form of rhetoric.5 Art historian, Stephen Kite, believes that the true Renaissance Spirit can only be grasped by understanding the middle ground between what we call the Gothic and the Renaissance. In other words, the spirit is the analogical reasoning used between liturgy and the corporeal philosophies of the day.6 He further states that there is a synthesis that defines the Renaissance and it lies somewhere between the Pagan and the Gothic.7 Antony Grafton believes that literature, like art could be medieval or classical and yet modern; that juxtaposition of Gothic elements in a modern frame creates not only further understanding of past and present but also entices dialog that could shape a person.8 In the mind of an educated Renaissance patron, in this middle ground, it would be possible to convey a specific message in multiple artistic languages. Sigismondo Malatesta lived and ruled during the height of the Italian Renaissance. In 1433 he aligned himself with both Pope Eugenius IV and the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund who knighted and thus legitimized his rule.9 In 1447, Sigismondo decided to renovate the church of San Francesco.10
Sigismondo wanted Rimini’s San Francisco to not only imitate but also rival classical structures and to be emblematic of his education, his rite to rule and his devotion to God.11 Sigismondo, like his contemporaries, would have understood that there were many ways to suggest meaning. Just as Leon Battista Alberti, he believed that greater understanding comes at the intersection of different traditions. Sigismondo, again, like many of his generation, believed that the middle ground is where the path to true
enlightenment was to be found. For example, he would have known that Apollo’s position, spanning two worlds, as a demiurge (see 24 in footnotes) could be seen as an analogy for Christ’s position, as defined in the trinity, as a mediator. Sigismondo, too, believed that positioning oneself in the middle ground helped illuminate the path to knowledge and piety. It is plausible then to assume that, as Grafton stated, medieval ideals wrapped in a classical form, indeed, create a new meaning.12 Through his appropriation of classical forms and ideas and his celebration of Christian beliefs, in Rimini’s San Francesco, Sigismondo had created an embodiment of that mean.
5 Grafton, Historia. 42 6 Stephen Kite. Adrian Stokes: An Architectonic Eye: Critical Writings on Art and Architecture. London: Legenda, Modern Humanities Research Association:, 2009. 84-5. 7 Kite. 89. 8 Anthony Grafton. “Historia and Istoria: Alberti’s Terminology in Context.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 8 (1999): 43. 9 Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 69. 10 Philip James Jones. The Malatesta of Rimini and the Papal State: A Political History. London: Cambridge UP, 1974. 203. He also legitimized Sigismondo’s two sons born of Isotta, securing the succession. 11 Zaho. 70. 12 Anthony Grafton. “Historia and Istoria: Alberti’s Terminology in Context.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 8 (1999): 64.
The unique structure with its classicizing façade has come to be known as the Tempio Malatestiano (Figure 2). Many of its artistic and architectural features were popular throughout the Italian Renaissance. The purposeful blending of religion, philosophical thought and familial branding was considered conventional. What marks this construction, as a clear departure from the norm was the way in which its patron’s message was articulated. The Tempio Malatestiano was to be a lasting testament to Sigismondo’s education, his family’s dynastic legitimacy, and most of all his piety. But his “Magnificent” contribution was misconceived by his contemporaries as overreaching and heretical. I believe that Sigismondo was using his education to his advantage. He knew that the key to obtaining historical immortality was to convey his message in multiple artistic languages. Sigismondo’s message can be seen in absolutely every commissioned detail of the Tempio. Through the analysis of the Piero della Francesco fresco, it is clear that Sigismondo has effectively conveyed a singular message therein and has used multiple artistic languages to do so. In order to prove that this is not a unique occurrence, I will support my analysis by providing three other examples, including a portion of the family sarcophagus and a supporting pillar carved by Matteo de’ Pasti and Agostino di Duccio as well as Alberti’s façade.12 Anthony Grafton. “Historia and Istoria: Alberti’s Terminology in Context.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 8 (1999): 64.
The Piero della Francesco fresco is located within the Chapel of the Relics. It is a fresco containing the curious image of three Sigismondos, the first is the saint, the second is Sigismondo himself and the third is his castle. The fresco executed in 1451, depicts Sigismondo Malatesta kneeling before Saint Sigismund. (Figure 6) The large horizontal fresco is framed on three sides by a wide band of simulated relief carving. At the bottom in a narrow band is an inscription, which identifies the donor, his name Saint, and is signed and dated. Behind Sigismondo are two dogs, one black and one white, which lie on the ground with one facing the donor and the other facing the opposite direction. On the wall just above the dogs is an oculus that reveals a view of the Castel Sismondo.13
13 Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 74.
Historically, this fresco has been read by following the strong hieratical thrust from the dogs up to Sigismondo and then to the image of Saint Sigismund. The painting is generally deemed either devotional or ceremonial.14 But, certain qualities in this work just do not seem to fit within the confines of a singular historical or contemporary interpretation. For instance, both saint and patron are of the same scale, which leads the viewer to infer equality between the figures. Also, the entire composition is visually configured in the style of a triptych with Sigismondo at the center. This leads the viewer to the conclusion that it is some sort of history scene, but if it is a history scene why is Sigismondo kneeling in worship?15 Lastly, it was highly unusual to include an image of a
Signoria Castellon (lorded city/castle) within a secular building and in a votive painting.16 I think that this work effortlessly synthesizes multiple artistic languages in order to communicate a single message. Primarily it depicts the patron’s knowledge of both pagan and Christian religions. I also believe that this may have been, as Marilyn Aronberg Lavin suggests, a private chapel where only a select few may have been able to enter.17 She attests that Sigismondo’s chapel would have functioned like those in the Byzantium and Holy Roman Empires; meaning, the chapel was a space where he and his family could worship in private splendor and his painted image would function as his replacement, should he be away.18 This suggests that the message contained in the fresco was meant to be interpreted not by his subjects, but rather by his family or peers. To Sigismondo’s educated audience, his equality in size and central positioning could convey either of the aforementioned assumptions, depending on how you perceived the work. It is all at once devotional as well as a historical depiction of Sigismondo’s divine legitimacy and his spiritual devoutness.
14 Marilyn Aronberg Lavin. “Piero Della Francesca’s Fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta before St. Sigismund: ΘEΩI AΘANATΩI KAI THI ΠOΛEI.” The Art Bulletin 56.3 (1974): 347. 15 Lavin. 347-50. 16 Joanna Woods-Marsden. “How Quattrocento Princes Used Art: Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta.” Renaissance Studies 3.4 (1989): 397. 17 Marilyn Aronberg Lavin. “Piero Della Francesca’s Fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta before St. Sigismund: ΘEΩI AΘANATΩI KAI THI ΠOΛEI.” The Art Bulletin 56.3 (1974): 370. 18 Lavin. 370.
The fresco’s message could also be interpreted by reading into the works more humanistic inspired evocations. Most prominently, the figures have been composed in an ideal environment or realm that is neither celestial nor earthly but is nevertheless of Malatesta property, as attested by the crest placed above the center panel.19 This could suggest that this chapel is a sacred space where Sigismondo could be closer to God and his name saint. In addition, the curious inclusion of the oculus reinforces the idea of a place not quite of this earth. The oculus appears as a window in which Sigismondo may still gaze down on his city and his realm. This suggests, as Aronberg Lavin attests, Sigismondo’s divine right to rule in the Greco-Roman tradition.20 The frame of the oculus is meant to represent the serpent encircling the world; the serpent is Sigismondo, who governs over his namesake as an ideal lord of an ideal city.21
Sigismondo distinguishes himself from the typical Italian humanist through his association with Philo Hellenism.22 Historians Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Adams suggest, the inclusion of the oculus is a representation of Sigismondo’s association with Apollo; and like the serpent, Apollo is the creator of this world but not the creator of all.23 This would imply that Sigismondo sees himself as a kind of demiurge and in turn reinforces his right to rule.24 If looked at in the Christian tradition, Sigismondo’s position as demiurge is akin to that of mediator between his people and the church.
19 Lavin. 353-54. 20 Marilyn Aronberg Lavin. “Piero Della Francesca’s Fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta before St. Sigismund: ΘEΩI AΘANATΩI KAI THI ΠOΛEI.” The Art Bulletin 56.3 (1974): 367. 21 Lavin. 367. 22 Just as Platonists were grasping at the association with platonic philosophy and Christian doctrine, so to were the Philo Hellenists but with Jewish or old testament doctrine. The difference rests in the fact that the latter associates all creation and all other gods with God and the former has found a middle ground in the form of a demiurge; see Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Adams. Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant. New York: P. Lang, 1996. 74. 23 Pernis, Adams. 74. 24 A demiurge is a being that is responsible for the creation of the universe, in particular (in Platonic philosophy) the Maker or Creator of the world (in Gnosticism and other theological systems) a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual. In the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge is an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe; see Pernis, Adams. 74.
It was not uncommon during the renaissance to intertwine Mythology and Christianity, to discern meaning in and between art and literature. In Fact it was extremely popular in court society to make such comparisons. For example, in an image (Figure 7), created by Guido Bonatti, the astrologer for Frederick II, Jupiter is depicted as the enthroned God or creator, before him is a figure kneeling in praise and behind the kneeling figure are two creatures, one turned toward Jupiter and one turned toward the other way. Like the Christian God, Jupiter is associated with the beginning the middle and the end of the universe.25 The similarities between the Piero dell Francesco fresco and the Guido Bonatti illumination are uncanny. Bonatti proposes, the Holy Trinity is represented, in his work, by placing Jupiter in the role of god, Apollo in the role of Christ and Pegasus as the Holy Spirit.26 As astrology was an integral part of the renaissance court, Sigismondo could have been aware of the writings of Guido Bonatti, or similar illuminated texts used by contemporary astrologers. It is plausible then to assume that Sigismondo simply reinterpreted this configuration in order to serve his own needs. He could have easily substituted the image of Jupiter with that of his Name Saint, Sigismund, as intercessor to the man kneeling before him (Sigismondo), and the image of Pegasus with that of the dog, whose primary attribute is faith and could easily be assigned to the position of the Holy Spirit. The compositional balance in the Piero della Francesco fresco could possibly recall Bonattiâ€™s philosophy, or at the least is emblematic of astrological illumination tradition.27 Even though, the language used in this instance is fundamentally
25 Edgar Wind. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. London: Faber and Faber, 1968. 48. 26 Wind. 49. 27 Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Adams. Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant. New York: P. Lang, 1996. 84-5. Pagan, It is, nevertheless, a prime example of Sigismondoâ€™s use of an alternative artistic language to convey his piety.
Art Historian, Joanna Woods-Marsden provides us with an additional perspective, she states that the oculus is also emblematic of a coin or medal. Sigismondo was fond of medals and had a variety of them made during his rule. One such medal was found in the Tempio’s foundation during its more recent renovation. It includes an image of the Tempio, in a complete state. Emblazoned on it was an inscription: Remember My Name “The King of Rimini” Imperator Semper Invictus or Ever Victorious General, Slendissimus Ariminensium Rex or Most Brilliant King of Rimini.28 Sigismondo’s goal was to establish an independent Malatesta state29 and like the Greco-Roman leaders that came before him, he wanted to be part of the tradition of placing your name on a building or within in the foundation, for posterity purposes. Sigismondo wanted that, future generations would know the name Malatesta just as his generation remembered the Romans.30 Sigismondo knew that in the future a medal was an object that would provide a tangible connection with the past, as much as he treasures those objects of the Roman emperors who had come before him.31
Within the Piero della Francesco fresco, Sigismondo was able to effectively communicate both his piety as well as his divine right to rule by finding a middle ground which utilized his knowledge of both the Pagan and the Christian. This was done intentionally, through the conveyance of his message in a multiple visual language format. Although, the fresco is the most visually encompassing, in relation to our analysis, there are a few other examples that carry Sigismondo’s message and also require the viewer to consider them from multiple viewpoints. At the entrance to the Chapel of the Ancestors is a pedestal under a pilaster where a portrait of Sigismondo has been incorporated into the upper portion. The portrait of Sigismondo has been rendered in shallow relief in a profile bust encircled by a wreath of laurel, forming a kind of tondo. It shows an idealized image of the mature Sigismondo with his recognizable short-cropped hair and aquiline nose. He is crowned with a laurel wreath. The whole portrait is enclosed within a marble square, which recalls, in size and shape, the side of sarcophagus. The lower portion of the pedestal consists of a pair of elephants carved in the round. The elephants support a portrait of Sigismondo that in turn supports one of the pilasters that hold up the church. (Figure 4)
28 Joanna Woods-Marsden. “How Quattrocento Princes Used Art: Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta.” Renaissance Studies 3.4 (1989): 402. 29 Woods-Marsden. 389. 30 Woods-Marsden. 400-1. 31 Woods-Marsden. 400-1.
Sigismondo’s profile bust on the pilaster base immediately recalls the sculpted tondos that decorate Rimini’s arch of Augustus.32 The appropriation of classic form was intentional. Sigismondo wanted to visually connect himself and his rule to Italian dynastic history and further connect the house of Malatesta with the city of Rimini. In addition, he identifies with Augustus because of his reputation as a just ruler around the birth of Christ. In fact, he and his contemporaries may have viewed Augustus as almost a Christian-like Emperor.33 The square portion of the pedestal containing the tondo is flush with the top of the heads of the elephants in the base of the pedestal and seems to be borne by the elephants in a kind of procession.34 This pair of elephants echoes Petrarch’s use of elephants as bearers of the Triumph of Fame.35 Sigismondo is simultaneously linking himself and his city to Augustus and to Scipio Africanus (a famous Roman general, known for defeating Hannibal at Carthage), who both made use of elephants in their triumphal pageantry.36
Elephants are also symbols of memory and immortality, which suggests that Sigismondo desired that his name and dynasty be remembered eternally. 37 Additionally, elephants are associated with light and life and therefore with sun worship, which harks back to GrecoRoman religious practice.38 As in the case of the fresco, Sigismondo alludes to and associates himself with the sun god Apollo. Sigismondo would have also known that Aristotle wrote that elephants worshiped kings, showed deference to the rising sun, and were beloved by God.39 This metaphor implies Sigismondo’s place in the center between God and his people. Again, just as in the fresco, Sigismondo has placed his image in a position of intersession between heaven (the roof of the church) and earth or his people (the floor of the church). This position also suggests that Sigismondo and the Malatesta are literally pillars of the faith. Here as in the fresco Sigismondo has effectively synthesized Pagan and Christian traditions in order to express both his dynastic prowess and his unfaltering piousness.
32 Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 79. 33 Anthony Grafton and Leon Battista Alberti. Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance. London: Penguin, 2000. 329. 34 Historically, elephants have been associated with pillars or walking towers; see Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 81. Historically, 35 Zaho. 81. 36 Zaho. 81. 37 Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Adams. Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant. New York: P. Lang, 1996. 110. 38 Pernis & Adams. 109. 39 Pernis & Adams. 109.
The family sarcophagus also adds to the Tempio’s Pagan-Christian-fusion highlighting Sigismondo’s wish that the family’s rule be unending and showing that the name, Malatesta, would never be forgotten. The sarcophagus, the Arca degli Antenati was sculpted by Agostino di Duccio between 1452 and 1454 and is located in the Chapel of the Ancestors.40 (Figure 5) The sarcophagus holds the remains of the Malatesta family. Decorating the sarcophagus are two reliefs, separated by an inscription, “The inscription reads: Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta son of Pandolfo out of the great rewards of his probity and courage, set up the sarcophagus for his illustrious family, ancestors and descendants.”41
In one of the relief carvings, Sigismondo appears as himself and as Scipio Africanus. In this panel Sigismondo/Scipio is depicted with his eyes closed, dressed in a toga and crowned with a laurel. In his left hand he holds a palm branch and in his right a scepter.42 Sigismondo believes himself a direct descendent of Scipio Africanus, in terms of righteous and just generals.43 Scipio’s military superiority and his legendary descent from the gods set the tone for Sigismondo’s psychological and historical identification with him.44 Just as Scipio, Sigismondo believed himself highly intelligent, culturally refined, overtly self-confidant and, as a leader, a decision maker with an acute sense of fairness. In addition, Sigismondo saw himself akin to Scipio’s flamboyant disregard for danger and imagined that his life was also like an epic story of passion, war and love.45 Scipio believed that he could speak directly to the gods and was known to frequent the temple of Jupiter.
40 Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 75. 41 Zaho. 77. 42 Zaho. 77. 43 Zaho. 79. 44 Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Adams. Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant. New York: P. Lang, 1996. 110. 45 Joanna Woods-Marsden. “How Quattrocento Princes Used Art: Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta.” Renaissance Studies 3.4 (1989): 392.
Sigismondo would have been aware of this, as the tales of Scipio were quite popular during the Renaissance. It is very plausible that Sigismondo believed that Scipio, being able to speak to the gods, like himself, acted as a sort of mediator. Scipio’s frequent visits to the temple of Jupiter, presumably, did not go unnoticed by Sigismondo. As stated previously, Jupiter could be used as a metaphor for the Christian God. The sarcophagus is another example of Sigismondo’s association with Apollo or rather Scipio, favored son of Jupiter. Sigismondo’s association with this heroic Roman military leader further exemplifies his message of leadership and piety. As observed, the previous elements, although few, are prime examples of Sigismondo’s clever use of multilingual visual artistic propaganda. But, no analysis of the Tempio could be complete without a closer look at Alberti’s façade. Sigismondo was deeply concerned with the building’s primary function as a public space and as a familial church in which his ancestors were buried.46 The Tempio, in his eyes, needed to represent many things. It needed to be all at once a symbol that glorified the church, the city and the patron.47 On the façade, Sigismondo proclaimed in stone the votive nature of the remodeled church as an offering to God and to the city. On the sides of the temple he had hung two plaques written in Greek, which stated the following:
46 Basinio da Parma’s synthetic Virgilian/Homeric/Modern epic, extolling Malatesta familial virtue and Sigismondo’s personal victory as the hero that saves Italy, associates the Tempio with a Temple of Fame; see Helen S. Ettlinger.”The Sepulchre on the Facade: A Re-Evaluation of Sigismondo Malatesta’s Rebuilding of San Francesco in Rimini.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 155. 47 Etlinger. 155
“Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, son of Pandolfo, bringer of victory, having survived many and most gravely dangerous during the Italic war, in recognition of his deeds accomplished so felicitously and with such courage, for he had obtained what he had prayed for in such a critical juncture, has erected at his magnanimous expense, this temple to the immortal god and to the city, and left a memorial worthy of fame, and full of piety”.48 It was the first time since the classical era that a dual dedication of this sort had been utilized.49 The Tempio would be a permanent reminder of the glory and salvation that the family had brought to the city.50 In addition, the use of Greek speaks not only of his education but also of his familial heritage. He was proud of his Greek heritage and traced his family’s dynastic rule back to the ruling family of Constantinople, who in turn traced their roots back to the foundation of Rome.51
48 Helen S. Etlinger. “The Sepulchre on the Facade: A Re-Evaluation of Sigismondo Malatesta’s Rebuilding of San Francesco in Rimini.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 134. 49 Elaborate dedicatory inscriptions are rare to find on western religious buildings and this is the only instance in Greek; see Marilyn Aronberg Lavin. “Piero Della Francesca’s Fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta before St. Sigismund: ΘEΩI AΘANATΩI KAI THI ΠOΛEI.” The Art Bulletin 56.3 (1974): 345. 50 The upper arch in the façade was meant to hold his brother’s sarcophagus and, although unprecedented in the Renaissance, this is a typical convention in Greco-Roman temple building. The Malatesta family had ruled Rimini, consecutively, since 1295. The intended positioning of his brother’s tomb would essentially transform the Church into a dynastic mausoleum; see Helen S. Ettlinger. “The Sepulchre on the Facade: A Re-Evaluation of Sigismondo Malatesta’s Rebuilding of San Francesco in Rimini.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 141. 51 Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Adams. Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant. New York: P. Lang, 1996. 74.
Alberti’s design cloaked the old fabric of the Gothic church in a new marble shell, with a classical façade and arcaded sides.52 The façade was based on the Roman triple-bay arch and also inspired by the nearby Arch of Augustus (or Rimini Arch), the oldest Imperial arch in Italy (Figure 3).53 The Tempio was Alberti’s first architectural work in which he applied his triumphal arch formula.54 The façade design was revolutionary, as it reintroduced classical Temple façade forms.55 The large central arch frames the original doorway and is flanked by smaller arches that have been completely filled with white marble. Four large fluted and engaged columns separate the façade into three distinct parts. The columns also support a large entablature that runs the length of the façade and carries the dedicatory inscription. Two tondi have been placed in each section in the corners above their respective arch, not unlike the portrait tondi on the Rimini Arch.56 The façade has been made using the same material and is the same diameter as the arch of Augustus in Rimini.57
The Rimini Arch is a large single bay triumphal arch built in 27 BC.58 It was only natural that Sigismondo would want to appropriate this form for his Tempio. The reference also ties him directly to the glories of the classical world and to the foundations of his city. To further bind the new building with the past, most of the building materials were acquired from prominent antique monuments in Ravenna.59 Design ideas and physical elements were taken from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare. It is not surprising that Sigismondo would want to pay homage to a building renovated by Justinian who was by some considered “the last Roman”. “The immediate and clearly visible associations with the arch of Augustus and Sant’Apollinare were intentional. Sigismondo’s new church stood as a symbol of his own Imperial qualities as well as his personal decent from Imperial blood.”60
52 Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 71. 53 Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 71. 54 Stephen Kite. Adrian Stokes: An Architectonic Eye: Critical Writings on Art and Architecture. London: Legenda, Modern Humanities Research Association:, 2009. 44. 55 Zaho. 71. 56 Zaho. 71-2. 57 Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Adams. Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant. New York: P. Lang, 1996. 73. 58 Zaho. 66. 59 Anthony Grafton and Leon Battista Alberti. Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance. London: Penguin, 2000. 317. 60 By referencing Sant’Apollinare, Sigismondo was able to further cultivate the historical nature of his own church and pay homage to one of the oldest basilicas in Italy; see Margaret Ann Zaho. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004. 73.
Pico della Mirandola states in his Hudibras II “The extremes of glory and shame like east and west become the same.”61 Historian Edgar Wind points out that Mirandola is telling us that true virtue has its dwelling between two extremes.62 Through the combination of old building materials and new, the use of both Greek and Latin, the façade of the Tempio, like the depictions of Sigismondo within the Tempio, dwells in the center. The use of ancient materials creates a strong visible foundation with the past. Sigismondo believed that faith was the rock on to which all virtue depended and it is plausible that he believed that the Tempio was the visual embodiment of faith, the foundation of the spiritual edifice.63
The Tempio is a tribute to Sigismondo’s wholeness as a man and as a patron and as a true representative of the Renaissance.64 In Renaissance Italy, a man and a leader’s wholeness depended upon his Virtù or his qualities of greatness. These qualities included, among others, a sense of skill, leadership and godliness. With the sense of skill comes education. The works commissioned for and indeed the Tempio itself is a testament to Sigismondo’s education. He skillfully combined references in multiple visual languages in order
to express his and his family’s dynastic right and ability to rule while simultaneously expressing his piety by glorifying God.
61 Edgar Wind. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. London: Faber and Faber, 1968. 184. 62 Wind. 184. 63 Marilyn Aronberg Lavin. “Piero Della Francesca’s Fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta before St. Sigismund: ΘEΩI AΘANATΩI KAI THI ΠOΛEI.” The Art Bulletin 56.3 (1974): 367. 64 Evan Rhodes. “Forms of Havoc: The Malatesta Cantos and The Battler.” Modernism/modernity 17.2 (2010): 365.
Stephen Kites explains that in the Tempio, Sigismondo has created a literal representation of the middle ground between two worlds, the Gothic and the Renaissance.65 He explains that the ideas that spurred the Renaissance Spirit had lain dormant through the middle ages, and that the unique combination of artistic and structural attributes served as a source that fed the ideas of the Quattrocento.66 “In medio virtus – in summo felicitus” virtue dweleth in the middest, hapieness in the highest”. Man must live his life by finding a middle ground in all things. In order to attain this middle ground, man must balance the extremes that the physical world has given in this life and maintain a clear view of the beginning and end of all things. The mean is mans affinity and his distance to god. It is the balance of mediocrity and supremacy and god is the source and man is the center”.67
Sigismondo’s erudite references and combinations in the Tempio Malatestiano perfectly highlight Sigismondo’s ability to embody his belief in the mean. It was from his ability to center that he was able to effectively utilize multiple artistic languages to create a single visual message. He did this to immortalize two ideals that were of the upmost importance in his age, his legitimacy as a ruler and his piety. As previously stated, his message can be seen in absolutely every commissioned detail of the Tempio. The Piero della
65 Stephen Kite. Adrian Stokes: An Architectonic Eye: Critical Writings on Art and Architecture. London: Legenda, Modern Humanities Research Association:, 2009. 66 Kite. 47. 67 Edgar Wind. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. London: Faber and Faber, 1968. 53.
Francesco fresco epitomizes Sigismondo’s skill of articulating a singular message from multiple viewpoints. The pillar containing his visage, expresses his piety as a true and literal supporter of the faith. His family’s sarcophagus is an eternal manifestation of his dynastic heritage. While Alberti’s façade is a lasting embodiment of the spirit of Renaissance, the middle ground between the Pagan and the Gothic, and truly heaven on earth. Through artistic analysis we are able to throw off the misconceptions of the past and highlight the virtues of this deeply devout and benevolent ruler, who not only truly embodied the renaissance, but also, through this and other magnificent commissions, helped to foster it. The mighty elephant is a symbol that represents the house Malatesta. It is a symbol that embodies strength and wisdom, as well as patience and virtue. It is also said that an elephant never forgets and because of his Tempio, future generations will not forget Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta.
Bibliography Ettlinger, Helen S. “The Sepulchre on the Facade: A Re-Evaluation of Sigismondo Malatesta’s Rebuilding of San Francesco in Rimini.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 133. Grafton, Anthony. “Historia and Istoria: Alberti’s Terminology in Context.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 8 (1999): 37. Grafton, Anthony, and Leon Battista Alberti. Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance. London: Penguin, 2000. Jones, Philip James. The Malatesta of Rimini and the Papal State: A Political History. London: Cambridge UP, 1974. Kite, Stephen. Adrian Stokes: An Architectonic Eye: Critical Writings on Art and Architecture. London: Legenda, Modern Humanities Research Association :, 2009. Lavin, Marilyn Aronberg. “Piero Della Francesca’s Fresco of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta before St. Sigismund: ΘEΩI AΘANATΩI KAI THI ΠOΛEI.” The Art Bulletin 56.3 (1974): 345-74. Pernis, Maria Grazia, and Laurie Adams. Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant. New York: P. Lang, 1996. Rhodes, Evan. “Forms of Havoc: The Malatesta Cantos and The Battler.” Modernism/modernity 17.2 (2010): 363-82. Wind, Edgar. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. London: Faber and Faber, 1968. Woods-Marsden, Joanna. “How Quattrocento Princes Used Art: Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta.” Renaissance Studies 3.4 (1989): 387-414. Zaho, Margaret Ann. Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers. New York: P. Lang, 2004.
Figure 1: Piero della Francesca, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, 1451, Musée du Louvre.
Figure 4. Agostino di Duccio & Matteo de’ Pasti, Elephant Pilaster, 1454, Tempio Malatestiano.
Figure 2. Leon Battista Alberti, Tempio Malatestiano, 1450-68, Rimini. Figure 5. Agostino di Duccio & Matteo de’ Pasti, The Arca degli Antenati, 1454, Tempio Malatestiano.
Figure 3. Roman Senate, Arch of Augustus at Rimini, 27BCE, Rimini.
Figure 6. Piero della Francesca, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta praying in front of St. Sigismund, 1451, Tempio Malatestiano
Figure 7. Guido Bonatti, Jupiter, 1277, De Astronomia libra X.
Giovanni Rucellai was a wealthy banker who commissioned Leon Battista Alberti to design and construct a series of façades and structures that conveyed his magnificence, his piety and his connection to Christianity and the Medici. Alberti would use his treastise on architecture, which were largely based antiquity, as a guide when designing the Palazzo Rucellai, the façade for the Santa Maria Novella and the Holy Sepulchre. When designing the Palazzo Alberti uses his ideals shaped from antiquity to convey Rucellai’s magnificence; while also displaying his familial connection to the Medici through its structure and Medici symbols in the frieze. (1) While concentrating on creating a lineage community for himself by branding his name through the construction of his Palazzo and other buildings around his home, Rucellai commissions Alberti to design a Holy Sepluchre. This commission shows his piety by giving back to the church while also connecting himself and his wealth to Christ. When designing the façade of the Santa Maria Novella Alberti adapts his treatise on sacred buildings because he is not con
structing the entire building. His design for the façade shows Rucellai’s piety once again by giving back to the church, but because the Santa Maria Novella was the center of the papal court during this time Alberti is also constructing a message of Rucellai’s connection to the center of the Christian world. By using his treatise and adaptions it, Alberti would design projects for Giovanni Rucellai that accurately displayed Rucellai’s message of piety, magnificence, and connection. The façade of the Palazzo Rucellai (Figure 1) consists of several level set on a geometrically square surface, which are reminiscent to the style used on the Roman Colosseum. (1) As referenced in note 139 in Tavernor, Robert. On Alberti and the Art of Building. London, England: Yale University Press, 1998. 228.
(Figure 1) Rucellai Palazzo
The square and rectangular windows on each tier are offset by the gray bricks that make up the faรงade. The roof of the Palazzo is a flat cornice that is replicated three times, separating each story acting as registers. Within each of these tiers are embellishments that are set into the faรงade making it seem flat. The ground floor is unique in its design, compared to the other levels of the faรงade, as its decorations separate it from the levels above. This level is separated into eight rectangular sections by pilasters with pseudo-Doric capitals. In the third and sixth bays Alberti included two rectangular doors. On either side are pilasters carved into the faรงade and above the doors is a pseudo-lintel which alludes to the post and lintel system used by the Romans as it comes out into the viewers space. From the base stretching across the faรงade is another register that is raised to a height that reaches the middle of the door. This register acts as a pseudo-pedestal upon which the pilasters above sit. In between each pilaster and above the two doors are small square, ventilation windows.
The entablature that separates the first level from the piano-nobile is decorated with oval loops that have feathers coming out of them, this was a symbol for the Medici. The piano-nobile also has eight rectangular sections distinguished by pilasters. The pilasters on this level are not as long and skinny as the ones below. Since each one of the pilasters is aligned on top of one another, only separated through the cornice, Alberti could have been thinking of entasis to make the building seem taller than it was when viewed from the street. The ionic pilasters separate bifora windows. The windows are framed by an arch of rusticated stone. The windows, that align with the doors, are decorated with the Rucellai crest. The top level of the Palazzo Rucellai duplicates elements from the lower two. The capitals on this levels pilasters are Corinthian, but they seem to be the least decorative of the three used on the Palazzo. The Corinthian order which was favored by the ancient Romans are usually the most elaborate and decorative. In the Palazzo Rucellai the Ionic are the more deep-
ly carved than the Corinthean. The Corinthian capital consists of a few curls that have been carved out from the surface of the stone. The Doric capital on the first level is made up of stylistic flutes and round decorations on top. The Ionic capital on the second level is the most decorative as it curls like the classic Ionic order, it is completely carved with an arabesque pattern. Even with all of the decoration the Palazzo seems to blend into the surrounding structures because of its two dimensionality. In book nine of Albertiâ€™s Treatise on architecture, the author focuses on the construction of private buildings. He observes that the ancient Spartanâ€™s had simple homes for convenience rather than for delight (he then observes other ancient cultures use of similarity of housing as a means to disengage from envy between neighbors.) (2) He believes that while the simplicity of ancient housing is agreeable, he recognizes that in modern era there is the need to distinguish family and country by representing their wealth and power through decoration. (3) Thus Alberti believes
that a palace faรงade should be a decorative display of wealth and ingenuity; whoever, it should not be more lavishly decorated than the other wealthy houses within his community, because this creates jealousy amongst neighbors. (4) Intelligent wealthy patrons should not want to design a faรงade that is completely different from the housing in the community to call attention to the family. But should rather aim to compliment the surrounding wealthy patrons homes in order to maintain peace and harmony. 2 Rykwert, Joseph, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor, trans., On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1988. 291-292. 3 Ibid. 292. 4 Ibid. 292.
The Palazzo is adjacent to Rucellai’s older family home. (5) In order to build the Palazzo, Rucellai bought and combines six properties into one the individual structure on the lots. (6) The location of the Palazzo was in close proximity to the buildings surrounding it hindering the façade from being viewed all at once. When the building was viewed from one corner of the street that ran directly in front of the Palazzo, or across the street in the logia, only part of the façade could be viewed. To correct this, Alberti designed the façade in sections that represented the whole from different viewing angles, so that when viewed at those angles the design created two equal part encompassing a door and the Rucellai crest allowing for the façade to seem as though the viewer were viewing the entire façade. Alberti was very fond of symmetrical elements that created proportion throughout the work. This idea of proportion can be seen throughout 5 Tavernor. 81. 6 Ibid. 81.
each work he designs for Rucellai and is represented in the Palazzo through the corrective viewing angle, which he also uses to represent Rucellai’s magnificence because from any viewing angle the Rucellai crest and familial connection to the Medici was visible. A patrons magnificence was associated to their “virtue concerned with wealth” magnificence was not reserved for the poor. (7) As Rucellai used his wealth to buy and transform six properties into one and then continues to use his wealth to adorn the Palazzo with a new façade that labels the Palazzo as his, he is displaying a scene of magnificence. Alberti’s façade for Giovanni Rucellai, translates his theories into built form in a way that conveys Rucellai’s magnificence but also connects them to another powerful family, the Medici. Alberti uses the symbols on the entablature of a Medici symbol to 7 As quoted in: James R. Lindow. “The Renaissance Palace in Florence: Magnificence and Splendour in Fifteenth-Century Italy” Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2007.
show Rucellai’s familial connection to them. He then uses rusticated stone and simplistic design to create a façade that replicates Michelozzo di Bartolomeo’s design for the Palazzo Medici (figure 2). (8) But in order to create a façade that distinguishes Ruccellai as an individually wealthy patron Alberti places the Rucellai crest above two of the windows on the piano-nobile and then uses pilasters inspired by Roman antiquity. As the pilasters precede upward the capitals change from Doric, Ionic and finally Corinthean, this being inspired by the Roman Colosseum. By using antiquity inspired elements within the design of the Palazzo Alberti is conforming to his ideal architecture described within his treatise. He continues to follow his ideal design by conforming to other wealthy Florentine Palazzos but distinguishes it through the addition of pilasters and the Rucellai crest. Alberti does this because in his treatise he believes that wealthy patrons Palazzos needed to be distinguished from one another in order to convey the patrons (Rucellai) individual magnificence. 8 Tavenor. 81 and 83.
(Figure 2) Medici Palazzo
In the construction of the Palazzo, Alberti adapted the traditional Florentine three leveled Palazzo. (9) Like that introduced by Michelozzo in the Palazzo Medici (Figure 2) and further displays Rucellai’s familial connection to the Medici by decorating the entablature with a symbol of their family. Alberti then uses his theories on antiquity to decorate the Palazzo, distinguishing Rucellai as a powerful and wealthy individual. Sacred Spaces and its Application to the Santa Maria Novella: The commission for the façade of the Santa Maria Novella was an important political move for Rucellai. In the design of the façade, Alberti was able to convey a message of piety and connection to the church through the papal court. Even though he was able to convey Rucellai’s intended messages Alberti was not able to follow his treatise because he was only designing the façade rather than the whole church. 9 Ibid. 81.
Alberti believed that the best sacred spaces were circular in plan with a portico either surrounding the entire building or on the front put on the faĂ§ade. (10) If the sacred space had to be rectangular in shape then a colonnaded portico was to be attached to just the front or to both the front and back. (11) The interiors of these buildings should be highly decorated so that when people entered they were awestruck, but not to such a degree that the decoration took away from the visitorâ€™s meditation on God. (12) The interior was to be decorated with structurally-sound materials such as marble or glass. (13) The pavement should be patterned with geometric lines and shapes. (14) This emphasized the geometric structuring of the building and celebrated the overall design of the building. The exterior of the building was decorated in a different manner. Alberti saw the portico as the perfect space to display craved relief, in stucco, with images celebrating important events. (15) He believed that the carved reliefs should be placed along the wall of the building so that they are positioned in between the columns
of the portico, so that the reliefs can be seen as the visitor processes into the sacred space. When it came to inscriptions he believed that they should only be located on the capitols, and that they should be philosophical inscriptions communicating the laws of how to govern. (16) When it comes to the construction of the faรงade of the Santa Maria Novella (figure 3) Alberti uses his theories on interior decoration in order to adapt a new set of theories because he is only designing the faรงade rather than the whole church of Santa Maria Novella. 10 Rykwert. 198. 11 Ibid. 198. 12 Ibid. 194. Ibid. 189. 13 Ibid. 221. 14 Ibid. 221. 15 Ibid. 221. 16 Ibid. 221.
(Figure 3) Santa Maria Novella.
From 1434-1443 the papal court was located in the Santa Maria Novella and until 1465 the faรงade was decorated with the rose window and the halics (tombs). (17) To meet the spirit of a promise made to use the funds from the estate of his father-in-law, Strozzi, Rucellai commissioned the rebuilding of the faรงade of Santa Maria Novella. By doing this Rucellai was displaying his piety by using his wealth to give back to the church and to God. This was a strategic display of piety because the Santa Maria Novella was the basilica that the papal court was located. Rucellai is showing his piety and showing his alliance with the papal court through the decoration of this faรงade, all while advertising the Rucellai name. This commission also forced Alberti to develop a new set of ideals to construct a faรงade rather than the entire building. Due to the halics built into the original faรงade of the Santa Maria Novella, Alberti could not build a portico onto 17 Tavernor. 99.
the building. (18) Instead of disassembling the halics, he installed a pseudo- colonnade with pilasters, as done on the Palazzo Rucellai, to convey the illusion of a potico. On each side of the large central door, Alberti emphasizes the halics by outlining them in four sections with the pilasters. The rest of the exterior is highly decorated using green and white marble; as one would think the interior should look based on his writings on architecture. (19) The faรงade is decorated in the manner as Alberti believes the floor of a sacred building should be, with geometric lines and patterning. This emphasizes the geometry used to construct the faรงade. The outward edges of the lower level of Santa Maria Novella are designed two square cantons styled as Corinthian columns, above which Rucellai has placed his family crest. The door has been described as modeled after a Roman triumphal arch. (20) This is due to the portals design: The door is surrounded by four pilasters one on each side of the door with two larger pilasters in either side of those. There is an arch above the door and while the larger pilster frame the door,
they and the arch create the shape of a pseudo triumphal arch. This emphasizes Alberti’s opinion on the greatness of the ancient buildings. By creating a portal reminiscent to a triumphal are Alberti connects the building and Rucellai back to Rome’s Emperor Constantine who founded Christianity by legalizing it. The entrance of the Santa Maria Novella then serves as a reference to Christianity’s triumph over the forces that tried to destroy it. The design of Christian churches everywhere connect themselves back to its foundation, Rome, through the use of Roman architecture. Alberti is using Christianity’s foundation to further represent Rucellai’s piety and allegiance to the Church. 18 Tavenor. 99. 19 Ibid. 102. 20 Ibid. 102.
The top is more designed like a Roman temple façade, which Alberti would have preferred if designing the entire building. The central structure of the upper portion of the façade is partially framed by two consoles that extend from the edge of the lower part of the façade half way up the central structure. Alberti again decorates the geometry used to construct these with the green and white marble. The core represents a colonnaded portico. It has four pilasters that protrude farther out from the façade to elude to depth. This section is topped with an entablature and pediment. Alberti emphasizes the circular rose window through three additional circles in the scroll and the pediment. The inscription in the frieze would not have been Alberti’s ideal because it is not of theological insight, which he believed should be used to embellish religious temples. Because the inscription states “Giovanni Rucellai son of Paolo 1470.” Alberti would not have seen this as appropriate inscriptions for a religious building. (21) This may not have been Alberti’s ideal but it is further contributing to bringing recognition to the piety of
Rucellai. By inscribing his name directly into the façade no one can question whether or not he is using his wealth as a means to give back to God. With the construction of the façade of the Santa Maira Novella, Alberti could not use his ideals because he was not constructing the whole building. Instead he adapted his ideals to incorporates Renaissance elements and the preexisting gothic stylings of the halics and rose window to decorate the façade and convey Rucellai’s overreaching message of piety and connection to the papal court and the foundation of Christianity. (22) 21 Ibid. 99. 22 Orlandi, Stefano, and Isnardo P. Grossi. Historical-artistic guide of Santa Maria Novella and her monumental cloisters. S. Becocci, 1980.
Sepulchreâ€™s function and importance: With the commission of the Holy Sepulchre Rucellai intended again to portray a message of piety and connection to Christianity, but with this commission he creates a more direct connection between himself and God through location. The church in which the Holy Sepulchre is located is the church of San Pancrazio, a church that was directly behind the Palazzo Rucellai. Unlike the commission for the faĂ§ade of the Santa Maria Novella, the commission for the Holy Sepulchre allowed for Rucellai to advertise his name through the San Pancrazio and through his Palazzo because of their physical location.
When commissioned to build the Holy Sepulchre by Rucellai, Alberti used his treatise on building sepulchreâ€™s to construct a sepulchre that displayed Rucellaiâ€™s piety by connecting his commission to Christianity. In antiquity, sepulchres were first built as a means for loved ones to come and visit and honor the deceased by bringing them offerings and sacrifices (23) In his treatise, Alberti writes that the development of structures on top of graves was developed for two reasons. The first was to have a dignified place to set the sacrices; and also to memorialize not the physical remains but the name of the individual. (24) When Alberti describes what kind of sepulchre was preferred by the ancients he explains that there did not seem to be a singular model. He believes that the main idea behind the sepulchre was to build something that was unique to the greatness of the individual. (25) Alberti felt inscriptions could affect any building whether public, private, or sacred public buildings; and that those inscriptions should consist of piety, compassion and grace. (26) One of the buildings in which inscriptions
play an important role is in the sepulcher. (27) Instead of finding pleasure within one style of sepulchre Alberti believes the joy should come from the form and the inscriptions that help memorialize an individual. (28) As a result Alberti constructs a sepulchre favored by the patron to bring recognition to his name. 23 Rykwert. 247. 24 Ibid. 248 and 249. 25 Ibid. 249. 26 Rykwert. 256. 27 Ibid. 255. 28 Ibid. 248.
The sepulchre that Rucellai commissions from Alberti is modeled after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Rucellaiâ€™s Holy Sepulchre (Figure 4) was in the church of San Pancrazio behind the Palazzo. (29) This could be due to Florentine idea of lineage communities and as a result Rucellai would have found it normal to have all of his families activities confined to a location (30) By building the sepulchre, Rucellai, a good Christian, wanted to display his piety by giving back to the church by recognizing the Church of San Pacrazio and also immortalize his family name. The construction of the Holy Sepulchre brought many visitors to San Pacrazio because of its replication of the Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre. Due to the similarity Pope Paul II granted for pilgrimage to the site to act as seven years of indulgences. (31) By creating a lineage community Rucellai is advertising the wealth and power of his family, through the Palazzo, too pilgrims while displaying his piety at the same time, through the Holy Sepulchre.
(Figure 4) Rucellaiâ€™s Holy Sepulchre 29 Travenor. 106. 30 Kent, Francis Williams. Houshold and Lineage in the Renaissance Florence. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977. 228. 31 Travenor. 114.
Even though this was to be an exact replica of the original sepulchre, Alberti’s reconstruction of it is different, his focus is on the detail of the lettering of the inscription. The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem consists of a mini-nave and apse structure was originally constructed as ending in a polygon with five bays separated by pilasters. (32) The apse of Alberti’s reconstruction is round and does not contain pilasters separating the bays. His alterations could be due to his own views of how a sepulchre should be built or it could be because no one knew exactly what the Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre looked like. During this time it was dangerous to travel so it is believed that Rucellai’s Holy Sepulchre was constructed from stories told about what it looked like. (33) Robert Tavernor believes that Alberti consciously altered the layout of the Holy Sepulchre as a means to conform to another one of his ideal: tribunes within a temple. Alberti believed that if a single tribune be constructed within a temple it should be semicircular and at the head of the temple so that all can see it. (34) The positioning of the Holy Sepulchre
within the Rucellai chapel is placed so that it is visible throughout the atrium. (35) Due to Rucellai’s request that is be a replica of the Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre, Alberti follows the footprint of the original but then substitutes the polygon shape with his ideal semicircular apse. As an object within a religious space Alberti adorns the exterior of the Sepulchre in a way that aligns with his ideal interior decoration of sacred spaces. There is marble inlay with theological symbols of geometric white, green and crimson stars, the Star of David, Solomon’s knot and symbols of Rucellai and Medici. (36) Unlike the blunt branding of the Santa Maria Novella, the imagery on the Holy Sepulchre would have been a delicate display of Rucellai’s piety through his contributions to the church and God. Choosing to model his Sepulchre 32 Ibid. 112. 33 Ibid. 110. 34 Rykwert. 196. 35 Tavernor. 112. 36 Ibid. 115.
after the Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre connects him back to Christianity through Christ. The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was believed to be the burial place of Jesus, so by commissioning a model of it for his own Sepulchre Rucellai is linking himself again to the beginnings of Christianity, this time through Christ himself rather than Rome. Even though Alberti is creating Rucellai’s message of piety and connection to Christianity and showing his allegiance with the Medici through the decorations on the Sepulchre, his main focus is in the inscription. The capital lettering of the inscription on the Holy Sepulchre, which reads “You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified: he rose: he is not there: this is the place where they put him”, also shows Alberti’s preference for his ideal. (37) Because he saw inscriptions as an important adornment to architecture he took particular care when constructing the lettering, inspired by antiquity, on the Holy Sepulchre. The lettering was inspired by the classical inscriptions from Caecilia Metella in Rome and from the Porta dei Leoni in Verona.. (38)
Each letter was created reflecting geometric perfection by using a compass to draw a circle and a straight edge to draw horizontal and vertical lines to create a square around the circle. (39) The inscriptions and ornamental detailing of the marble inlay memorialize, Jesus, the inhabitant of the original Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre and it memorializes the inhabitant of its reproduction in Florence, Giovanni Rucellai. The inscription which Alberti saw as an important tool to memorializing its inhabitants is immortalizing Jesus and Rucellai at the same time. The “he” in the inscription reads as referring to Jesus of Nazareth but because of the Rucellai symbolling in the decoration and this being meant for Rucellai’s final resting place, the “he” could also be read as referring to Giovanni Rucellai. Further referencing his connection to Christ. Alberti’s inscription creates a message that conveys to the people that it is through Christ favor 37 Ibid. 115. 38 Borsi, Franco. Leon Battista Alberti: The Complete Works. New York, New York: Rizzoli; Milano; Electa, 1986. 39 Tavenor. 116-117.
that Rucellai has gained his wealth. To show his thanks to God Rucellai is then showing his piety by giving back to the church in the form of the Holy Sepulchre. Alberti used his theories on architecture to accurately portray Giovanni Rucellai’s message of his piety, his magnificence and his familial connection to the Medici. While creating the façade for his palazzo, Alberti used antiquity to distinguish Rucellai’s Palazzo as a reference for his magnificence while also using elements such as rusticated stone and symbols to display his familial connection to the Medici. While the Palazzo is a displayal of his power and wealth, Alberti’s design for the façade of the Santa Maria Novella and the Holy Sepulchre serve as a representation of Rucellai’s piety. By using his wealth to give back to the church of Santa Maria Novella Rucellai is using Alberti’s design for the façade to show his piety and connect himself to the papal court. He is then again displaying his piety through Alberti’s design for the Holy Sepulchre while also creating a lineage community, bringing more recognition to his name through commissioning works in close proximity
to one another in his neighborhood. All of these commissions allowed for Alberti to but his treatise on architecture into practice while conveying Rucellaiâ€™s intended message to the public. Bioliography Borsi, Franco. Leon Battista Alberti: The Complete Works. New York, New York: Rizzoli; Milano; Electa, 1986. Grafton, Anthony. Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance. New York, New York: Hill and Wang, 2000. Harris, Cyril M. ed. Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture. New York, New York: Dover Publication, 1983. Kent, Francis Williams. Houshold and Lineage in the Renaissance Florence. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977. 228. Lindow, James R. â€œThe Renaissance Palace in Florence: Magnificence and Splendour in Fifteenth-Century Italy. Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2007.
Tavernor, Robert. On Alberti and the Art of Building. London, England: Yale University Press, 1998. Rucellai, Giovanni. “A Merchant’s Praise of Florence.” In Images of Quattrocento Florence. Edited by Stefano Ugo Baldassarri and Arielle Saiber. London, England: Yale University Press, 2000. Rykwert, Joseph, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor, trans., On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1988. Orlandi, Stefano, and Isnardo P. Grossi. Historical-artistic guide of Santa Maria Novella and her Monumental Cloisters. S. Becocci, 1980. 4.
Reimaging Lucrezia Borgia as Pious, Virtuous, and Magnificent
by erin burke
A Reputation to Leave Behind “The shameless woman is hated by her whose life is true and good. She soon discovers that, in fact, her dishonored condition pleases only her enemies.” – Leon Battista Alberti1
Often dismissed by many scholars, Lucrezia Borgia differed greatly from that of her famous sisterin-law, Isabella d’Este. Isabella is known for her vast art patronage and collecting practices while Lucrezia’s awful reputation has made her infamous. While Lucrezia’s patronage was not like that of Isabella’s, the Duchess’s paintings and small commissions show her as a religious and maternal woman.2 Arriving in Ferrara in 1502, the bride of Duke Alfonso d’Este, Lucrezia Borgia launched a campaign to refashion her reputation. By leaving behind rumors and accusations, her portraits and actions convey her virtue, piety, magnificence, and commitment to the d’Este dynasty. These themes are conveyed in painted portraits, medals, and the silver reliquary casket by Giovanni Antonio da Foligino, as well as in her decisions addressing financial needs in Ferrara. All these helped solidify those themes. Suspected of incest, associated with the birth of a mysterious Borgia baby, and accused of poisoning her second husband, Alfonso d’Aragon, Lucrezia Borgia needed to change her image.3 Too many issues arose after her first marriage to Giovanni Sforza was annulled on the claim it was not consummated.4 Many Italians doubted that her virtue remained intact and Sforza retaliated with the outrageous allegation that the only reason that Pope Alexander VI wanted the marriage to end was because he wanted Lucrezia for himself.5 Sarah Bradford’s biography mentions how close she was, not only to her father, but also to her brothers, Ceasar and Juan.6 These close bonds made Sforza’s accusations plausible. By 1509, Lucrezia would not stand to have her reputation questioned.7 She even offered to have male courtiers sleep in her antechamber to prove her chastity to her husband.8 The best way for Lucrezia to turn this unfortunate reputation around was to refashion herself as a symbol of virtuousness and piety, and to conform to the ideal for a noblewoman in Renaissance Italy. Portraits were important for presenting ideal noblewoman. Unfortunately today, many works of art like Bartolomeo Veneto’s semi-nude Flora (1515) are associated with Lucrezia, without evidence.9 While thought to be Lucrezia Borgia, there is no evidence that the sitter in Flora is of the Duchess or that it was a sanctioned depiction.10 This semi-nudity would have been extremely inappropriate for a pious mother, especially one connected to the d’Este lineage.11
References: 1 Leon Battista Alberti, The Family in Renaissance Florence. Columbia : University of South Carolina Press. 1969. Print. Pg. 213 2 Allyson Burgess Williams, Rewriting Lucrezia Borgia:Propriety, Magnificence, and Piety in Portraits of a Renaissance Duchess. (Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2012), 76-97. Print. pg. 78 3 Leonie Frieda, The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance, 1427-1527. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. Print. Pg. 190-191 4 Freida pg. 190-191 5 Sarah Bradford, Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy. New York: Viking, 2004. Print. Pg. 67 6 Bradford,pg. 67 7 Allyson Burgess Williams, Rewriting Lucrezia Borgia:Propriety, Magnificence, and Piety in Portraits of a Renaissance Duchess. (Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2012), 76-97. Print. pg. 84 8 Cited in Burgess Williams et al., pg. 84; For more information see; 6 July 1509, letter of Tolomo Spagnolo to Marchese Francesco Gonzaga (ASMN B.2475) cited in Luzio, “Isabella d’Este e I Borgia,” pt. 2, 737. 9, 10, 11 Burgess Williams, pg. 77
The Virtuous Wife “To be praised for your chastity you must shun every deed that lacks true nobility, eschew any sort of improper speech, avoid giving any sign that your spirit lacks perfect balance and chastity.” – Leon Battista Alberti12
Lucrezia Borgia’s bridal coin bore an image of the Duchess on one side and on the other her husband, Alfonso d’Este, and was cast around 1502-1503.13 Portrait medals played a vital role in a noblewoman’s reputation. It allowed for the “likeness” of the woman to be cast and paired with a symbolic characterization of inner attributes or virtues.14 In 1505, Lucrezia commissioned a medal to commemorate her marriage to Alfonso d’Este and correspondence with Pietro Bembo illustrates the planning and conceptualization process.15 Lucrezia is said to have recast this medal in 1505 by an unknown Mantua artist.16 In the 1505 version, instead of having Alfonso d’Este on the coin, the medal bore a reverse side called the The Amor Bendato.17 It is important to note that, because Lucrezia already had her image cast, it was easier to recast a medal that had been previously made, Thus evoking the same thoughts and attributes for which a noblewoman in the Renaissance strived.18 The recast medal would be associated with her new marriage and with virtue. The obverse of the medal is a bust portrait depicting a young woman with long hair (Figure 1). The young woman’s face is rounded and she has a smaller, receding chin. According to Allyson Burgess Williams, fullness under the chin and a smaller mouth, were considered to be ideals of Renaissance beauty.19 A straighter nose was favored heavily over that of an upturned nose.20 Lucrezia is portrayed with long hair which is tied back in a half-up, half-down hair style. This hairstyle was another common factor for woman in the Renaissance and was customary for a virtuous, unmarried woman or new bride.21 A delicate pendant hangs around Lucrezia’s neck and her dress is gath-
Figure 1, Obverse side, Uknown Mantua Artists, Medal of Lu-
crezia Borgia, 1502, Uknown Location, (https://goo.gle/TeC0kv; Source File: Renæssansemennesker.djvu)
ered and fastened at the left shoulder with a brooch, a style common for new brides.22 Lucrezia wears a Classical Roman style dress gathered at her left shoulder. Why might she want to be shown in the image of a classical woman? By adopting a traditional imperial format she connected herself and the d’Este back to Ancient Rome in general and to the Empress Faustina the Elder specifically.23 Renaissance woman at this time admired to classical Roman women: including the Empress Faustina the Elder, the wife of Antoninous Pius, and Livy’s Lucretia.24 While both were exceptional, Empress Faustina appeared on numerous coins that were reproduced and was believed to be devoted to family. Display of her portrait coins alongside those of her husband came to symbolize the maternal values and wifely virtues.25 Another Roman woman, Lucretia, was famous for her chastity. Chastity was so important for Lucretia, that she would have rather committed suicide after being sexually assaulted and blackmailed by her husbands’ detractors, than to live without virtue.26 By appropriating imagery of these two Roman women, Lucrezia demonstrated her loyalty to the d’Este dynasty and her commitment to her husband. On the reverse side of the Amor Bandato Medal, Lucrezia emphasizes her chastity and marital fidelity27. Considering the damage to her reputation after the annulment of her marriage to Giovanni Sforza, and the infamous child, Infans Romanus, Lucrezia would have wanted to show herself as faithful and chaste.28 There are many theories about whether or not Lucrezia Borgia was the mother to this mysterious Borgia child. The first theory states that if she knew she was pregnant with a Sforza baby; there must have been obvious discretion to hide an unborn child and a need to
follow the orders of her father regarding the annulment of Lucrezia’s second husband, Giovanni Sforza.29 The second theory involves a rumor that she may have had an affair with Pedro Caldes, a Spanish attendant to her father, and that the child was Caldes’.30 Unfortunately both Caldes and Lucrezia’s lady-in-waiting, Pantasilea were found dead in the Tiber.31 This second theory is difficult to confirm or verify as the dates do not seem to support the timeline. Finally, the child was originally thought to be Cesare Borgia’s but it is possible he was the issue of Pope Alexander VI and Guilia Farnese, who agreed to say that the Sforza baby was her own.32 In conclusion there is one thing that is certain: a baby by the name of Giovanni Borgia (Infans Romanus) was born to the Borgia household in 1498, by an unknown woman.33 By associating herself with a medal full of symbols of chastity, Lucrezia could have broken away from her aforementioned past and disassociated herself from the mysterious Borgia baby. The reverse of the medal bears the following inscription: “Virtuti ac formae pudicitia praecosissimum” which translates as “in virtue and beauty, modesty most precious.”34 It is also possible that Petro Bembo’s advice on the medal’s motto, in discussions with Lurcrezia, while respected, was rejected in favor of the current motto that instantly produced thoughts of chastity and piety.35 The motto is around the motif of a blindfolded Cupid tied to a laurel tree, along with a suspended quiver (which appears to be broken), a tablet, violin, sheet music, and a bow.36 The tree is likely a laurel and may refer to the story of Apollo and Daphne that is associated with chastity and piety.37 In the face of Apollo’s unwanted sexual pursuit, Daphne calls for help. The response is to transform her into a Laurel tree thus preserving her virtue. According to Erwin Panofsky and Kari Lawe, a bound Cupid symbolizes chastity, for passion is constrained.38 Isabella d’Este is noted as having a bound Cupid in her own studiolo, the painting by Pietro Perugino, the Combat of Love and Chastity, 1503 (Figure 2).39 Isabella was known for her detailed literary inventions and required her humanist advisors to take part in the study of mythological paintings.40 She instructed Renaissance painters to draw from classical myths and execute an allegorical content that related back to the Marchesa’s identity.41 To the displeasure of Isabella, Perugino painted a nude figure of Venus within the Combat of Love and Chastity as he saw the work within a classical setting; she wanted more of a moralizing allegorical message.42 Cited by Rose Marie San Juan, Charles Hope’s 1981 study of patronage states that the Combat of Love and Chastity, demonstrates, “only too clearly what she had in mind – the pedantic elaboration of banal allegory, conceived with little or
83; For more information on Lucrezia’s patronage for music see; Prizer, William F.. 1985. “Isabella D’este and Lucrezia Borgia as Patrons of Music: The Frottola at Mantua and Ferrara”. Journal of the American Musicological Society 38 (1). Pg. 1–33.; Burgess Williams, pg. 83. 37 The laurel tree symbolizes glory, victory, nobility, and intellectual superiority. Burgess Williams, pg. 83 38 Burgess Williams, pg. 83; For more on Panofsky and Lawe see; Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (New York, 1972), Ch. 4, “Blind Cupid”; Kari Lawe, “La madaglia dell ‘Amornino bendato,’’ in La Corte di Ferrara e il suo mecenatismo, 1441-1598, Marianna Pade et al., eds (Copenhagen, 1987), 233-245. 39 Burgess Williams,pg. 83 40 Rose Marie San Juan. “The Court Lady’s Dilemma: Isabella D’este and Art Collecting in the Renaissance”. Oxford Art Journal 14 (1). Oxford University Press. 1991. 67–78. 41 Marchesa (of Mantua) meaning an Italian Marchioness references to Isabella d’Este; San Juan et al., pg. 68 42 San Juan, pg. 68 43 Cited in San Juan, Rose Marie. 1991. “The Court Lady’s Dilemma: Isabella D’este and Art Collecting in the Renaissance”. Oxford Art Journal 14 (1). Oxford University Press. 68 44 Burgess Williams,pg. 83
Figure 2, Pietro Perugino, Combat of Love and Chastity, 1503, Paris, Mu-
see du Louve (https://goo.gl/Od33am ; Source Photograph www.wga.hu)
no regard for the distinction between a painting and a text. This attitude seems entirely typical of Isabella’s pretentious personality…”.43 It is entirely possible that Lucrezia learned of the motif of the bound Cupid, from Isabella’s Perugino. While the two sister-in-laws were not usually on good terms, Lucrezia may have seen the painting or learned of it, from Isabella’s husband, Gian Francesco Gonzaga.44 The virtues displayed on Lucrezia’s medals, in addition to her wealth, further emphasize her nobility and modest in stark contrast to the mixed messages of the Marchesa’s art. References:
12 Alberti, pg. 213 13 Amor Bendato translates into blindfolded love which references the blind-
folded Cupid on the reverse side; Burgess Williams, pg. 81 14 Likeness can also refer to the idealization of nobles that occurred with these medals; Katherine A. McIver, “Wives, widows, mistresses, and nuns in early modern Italy : making the invisible visible through art and patronage.” Farnham, Surrey, England ; Burlington, Vt. : Ashgate. 2012. (pg. 81) 15 Pietro Bembo was a Venetian Scholar, poet, and friend of Lucrezia; Cited in Burgess Williams pg. 81, “The Correspondence can be found in the following sources: B. Gatti, ed., Lettere di Lucrezia Borgia a messer Pietro Bembo (Milian 1869), 12; T. Travi ed., Pietro Bembo Lettere (Bologna, 1987-93), vol.1, 153; For more letters on Pietro and Lucrezia’s correspondence see, Borgia, Lucrezia, Pietro Bembo and Hugh Shankland. The Prettiest Love Letters in the World: Letter between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo 1503 to 1519. David R. Godine Publisher, 1987. 16 Burgess Williams, pg. 81; It is also possible to speculate that this Mantua Artists might have been Foligno, as cited in Burgess William’s article, “Foligno designed jewelry for Lucrezia, but also cast coins for the Ferrarese mint.” 17, 18, 19 Burgess Williams, pg. 81 20 Burgess Williams., pg. 81; For more information on signs of beauty in the Renaissance as cited in Burgess Williams see, Mary Rogers “The Decorum of Women’s Beauty: Trissino, Firenzuola, Luigini and the Representation of Women in Sixteenth-Century Painting,” Renaissance Studies, 2 (1998): 47-88. 21 Burgess Williams., pg. 81 22 Brochetta di Spalla; a specific bridal brooch that often was worn by brides, Burgess Williams et al., pg. 81 23 all’antica; or in the manner of the ancients. Referencing this style of gown for which Lucrezia is wearing on her Amor Bendato Medal. 24, 25, 26 Burgess Williams, pg. 82 27 For a reproduction image on the reverse side of the Amor Bandato see; http://goo.gl/e54RtE 28 Burgess Williams, pg. 79 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Frieda, pg. 190-191 34, 35 Burgess Williams, pg. 83 36 A quiver and an arrow/bow symbolize either war or love, in the context of a Cupid these items would most likely depict love. Even though the items are broken, it could potentially symbolize a life cut too short, A tablet could symbolize learning and in a Humanist Cultural context, learning and intelligence would be important, especially for a noblewoman. The Violin and sheet music, could symbolize Lucrezia’s love of music and culture; Burgess Williams, pg.
Portraits of Lucrezia Borgia “Use every means to appear to all people as a highly respectable woman” - Leon Battista Alberti45 Portraiture grew in popularity in the Renaissance; wealthy families commissioned paintings to convey their status and magnificence.46 Carole Coller Frick explains that bright and flawless complexions, headdresses adorned with jewels and fabric, jewelry, and brocade dresses all display status in the community.47 There are a number of portraits that are associated with Lucrezia Borgia, the only securely identified portrait of her was painted by Bartolomeo Veneto (Figure 3).48 This portrait was most likely commissioned by Lucrezia as is listed in her payroll books, instead of in her husband’s accounts.49 Veneto’s portrait of Lucrezia is a formal portrait and survives in one of three copies of the original.50 The version in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nîmes most likely was painted from 1508 to 1510 and may commemorate Figure 3: Bartolomeo Veneto, Portrait the birth of one of her sons: of Lucrezia Borgia, 1510-1520, Nimes, Ercole II or Ippolito.51 Musée des Beaux-Arts Bartolomeo Vene(https://goo.gl/D5b5lt) to’s Portrait of Lucrezia Borgia (1510-1520) depicts her wearing a dark colored bodice or camora with decorative embroidered swags of gold.52 The golden embroidery on the bodice is covered with bows and leaves that may be from a laurel tree.53 The dark bodice connects to the sleeves which are adorned by golden stripes with similar em-
broidery and brocade.54 The sleeves are also slashed to reveal the camisia.55 The camisia is white and high enough on her chest to cover her breasts. The camisia also is decorated with gold stripes and topped with ruching.56 Over the top of the gown, lays a gold necklace. This necklace is adorned with two rubies and three emerald jewels. These jewels appear to be cut in an emerald style, set horizontally, with small gold beads and pearls, between them. The display of wealth in the bodice and necklace alone conveys disposable income, status and a high social class.57 Her face is round and plump with a small, receding jawline, similar to her depiction on her medals.58 A straight nose, small supple lips, rosy cheeks, and soft eyes surround what has been described about Lucrezia’s beauty. Her hair, no longer the ideal blonde, is coiled in tendrils and collected in a jewel encrusted hairnet. The hairnet is made up of gold lattice intricately created by a series of leaves. It is possible the leaves are laurel to represent her marital status and chastity.59 The golden leaves converge with pearls, rubies, and emeralds to match her necklace. Similarly, loose jewels are suspended over her forehead. Inventories of Lucrezia’s clothing record that she kept a large number of loose gems, pearls, and other jewels to adorn her clothing and hair.60 This style of hairnet was common for Lucrezia; she wore one, loosely adorned in pearls and diamonds, for her wedding.61 Pearls likely celebrated her purity and regality.62 While outward beauty was important and referenced ones’ status, reputation was valued, and the main focal point of these portraits was to establish exemplary morals and good standing, for which she would be known and remembered. It is important to note that accounts of Lucrezia’s beauty show that she was not as stunning as contemporary accounts portray her to be; she was described as pleasant to look at and, most importantly, having the grace and style that was expected of a nobleman’s wife.63 Portrait of a Young Woman by Bartolomeo Veneto, painted between 1500-1510 shows the sitter in a bust-length formal portrait.64 The woman seated, although not securely identifiable, has been reported to be Lucrezia Borgia, (Figure 4). Her bodice is dark in color, with a gold belt at the waist. This belt appears to be made of some sort of beads, most likely enamel. The sleeves are heavily slashed to reveal the white camisia underneath. The white camisia has gold flora and fauna embroidery. The top portion of the white camisia has beautiful, red tulip embroidery that is sectioned off with dark colored ties which appear like Christian crosses. The cross design of the ties indicate the sitter’s commitment towards her faith and piety. A
long gold necklace hangs down from her neck. The necklace is adorned with cylindrically shaped, decorated beads. A rounded face, with soft lips, and rosy cheeks is shown again throughout this portrait. Her hair is coiled and wavy. The long tendrils of Figure 4: Bartolomeo Veneto, Portrait her locks are not of a Young Lady, 1500-1510, London, kept back with a hairnet National Gallery but by a small, jewel (https://goo.gl/dMKZUO) encrusted headband draped effortlessly over the crown of her head. While not an exact copy of the previous Veneto, this one offers a similar portrayal of the Duchess of Ferrara. Lucrezia managed to change her identity and reputation to show that she was both modest and virtuous as a d’Este noblewoman while still conveying splendor throughout painted depictions of her. She effectively changed her identity through the use of visual images and symbols of the time including these Veneto paintings.
45 Leon Battista Alberti, The Family in Renaissance Florence. Columbia :
University of South Carolina Press. 1969. Print. Pg. 213 46 Carole Collier Frick, “The Golden girl” The Renaissance Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated. Pittsburgh & NY: Periscope Publishing. 2014. pg. 310-333. 47 Frick,pg. 316 48 There are reported to be at least 4 copies of the original Veneto, only three surviving today. 49 Burgess Williams,pg. 84 50 These are a bust- length portrait formerly in the Antonelli Collection in Ferrara, and a three-quarter-length version in the Guggenheim collection in Venice. See Vigi, “Lucrezia Borgia: Ricerca di un’identita,” 211-212, figs 6 and 7.; reference Figure 3. 51, 57, 58, 59, 61 Burgess Williams, pg. 85 52 Camora is referring to the outermost layer of a gown: For more information on Renaissance Fashion see; Payne, Blanche: History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century, Harper & Row, 1965.; Stuard, Susan Mosher. Gilding the market: luxury and fashion in fourteenth-century Italy. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.; and Ann Rosalind. Jones Peter Stallybrass. Renaissance clothing and the materials of memory. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York, N.Y. : Cambridge University Press. 2000. 53, 54 Burgess Williams, pg. 85 55 For more information on slashing see; Payne, Blanche., “History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century,” Harper & Row, 1965.; Camisia is similar to an Under-blouse. See, Forgeng, Jeffrey L., and Will McLean. Daily Life in Chaucer’s England. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995. Print. 56 Ruching, is a sewing technique to create a gathered look. For more information on rushing and fashion see; Payne, Blanche: History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century, Harper & Row, 1965.; Burgess Williams et al., pg. 85 60 Lucrezia’s wardrobe see Polifilo *Luca Beltrami+, inventario della guardaroba di Lucrezia Borgia (Milan, 1903); Inventories dating between 1516 and 1518 list packets of jewels, gold or enamel beads, valuable fabrics with gold or jewels, tiaras, sacred pendants and other bejeweled gold and silver items. Bellonci, Lucrezia Borgia, 555 – 582. 62, 63 Burgess Williams, pg. 86 64 Four copies of an original Veneto have sufficient provenance, three are still surviving today; Portrait of a Young Woman can be found in London’s National Gallery Collection.
The Splendor at the Court “Beauty: the adjustment of all parts proportionately so that one cannot add or subtract change without impairing the harmony of the whole” Leon Battista Alberti65
In early modern ideologies, beauty was likened to being good. It was a factor in determining one’s virtue(s).66 Allyson Burgess William’s states, in her article “Rewriting Lucrezia Borgia: Propriety, Magnificence, and Piety in Portraits of a Renaissance Duchess,” that this link between beauty and virtue may explain why the Virgin Mary is depicted as modest and beautiful in paintings. With Mary being the most virtuous of women in Christian religious norms, it is plausible to state that Lucrezia would want to embody Mary’s virtues.67 Outward appearance and beauty was a necessity for a Renaissance noblewoman, as it was an indicator of nobility. Because the Virgin Mary was depicted as both modest and beautiful, Renaissance noblewomen began to reproduce such ideals for themselves and their courts through some of their commissioned works.68 Because beauty was equated with moral goodness it became possible to turn vanity into a virture. By creating a self-portrait similar to the Virgin Mary they were equating her inner attributes and morals while replicating her outward beauty. Many young noblewomen were devoted to an external display of wealth and beauty, which then also included underlying messages of virtue and morality. As a result of all of this, Lucrezia Borgia’s reputation was changed so dramatically that she was even sometimes referred to as Madonna.69 Early Modern scholars have started studying aspects of hair and body modification, as well as the beginning of the luxurious commercial culture. Regal styles started to flourish in the Renaissance and paved the way for court style.70 The Renaissance court style was too lavish to be replicated for and by the masses.71 However, with a growing demand for more luxurious lifestyle and growing merchant class, people began to care more about their outward appearance.72 Rachel Erlanger mentions how Matteo Bandello’s Novelle described Guilia Fernese and Lucrezia’s clothing, “[Guilia] wore a lined robe in the Neapolitan fashion as did Madonna Lucrezia who, after a little while, ... returned shortly in a gown almost entirely of violet velvet.”73 In some cities laws governing spending and consumption allowed women to embellish their basic clothing to design elaborate fashions.74 Women contributed heavily to this luxury culture by creating tasteful changes to the face of fashion and their costumes. With these spirited changes to fashion, many women such as Isabella d’Este and Lucrezia
Borgia were often imitated.75 Outward beauty was something to be desired because beautiful people were seen as morally good. This quest for outward beauty created a demand for cosmetics and products that would enhance one’s appearance. Unfortunately many of the cosmetics created during this area, were highly toxic76. In the short term, a woman might enhance her appearance but the side effects could result in early aging or possibly death, which is why scholars like Alberti, told his wife to never use make up or change the way she looked for she would seem far too old.77 Both Isabella d’Este and Lucrezia Borgia, wanted to continue a youthful appearance all through their adulthood by enhancing their outward appearance to reflect their inner attributes.78 Hair was also important in the Renaissance and Lucrezia was known for her long blond locks. In Anthony Synnott’s article, “Shame and Glory: A Sociology of Hair,” he mentions how, “hair is perhaps our most powerful symbol of individual and group identity – powerful first because it is physical and therefore extremely personal, and second because, although personal, it is also public rather than private.”79 The Duchess approached her health practices from what she had learned at the Vatican Court.80 Known for her blonde hair, Lucrezia Borgia used it to help define her identity. It was not uncommon for Lucrezia to devote an entire day to washing and drying her hair.81 There were also many Renaissance women who took part in enhancing their hair color through elaborate rituals.82 These rituals consisted of experiments and recipes to create a brighter, blonder hair color. Rachel Erlanger states, “Countess Nani [used a recipe which] called for two pounds of alum, six ounces of black Sulphur and four ounces of honey… to achieve a shade called filo d’oro.83 Medals cast in the likeness of Lucrezia Borgia portray her with loosely bound hair that was typically associated with young brides.84 Even though she was no longer a young virtuous bride, the use of beauty was part of her creative reimaging and commonality of Renaissance noblewomen. It is possible that, like women of today, Lucrezia enjoyed the luxurious consumer culture that was formulating. Through investment in time and money for hair care and other enhancements, noblewomen conveyed their status, rank, and connections to other women.85 Due to Lucrezia’s success in redefining her reputation, moral attributes, and identity, she may well have been influential also in the beginning evolution of the consumer market.86 Keeping her virtuous identity in portraiture and busts, while still maintaining a contemporary outward persona, Lucrezia was able to balance court culture and style with the modesty and Christian piety that she wanted to portray.
Alberti, pg. 213 Burgess Williamspg, pg. 87 Burgess Williams, pg. 87 Burgess Williams, pg. 87 Rachel Erlanger, Lucrezia Borgia: A Biography. New York: Hawthorn, 1978. Print. pg. 32 70 Regal style is associated with the monarchy.; Stuard, pg. 10-19 71 Court style is associated with a style that is derived from Regal and Court culture. For more information see; Stuard, pg. 10-19 72 Susan Mosher Stuard, Gilding the market: luxury and fashion in fourteenth-century Italy. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. pg. 10-11 73 Erlanger, pg. 32 74 During the Renaissance the fashion did not transform the social classes right away but because of the potential threat to the social orders of the times, certain laws, Sumptuary Laws, were enacted to help structure what could be bought and sold. For more information on Sumptuary Laws see; Stuard, pg. 2 75 Stuard, pg. 19 76 Alberti pg. 213 77 Alberti pg. 213 78 Frick, pg. 329 79 Anthony Synnott, “Shame and Glory: A Sociology of Hair”. The British Journal of Sociology 38.3 (1987): 381–413. 80 Frieda, 308 81 Evelyn Welch, “Art on the Edge: Hair and Hands in Renaissance Italy.” Renaissance Studies 23.3 (2009) pg. 244 82 Rachel Erlanger, Lucrezia Borgia: A Biography. New York: Hawthorn, 1978. Print.32 83 Filo d’oro translated from Italian means gold thread; Erlanger, pg. 32 84 Burgess Williams, pg. 81-84 85 Evelyn Welch, “Art on the Edge: Hair and Hands in Renaissance Italy.” Renaissance Studies 23.3 (2009): 241-268. 86 Frick, pg. 329 65 66 67 68 69
The Pious Duchess “Therefore, that all our devotion, given to all things at once, will prove sufficient.” Leon Battista Alberti87
The reliquary casket of Saint Maurelius by Giovanni Antionio da Foligno (c. 1514) is the only official, full length portrait of Lucrezia Borgia.88 This reliquary casket is decorated on three sides with the silver engravings dedicated to the oldest patron saint of Ferrara, Christian Bishop-Saint Maurelius.89 The three sides of the reliquary are adorned with silver panels, one with the Patron Saint, one with Lucrezia Borgia, and the other with Alfonso d’Este. This example of a votive portrait on a reliquary makes this piece extremely rare as the inclusion of votive portraits was uncommon.90 The votive offering was given because of the events of the previous year. The Battle of Ravenna occurred, which Alfonso d’Este survived;an assassination attempt on Alfonso d’Este occurred in Rome as the Pope was going to invade Ferrara; and Lucrezia’s 12 year old son, Rodrigo, passed away.91 With the various threats from the previous year, this piece expresses Lucrezia’s piety as well as that of her third husband.92 One panel depicts Alfonso d’Este, in armor, kneeling before the Saint, while the other offers a look at the abbot of San Giorgio and a caretaker receiving a blessing. By far the most intricately detailed portion is Lucrezia Borgia’s panel, (Figure 5).93 Lucrezia is at the center, standing in full-length, holding her son,
Figure 5: Lucrezia Borgia Panel of; Giovanni Antionio da Foligno, The
Reliquary Casket of Saint Maurelius (c. 1514) Church of San Griorgio fuori le mura, Ferrara (https://goo.gl/KfDnkD; Source: Sarah Bradford: Lucrezia Borgia. Penguin Group, 2005)
Ercole II’s, hand, as he receives a blessing from Saint Maurelius. This offering would have likened Lucrezia to that of the Virgin Mary who presented Christ in the Temple. Focusing on religious iconography within the casket panels show Lucrezia as a good Christian mother and celebrates the stability of the dynasty in the face of outside threats. The silhouette of her head is copied from a medal; her hair is braided and pulled back in a jeweled, netted headdress.94 Her hairstyle and her hairnet still convey her marital status, magnificence, and interest in luxury. Following Lucrezia are five ladies-in-waiting.95 They wear simple gowns and their hair is loose. Lucrezia sets an example of modesty and virtue by wearing her camisia higher up on her bodice than her court ladies wear theirs.96 Her gown is noted as being similar to her wedding dresses which would make her easily recognizable.97 She engraved herself in Ferrarese history, not only as a magnificent Duchess, but as a pious mother. Lucrezia created an image of significance which, along with her crucial commitment to Christ, displayed her virtuous, courtly reputation and, thus, her right to rule alongside Alfonso.98
86 Frick, pg. 329 87 Alberti, pg. 213 88 The court jeweler and minter was Giovanni Antionio (Leli) da Foligno,
which makes it plausible that it was commissioned by Lucrezia or her husband.; Burgess Williams, pg. 87 89, 90 Burgess Williams, pg. 87 91 Rodrigo of Aragon, Lucrezia’s first child born to her second husband Alfonso of Aragon;Burgess Williams, pg. 87 92 The church Lucrezia frequented was the Clarissan convent of the Corpus Domino, a center of female Franciscan learning.; Burgess Williams, pg. 89 93 Burgess Williams et al., pg. 89 94 See Figure 1 for reference to this medal. 95, 96 Burgess Williams., pg. 90 97, 98 Burgess Williams, pg. 91
The Careful Co-ruler “This property, this family, and the children to be born to us will belong to us both, to you as much as to me, me to as much as to you.” Leon Battista Alberti99
At the end of her life, the Duchess, had maneuvered herself through the typical conventions of patronage during the Renaissance. She now began operating boldly in her economic life and in ways uncommon for Renaissance noblewomen.100 A budding entrepreneur, Lucrezia nearly doubled her annual income by investing in massive reclamation projects around the marshlands.101 In Lucrezia Borgia’s Palace in Renaissance Ferrara, Diane Yvonne Ghirardo states, “as an economic actor developing, financing, and directing a huge reclamation campaign in the duchy’s marshland, she positioned herself as a capitalist entrepreneur, behaving in ways foreign to other women.”102 This economic investment may explain why Isabella d’Este overshadows her sister-in-law. Scholars like Diane Yvonne Ghirardo, claim that Lucrezia was not the best patron in comparison to many of the other women during the Renaissance.103 She is known for focusing on her jewelry, her wedding to her third husband, and for managing her dowry not for commissioning art and architecture.104 Her marriage in 1502 came with a spectacular dowry. It contained gold and over 300,000 ducats worth of jewelry, a very hefty sum during the Renaissance.105 In the first decade after her marriage into the d’Este family, the region was plagued by war, and Lucrezia often pawned her jewelry for easy money to support her husbands’ war efforts. Near the end of her life, she launched an extensive campaign to reclaim as much of her pawned jewelry as possible.106 This helped the d’Este appear financially stable with extensive disposable income and allowed them to support cultural activities.107 It was common of noblewomen and their families to display their wealth through portraits.108 Focusing on commissioning works of art and architecture allowed women of the Renaissance to create their identities and pursue some of their own interests within the realm of acceptable female activities. The Saint Maruelius Reliquary demonstrates Lucrezia’s ideal of a mother, being both loving and devout. While the only known bust length portraits of Lucrezia are by Bartolomeo Veneto and portray the Duchess of Ferrarese as luxurious and beaming with splendor through the use of beauty and status symbols, which again convey the fact that beauty equated to moral goodness. Finally, the Amor Bendato tells a lovely story of chastity and connects Lucrezia to classical exemplars. Lucrezia’s
notorious reputation was transformed after she married into the d’Este family. Symbols of beauty, modesty, chastity, piousness, motherhood, and magnificence became prominent. Many of these images were also conveyed though her patronage and business practices. Even though Lucrezia was not known for focusing so much on art, there are items that represent her maternal status and reclaimed identity as a pious Christian woman, virtuous in nature.
99 Alberti, pg. 211 100 Diane Yvonne Ghirardo., “Lucrezia Borgia’s Palace in Renaissance
Ferrara.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Vol. 64, No. 4 (Dec., 2005), pp. 474-497, Pg.476 101 Diane Yvonne Ghirardo., “Lucrezia Borgia as Entrepreneur.” Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 1 (Spring 2008), pp. 53-91. Pg. 53 102 Ghirardo (2005) pg. 476-477; For more information on economics and status of women in the Renaissance, see; Kelly-Gadol, Joan. Did women have a Renaissance?. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.; Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., “Women and Work in Renaissance Italy,” in Judith C. Brown and Robert C. Davis, eds., Gender and Society in Renaissance Italy (London and New York, 1998), 107-26. 103 Ghirardo (2008) pg. 56 104, 105 Ghirardo (2008) pg. 54 106, 107 Ghirardo (2008) pg. 55 108 For more information on displaying wealth through portraits, such as Honor Paintings see; Frick, Carole Collier. “The Golden girl” The Renaissance Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated. Pittsburgh & NY: Periscope Publishing. 2014. pg. 310-333.
The Renaissance in Dubrovnik, Croatia An Appropriation and Translation of Italian Renaissance Characteristics
The Renaissance in Dubrovnik, Croatia An Appropriation and Translation of Italian Renaissance Characteristics
Croatia, though not often thought of in a world dominated by the Italian Renaissance, experienced a major artistic renaissance in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many greater powers were vying for control over Croatia because of its desirable location on the Adriatic Sea. Not only was Croatia’s location perfect for maritime trade, but it was also strategically important to Italy because it served as a buffer between Italy and the Turkish threat of the Ottoman Empire. (Figure 1) Venice controlled much of the Croatian coast from about 1420 to 1797.1 The Venetian Adriatic State was created by voluntary submission of Croatian territory and by military domination.2 Under Venetian rule, many aspects of Croatian art and architecture take on characteristics of the Renaissance in Italy. Though Dubrovnik was linked to much of Italy through its shared common language of Latin and religion of Christianity, Venice in particular was a political threat.3 Dubrovnik was the only city along the eastern Adriatic coast to retain full sovereignty from Venice and patrons in Dubrovnik sought to celebrate sovereignty by adopting a distinct variation of Renaissance art and architectural form. In Dubrovnik’s process of defining itself as apart from Venetian rule, it aligned with the visual language of Florence. Sovereignty and a prime spot on the coast allowed
1 John Norwich, Croatia: aspects of art, architecture, and cultural heritage (London: Frances Lincoln, 2009), 8. 2 Charles Dempsey, ed., Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim (Bologna, Nuova Alfa Editoriale, 1994), 32. 3 Norwich, Croatia: aspects of art, architecture, and cultural heritage, 12.
the city to establish economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties with other European states on equal terms; this created a commercially powerful city that could compete with Venice.4 Florence, in fact, was Dubrovnik’s main trade connection in Italy and this relationship was strengthened in the mid-14th century.5 With Dubrovnik’s sovereignty and its strong trading partner in the Republic of Florence, the city resisted the visual language that Venice imposed on the rest of the Adriatic coast. The process of cultural exchange between Italian cities in the Renaissance is explored by Stephen Campbell and Stephen Milner in their article “Art, Identity, and Cultural Translation in Renaissance Italy”. The article unpacks the various ways in which cultures and regional identities “interpenetrate and inform each other” and how the appropriation and translation of culture is a method of “securing or resisting hegemony”.6 According to Campbell and Milner, Italian states experienced major cultural exchange between political centers for reasons including, but not limited to differentiating themselves from or aligning themselves with another state’s power. By functioning outside of the cultural traditions of a major center of power, states would create an alternative site of production to resist the dominant hegemony. Boundaries between Italian states were permeable and artists and humanists
4 Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 81-82. Norwich, Croatia: aspects of art, architecture, and cultural heritage, 12. 5 Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 86.
6 Stephen Campbell and Stephen Milner, eds., Artistic Exchange and Cultural Translation in the Italian Renaissance City (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 2 and 4.
were able to search for patronage from many deliberate choice due to the threats Venice posed political centers, meaning that visual languages and to Dubrovnik’s safety. ideas were translated from one state to another in differing ways. During the Renaissance, there was hardly any distinction between artist and engineer. I argue that we can expand the idea of cultural Engineering was a much more lucrative business translation set out by Campbell and Milner and than art and also helped individuals gain social apply it to the process Dubrovnik experienced status; many artists took engineering jobs to through the appropriation and translation of supplement their work.11 According to Evelyn various Italian Renaissance ideas. The process is Welch, many court painters were not paid for best seen through three case studies: Dubrovnik’s that aspect of their work, but only for engineering modernization of its defense system, its palace or architectural projects; the same seems to hold architecture, specifically the Rector’s Palace, true for Croatian artists and engineers. Maso was and its Renaissance style gardens. By creating better-paid for his work in Dubrovnik than that their own visual identity based on the ancient for Federigo da Montefeltro in Urbino.12 The Roman vernacular and predominantly Florentine successors to Maso’s projects in Dubrovnik were architectural features and style, Dubrovnik Michele di Giovanni and Pasquale di Michele, experienced their own Renaissance. both likely Florentine.13 Clearly, Florentine masters were Dubrovnik’s primary choice when looking Military Engineering for military engineering expertise. Dubrovnik’s need to modernize its defensive system in the mid-15th century came to a head when the Ottoman Empire began to invade Croatia.7 Officials in Dubrovnik decided to invite two Florentines, Maso di Bartolomeo and Michelozzo, in 1455 and 1461 respectively, to lead their modernization.8 At that time, Michelozzo was one of the most popular architects in Florence, and Maso, a close colleague of Michelozzo and Donatello, was primarily known as a military engineer; he was also the founder of the cannon.9 Central Italians had more military expertise than local engineers which explains why they were chosen to design and construct the fortifications.10 However, bringing in Florentine rather than Venetian talent was likely another
7 Norwich, Croatia: aspects of art, architecture, and cultural heritage, 12. 8 Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 83. 9 Harriet McNeal Caplow, “Michelozzo at Ragusa: new documents and revaluations.” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (1972), 109. Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 82-83.
Even though Michelozzo was extremely popular in Florence, he also likely went to work in Dubrovnik because he received a much higher income there than in his native region.14 Martin Warnke of the University of Hamburg describes a competitive atmosphere for artists in the 15th century, so it is no wonder that Michelozzo was able to be persuaded to work in Dubrovnik.15 At this time, artists were able to play the market and were, as Warnke describes, “no less mobile than the wandering humanists of the period.”16 While in Dubrovnik, Michelozzo was in charge of designing the new fortifications of the city and supervising the project’s progress.17 He worked
10 Caplow, “Michelozzo at Ragusa: new documents and revaluations,” 110. 11 Ibid., 110. Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 84. 12 Evelyn Welch, “Painting as Performance in the Italian Renaissance Court” in Artists at Court: ImageMaking and Identity, 1300-1550 Fenway Court, ed. Denise Bergman (Cambridge: Museum Publishing
Partners, 2002), 19. Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: FifteenthCentury Art of the Adriatic Rim, 84. 13 Caplow, “Michelozzo at Ragusa: new documents and revaluations,” 109. 14 Ibid., 109. 15 Martin Warnke, The court artist: On the ancestry of the modern artist, trans. David McLintock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 31. 16 Ibid., 26.
in the early Italian type of fortification which combined “elements of bastions and towers with ravelins.”18 (Figure 2) Michelozzo was also concerned with the addition of cannons; he placed permanent holdings at both the Pile Gate (the main land entrance) and the Mincetta Tower (which protects the Pile Gate and the approach to the city from the mountains).19 (Figure 3) The difference in Venetian and Florentine fortifications is best seen through a comparison of the Venetian Castle in Split and Michelozzo’s fortifications. The castle in Split was built in 1441 to act as the Venetian center of power. Two ancient towers in the immediate vicinity of the Venetian castle were demolished because they could have been utilized as strongholds by the citizens if a conflict with the Venetians arose. Three north- facing towers were built with thick walls between them.20 The positioning of the castle on the peripheral waterfront “shows an intention to facilitate evacuation by sea in an emergency.”21 The cityfacing towers, thick walls, and position on the waterfront all demonstrate that the castle in Split was built primarily to exercise control over the city rather than to defend it from outside threats. The castle towers in Split are octagonal as opposed to the rounded ones in Dubrovnik and the castle walls do not slope outward to protect from cannon-fire as do Dubrovnik’s fortifications. The Venetian castles in Trogir and Zara are very similar to the one in Split because they both face inwards towards the city.22 For example, when the city castle of Trogir was reinforced in the early 15th century, the polygonal corner tower was built to face onto the city itself to survey the town.23 These examples confirm the aim of Venice to control rather than protect its holdings which
17 Caplow, “Michelozzo at Ragusa: new documents and revaluations,” 110. 18 Ibid., 112. 19 Ibid., 112. 20 Katja Marasovic, “Venetian Castle in Split: Construction and Transformations” Scientific Papers 2, 44 (2012), 263.
is much different from the aims of Dubrovnik’s fortifications—such as the ravelins and bastions— which are meant for defending the city from outside threats. Architecture Rector’s Palace The Rector’s Palace, according to Charles Dempsey, “is the foremost architectural monument of the Early Renaissance in Dubrovnik.”24 The Rector’s Palace renovation was entrusted to a member of Michelozzo’s circle, Salvi de Florentia.25 Salvi was in charge of the ground level of the courtyard and arcaded portico, the two architectural parts of the palace most characteristically Renaissance in style. (Figures 4 and 5) Those areas also revealed typical Florentine traits in the architectural detailing; this is evident when comparing the Rector’s palace with the Palazzo Medici in Florence and the Doge’s Palace in Venice.26 Salvi was a part of Michelozzo’s circle and would have been familiar with Michelozzo’s work on the Palazzo Medici (Figure 6)—built in 1460 in Florence—when he began renovating the Rector’s Palace in 1467. Both palaces display an arcaded portico with rounded arches springing from Corinthian capitals. These imposts and round arches were unprecedented in Dubrovnik before the building of the Rector’s Palace.27 The ornamental patterns on the arches and imposts were derived from motifs introduced by Brunelleschi, which can be seen on his Foundling Hospital facade (Figure 7), and later used by Michelozzo and his crew, as can be seen in the Palazzo Medici courtyard.28 Brunelleschi drew heavily from classical antiquity. He also made
21 Ibid., 263. 22 Ibid., 263. 23 Vanja Kovacic, “The Citadel in Trogir: A contribution to the Study of the Fortifications of the early 15th Century” Contributions to the History of Art in Dalmatia 42, 1 (2011), 119.
24 Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 96. 25 Ibid., 97. 26 Ibid., 97-98. 27 Ibid., 99. 28 Ibid., 99.
mathematical arrangement and the principles of symmetry important aspects of his work.29 The Foundling Hospital prominently displays another Brunelleschian principle: classical proportion; this, too, likely influenced the design of the Palazzo Medici courtyard.30 Peter Murray, author of The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance, goes so far as to say that Michelozzo’s Palazzo Medici courtyard “is the facade of the Foundling Hospital bent round to form a hollow square,” emphasizing how much Brunelleschi influenced the design of Michelozzo.31 Salvi then translated the proportional system to the Rector’s Palace facade and ground-level courtyard. The arcade is another formal element seen in the Foundling Hospital, the Palazzo Medici courtyard, and the Rector’s Palace. The Sponza Palace in Dubrovnik, built in the early 16th century, shows stylistic continuity with the Florentine palace characteristics introduced a century before. (Figure 8) In comparison, the Doge’s Palace in Venice is Gothic in style with pointed arches and formal elements, such as tracery.32 (Figure 9) The piazzafacing side of the Doge’s Palace was built in 1424, which confirms that in Venice, the Gothic style lingered into a period thought of as “Renaissance” throughout Central Italy. Though the Rector’s Palace includes some elements of Gothic-style Venetian architecture, these cannot be attributed to Salvi’s designs. The courtyard was merely a restoration of the local constructor Onofrio de la Cava’s design and the original Gothic capitals and columns were reused when possible.33 The capitals from the arcaded portico have putti decoration that are more active in their rendering and protrude from the capital in a style reminiscent of Donatello’s work in Florence at this time. (Figure 10) The earlier set is more medieval in style and
29 Peter Murray, The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 38. 30 Ibid., 38-39. 31 Ibid., 72. 32 Sir Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture (Boston: Butterworths, 1987), 506.
date back to Onofrio de la Cava’s period with static putti that do not extend beyond the limits of the capital. (Figure 11) The differences in the capitals shows that the renovated set by Salvi was in the newer Renaissance style.34 Likely the pointed arches and tracery seen on the second floor of the facade also dated back to Onofrio de la Cava’s design which is why they too are Gothic rather than Renaissance in style. Summer Villas Throughout Renaissance Italy, villa building was a widespread practice. Villas built on the Adriatic coast were influenced by the villas in Italy but had to be adapted to the limitations of the difficult topography and the restrictions put in place by the government. Dubrovnik’s government did not allow individuals to show wealth in excess or to place an emphasis on personal wealth through architecture or gardens, so nearly all villas in Dubrovnik were one-story buildings with little ornamentation.35 It is in these ways that the villas found in Dubrovnik resemble the ‘casali’ or ‘vigne’ of Rome’s 15th century villas.36 The differing topographies most successfully highlights the necessary adaptations of Dubrovnik villas and gardens from Italian models. An identity which belonged only to Dubrovnik was achieved by appropriating the Italian model onto the rocky Dubrovnik landscape. The intent was not to exactly reproduce an Italian garden or villa in the setting of Dubrovnik. Instead, Dubrovnik recalled Italian characteristics and altered that model to fit their specific needs. By translating the Italian villa visual language onto the landscape of the Adriatic coast, the villas in Dubrovnik were not copying or imitating Italian style, but rather creating their own which more fully identified them as different from Italy.
33 Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 98. 34 Ibid., 99. To learn more about the capitals in the Early Renaissance style found throughout Dubrovnik, see “Imitation Classical Capitals in Dubrovnik about 1520” by Nada Grujic.
35 Ibid., 196. Bruno Šišic, Dubrovnik Renaissance Gardens: Genesis and Design Characteristics, (Zagreb: University of Zagreb, 2008), 65. 36 Mladen Obad Šcitaroci, “The Renaissance Gardens of the Dubrovnik Area, Croatia.” Garden History 24, 2 (December 1996), 185.
Both the villas and the gardens near Dubrovnik were intended for either agriculture or leisure.37 Above all, the utilitarian aspect of the villa and gardens was emphasized in Dubrovnik. The summer villas were first built in the 14th century by Dubrovnik’s landed gentry and rich aristocrats. Typically, the villas were either additions to annexes or converted older buildings.38 The majority of villas in Dubrovnik were built on the waterside, which was rare in Italy and the rest of Europe in the 16th century.39 By building on the shore, Dubrovnik’s villas incorporated the natural landscape and emphasized its beauty. The villas formed a complex comprised of a garden and incorporated the surrounding landscape in a pleasing manner.40 Gardens In Dubrovnik, there are 20 Renaissance gardens that are virtually unchanged and 70 preserved gardens.41 The geometric ground-plans and architectural elements of 14th and early 15th Renaissance gardens in Florence most influenced those in Dubrovnik.42 Italian architects may have been involved in the design of Dubrovnik’s gardens by sending drawings. However, it is clear from records and contracts that the builders of the gardens were local Croats.43 Both Italian and Dubrovnik gardens were used for leisure activities such as literary and artistic discussion and entertainment.44 However, the gardens in Italy used decoration and ornamental elements more liberally than those in Dubrovnik. Latin inscriptions are commonly found in the gardens, typically describing the pleasure and beauty of the garden as a welcoming message to the visitors.45 Dubrovnik adapted the model of Italian gardens to their more limited space and poor topography, such as the stony land, by creating gardens of
37 Šcitaroci, “The Renaissance Gardens of the Dubrovnik Area, Croatia,” 187. 38 Ibid., 187. 39 Ibid., 185. 40 Ibid., 184. 41 Ibid., 187. 42 Ibid., 196.
43 Ibid., 189. 44 Ibid., 197. 45 Ibid., 189. 46 Ibid., 192. 47 Ibid., 193. 48 Ibid., 190. 49 Ibid., 193.
a smaller size.46 Typically, Italian gardens were about two to three times larger than those in Dubrovnik.47 The uneven and unforgiving land of Dubrovnik’s coast forced the locals to mostly forgo the Italian axial and symmetric composition of the garden area.48 Decorative elements such as box hedges and parterres (ornamental arrangements of flower beds) also could not be translated from Italian gardens to the rocky terrain of Dubrovnik.49 These limitations were likely why the motif of the “borrowed landscape” is a key feature in the both the Italian and Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens.50 The purpose of the “borrowed landscape” was to provide beautiful scenery to those within the garden spaces. The impressive landscapes of Dubrovnik were essential to the visual experience of the garden especially because not all formal elements of Italian gardens could be translated to Dubrovnik’s gardens due to the limiting topography of the area. The “borrowed landscapes” of Dubrovnik acted as compensation for the decoration that gardens lacked in comparison to those in Italy.51 The decoration in Italian Renaissance gardens included free-standing sculptures, sculpted water features, topiary (plants trimmed or sculpted into ornamental shapes), and box hedges lining pathways. In Dubrovnik, sculptures were never free-standing; rather, sculptures were only used as a part of fountain decoration.52 There was also limited access to water at the villas in Dubrovnik because most did not have aqueducts or reservoirs. Stored rainwater was the main source of water for the villas and water on the whole was used sparingly.53 In this way, the garden space was less lush and opulent than its Italian counterparts, but the lack of luxury was made up for with the fantastic views of the coast. Box hedges were nonexistent in Dubrovnik and were replaced with low stone walls.54 The decorative topiary was also unlikely to be found in Dubrovnik gardens
50 Ibid., 192. 51 Ibid., 192. 52 Ibid., 194. 53 Ibid., 194. 54 Ibid., 193.
because most of their foliage was kept to look natural. Sometimes it is not clear where the garden ends and where the surrounding landscape begins because the cultivated aspects of the garden commingle almost seamlessly with the natural landscape; this deviates from the typical Italian Renaissance gardens.55 The best known example of a villa garden in Dubrovnik belongs to the Gucetic family. Their villa-garden complex was built in 1494. The complex has a single-axis composition which is rare in Dubrovnik due to the limitations of the natural landscape.56 The complex is an especially impressive example of Dubrovnik gardens because it overcame the difficult topography to be most similar to Italian models. The literary qualities of the gardens were important in both Florence and Dubrovnik. The humanists in Dubrovnik were interested in reconstructing the ideals of antiquity within the landscape after rediscovering their mythic origins. The god of Medicine, Aesculapius, had been born near Dubrovnik; Cadmus and his wife Harmonia were buried there; and legends such as Antenor and Odysseus had walked these regions.57 Aesculapius was adopted as Dubrovnikâ€™s patron in the Early Renaissance and, at the entrance to the Rectorâ€™s Palace, he is represented in sculptural relief and a poetic epitaph. Classical literature was fundamental to the process of reconstructing their own mythological topography.58
ancient Rome was much less of a concern. Florence and Dubrovnik, however, found those connections to antiquity and ancient Rome to be very important to reviving their past glory through ancient models, and both cities wanted their visual language to be evidence of those connections. Conclusion The best examples of appropriation and translation of the Florentine Renaissance visual language in Dubrovnik are its fortification system, its palace architecture, and its Renaissance style gardens. Dubrovnik was at risk of attack by the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks throughout its history, but it was a commercially powerful state that was able to use its sovereignty to create its own visual language. By referencing classical antiquity and appropriating Florentine Renaissance architectural models, Dubrovnik created their own visual identity while also resisting Venetian models and power, resulting in its own distinctive Renaissance.
By delving into its ancient past, Dubrovnik also connected itself to towns such as Greece and Rome in their days of glory. Just as it had been fighting for recognition as its own republic and defending its sovereignty, Dubrovnik wanted to be recognized as a peer of those noble cities.59 Venice was also interested in antiquity, and especially humanism, but the connection to
55 Ibid., 189. 56 Ibid., 190. 57 Dempsey, Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim, 104. 58 Ibid., 105. 59 Ibid., 104.
Figure 1: Map of Italy in 1949 (https://goo.gl/XIFNes)
Figure 2: Michelozzo, Mincetta Tower, 1461-63, Dubrovnik (https://goo.gl/q6PsBa)
Figure 3: Michelozzo, Pile Gate, 1461-63, Dubrovnik (https://goo.gl/G2OfqE)
Figure 4: Salvi de Florentina, Rector’s Palace (courtyard), 1467, Dubrovnik (http://goo.gl/JhEdXV)
Figure 5: Salvi de Florentina, Rector’s Palace (façade), 1467, Dubrovnik (https://goo.gl/mQbv2D)
Figure 6: Michelozzo, Palazzo Medici (courtyard), 1460, Florence (https://goo.gl/lfvMUT)
Figure 7: Filippo Brunelleschi, Foundling Hospital, 1419-24, Florence (https://goo.gl/qfMi2S)
Figure 8: Paskoje Milicevic, Sponza Palace, 1522, Dubrovnik (http://goo.gl/8y28ii)
Figure 9: Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon and Filippo Calendario, Dogeâ€™s Palace, 1424, Venice (https:// goo.gl/Fqk1Qs)
Figure 10: Salvi de Florentina, Renaissance Capital, 1467, Rectorâ€™s Palace (Jennifer Webb)
Figure 11: Onofrio del la Cava, Medieval Capital, 1435-38, Rectorâ€™s Palace (Jennifer Webb)
Cosimo| de||| Medici|
||||Cosimo de Medici
e mbarked on a wide program of art and architectural patronage in the latter half of his life. After his death, Cosimo was referred to as pater patria, (Fig. 1) Father of his Country.1 This title took years of careful cultivation through programming and propaganda. In the designs for the Palazzo Medici, Cosimo worked with Michelozzo to establish this identity of pater patria in architecture and presenting himself as possessing all the virtues of the ideal Florentine citizen. Cosimo sought to represent the virtues of the Medici family without appearing to be a tyrant with aims at overthrowing the Florentine Republic. He cemented this ideal public persona by building a magnificent palace embodying all of the same characteristics he wished to convey in a neighborhood that could be clearly identified as “Medici.” Cosimo grew up in an environment that valued family strength, piety, and education.2 A product of the powerful trajectory of the Medici family, he cemented a powerful dynasty through impressive system of patronage, politics, and propaganda. As he aged, his patronage reflects a desire to establish a legacy, both on earth, and in the eyes of god. He was extremely well read and he seems to have been particularly influenced in his world view by the writings of Aristotle and Cicero.3 His reading of classics and contemporary views on the role of the father influenced his how he saw himself and how he wished to be seen by the Florentine public, as the superior citizen and father of his country.4 Cosimo embarked on a series of patronage that would define him as a political and social leader throughout Florence and sought to establish his authority on all things. The idea of father at this time in Florence was a position of high esteem and was thought to be a model of god in the domestic household. Cosimo wished to make as much as possible come under his household. His desire for power over the Tuscan republic does not necessarily mean it was an entirely negative thing. Indeed Cosimo was a deeply devote person and perhaps saw his position in life as an opportunity to give back to god by helping his people. In his wisdom he thought he was the right man to run the city but respected the ideals of the republic, he never tried to take complete control in his lifetime, even though his religious and political backings would have allowed for it.
D ale Kent, Cosimo de Medici and the Florentine Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000) 377. 2 Ibid, 11. 3 Ibid, 38. 4 D ale Kent, “Patriarchal Ideals, Patronage practices, and the Authority of Cosimo ‘il vecchio.’” in The Medici, Citizens and Masters (Harvard University Press, 2015) 227 1
||||This view of C osimo
fi ts within both his collecting practices as well as his system of patronage. In the latter half of his life, Cosimo devoted himself to his religious order and sought to not just establish a legacy for himself, but also his family and Florence. He commissioned large scale altarpieces, rebuilt churches, and donate large sums to religious orders. These commissions and donations helped present Cosimo as not only a godly man who was charitable, but also as a man wealthy and powerful enough to be charitable on a large scale. This elaborate system of patronage was just one arm of a larger political scheme to build trust with the citizens of Florence, but also to create a trust worthy presentation of power that would inspire foreign and religious alliances. By presenting himself in a â€œprincely manner,â€? Cosimo displayed a level of power that competed with the courts across Italy, but did so in a way that also inspired and earned the trust of the Florentine people. This is not to say that Cosimo did not have his detractors, yet his posthumous designation as pater patria shows that he was ultimately successful in his self-presentation.
The oeuvre of Cosimoâ€™s patronage falls primary into three categories; his collecting of rare and fine literature, his rebuilding of churches, and his construction of a grand Palazzo and several Villas in the surrounding countryside. Across these categories Cosimo created a visual language that identified himself and his family. In book collecting, he looked largely at collecting sources from antiquity. He applied this revival of interest in Roman culture and ruins through his desires for art and architecture, looking to combine the visual language of the recent past with antique styles. This hybridization can be found throughout his religious commissions and is clearly identifiable in the visual program for the Palazzo Medici.
||||Florentine poet And contemporary
of Cosimo, Giovanni Cavalcanti, remarked on some the attitudes of the citizens of Florence toward the construction of the Palazzo: “and now that there is nothing more to build for the friars, he has begun on a palace, by comparison with which the Roman Colosseum will appear to disadvantage.”5 Indeed, Cosimo had begun on the Palazzo after an extended career of architectural patronage. The bulk of this patronage is rebuilding and construction for various religious orders in and around Florence.6 Dale Kent stresses a hybrid motivation for Cosimo’s religious building practices, noting that Cosimo’s contemporaries had few difficulties understanding the patron’s motivations in both terms of personal glory and religious glory.7 According to Vespasiano, when once having received an opinion on his program of religious patronage, Cosimo replied: “God knows why I did it; if I did it for the glory and the pomp of the world, I will be rewarded according to what I have done.”8
I storie fiorentine, (Polidori ed. 2) 210 ; Quoted in Kent Cosimo, 223. 6 Kent Cosimo, 161 7 Ibid, 164 8 Vite 2, 191: Quoted in Kent, Cosimo 162.
||||Of particular importance
in the establishing of a Medici Neighborhood, are the rebuilding projects at San Marco (Fig. 2) and San Lorenzo (Fig. 3). Both originated with the patronage of Cosimo’s father Giovanni di Bicci, but ultimately being taken over and completed by Cosimo himself.9 The work at the convent of San Marco is one the earlier sites in the oeuvre of Cosimo’s architectural patronage, and marks the beginning of campaign of religious patronage that has been interpreted since Vespasiano as an attempt at repartitions for sins of usury.10 San Marco was also the first large scale patronage project begun by Cosimo following his return from exile in 1434.11 Personal friend and frequent architect and sculptor to the Medici, Michelozzo was selected for the rebuilding of the convent. Here we can see some earlier architectural ideas later employed in the Palazzo Medici, the colonnaded structure of both the cloister and the library appear to be a prototype for the courtyard in the Palazzo. Its use of classical visual language in columns and arches, as well as large areas of unadorned surfaces can be seen as attempts to modernize an older space and give greater focus on the volumes of the spaces enclose.12 The library is widely considered to be the greatest part of the rebuilding, and befitting Cosimo’s interests in book collecting, he donated a large quantity of expensive and rare books to furnish it.13 The convent’s patronage is clearly branded in the frieze with the common motif of the Medici balls, and its classical elements also connect it with Cosimo’s humanist interests in the antique past. This clear political branding makes arguing for a purely religious motivation in building difficult, but Kent offers some insight into Cosimo’s ideation for the project, noting that the spending at San Marco not only secured an amicable position within the convents confraternity but also “secured their image as patrons of friends, neighbors, and fellow Christians.”14 In his patronage at San Marco, Cosimo created complicated system of propaganda that influence his contemporaries into becoming his dependents and presented him as both a good Christian and father figure to the people.
Ibid, 173 and Denise R. Costanzo “The Medici McMansion?” In the Renassiance Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated, ed. D. Medina Lasansky, (Pittsburg, New York: Periscope Publishing, 2014.) 294. 10 Ibid, 171-173. 11 Harriet McNeal Caplow, Michelozzo (New York: Garland Publishing. 1977) 535. 12 Ibid, 538. 13 Kent, Cosimo 178. 14 Ibid, 173.
||||This propaganda in patronage
can be seen again in rebuilding of San Lorenzo. Here Cosimo connects himself to the paterfamilias roles as head of the Medici household by continuing patronage at another site begun by his father.15 The rebuilding of this parish church had the greatest impact in branding the area as “Medici” in that it was an import civic center both socially and historically.16 In the rebuilding, Cosimo also connected the Medici to other important families with interests in the church, putting himself in a leadership role of patronage and delegating out smaller areas of patronage as an act of recognition and prestige.17 Through a series of building campaigns, Medici money and Medici artist were funneled into the construction of what was to be the Medici church, housing the Medici tombs. By spending his money on god, Cosimo was able to spend freely and lavishly in the construction, supported by contemporary discussions on the nature of magnificence and appropriate levels of extravagance. The emerging thought came to be that a man should spend an appropriate amount relative to his position on both public and private spaces, thereby embettering his community.
In spending on holy architecture, no expense could be too great, for it was giving back to god.18 Here Cosimo spent lavishly to ensure not only his legacy in heaven but on earth. The Palazzo Medici (Fig. 4) was built between 1444 and 1459.19 Having funded the rebuilding of nearby San Lorenzo, the Palazzo is located in what had been firmly established as a Medici neighborhood.20 The location of the project was a few buildings down from where Cosimo had spent most of his life21 on the corner of the via Larga, via Gori, and via Ginori. The chosen site for the building assumes that, as Kent states, “a worshipper leaving the cathedral and walking toward the baptistery, at the ecclesiastical heart of the city, would have seen the Medici palace directly in his line of vision if he turned his head to the right.”22
Ibid, 180. Costanzo, Medici McMansion, 294. 17 Kent, Cosimo 182. 18 For an in-depth discussion on the theory of magnificence in the renaissance see James R. Lindow’s The Renaissance Palace in Florence, (Burlington: Ashgate 2007). 19 Caplow Michelozzo 544. 20 Costanzo Medici McMansion 294. 21 For more information on the previous Medici Palace, see Howard Salmaan and Philip Mattox. “The First Medici Palace.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. (44:4 1985) 329-345. 22 Kent Cosimo 228. 16
was assigned to the project, having been more or less, the official Medici architect since 1436 and a friend of Cosimo’s.23 Vasari asserts that Brunelleschi made the first model for the palace and this was rejected by Cosimo for being too extravagant and thus the project was given to Michelozzo.24 Originally the façade on the via Larga had only ten windows per floor, as opposed to the additional seven that were added later, and only three doors.25 Standing at a height of eighty feet,26 the façade is split into three levels, each corresponding with the interior elevation.
The ground floor is heavily rusticated with large uneven stones that call to both the Palazzo Vecchio as well as the palagio-castle style of the surrounding Tuscan countryside.27 This style of construction lends to the structure an air of stability in its engineering, and authority in referencing these older forms of construction. The levels of rustication decrease with the elevation, up to the cornice, which can be seen as imitating the dentilated modillion cornices of all’antica models of roman temples, this dentilation is further reflected in a delineating string course at each level. The windows on both the piano nobile and the top floor are bifore, housed within an arch that is supported by delicate Corinthian columns. The program of the façade can be read as hybridization of a mediaeval fortification style with classical elements borrowed from Roman temple design. This marriage of what may seem as two distinct architectural styles would have appeared natural within the oeuvre of Michelozzo, as seen in his design of nearby San Marco where he again combines all’antica elements with gothic motifs.28 By adopting visual language from the Roman origin of Florence and combining it with the authority of the gothic elements borrowed from the Palazzo Vecchio, Michelozzo created a program for the Palazzo Medici that emphasized Cosimo’s authority29 as well as his Humanist background and interests in classical forms.30
Caplow Michelozzo 33-40. Vasari Lives 433. 25 Caplow Michelozzo 547. 26 Costanzo Medici McMansion 295. 27 For more information on the Palagio and the Medici village see Amanda Lille “The Politics of Castellation” in The Medici, Citizens and Masters (Harvard University Press, 2015) 313. 28 Caplow Michelozzo 538. 29 For more on Cosimo and authority, Dale Kent “Patriarchal Ideals...” 221. 30 Kent Cosimo, 33-38. 24
t he relatively unadorned façade aligns with Albertian principles on adornment, that prefer a more modest and frugal approach to external decoration, and consciously avoiding extravagance.31 The simplicity of this sparse program of decoration is found in other examples of Michelozzo’s work, even within the cortile of the Palazzo Medici itself. Caplow summarizes his style stating: “The impression of dignity, simplicity and restraint becomes one of Michelozzo’s dominant architectural characteristics.”32 Furthermore, the program of the façade becomes an example of the idea of Magnificence in architecture. Here, Cosimo shows greater restraint not seen in his patronage of sacred sites, but rather builds with the dignity suited to a well-to-do public citizen. The via Ginori façade of the building originally featured an open loggia, an unusual addition during a time when the feature was becoming less popular.33 The loggia, with its large negative space sits off-center from the alignment of the façade. This unusual spatial arrangement combined with the fading popularity of an open, loggia highlights the permeability of the space and suggests a semi-public aspect to the Palazzo. This semi-public nature coincides with contemporary letters that discussed having to wait in line on benches outside the Palazzo to visit and do business with Cosimo.34 These benches can also be seen as another identifier of political clout borrowed from the Palazzo Vecchio.35 This permeability and semi-public access to Cosimo puts him in a position of power similar to the restriction of rooms in the court palaces of dukes and kings. Cosimo is unofficially represented the focus of the Florentine government rather than republic. By borrowing the visual language of the Palazzo Vecchio, he also borrows the power.
Pearson Humanism and the Urban World. (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2011) 167. 32 Caplow Michelozzo 539. 33 Preyer “L’architettura del palazzo” 60: Quoted in Caplow Michelozzo 587. 34 Kent Cosimo 234. 35 Yvonne Elet “Seats of Power: The Outdoor Benches of Early Modern Florence” in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (61.:4, 2002) 444- 469.
||||The cortile of the piazza
( Fig. 5) is considered one of the most innovative (and copied) portions of the design of the Palazzo. Surrounded on four sides by a colonnade, the space recalls Brunelleschian proportional schemes, but the treatment of the space again demonstrates Michellozzo’s concern with volume, as evident in his other works, especially in the his initial work for the SS. Annuziata.36 Here the courtyard is arranged in a simple geometric harmony and appears to borrow directly from Brunelleschi’s façade for the Ospedale degli Innocenti.37 (Fig. 6) The space’s verticality is reinforced by the regular placement of the windows above the columns. This adapting of an external loggia to an internal courtyard footprint runs into two somewhat awkward problems; the column at each corner appears too thin to bare the weight of the upper levels, secondly, the corner windows appear too close together. Michelozzo refuses to break with the regular harmony of the space by changing the corner columns to pilasters, reinforcing his concern with the overall space above individual decoration.38 The program of decoration follows the themes of places of Medici patronage, using Michelozzo as his architect again, Cosimo connects himself directly to his other works of patronage as in San Marco. Using a consistent visual language across Medici spaces helps unify them into one program. The interest and inclusion of all’antica motifs across patronage projects cements Cosimo’s identity as patron of the city and humanist.
Beverly Louise Brown. “The Patronage and Building History of the Tribuna of SS. Annunziata in Florence: A Reappraisal in Light of New Documentation.” In Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz. 25-1. (Saarbrücken, Germany: Max Planck Institute, 1981) 59-146 37 P eter Murry, Architecture of the Renaissance. (New York: H.N. Abrams. 1972) 50 38 It maybe that Michelozzo simply did not have a solution to his problem at the corners, looking at examples of his interior courtyards across his career, each runs into the same problems.
is humanist education, wealth, power, and political h connections to create a program of propaganda that presented himself as an ideal Florentine. Spending liberally on great works of art and architecture that glorified the city of Florence, he established himself as a â€œfather of the people.â€? This detailed concern with image and visual language further glorified himself and the Medici name, reaping as many benefits as were sown. He was able to create a system of patronage in architecture that reflected the magnificence of his status in a way that displayed an appropriate amount of authority and power. In this way, Cosimo secured his legacy not only in stone of his palace, but as one of the single greatest patrons of the Renaissance, establishing what would become many of the common patronage practices.
Ames-Lewis, Francis. Florence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2012. Black, Robert and John E Law. Ed. The Medici: Citizens and Masters. Florence: Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. 2015. Brown, Beverly Louise. “The Patronage and Building History of the Tribuna of SS. Annunziata in Florence: A Reappraisal in Light of New Documentation.” In Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz. 25-1. Saarbrücken, Germany: Max Planck Institute, 1981. 59-146. Caplow, Harriet McNeal. Michelozzo. New York: Garland Publishing. 1977. Costanzo, Denise R. “The Medici McMansion?” In the Renassiance Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated, ed. D. Medina Lasansky, 289-307. Pittsburg, New York: Periscope Publishing, 2014. Elet, Yvonne. “Seats of Power: The Outdoor Benches of Early Modern Florence.” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 61, no. 4 (2002): 444-469. Forster, Kurt W. “The Palazzo Rucellai and Questions of Typology in the Development of Renaissance Buildings” The Art Bulletin. 58, no. 1 (1976): 109-113. Hyman, Isabelle “Notes and Speculations on S. Lorenzo, Palazzo Medici, and an Urban Project by Brunelleschi.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 34, no. 2 (1975): 98-120. Jurdjevic, Mark “Civic Humanism and the Rise of the Medici.” Renaissance Quarterly. 52, no. 4 (1999): 994-1020. Kent, Dale. Cosimo de Medici and the Florentine Renaissance. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2000. Lindow, James R. The Renaissance Palace in Florence: magnificence and splendour in fifteenth-century Italy. Aldershot, England; Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing. 2007. Lowry, Bates. Renaissance Architecture. New York: G. Braziller. 1962 Mack, Charles Randall “The Rucellai Palace: Some New Proposals.” The Art Bulletin. 56, no. 4 (1974):517-529. Mather, Rufus Graves. “New Documents on Michelozzo.” The Art Bulletin. 24, no. 3 (1942): 226-31. Murray, Peter. Architecture of the Renaissance. New York: H.N. Abrams. 1972. Pearson. Humanism and the Urban World. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2011. Saalman, Howard “Michelozzo Studies.” The Burlington Magazine. 108, no 58 (1966): 242-250. Saalman, Howard “The Palazzo Comunale in Montepulciano: An Unknown Work by Michelozzo.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte. 28, no. ½ (1965): 1-46. Saalman, Howard and Philip Mattox. “The First Medici Palace.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 44, no. 4 (1985): 329-345. Santi, Bruno. Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Firenze: Becocci Editore. 1983. Vasari, Girgio. Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Artists
By Jebulon (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
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By Stefan Bauer, www.ferras.at (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
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By Of the individual pictures, Gryffindor, of the panorama, Roland Geider (Ogre) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/ copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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By: Alexis Littrell
uring the Italian Renaissance, Lorenzo de’ Medici created a new ‘Florentine Myth’. The revival of the ancient world that characterized the era was instrumental in the construction of the ruler’s myth, which would forever celebrate the culture of his city’s golden age. One Florentine women represents everything Lorenzo strived to create. The life and legacy of Simonetta Vespucci embodies the three tiered nature of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s myth. She holds connection to the ancient world, she was an actual person who lived contemporary to Laurentian Florence, and she has long since been remembered through the painting and poetry associated with her. The circumstances of Simonetta’s life, and the legacy born of her untimely death combine to turn her into a fulfillment of the of the Florentine myth Lorenzo desired for his city.
In the second half of the 15th century, Florence was controlled by Lorenzo „Il Magnifico’ de’ Medici, head of the Medici family and de facto ruler of the republican state.1 Grandsons of Cosimo The Elder, first of the Medici rulers, Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano together heralded in a golden age in Renaissance Florence. As at Renaissance courts, the Medici brothers cultivated a circle of friends. This brigata consisted of many different people including close, trusted friends, loyal supporters, humanist scholars, poets and even artists.2 Piero Vespucci was a member of the inner circle and loyal follower of the Medici, along with his son Marco. Marco’s wife, Simonetta Vespucci, would also become a prominent figure in the Medici court. Born Simonetta Cattaneo in 1453, and the daughter of a Genoese nobleman, the young woman moved to Florence at the age of 16 upon the arrangement of her marriage to Marco.3 In the early 1470’s, the beautiful noblewoman would rise to the attention of the whole city. The
younger of the Medici brothers, Giuliano, developed a deep fondness for the woman, and all of Florence came to see her as the subject of his unrequited love.4 In spite of Simonetta’s status as a married woman, Giuliano made no secret of his love for her. In the year 1475, Lorenzo hosted a tournament (giostra) to celebrate Giuliano reaching the age of legal majority.5 Six years earlier Lorenzo had his own giostra. In promoting these festivals—from which both brothers respectively emerged victorious—the Medici’s connected themselves to the grand tradition of Florentine equestrian tournaments and solidified their rule of the city.6 It was at Giuliano’s goistra, on January 28, 1475, that the young man was unabashedly open about his affections for Simonetta. Often referred to as La Bella Simonetta, (the beautiful Simonetta)7, the young woman was declared Regina della Bellazza, or Queen of Beauty, of the tournament.8 It is in honor of Simonetta that Giuliano competed and under the banner of her likeness that he rode.9 Though
F.W. Kent, Lorenzo de’ Medici and the Art of Magnificence (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), 2. Charles Dempsey, The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli’ s Primavera and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent (Princeton, 1992), 88. 3 Hans Körner, “Simonetta Vespucci: The Construction, Destruction, and Reconstruction of a Myth,” in Botticelli: Likeness. Myth. Devotion, ed. Andreas Schumacher, (Frankfurt: Städel Museum, 2009), 57. 4 Monika A. Schmitter, “Boticelli’s Images of Simonetta Vespucci: Between Portrait and Ideal,” Rutgers Art Review 15 (1995): 41. 5 Korner, 59. 6 Ibid., 59. 7 Ibid., 59. 8 Ibid., 59. 1 2
the banner is lost to history, drawings and eye-witness accounts speak of a large flag painted by Sandro Botticelli that Giuliano carried as his standard for the tournament.10 Historians are almost certain that Botticelli intentionally painted a likeness of the young Simonetta as a representation of Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom.11 Despite the very public proclamation of his affection towards her, it is likely that their relationship never moved beyond the rituals of platonic courtship that were considered acceptable at the Renaissance court.12 There is no documented proof that Giuliano and Simonetta had a real affair; his affection for her was realized only in poetry.13 14 Just over a year after the giostra, tragedy struck. On April 26th, 1476, at only 22 years old, Simonetta Vespucci died of tuberculosis. Simonetta’s funeral was public, her casket lay open, and all of Florence mourned her passing.15 Her untimely death came as a great shock to the Florentine people, for during her time at the Medici court Simonetta had become known for more than just her relationship with Giuliano. She was widely regarded as one of the great beauties of Florence.16 On the event of her death, all the „Florentines of talent’ expressed their grief over her passing, many doing so through poetry and prose.17 Sforza Bettini, upon seeing her body, wrote of La Bella’s beauty as a triumph over death, triompho della morte. However, he was not describing the triumph of life over death, he was referencing the triumph of Simonetta’s great beauty even in death.18 The verses written after her passing were not the only poetry written about Simonetta during her lifetime. Notably, Angelo Poliziano and Lorenzo de’ Medici both composed pieces with Simonetta as their subject, both of which will be discussed later. The tale of Giuliano and Simonetta came to an end in 1478. On April 26, two years to the day after Simonetta died, Giuliano de’ Medici was murdered, stabbed 23 times while attending Easter Mass at Santa Maria del Fiore, the Florentine Cathedral.19 In the minds of the Florentines, (who had held a romanticized view of Guiliano’s unrequited love) the coincidence of their death dates was significant20. When writing of his beloved Laura, Petrarch describes the couple’s desire to die on the same day, a fate realized by Simonetta and Giuliano.21 For the Florentine people, the coincidence of their deaths added a mythical quality to the couple’s relationship and contributed to the belief that their destinies were intertwined.22 In the years after her death, Simonetta had never truly left the minds of Florentine citizens.23 The resurgence of her memory at the time of Giuliano’s death, together with the coincidence of their death dates added to the mythic nature surrounding the woman, which would only increase as time passed on. Lorenzo, like his humanist
Dempsey,136. Ibid., 136. 11 Korner, 59. 12 Ibid.,, 59. 13 Dempsey, 121 and Korner, 59. 14 Considering Simonetta’s status as a married women, the public nature of Giuliano’s declaration might seem daring. However it is likely that the Vespucci’s would have welcomed an affair between Simonetta and Giuliano. Piero and Marco could have used Giuliano’s love for her to their advantage in order to gain more power within the Florentine state. This manipulation of Giuliano’s affection if evidenced by author Monika Schmitter. In her article she references a letter written by Piero to Giuliano’s mother on the occasion of Simonetta’s death. The young Medici visited the Vespucci house heartbroken, Piero gave the young man all of his daughter-in-laws personal objects like clothing and portraits. Schmitter, Monika A., “Boticelli’s Images of Simonetta Vespucci: Between Portrait and Ideal,” Rutgers Art Review 15 (1995): 33-57. 15 Schmitter, 42. 16 Korner, 57. 17 Ibid., 42. 18 Korner, 57. 19 Ibid., 60. The assassination of Guiliano was a part of the Pazzi Conspiracy, a plot organized by Franceso de’Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini. to overthrow the Medici rule in Florence. The plan was to kill both Lorenzo and Giuliano, but while Giuliano was killed, Lorenzo was only injured, a fact which helped cement his power. 20 Schmitter, 42. 21 Ibid., 42. 22 Ibid., 42. 23 Ibid., 42. 9
Lorenzo, like his humanist peers, was a strong proponent of the revival of classical thoughts and ideas. Everything from philosophy and history, to poetry, art, and culture, of the Greco-Roman world was of interest. However, during the Renaissance, the rediscovery of the ancient world was not limited to the intellectual realm. In Rome especially, the physical remains of the ancient empire were being uncovered. The architectural and sculptural ruins of the ancient world conveyed for the first time the true scale and achievements of the classical world. This recovery of the physical realm, alongside that of philosophical thought, poetry and prose, contributed to the myths surrounding some of the ancient cities: particularly Athens and Rome. At his goistra in 1469, Lorenzo de’ Medici competed under the French motto Le Tems Revient, meaning the ‘the time is returning’.24 This motto represents Lorenzo’s mythic vision of Florence.25 As part of Lorenzo’s revival of the classical, he wanted to create a new myth that was equal to, or even greater than the ancients. In poetry and painting, Simonetta Vespucci became an embodiment or allegory for Lorenzo’s Florence. As head of the Medici circle, Lorenzo influenced patronage trends throughout the city, and it is through those trends that he worked to construct his myth.26 As the grandson of Cosimo, Lorenzo did not need to commission palaces or churches. With the Medici infrastructure already in place, Lorenzo was faced with the task of filling those palaces, which he did with both contemporary artwork, and medals, as well as sculpture from the ancient world.27 Along with the artwork that Lorenzo commissioned, he was a strong proponent of Florentine poetry. Lorenzo himself wrote a significant amount of vernacular poetry in his lifetime.28 He wanted to “unite ancient Athens and Rome with Florence, and Greek and Latin, with Tuscan.”29 He felt that the combination of ancient poetic styles, with the new contemporary language would help in the creation of his new myth and, in his opinion, would leave a lasting legacy. More simply, that Lorenzo wanted to create something lasting, something that would be remembered. In their prime, Athens and Rome were considered to be the cultural capitals of the world. The writing, artwork, and architecture they left behind still found importance in Lorenzo’s time, roughly a thousand years later. That is what Lorenzo wanted, to be remembered. He desired A cultural output that would endure the passage of time, and would forever celebrate the cultural golden age of Florence and the Medici empire. Lorenzo believed that it would be the combination of ancient and contemporary cultures that would create his Florentine myth.
Korner, 59. Korner, 63. 26 Kent, 2. 27 Ibid., 4. 28 Korner, 63. 29 Ibid., 63. 30 Charles Mack, “Botticelli’s Venus: Antique Allusions and Medician Propaganda,” ERIC 28.2 (2002): 208. 31 Ibid., 216. 24 25
Figure 1: Sandro Botticelli. The Birth of Venus. 1484-1486. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
The fusion of the classical with contemporary ideals in Lorenzo’s myth is evident in the artwork connected with the Medici family. Sandro Botticelli is one of many artists associated with Renaissance Florence and celebrated by Lorenzo. Botticelli’s painting, The Birth of Venus (1486), a composition often connected to Medici patronage, is a prime example of the resurgence of the ancient world during the Renaissance era. (Figure 1). Botticelli depicts the birth of the goddess of love. Born from the froth of the waves, the goddess floated to shore on a half shell. Here Venus is fully grown, in the center of the composition, balancing on the shell just as she reaches shore. On the left side of the work, an image of Zephyr is painted suspended over the surface of the waves, blowing Venus inland. A group of floating flowers surrounds the figure, as if the petals are falling off of him. On the right side of the image, standing on the shoreline, is a depiction of Flora. She holds a beautifully embroidered robe,
which floats on air, Flora steps forward to wrap the nude Venus in the garment. Flora wears a beautiful, near-shear gown, covered in flowers. Her striking red hair, a combination of braided and free-flowing strands, cascades down her back. Both her gown and hair flow behind her as she moves towards Venus. The goddess herself is shown in contrapposto and with a Venus pudica gesture; her left hand holds a section of her long, flowing, blonde hair that covers her genitals.6 As Charles Mack proposes in his article “Botticelli’s Venus: Antique Allusions and Medicean Propaganda”, in the creation of the painting, the artist made a very deliberate attempt to connect his work with the ancient world and the values of humanist culture.30 Various ancient writings have been linked to the Venus, and cited as the literary inspiration for Botticelli’s program. One mentioned by Mack is an ancient ‘second hymn’ to Aphrodite.31
Of August gold-wreathed and beautiful Aphrodite I shall sing, to whose domain belong the battlements of all sea-loved Cyprus where, blown by the moist breath Zephyros, she was carried over the waves of resounding sea in soft foam. The gold-filleted Horae happily welcomes her and clothed her with heavenly raiment. 32 In the Renaissance, a collection of Grecian hymns was included in publications of the Illiad and the Odyssey. Among them, the hymn to Aphrodite.33 It is likely that Botticelli was familiar with the passage and it could have served as inspiration for Venus. The most compelling connection between Venus and the ancient world is through the ancient artist Apelles of Kos.34 Apelles has been regarded as the greatest artist of the ancient world, famously having been a favorite of Alexander the Great.35 Aphrodite Rising from the Sea is considered to be the artist’s greatest masterpiece, however, it unfortunately has not survived. However, various written descriptions of the painting did survive, the most notable written by Pliny the Elder.36 Some of these wrote of damages to the canvas and others claim the artist never actually finished the work. Botticelli’s painting can be seen as completing Apelles work.37 The Renaissance revival of ekphrasis also plays a role in the connections to the ancient world. Ekphrastic literature in the ancient world used descriptive language, to create detailed mental pictures.38 Botticelli‘s work in ekphrasis is an elaboration on the classical idea. Rather than writing about a painting, the artist paints the image that inspired the text. With so many classical texts being discovered during the Renaissance, Botticelli’s reverse of ekphrastic language was not the first of its kind. Many artists of the era were attempting to recreate ancient artworks based on textual descriptions. However, Botticelli‘s use of the genre is more complex Quoted by Mack, 216. Ibid., 216. 34 Ibid., 217. 35 Ibid., 217. 36 Ibid., 221. 37 Ibid., 220. Within the comparison of Botticelli to Apelles, Lorenzo becomes the new Alexander, patron to the beloved court artist. 38 Ibid., 220.
and layered.39 Rather than working at a single level, the artist works in a “complex sequencing of ekphrastic tales, taking the viewer from the visual (Botticelli), to verbal (Pliny), to visual (Apelles), to verbal (Homeric hymn); it is ekphrasis several times removed. Botticelli’s Venus is ekphrasis at its most evocative.”40 This multilayered, back-and-forth play between written and visual sets Botticelli apart from the other artists that were interacting with ancient texts. In true reflection of Lorenzo‘s myth, Birth of Venus, also interacts with the contemporary culture of Laurentian Florence. Angelo Poliziano’s Stanze per la giostra del Magnifico Guiliano di Piero de’ Medici was written in honor of Giuliano de’ Medici’s coming of age tournament. In the poem, Giuliano takes the role of a hunter riding horseback through the woods. Simonetta is the beautiful forest nymph he chases.41 It is within a brief departure from the main story that a connection to Venus can be found. Poliziano‘s aside describes a set of relief panels on the doors of a palace of Venus, depicting the birth of the goddess.42 The similarities between Botticelli’s image, and Poliziano‘s writing are striking. Poliziano describes the shell the goddess rides, the foam and waves of the sea, the zephyrs blowing her to shore, and the blowing hair of the figure meeting Venus on the shore.43 Though the text and painting are not identical, there is clear connection between the two contemporary mediums. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is a visual representation of the myth Lorenzo desired. The painting’s complex layering of ancient literature and artwork, with contemporary Florentine literature is the kind of ancient/contemporary interaction that Lorenzo believed best suited the creation of a lasting legacy. In the case of Venus Lorenzo‘s strategy was successful, as it has become one of Botticelli’s most famous paintings.
Ibid., 221. Ibid., 221. 41 Ibid., 212. 42 Ibid., 215. 43 Ibid., 216
In the construction of the Laurentian myth, the development of a vernacular poetic tradition was of equal importance as the revival of classical ideas. Lorenzo‘s interest in developing a vernacular genre of poetry is well documented and Lorenzo himself wrote a large amount of poetry.44 Along with other Florentines he contributed to the poetry celebrating the La Bella Simonetta in his Commento spora alcuni de’ suoi sonetti.(A Commentary on my Sonnets).45 The first four sonnets of the collection were written after Lorenzo was informed of Simonetta’s death. Lorenzo had been away from Florence while the woman was ill, and upon hearing of her death, the ruler took a long walk. In his Commento Lorenzo describes the bright star he saw while walking, one he had never seen before. So struck with grief, Lorenzo felt that the star was Simonetta’s spirit resting in the heavens.46 One of the sonnets in this collection describes Simonetta’s transformation into a celestial being, written as Lorenzo was grieving her. Oh shining star who with your radiance deprives your neighbor of all their light, why do you blaze so much more than your wont? Why do you wish to vie with Phoebus now? Perhaps you’ve gathered up those lovely eyes, now taken from us by cruel death, who does presume to much, that with their light you may demand of Phoebus his fine chariot. Whether we call you this or else a star newborn who with new radiance adorns the heavens, grant oh goddess, these our prayers: remove enough of your resplendence, so our eyes, which want to weep eternally, without another wound may we see you happy.47
This poem, and others like it, emphasize Simonetta’s connection to Florentine vernacular poetry. The countless pieces written after her death insured that the woman would be remembered. In her role as subject, her memory is physically embedded into the developing tradition of vernacular poetry. Similar to Birth of Venus, Botticelli’s Primavera (1477-1482), has deep connections to the poetry of both Poliziano and Lorenzo. (Figure 2). The composition is set in a clearing, surrounded by dense forest. The central figure is once again Venus, clothed in a classical white gown, with an orange cloak draped around her. To her right, is Flora, goddess of flowers and spring. She is wearing a flowing gown embroidered with flowers. Her hair is bound and head topped with a floral crown. Her right hand holds part of her dress up to form a small pouch, from which she scatters flowers on the ground.The far right of the painting shows Chloris struggling to get away from Zephyr, who chases her. It is the rape and insemination of Chloris which triggers the first flowers of Spring.48 Chloris then transforms into Flora. To the left of Venus, the Three Graces are depicted in sheer gowns, dancing in celebration of spring. To their left, at the far edge of the composition is the god Mercury. The setting of this painting in a forest is one of the reasons scholars have cited Poliziano’s Stanze as a possible inspiration for the work.49 The main interaction between Giuliano and the nymph Simonetta takes place in small clearing, deep in a dense forest where the man has been hunting. The scene depicted by Botticelli and the one described by Poliziano could easily be connected.
Ibid., 216. Jon Thiem, ed., Lorenzo De’ Medici: Selected Poems and Prose, (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 7. 45 Thiem, 7. 46 Ibid., 115. 47 Quoted by Thiem, 115-116. 48 Dempsey, 33. 49 Korner, 64 and Mack, 36. 43 44
Figure 2. Sandro Botticelli. Primacera. 1477-1482. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Dempsey, 123. Ibid., 123. 52 Ibid., 123. 53 Mack, 214. 54 Dempsey, 125. 55 Ibid., 93. 56 Ibid., 125-126. 57 Ibid., 126. 58 Ibid., 127. 59 Ibid., 130. 60 Ibid., 134. 50 51
Correlation has also been found in the clothing Venus and Flora are shown wearing. Lorenzo was known for hosting grand festivals, like the giostras, many with references to the ancient world.50 The costumes women wore for these events were often inspired by descriptions of clothing from the ancient world. In the Stanze, Poliziano describes Simonetta’s dress in detail, possibly referencing what she had actually worn to the tournament.51 Botticelli, again using ekphrasis, painted the clothing described by Poliziano. Flora’s dress in particular, has great similarity to the Stanze’s description of Simonetta.52 With the expanding vernacular tradition in Florence, Poliziano is not the only contemporary author Primavera has been linked to. As previously mentioned, after her death, Lorenzo wrote of Simonetta as a bright new star in the sky, one he had never noticed until her death.53 During her life, Simonetta had served as muse to Lorenzo, inspiring his poetry. After she passed, Lorenzo’s attention moved elsewhere, focusing on another woman, Lucrezia Donati.54 In his writing about Lucrezia, Lorenzo described her as the light of his life, often referring to her as the Sun.55 As his first muse, Simonetta is the “first budding of beauty and love.”56 His writing of Simonetta gave Lorenzo his first exploration into the love poetry he would make central to Florentine culture. With his discovery of Lucrezia, his true love was realized, and his poetry reached its full potential.57 Charles Dempsey describes this shift in Lorenzo’s own metaphors, arguing that Simonetta is the bright star that heralds in the dawn, the first glimpse of light that hints the coming day. Lucrezia in turn is the bright sunny day, the full realization of his poetic potential.58 The roles of these women in Lorenzo’s poetry are also echoed within the Primavera. Simonetta is in the role of Flora. She is the first to come, the goddess of flowers, and the first indication of the approaching springtime.59 Lucrezia is therefore Venus, The full realization of spring, and love.60 Study and interpretation of Botticelli’s Primavera reveals an equally complex structure to that of the Birth of Venus. These paintings convey the intimate play between ancient and contemporary that combines to create Lorenzo’s myth. Considering that two of the Renaissance’s most famous paintings are linked in some ways to Poliziano’s Stanze, it becomes evident that Simonetta is central to Laurentian culture and the creation of the myth.
It is clear that both of the Botticelli’s paintings discussed reflect Lorenzo’s myth in different ways, however they do share unifying factors. Not only has Poliziano’s Stanze been sighted as inspiration for both, at some point in the scholarly history of both paintings, various figures have been identified as Simonetta Vespucci. As discussed above, the figure of Flora has been connected with Simonetta, based on her relationship to Lucrezia Donati, within the context of Lorenzo’s poetry. In addition, the costume worn by Flora most closely matches the description of the woman provided by Poliziano.61 Venus has also been linked to Simonetta. The connection between the painting and Poliziano’s description of Venus on a half shell lends credibility to the identification of Venus, as an idealized portrait of Simonetta.62 Additionally, as it was well known that Simonetta enjoyed the affections of the Medici, and it has been suggested that Botticelli depicted Simonetta as the goddess in an effort to gain favor from the Medici family, and insert himself further into their inner circle.63 Simonetta’s interaction with art historical scholarship has not been limited to Venus and Primavera.64 Monika Schmitter is one example of the many authors to study the Florentine woman. As discussed in her article “Botticellis Images of Simonetta Vespucci: Between Portrait and Ideal”, there are five portraits of beautiful young women which have been identified as Simonetta, and are attributed to Botticelli’s workshop.65 Of the five portraits Schmitter discusses three of them, referencing each
by the cities in which they respectively reside.66 The article explores the question of these portraits as actual likenesses of Simonetta, or general images of idealized women.67 Art historians first connected Simonetta to the Botticelli portraits through the writing of Giorgio Vasari.68 Scholars point to a description of the Medici Palace written in 1568, where Vasari describes a portrait of Guiliano’s beloved he saw hanging in the palace.69 The actual portrait described by Vasari has not been identified, but art historians reference the five portraits by Botticelli’s workshop as possibilities. Schmitter explores the two sided argument that questions if these portraits are actual likenesses of Simonetta, or simply Botticelli’s general images of idealized women.70 The author does not favor one side over the other, but instead presents the possibility that the paintings represent both, and are idealized portraits of a specific woman, Simonetta, who in her life represented ideal beauty.71 Schmitter is one of many authors who have contributed to the question of identification in regards to Simonetta. Over the last 150 years, art historians have constantly debated over The Birth of Venus, and Primavera as well as the many Botticelli portraits. Some authors argue in favor of identification as Simonetta, others are strongly against it.72 Regardless of personal opinion, it is clear that Simonetta has gained a high enough status to merit discussion in the history of art, a fact which keeps her memory alive.
Ibid., 123. 62 Mack, 213. 63 Ibid., 215. 64 Simonetta has appeared as a subject of art historical study since the rise of the Pre-Raphealite movement in England. Pre-Raphaelite artists rediscovered Botticelli’s paintings in the 19th century and the study of Simonetta accompanied the resurgence of Botticelli’s artwork. Korner, 60. 65 Schmitter, 33. 66 Schmitter, 33. The first image is in Berlin, Portrait of a Woman (Simonetta Vespucci?) Mid 1480s, Botticelli Workshop. (Figure 3.) The second resides in London, Portrait of a Woman (Simonetta Vespucci?) mid 1480s, Botticelli Workshop. (Figure 4.) And the third can be seen in Frankfurt, Portrait of a Woman (Simonetta Vespucci?) early 1480s, Botticelli Workshop.(Figure 5.) 67 Ibid., 33.
Ibid., 33. Ibid.,33. Vasari wrote: “in Duke Cosimo’s wardrobe there are two very beautiful female heads in profile by Botticelli, one of which is said to be the mistress [“inamorata”] of Lorenzo’s brother, Giuliano de’ Medici.” The description of the woman as Giuliano’s inamorata, or beloved, instead of as his wife, is significant. All of Florence knew that Simonetta was the object of his affection, so Vasari’s description of the woman as Giuliano’s inamorata would bring Simonetta to the mind of contemporary readers. 70 Ibid., 33. 71 Ibid., 33. 72 See Dempsey pages 3-19 and Chapter four, Korner pages 60-64, and Schmitter pages 44-45 for in depth summaries on the various authors who have written regarding the identification of Simonetta with Botticelli’s paintings.
Figure 3. Botticelli Workshop. Portrait of a Woman, (Simonetta Vespucci?) Mid- 1480’s. Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbeitz, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin.
The myth that Lorenzo promoted during the golden age of Florentine culture, is a complex combination of past, present, and future. While she is not the only instance where this myth was fulfilled, Simonetta Vespucci represents the combination of ancient and contemporary which together turns her into someone to be remembered. Because Simonetta has been connected to paintings with ancient subjects, her name is associated with the classical world. In her association to Primavera, the connection becomes more concrete. Flora is the embodiment of spring, beauty, and youth. During her life in Florence, Simonetta gained similar notoriety.73 She was the embodiment of ideal beauty, grace, and virtue. By picturing the Florentine woman as an ancient figure who embodies a specific idea, Simonetta becomes connected to the ancient tradition of female allegories. Simonetta is the allegorical figure for Laurentian Florence. During her life, Simonetta was known in the city, both as Giuliano’s beloved, and as an allegorical figure of Renaissance ideals of beauty. Both of these things combined to earn her a relative amount of fame in Florence. The fact that she enjoyed this status while she was alive, meant that her untimely death at age 22, was very upsetting to the Florentine people. The death of such a great beauty was mourned widely through the city and inspired the writing of poetry about her, and also possibly sparked the inclusion of her image in various artworks. Additionally, her death froze the woman in time. The fact that she never reached her 23rd birthday means that Simonetta was cemented in the minds and writing of the Florentine people as a chaste, virtuous, ideal beauty. The woman was not given the chance to sully her reputation or become the subject of rumors among the Florentine elite.74 It is precisely her early death that froze Simonetta in time, and solidified her reputation as a virtuous, young beauty who was worthy of being remembered. Lorenzo’s myth depended on him remembered. Simonetta Vespucci has not just been remembered, she has been studied. The rediscovery of Botticelli and Simonetta in the 19th Century is like that of the ancient ruins. It sparked the conversation and debate which has assisted the growth of her legacy. Whether it is investigation into her multiple appearances in vernacular Florentine poetry, or the constant back and forth of art historians debating her identification in different artworks, Simonetta is deeply imbedded in the Renaissance. It is nearly impossible to attempt a study of Simonetta Vespucci without also discussing Lorenzo and his Florentine culture. During his rule, Lorenzo de’ Medici was simultaneously looking to the past for inspiration, focusing on the present
Korner, 57 If Simonetta had lived longer, it can be argued that there was a chance that she and Giuliano would have entered into an actual sexual affair. This circumstance could have both lowered Simonetta’s reputation to that of an adulteress, but also elevated the place of the Vespucci family. If she had given birth to a Medici bastard, then Simonetta’s fatherin-law and husband could have exploited the situation for their own personal gain. 73 74
Figure 4. Boticelli Workshop. Portrait of a Woman, (Simonetta Vespucci?) Mid-1480s. National Gallery, London
development of artistic culture, and looking toward the future and the legacy he desired to create. He strongly believed that his new Florentine myth would arise out of the interaction of the ancient world with the contemporary. Lorenzo felt that the application of this combination to artwork and poetry would create a cultural output that would forever portray Florence as a capital of art and culture. Lorenzo succeeded. The poetry written and artwork created during his golden age have become some of the most well known representations of the Renaissance in modern popular culture. Even the Medici name is synonymous with the Renaissance. Simonetta Vespucci is one example of his success. As the embodiment of Lorenzo deâ€™ Mediciâ€™s Florentine Myth, Simonetta Vespucci is forever connected to the city where she gained fame. Her life and legend fit within the framework of Lorenzoâ€™s myth. She can find connection in the ancient world, she lived contemporarily to the Laurentian age, and her name carries a strong legacy that is remembered over 500 years after her death.
Figure 5. Botticelli Workshop. Portrait of a Woman, (Simonetta Vespucci?) Early-mid 1480s. Stadelsches Kunstintstitut, Frankfurt
Dempsey, Charles. The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli’ s Primavera and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Princeton (NJ) 1992. Ettle, Ross Brooke. “The Venus Dilemma: Notes on Botticelli and Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci”. Notes in the History of Art, 27, no. 4. 2008. 3-10. Kelly, Joan. “Did Women Have a Renaissance.” In Feminism and Renaissance Studies, ed. Lorna Hutson,21-47.Oxford:OxfordUniversityPress,1999. Kent, F.W. Lorenzo de’ Medici and the Art of Magnificence, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2007. Körner, Hans. “Simonetta Vespucci: The Construction, Destruction, and Reconstruction of a Myth.” In Botticelli: Likeness. Myth. Devotion, ed. Andreas Schumacher, 57-70. Frankfurt: Städel Museum, 2009. Mack, Charles, “Botticelli’s Venus: Antique Allusions and Medician Propaganda,” ERIC 28.2 (2002): 207-37. Schmitter, Monika A., “Boticelli‟s Images of Simonetta Vespucci: Between Portrait and Ideal,” Rutgers Art Review 15 (1995): 33-57. Thiem, Jon ed. Lorenzo De’ Medici: Selected Poems and Prose, University Park, The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1991.
“The First Lady of the world”
sabella d’Este navigated complex social structure and defied gender norms to become the leading female patron of the Renaissance. The infamous studiolo and Isabella’s assertive collecting practices, activities usually attributed to men, drew criticism from her contemporaries and led to doubts of her virtue. Many scholars have made and continue to make assumptions about Isabella’s character; some believe she was a humanist, while others argue her motivation was courtly in nature. It is impossible for us to decipher Isabella’s true character when looking at her actions through a contemporary lens. Instead, we must take into account the gender norms guiding her life. In her lifetime, Isabella countered any critiques of her character with a series of commissions which featured mythological and allegorical figures that fashioned her as a chaste and pious woman.
rancesco II Gonzaga and Isabella d’Este married in 1490, and shortly there after Isabella began the creation of a studiolo and grotta.1 As a 16 year old bride, Isabella created a refuge for humanist study reminiscent of her mother Eleanor d’ Aragona’s apartments at her home court in Ferrera.2 In her space, Isabella encouraged literary and intellectual reflection and discourse. Stephen Campbell says her practice aligns with the general two functions of a studiolo. “The inner formation and refinement of the self through reading and reflection, and the outward display of the self through the acquisition of objects of prestige and distinction.”3 The space consisted of five small rooms within the Castello di San Giorgio. The main room was the studiolo where she displayed her paintings, while the grotta featured specially-made cupboards which housed her vast collection of gems, metals, and antiquities.4 The Gonzaga emblems-the sun, the glove and the dog muzzle, along with the family coat of arms-were all prominently displayed. Over time, the space became completely devoid of any Gonzaga imagery, replaced by paintings commissioned by Isabella.5 The ceiling of the grotta originally featured a winged ring, but in 1506, was covered by a hand carved barrel vault where Isabella’s signature imprese was displayed.6 The 1542 inventory of Isabella’s collection revealed over 1,000 gold and silver coins and metals, hand carved stones and gems, along with an abundance of statue pieces. Isabella was a connoisseur of classical art and this is evident in the arms legs and heads of the ancient statues she prominently displayed within the grotta.7 These items of antiquity illustrate Isabella’s desire to be associated with the intellectual humanists of the renaissance. In the article, Confronting the “Temple of Chastity”:Isabella d’Este in the Context of the Female Humanists, Nassiem Rossi speaks to the motive of Isabella’s style of decoration. “The grotta and studiolo, thus, ultimately reflect Isabella’s quest for recognition as an ambitious, intelligent yet chaste female, challenging the traditional belief that female chastity and active intellectualism were incompatible.”8 Isabella created an environment that encouraged intellectual and cultural conversation within the studiolo and grotta which enhanced the development of her collection and commissions. As Isabella’s style and tastes evolved, the rooms transformed and matured to distinguish her from the general Gonzaga theme. The decoration reflected her personal interests in classical antiquity and mythology.
sabella’s personal reputation grew along with her collection of paintings and antiquities, and her personality overshadowed her actual accomplishments as a patron of the arts. Although it was rare for a woman of the Renaissance to have such a vast collection of antiquities, it was common practice of the time period for men. In addition, there have been misconceptions regarding Isabella’s character based on correspondence documenting her assertive style of patronage. In a letter, she wrote: “I am sending you a hundred ducats and wish you to understand that you are not to return the money if any of it is left, after buying the things I want, but are to spend it in buying some gold chain or anything else that is new and elegant. And if more is required, spend that too, for I had rather be in your debt so long as you bring me the latest novelties. But these are the kind of things that I wish to have — engraved amethysts, rosaries of black, amber and gold, blue cloth for a camora, black cloth for a mantle, such as shall be without a rival in the world, even if it costs ten ducats a yard; as long as it is of real excellence, never mind! If it only as good as those which I see other people wear, I had rather be without!”9
he language Isabella used in letters documenting purchases leads one to believe she was possessed by greed and was bossy. This letter was written when Isabella was seventeen, and clearly conveys what she wants. Many contemporary interpretations of Isabella’s letters do not take into account the complex social system Isabella had to navigate in order to be understood as a woman who was educated, as well as virtuous.
Acutely aware of the cultural norms imposed upon her as a woman, Isabella had male representatives available to do her bidding. Isabella’s loyal courtiers, Niccolò da Correggio and Lorenzo da Pavia, made purchases for her when traveling, and handled negotiations for commissions.10 These men, who spoke on her behalf, gave Isabella the ability to acquire antiquities and paintings without compromising her virtue. Connections through family and political alliances gave Isabella the upper hand in many of her transactions in acquiring particular items of value.11 Although Isabella carefully navigated renaissance society, many of her contemporaries were still suspect of her behavior. She was an avid collector in a field usually reserved for men.
1 Furlotti, Barbara, and Guido Rebecchini. The Art of Mantua: Power and Patronage in the Renaissance. Los Angeles, Calif: Getty Publications, 2008. Print. 95. 2 Molly Bourne. “Renaissance Husbands and Wives as Patrons of Art: The Camerini of Isabella D’Este and Francesco II Gonzaga.” in Beyond Isabella: Secular Women Patrons of Art in Renaissance Italy. Reiss, Sheryl E., and David G. Wilkins. Kirksville, MO: Truman State UP, 2001. Print. 95. 3 Stephen J. Campbell. The Cabinet of Eros: Renaissance Mythological Painting and the Studiolo of Isabella D’Este. New Haven: Yale UP, 2004. Print. 4 Furlotti, The Art of Mantua, 104. 5 Bourne, Renaissance Husbands and Wives, 97. 6 Bourne, Renaissance Husbands and Wives, 97-98. 7 Furlotti, The Art of Mantua, 104. 8 Nassim E. Rossi. “Confronting the “Temple Of Chastity”: Isabella D‟Este in the Context of the Female Humanists.” Comitatus Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies: 88-134. Print.
enaissance culture regulated the place of women; restricting them to an idealized existence. This would prove to be difficult for an educated woman like Isabella. In order to understand the artistic choices made by Isabella d’Este, we must first explore her background and personality. Raised in Ferrera, where art and music were an integral part of the court, Isabella was educated along side her brothers. The equal education of both male and female children within the courts was common during the renaissance. Joan Kelly comments on this cultured education in her article, Did Women Have a Renaissance?, She states, “Culture is an accomplishment for noblewomen and men alike used to charm others as much as to develop the self. But for women charm had become the primary occupation and aim.”12 Isabella was educated, cultured and charming, yet expected to play the role of a docile woman. A renaissance women was expected to be modest and dignified, take care of all domestic issues, and should never raise her voice.13 This common view is exemplified by Alberti, who in his treatise on family says women are „timid by nature, soft, and slow’ and that they are „useful when they sit still and watch over our things.14 Such norms cannot apply to Isabella, since she did not conform to Alberti’s ideal picture of a Renaissance woman.
9 Evelyn S. Welch. Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy 1400-1600. New Haven Conn.: Yale UP, 2005. Print. 250. 10 Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance, 250. 11 Furlotti, The Art of Mantua, 92-104. 12 Joan Kelly. “Did Women Have a Renaissance?,” in Oxford Readings in Feminism: Feminism and Renaissance Studies. Lorna Hutson (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999). 31-47. 13 Leon Battista Alberti and Rene Watkins. The Family in Renaissance Florence. Columbia: U of South Carolina, 1969. Print. 14 Alberti, The Family in Renaissance Florence,
sabella’s paintings function to promote her public image as a woman of chastity and virtue. The mythological subject matter was not out of the ordinary, as discussed by Stephen Campbell. “It possesses all the features of an emerging genre associated primarily with studies and libraries: the idea of a painted Parnassus with Apollo and the muses, in literary imagination if not in actuality, had come into existence as a humanist commonplace by the end of the fifteenth century”.15 Isabella’s choice of mythological decoration was unique because she was a woman. Female patrons generally navigated toward religious themed paintings and decorative arts.16 It is important to acknowledge Isabella grew up at the court of Ferrara, where mythological images were common. The works commissioned by Isabella d’Este clearly convey the identity she wished to communicate to the world, and expressed her desire to be associated with classical learning through their focus on mythology. The first painting, Mars and Venus, was completed by the court artist of Mantua, Andrea Mantenga, in 1597. The figures in the painting are allegorical and highlight virtues important to Isabella. This first piece by Mantenga, sets the tone for the future commissions creating a series of paintings with similar themes of love, chastity and learning.
The title of the painting indicates the main focus, Mars and Venus, who are standing arm-in-arm atop a rugged geological formation. The god and goddess are clearly in love. Mars is standing in battle attire gazing at his beloved. Venus looks slightly statuesque in a contrapposto position; presenting an assertive body language, with a hand on her hip, and confident in her complete nakedness.17 The Goddess has been interpreted as the celestial body of Venus, with her nudity representing the pure female body.18 The arch shaped rock on which the lovers stand represents Mount Parnassus; a mythological location which was home to the nine muses. Prominently featured in the center of the work are the muses, representing poetry and learning, who draw the viewers attention away from the lovers presiding over the scene. The energy and movement of their dancing, and the muses flowing dresses, is juxtaposed against the backdrop of rocky landscape. Framing the scene are mythological figures of Apollo and Mercury. In the far left corner, playing the lute, is Apollo, God of artistic inspiration. While Mercury, God of morality, is on the right in the foreground. Standing in flashy footwear, Mercury is holding hand pipes, next to the winged horse Pegasus. Apollo and Mercury represent virtues Isabella wished to be associated with-morality and learning. While the instruments held by the gods add a sensory element, and represent Isabella’s fondness for music. The main figures in the composition; the lovers, Apollo, Mercury, and the nine muses, are placed strategically, creating a triangular formation leading the viewer around the painting. To the left of the lovers a scene plays out. Anteros, the love child of the god and goddess, is taunting Vulcan, the husband of Venus, who is clearly angry in his fiery cave in the foreground.19 The presence of Vulcan in the scene is problematic, reminding the viewer of the adulterous affair between Mars and Venus.20
he reading of Mars and Venus is complicated and controversial due to a conflict of mythological themes. There is also the common misconception that Venus was the image of Isabella. Educated in classical mythology Isabella and her contemporaries and would have been aware of the conflicting story lines represented in the painting. Apollo playing music for the dancing muses takes place on Mount Helicon, and is not part of the love story of Mars and Venus.21 The two different narratives indicate the paintings didactic purposes intended to inspire educated conversation about love and virtue within the intellectual space of the studiolo. There was also the controversy surrounding the identity of Venus as Isabella. The interpretation of Venus as a representation of Isabella becomes a problem for Isabella, who was attempting to communicate her piety. A nude woman in the renaissance was a symbol of sexuality and eroticism.22 Paired with the narrative of the extramarital affair of Mars and Venus, the painting presented Isabella as immoral and unchaste. Isabella may have encouraged the painting to become known as Parnassus rather than Mars and Venus, shifting the focus away from the nudity of Venus, to the chaste images of the nine muses. This re branding of the work led to the paintings reinvention, and may have been done strategically on the part of Isabella, in an effort to distract from the controversial nudity of Venus. However the painting has a unified quality in its overall presentation and reoccurring themes of poetry, learning, and virtues.
n response to the painting of Mars and Venus, Isabella’ second commission, Pallas Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, also by Mantegna, features a strong female as the main subject. The painting, completed in 1502, sometimes called, Minerva Chasing the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, expresses an intensity which is vastly different from the staged and symmetrical composition of Parnassus. The painting, described in great detail by Stephen Campbell, in the book Cabinet of Eros, documents the conflict between virtue and vice. Pallas, brandishing a broken lance, rushes from the left to save the “Mother of Virtues” on the far right, distinguished by a banner which reading, “Gods, save me too, the Mother of the Virtues” indicating she is imprisoned behind the garden wall.23 The three cardinal virtues, Fortitude, Temperance and Justice are floating down on a cloud in the upper right of the painting but Pallas, the cardinal virtue of Prudence, has arrived first.24 Dressed for battle, Pallas with her female warriors, Diana and Chastity, clear a multitude vices from the marshy garden.25 Directly behind Pallas is a olive-tree-human hybrid, representing Daphne, who is wrapped in a banner which says in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, “Come, divine companions of the Virtues who are returning to us from Heaven, expel these foul monsters of Vices from our seats.” Many of the figures in the swampy garden are accompanied by words, or labels, to identify the various virtues, bringing clarity to the reading of the painting. One of the most disturbing images is that of Idleness who is represented with stub arms and directly to its right is a scraggily woman labeled as Inertia.26 On the far right are three unappealing individuals; Ingratitude, Avarice, and Ignorance. There is a creepy looking hermaphrodite monkey-man labeled as Suspicion, Hatred, and Malice. Also present in the scene; a fleeing family of satyrs, a plethora of cupids, some with butterfly wings and others with owl heads. The presence of the cupids is enhanced through the inscription in the swamp beneath Pallas, which reads in Latin, “eliminate idle leisure, and Cupids bow is broken.” In the center of the painting is a sexualized image of Venus standing on the back of a centaur. This figure draws attention the multiple symbols of erotic desire, featured through out the composition, which is pointed out by Rossi. “Lust in the painting is established by repeated references: the centaur; the horned, ithyphallic, child-bearing beast leading the centaur; the fleeting goat-woman and her teeming brood at left; the swarm of cupids armed with bows and arrows to the right of Minerva and the reference to the story of Daphne and Apollo.27
15 Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 120. 16 Rose Marie San Juan. “The Court Lady’s Dilemma: Isabella D’Este and Art Collecting in the Renaissance.” Oxford Art Journal 14.1 (1991): 67-78. 17 Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 120. 18 Rossi, Confronting the Temple of Chastity, 105. 19 Rossi, Confronting the Temple of Chastity, 105. 20 Rossi, Confronting the Temple of Chastity, 105. 21 Campbell, Cabinet of Eros,124. 23 Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 147. 24 Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 147.
he analysis by Stephen Campbell, draws attention to details in the landscape, specifically how the natural elements surrounding the scene mimic the figures within. This is most clearly illustrated in the cloud formation which mirrors the profile of the female figures of Diana and Chastity directly below. The rose covered archways are a hybrid of architecture and nature, indicative to what is seen in the hybrid figures of animal-humans.28
The triumphant expression worn by Pallas, and the frightened fleeing of the creatures representing the vices, indicates virtue was victorious. The vices depicted in, Pallas Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, are the attributes Isabella was struggling to distance herself from. In Pallas there was no mistaking what the story was or who the characters were because of the labels clearly identifying the figures. Isabella wanted to be identified as a woman of virtue and would have welcomed being identified as one of the strong females depicted in the Pallas painting. There is a connection between the two paintings, one builds upon the other, as the narrative evolves to strengthen the female image. The leading figure in Parnassus, Venus, is seen as submissive when looked at in relation to the image of Pallas. In addition Pallas represented strength character without controversy, she was not an adulterous and was fully clothed. The Pallas painting reflected the assertive nature of Isabellaâ€™s personal character, while promoting the virtue of chastity, and defeating the vices.
hile other renaissance women were sitting in silence waiting to speak, Isabella was writing letters, networking, and making connections to attain the objects she desired. The result was Isabella dâ€™Este becoming one of the most successful collectors of the time period. Skilled in the art of marketing, she sold herself as an educated woman, who was pious and chaste. Isabella attained this success as a result of the image she created with commissions, which expressed her virtue, and communicated her intelligence. The combination of these two attributes was unheard of for a woman of the renaissance, but here we are today still discussing the complexities of her character, and her interest in mythology. There were, and still are conflicting opinions of her character, due to her assertive nature and unconventional collecting practices. These conflicts had little affect on Isabellaâ€™s reputation. The minor social faux pas Isabella has been accused of are out weighed by her achievements as a patron in the art world.
25 Rossi, Confronting the Temple of Chastity, 106. 26 Rossi, Confronting the Temple of Chastity, 106. 27 Rossi, Confronting the Temple of Chastity, 106. 28 Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 150.
Alberti, Leon Battista, and Rene Watkins. The Family in Renaissance Florence. Columbia: U of South Carolina, 1969. Print. Bourne, Molly. “Renaissance Husbands and Wives as Patrons of Art: The Camerini of Isabella D’Este and Francesco II Gonzaga.” in Beyond Isabella: Secular Women Patrons of Art in Renaissance Italy. Reiss, Sheryl E., and David G. Wilkins. Kirksville, MO: Truman State UP, 2001. Print. Campbell, Stephen J. The Cabinet of Eros: Renaissance Mythological Painting and the Studiolo of Isabella D’Este. New Haven: Yale UP, 2004. Print. Furlotti, Barbara, and Guido Rebecchini. The Art of Mantua: Power and Patronage in the Renaissance. Los Angeles, Calif: Getty Publications, 2008. Print. Kelly, Joan, “Did Women Have a Renaissance?,” in Oxford Readings in Feminism: Feminism and Renaissance Studies. Lorna Hutson (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999). 31-47. Rossi, Nassim E. “Confronting the “Temple Of Chastity”: Isabella D’Este in the Context of the Female Humanists.” Comitatus Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies: 88-134. Print. San Juan, R. M. “The Court Lady’s Dilemma: Isabella D’Este and Art Collecting in the Renaissance.” Oxford Art Journal 14.1 (1991): 67-78. Welch, Evelyn S. Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy 1400-1600. New Haven Conn.: Yale UP, 2005. Print.
Andrea Mantegna, Mars and Venus, 1497 Andrea Mantegna,
“La Parnasse, by Andrea Mantegna, from C2RMF retouched” by Andrea Mantegna - Retouched from File:La Parnasse, by Andrea Mantegna, from C2RMF.jpg, originally C2RMF: Galerie de tableaux en très haute définition: image page. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Parnasse,_by_Andrea_Mantegna,_from_C2RMF_ retouched.jpg#/media/File:La_Parnasse,_by_Andrea_Mantegna,_from_ C2RMF_retouched.jpg Pallas Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, 1502
“Minerve chassant les Vices du jardin des Vertus, Mantegna (Louvre INV 371) 02” by Coyau - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Minerve_chassant_les_Vices_du_jardin_des_Vertus,_Mantegna_(Louvre_INV_371)_02.jpg#/media/ File:Minerve_chassant_les_Vices_du_jardin_des_Vertus,_Mantegna_(Louvre_INV_371)_02.jpg
8. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 41. 9. Campbell, Stephen J. “On the Importance of Crivelli” in Ornament and Illusion: Carlo Crivelli of Venice (London and Boston: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2015), 18. 10. “Carlo Crivelli.” Carlo Crivelli. The National Gallery, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015. 11. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 15. 12. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 32. 13. Miri Rubin, Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 343. 14. Timothy Verdon, Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea, 17. 15. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 25. 16. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 323. 17. McCall, Timothy, “The Gendering of Libertas and the International Gothic: Carlo Crivelli’s “Ascoli Annunciation,”” 186. 1. Timothy Verdon, Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea (New York: Scala Arts Publishers, 2014), 17. 2. Rosemary Mui Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2006), 124. 3. Timothy Verdon, Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea, 15. 4. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 52. 5. Melissa R. Katz, Mary in the Mirror: Sacred Imagery and Secular Experience, “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea.” (New York: Scala Arts Publishers, 2014), 60. 6. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 102. 7. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 41.
Patrons commissioned paintings of the Virgin Mary so that particular roles enhanced the intended meaning. For the purpose of this article I will be using works commissioned from Carlo Crivelli as a case study. By focusing on specific roles of the Virgin Mary - Mother of God, Mother of Mercy, and Queen of Heaven - patrons were able to support secondary claims made or celebrated in their images. The Observant Franciscans in Ascoli used the image of the Mother of God to support their celebration of Ascoli receiving ‘Libertas Ecclesistica’ from Pope Sixtus IV. A wealthy female patron Oradea Becchetti focused on the Mother of Mercy in order to obtain intercession for those in purgatory as well as the town which was facing a plague. Conventual Franciscans in Fabriano commissioned a piece depicting the Virgin as the Queen of Heaven to impress upon the Friars their duties to the Church. The specific roles of the Virgin Mary in each helps to support these messages intended by the patrons. In the Renaissance, patrons often commissioned devotional art that provided opportunities to highlight their own piety, civic loyalty, or personal beliefs. In a number of these images the Virgin Mary appears; she encouraged meditations, stimulations, musings, and preparations for illuminations(1).Mary served as a convenient figure that could be used for theological reflection and human experience. Everyone who viewed these paintings would have been able to relate to the Virgin and perhaps better understand the teachings of the Church. Artists and patrons capitalized on these established practices in their own compositions. The Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, was instrumental to the redemption and salvation of humanity. She is a common subject for devotional images; such figural imagery was supported by text and liturgy that celebrated her as the Madonna, or ‘My Lady’ in Italian, a title of status. These sources guaranteed that the didactic message would be understood and guaranteed a devotional response from the viewer(2). The focus of the life of Mary conveys messages about poverty, chastity, and obedience to God. She became a model for motherhood, virginity, faith, and mercy for lay and ecclesiastical women of the Church(3) In addition to her main role as the Mother of God, she is described as being the second Eve. She reverses Eve’s disobedience that led to the Original Sin and the Fall on Man. As the second Eve, the Virgin starts humanity on a path toward salvation in which she ultimately plays the role of Mother of Mercy(4) In this role, Mary acted as intercessor to her Son on behalf of the people; through her, one could receive forgiveness and protection. The third major role she takes on is that of the Queen of Heaven; after death, the Virgin ascends to heaven to rule beside her son. There she is depicted as above everyone but Christ and God. The Virgin Mary held a universal appeal, from the aloof and perfect Queen to the all forgiving mother and champion of the lowly; everyone was able to imagine and honor her(5). When it came to depicting the Virgin Mary, iconographical conventions developed formulas which could not only be understood and reproduced but also reflect the complexity of the Church’s teachings(6). According to Rosemary Muir Wright, in Scared Distance: Representing the Virgin, “…the naturalistic representation of Marian subject matter was an extension of the narrative and descriptive powers of ordinary speech(7). Artists needed to stress the
sacredness of the images of the Virgin but also retain a certain amount of realism. The psychological proximity offered by naturalism had to be countered by spiritual distance that was appropriate to the Virgin’s semi-divine status. This means that the artists needed to create images that affirmed Mary’s sacred role while also presenting the illusion of her tangible human presence(8) One Renaissance painter who depicts the Virgin Mary in each of these roles is Carlo Crivelli. Born in Venice to a Venetian painter, both Carlo and his younger brother became painters themselves(9). Crivelli became active in 1457 and spent some time working in Venice and Zara, Dalmatia before settling in the Marches were he executed the majority of his paintings(10). Crivelli’s oeuvre shows that he worked mostly for local elites who were concerned with displaying their status and piety through works of art, as well as the Franciscan and Dominican Orders.
I. Mother of God, the Annunciation of Ascoli, and the Observant Franciscans One of the Virgin Mary’s most important roles was as Mother of God. The Virgin’s role as the Mother of God is not only to be a mother to Christ, but a mother to all Christians. It was the sharing of her flesh with Christ that made him a mortal man who could die on the cross for the salvation of humanity. Mary’s acceptance of the Incarnation, her obedience to God, and giving birth to Christ, are symbols of human love as Mary knew her son would be sacrificed for the sins of others; she had to accept this in order for humanity’s redemption(11).This role emphasizes humanity, humility, obedience, and her suffering(12) This role begins with the Annunciation, when Gabriel comes down from heaven to tell her that she would bear the child of God(13). The scene of the Annunciation is a symbolic representation of the moment of the Incarnation of Christ. These images depict the conflicting emotions of a woman called to give birth to God’s son but also knowing that her son will die for others(14). Her roles as the earthly mother and protector of Christ also make her the protector of the Church(15)
The Annunciation with St. Emidius (1486) for a Franciscan Observant church in Ascoli is one of Carlo Crivelli’s most famous works (fig. 1). The scene depicts the Virgin Mary kneeling in her house; outside is the angel Gabriel with St. Emidius who holds a replica of the city of Ascoli(16) The house of the Virgin is typical of a fifteenth century home in Ascoli, although one richly designed and furnished(17). Gabriel addresses the Virgin through a grated window at a respectful distance. He wears clothing that alludes to his position in heaven: a princely mantle of gold lined with dark green and a gold collar. St. Emidius’ inclusion alongside Gabriel is
37. Brian Pullan, “The Scuole Grandi of Venice.” In Christianity and the Renaissance: image and religious imagination in the Quattrocento, (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1990). 38. Timothy Verdon, Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea, 23. 39. Opus Formosior, “The Standing of Mary” In Blessed and Beautiful: Picturing the Saints, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010) 37. 40. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 53. 41. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 463. 42. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 464. 43. Celia Fisher, Flowers and Fruits, (London: National Gallery Publications, 1998), 20. 29. McCall, Timothy. “The Gendering of Libertas and the International Gothic: Carlo Crivelli’s “Ascoli Annunciation,”” 181. 30. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 326. 31. McCall, Timothy. “The Gendering of Libertas and the International Gothic: Carlo Crivelli’s “Ascoli Annunciation,”” 178. 32. Lightbown, Robert, Carlo Crivelli, 327. 33. McCall, Timothy. “The Gendering of Libertas and the International Gothic: Carlo Crivelli’s “Ascoli Annunciation.”” 183. 34. McCall, Timothy. “The Gendering of Libertas and the International Gothic: Carlo Crivelli’s “Ascoli Annunciation,”” 185. 35. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 342. 36. Kyra Belan. Madonna: from Medieval to Modern, (New York: Parkstone Press, 2001), 25. 18. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 329. 19. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 337. 20. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 337. 21. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 337. 22. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 337. 23. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 336. 24. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 333. 25. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 334. 26. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 336. 27. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 26. 28. McCall, Timothy. “The Gendering of Libertas and the International Gothic: Carlo Crivelli’s “Ascoli Annunciation,”” 178
unusual. Saint Emidius is the patron saint of Ascoli and is thought to have played a role in city receiving liberty from the Papal States; here he is dressed in bishop’s clothing. His presence implies he asks the angel Gabriel to ask the Virgin to further protect the city(18). In the sky above, God is not pictured as a human being but rather as golden light. This form likely reflects the influence of the Franciscan patrons as they believed God had no human form(19) From a circle of clouds and gold, a golden ray comes down; Crivelli created a special hole in the building wall to allow the light to descend and the white dove representing the Holy Spirit flew down to the Virgin bathed in the golden light. The ray of light emphasizes that the conception was not carnal but rather that it appeared to her first in her mind and then her womb; this emphasizes her purity(20) Her purity is also conveyed by her girlish features, her golden dress as the Bride of Heaven, her hair with two long maiden plaits hanging down her back, and her garland of pearls(21). She folds her arms across her breast modestly in humble consent to divine will(22). She kneels at her desk before an open book symbolizing the Word of God and signifying her love for the Word, which is what Christ represents on earth(23). The viewer sees the Virgin through a doorway that isn’t just compositional, but gilded and highly decorated to remind the viewer that Mary is the Doorway of Heaven(24). This perspective also allows the viewer to be part of the moment. The relief carving of the entablature includes figs, an illusion to the salvation brought by Christ through his Incarnation(25). The golden finch within the birdcage in the upper right-hand corner represents Christ’s death on the cross by which mankind is redeemed. A peacock rests on the balcony; a peacock is believed to have flesh thought not to decay was a symbol for immortality and hope of eternal life through the Incarnation(26). The Franciscan Observants who commissioned The Annunciation were responsible for the overall theme and symbolism. In depicting the Virgin as the Mother of God they call on her nurturing and protective aspect(27). The painting was for the Annunziata Convent, built by the Observants and the townspeople of Ascoli, one of the most conspicuous and ambitious building projects of the time(28). It was placed in the Cloister Chapter House until the Convent was completed and once it was the painting became a popular site of devotion(29). The reason this image was commissioned was to commemorate the day Ascoli was granted ‘Libertas Ecclesistica’ by Pope Sixtus IV in 1482(30). The officials of Ascoli received the papal bull on the day of the Annunciation Feast, March 25th, which led to the idea that the Virgin had interceded for the city. Libertas Ecclesistica meant that the Pope conditionally renounced a measure of control over Ascoli making their government semi-autonomous but still under the protection of the papal army(31). The painting celebrates this new acquired civil liberty and reflects it in several ways. There is an illusionistic carved stone declaring ‘LIBERTAS ECCLESISTICA’ at the bottom of the image. Antonio de Grazioso Benincasa the Cancelliere of Ascoli, who received the papal bull declaring Ascoli’s liberty from the Papal States stands in the archway behind Gabriel(32). There are also two Observant Franciscans in their ash grey habits; one is thought to be Fra Bernardino Ferretti, overseer of the Convent(33). In addition, Crivelli uses perspective to emphasize a manufactured space that mimics Ascoli. The streets and walls of buildings use orthogonal lines to draw the viewers gaze to the background figures(34). This brings attention to the people standing in a stone piazza, long and narrow like the one in
Ascoli. One man stands out in particular, looking up at the golden rays in the sky as if witnessing the Immaculate Conception, he is thought to be the young Andrea Matteo Acquaviva Duke of Atri a powerful magnate in Ascoli(35).
II. Mother of Mercy, Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints, and Oradea Becchetti Mary was also considered Mother of the church and people sought refuge under her mantle in her role as Mother of Mercy. It was due to Mary’s relation and companionship to Christ that she would be able to intercede on behalf of the community of the Christian church(36). The Preachers of the Rosary reminded people during the Renaissance that the Virgin was an extremely powerful protector and to recite the Marian Psalter to defend against evil(37). The preferred prayer for the Virgin’s intercession was the “Ave Maria”(38). Both of these prayers asked for the Virgin to intercede with Christ on the behalf of the praying community. From the 13th century on, images of Mother of Mercy were especially popular during times of sickness and plague(39). A common image used to depict this intercessory role was the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and/or donors. The patron saints and donors could petition the Virgin for themselves or, more commonly, for the community as a whole. In the Renaissance, the Virgin’s humanity and divine purpose in the drama of salvation is emphasized by her enthronement(40). Mary was seen as the Throne of Wisdom upon which Christ sat. Oradea Becchetti commissioned Carlo Crivelli to complete an altarpiece in the San Francesco Church in Fabriano for her family’s private chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Consolation. This altarpiece is an appeal to the Virgin as the Mother of Mercy. Only the main panel of the altarpiece is left. The rest of the altar is heavily damaged and no longer in its original form(41). The central panel shows the Virgin and Child Enthroned with St. Francis and St. Sebastian (fig. 2). The Virgin sits on a raised throne with St. Francis on her right and St. Sebastian on her left. Oradea, the patron, kneels at the feet of St. Francis and before the Virgin. The setting of the image is within the royal chambers of the Virgin Mary in the Court of Heaven, and the blue behind her is a window with red poppies and white marguerites(42). The red poppies symbolize Christ’s passion while the white marguerites are an allusion to the Virgin as a symbol of the Incarnation(43). To the left of the throne is a golden flower vase containing two dark red roses and a lily stem with two blossoms open and a third closed; the lily symbolizes that Mary remained a virgin after the Incarnation.
62. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 439. 63. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 444. 64. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 452. 65. Lightbown, Ronald, Carlo Crivelli, 450. 66. Lightbown, Ronald, Carlo Crivelli, 449. 67. Lightbown, Ronald, Carlo Crivelli, 449. 68. Lightbown, Ronald, Carlo Crivelli, 449. 69. Lightbown, Ronald, Carlo Crivelli, 452. 55. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 466. 54. Catherine King, Renaissance Women Patrons: Wives and Widows in Italy c. 1300-1500, 148. 55. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 466. 56. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 467. 57. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 85. 58. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 97. 59. Rosemary Muir Wright, Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin, 82. 60. Opus Formosior, “The Standing of Mary” in Blessed and Beautiful: Picturing the Saints, 35. 61. Opus Formosior, “The Standing of Mary” in Blessed and Beautiful: Picturing the Saints, 36. 44. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 464. 45. Celia Fisher, Flowers and Fruits, 11. 46. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 465. 47. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 466. 48. For further information on the topic of female patrons see Catherine King, Renaissance Women Patrons: Wives and Widows in Italy c. 1300-1500, 150. 49. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 465. 50. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 468. 51. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 468. 52. Catherine King, Renaissance Women Patrons: Wives and Widows in Italy c. 1300-1500, 150. 53. Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 467. 54. Catherine King, Renaissance Women Patrons: Wives and Widows in Italy c. 1300-1500, 148.
On the right side of the throne is a glass filled with white and red roses; here, the transparency of the glass signifies the Virgin’s purity(44). There are flowers scattered at her feet as well: yellow and red roses, marguerites, a carnation, a daisy, and a marigold. The first three represent the purity of the Virgin, the daisy and marigolds were also used medicinally to help with wounds(45). St. Francis inclines his head and presses his left hand to his breast; his right hand points down to commend Oradea. The small humble figure of the kneeling Oradea is sheltered by the habit of St. Francis, this signifies Oradea’s belief in his power to intercede on her behalf as she solicits the Virgin to grant her petition(46). To the left of the Virgin and Child is a youthful St. Sebastian whose near-naked body is pierced by arrows; he waits on the Virgin and Child to remind them of his suffering. It is possible that during this time the plague was in Fabriano, as St. Sebastian is often associated with the plague; people would pray to St. Sebastian and ask him to intercede on their behalf(47). Virgin holds Christ close to her bosom; the Christ child presses his cheek against hers and lovingly looks up at her. Here the Virgin is depicted as the tender mother of Christ able to intercede with her son on behalf of the people. In this commission, Oradea had a specific intended message that complemented that of the Virgin Mary as the Mother of Mercy. While conduct handbooks in the Renaissance advised widows not to draw attention to themselves publicly, a number of women like Oradea commissioned pieces with self-portraits in them(48). Through these images female patrons could encourage a particular program of prayer in the community as well as show off their own devotion and piety. On the bottom of the altarpiece Crivelli created an illusionistically carved statement in roman lettering that reads, „Oradea, wife of Giovanni, in her pity for her forefathers and her posterity at no small expense of her own money dedicated [this altar and picture] to Mary, mother of kindly consolation(49). This statement makes it clear that there are two messages in this painting, the first calls upon the Virgin to intercede on the behalf of the souls in Purgatory, specifically her own kin. Next to the altarpiece would have been a tablet stating the indulgences she obtained from the Bishop of Caron and Papal Lieutenant General of the Marches, Giovanni de Duchi(50). The indulgences guaranteed a person who prayed before this image on certain Feast days 140 fewer days in Purgatory(51). These Feast days would have been ones involving Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saints Peter and Paul who were on the predella, and St. Francis (the patron saint of the church), and St. Sebastian, whose involvement could have indicated that Sebastian was her patron saint(52). Oradea’s own portrait in the image could be a personal appeal to the Virgin(53). Oradea is depicted as veiled, wearing black mourning robes, and kneeling between the feet of St. Francis and the Virgin with rosary beads in her folded hands(54). The small silver cross on the rosary is a common ornament for paternosters and indicates that she lead a devout life. The second message given on the inscription names the Virgin as the ‘mother of consolation’, which meant consoler of the afflicted and dealt with the plague(55). It is possible that Fabriano could have been experiencing a plague at the time and Oradea called upon the Virgin in her capacity as the Mother of Mercy and the consoler of the afflicted. This could also explain the appearance of St. Sebastian who is associated with the plague. The down-turned arrow in his hand is a symbol of appealing to God’s mercy on behalf of the people(56). Oradea uses the image of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Francis and Sebastian to show the public that not only was she devout but that she was concerned with the souls of the people and the realities of the plague.
III. Queen of Heaven, Coronation of the Virgin, and Franciscan Conventuals Mary’s role as Queen is an extension of her and Christ’s heritage on earth as she was a descendant from the line of King David, making her royalty on earth(57). As the Queen of Heaven, Mary overcame death. There are two images that deal with Mary’s death and ascent to heaven as Queen, the Assumption and the Coronation. The Assumption shows the death of Mary, her reanimation, and her assumption to heaven. The Coronation depicted Mary being crowned as the Queen of Heaven; saints act as witnesses to her majesty(58). The Coronation often mimics earthly ones and sets her apart from the rest of humankind(59). These images show Mary sharing in heavenly power but not on the same level as Christ and God(60). She is, however, above humans, saints, and angels, and in the Coronation is often shown on the same level as Christ. The Church celebrates Mary as the Queen and gatekeeper of the heavenly realm(61). In 1490 Carlo Crivelli was commissioned by Franciscan Friars to paint an altarpiece for San Francesco. The main panel depicts the Coronation of the Virgin with the Pieta as the lunette (fig. 3). The reconstruction of the predella is problematic but certainly included images of Christ, St. Peter and St. Paul(62). In the Coronation, Mary is being crowned by the Holy Trinity: God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, which is represented by a dove with its wings stretched. In pose, attitude, and expression the Virgin represents humble acceptance, she receives the crown with a bent head and her hands folded over her breast. When the crowns are given to Mary and Christ in heaven it is seen as a triumph over the world and Satan, and begins their eternal reign as the King and Queen of Heaven(63). To the right hand side of the throne next to Mary stand St. John the Baptist and St. Catherine of Alexandria, a virgin martyr. On the left side of the throne next to Christ stand St. Francis and St. Bonaventure, both important leaders of the Franciscan order. Squeezed into the far corners of the Coronation are Saint Venanzo on the right and Sebastian on the left; they were chosen later and depicted as knightly saints, in other words as layme(64) St. Bonaventure was a powerful Franciscan advocate of the Virgin’s Coronation; he wrote numerous sermons on the topic of Mary’s Assumption and Coronation and, within the Franciscan order, is second only to St. Francis(65). St. John the Baptist is considered the greatest saint in the court of heaven and is patron saint of the city of Fabriano(66). St. Catherine of Alexandria appears as a great defender of the Church and to remind the Friars of their duty to maintain and defend the Church by theological learning and even martyrdom is necessary(67). St. Francis exemplified and is seen here to remind his Friars of their ardent devotion to the Church and absolute obedience to it(68). St. Venanzo was a local patron saint, and with St. Sebastian, the hope was that the two saints would protect the city against the plague(69). These saints are supposed to protect both the city and the church itself. All of the saints together are meant to highlight all Franciscan’s duties to the Church.
70 Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 446. 71 Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 454. 72 Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 453. 73 Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 438. 74 Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 438. 75 Ronald Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, 440. 76 Marilyn Aronbery Lavin, “Cimabue at Assisi: The Virgin, the „Song of Songs and the Gift of Love,” In The Art of the Franciscan Order in Italy. (Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005), 97.
In the background of the Coronation, angels play music while a number crowd around God peering down at the event and holding up the cloth of honor behind the Virgin and Christ letting it fall upon their thrones. The angels are in a state of exaltation, excited to have their Queen among them. The Virgin, Christ, and God are dressed in regal clothing with pearls and rubies to highlight her purity; all three are bathed in a golden heavenly light(70). In the lunette above the main panel is the Pieta; Mary, St. John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene gently support the Dead Christ and look at his wounds. The Virgin looks at her dead son, but remains stoic, standing tall with her head bent with a dignity that is in keeping with the ceremony below(71). The composition of Pieta echoes the Coronation with the curvature that connects the figures(72). The commission of the Coronation of the Virgin was made on behalf of the Conventual Franciscans as the high altarpiece for the church in Fabriano. The guardian of the convent and Master of Theology, Fra Giovanni, created the program for the painting, and then passed this responsibility to Fra Jacopo de Giovanni(73). The program for the altarpiece had to come from the Master of Theology or a group of Friars as it employed some of the manuscripts from the great library at the Convent, particularly those written by St. John the Evangelist and Fra Giovanni’s Apocalypse(74). In Fra Giovanni’s Apocalypse, a woman is said to be clothed by the sun and to appear with a moon below her feet, in this image the Virgin has an image of the moon below her feet while Christ has a sun below his(75). Crivelli did not have a free hand in the theme or symbolism in the painting but was tightly controlled by one or more Theologians. The depiction of the Coronation of the Virgin was popular among Franciscans and in this case had a dual purpose: it highlighted the relationship between the Franciscans and the Virgin Mary as they believed in her Coronation and reminded the Friars of their duties to the Church. By showing the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven and as sharing in the power of the Holy Trinity, with two major Franciscan Saints, they are showing her superiority in the Christian world and her direct relationship with the Franciscans. It was through this relationship with the Virgin Mary that the Conventual Franciscans believed that they were granted the gift of preaching and authority(76). The patrons discussed throughout this paper enhanced the messages and agendas they wanted to impress upon the community by using images of the Virgin. Whether the secondary message concerns civil liberty in Ascoli, piety and intercession for Oradea, or duty to the Church for the Conventual Franciscans each one is enriched by the corresponding image of the Virgin Mary. In The Annunciation with St. Emidius, the Mother of God is seen as benevolent mother figure who cared for the wellbeing of the city. The Mother of Mercy is seen in The Virgin and Child Enthroned with St. Francis and St. Sebastian as Oradea petitions for her to intercede on behalf of her family, the community, and herself. For the Coronation of the Virgin the Queen of Heaven is seen to emphasize the duty the Franciscans have to the Church.
Figure 1. Carlo Crivelli, The Annunciation with St. Emidius, 1482, Ascoli. WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0.
Figure 2. Carlo Crivelli, The Virgin and Child with St Francis and St. Sebastian, 1490, San Francesco Church in Fabriano. WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0.
Figure 3. Carlo Crivelli, The Coronation of the Virgin, 1490-1493, San Francesco Church in Fabriano. WikiArt CC BY-SA 3.0.
Bibliography Belan, Kyra. Madonna: from Medieval to Modern. New York: Parkstone Press. 2001. Campbell, Stephen J. “On the Importance of Crivelli.” In Ornament and Illusion: Carlo Crivelli of Venice, ed. Stephen J. Campbell, 10-37. London and Boston: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2015. “Carlo Crivelli.” Carlo Crivelli. The National Gallery, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015. Fisher, Celia. Flowers and Fruits. London: National Gallery Publications. 1998. Formosior, Opus. “The Standing of Mary.” In Blessed and Beautiful: Picturing the Saints, ed. Robert Kiely, 15-50. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010. Katz, Melissa R. “Mary in the Mirror: Sacred Imagery and Secular Experience.” In Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea. Ed. Timothy Verdon, 51-61. New York: Scala Arts Publishers, 2014. King, Catherine. Renaissance Women Patrons: Wives and Widows in Italy c.1300-1550. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1998. Lavin, Marilyn Aronbery. “Cimabue at Assisi: The Virgin, the „Song of Songs‟ and the Gift of Love.” In The Art of the Franciscan Order in Italy. Ed. William R. Cook, 95-112. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005. McCall, Timothy. “The Gendering of Libertas and the International Gothic: Carlo Crivelli‟s “Ascoli Annunciation.”” Studies in Iconography 30 (2009): 168-97. Pullan, Brian. “The Scuole Grandi of Venice.” In Christianity and the Renaissance: image and religious imagination in the Quattrocento. Ed. Timothy Verdon and John Henderson. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1990. Rubin, Miri. “God-Bearer and Woman: Christian Traditions of Picturing Mary throughout History.” In Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea. Ed. Timothy Verdon, 27-38. New York: Scala Arts Publishers, 2014. ---------- Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009. Verdon, Timothy. “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea.” In Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, and Idea. Ed. Timothy Verdon, 11-26. New York: Scala Arts Publishers, 2014. Wright, Rosemary Muir. Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2006.
Papers by Art History Students, designed by Graphic Design Students at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Spring 2016