Renaissance Studies

Published by Society for Renaissance Studies
Online ISSN: 1477-4658
Print ISSN: 0269-1213
Woodcut of the double-headed calf as dissected by Johannes Faber, in his Aliorum Novae Hispaniae Animalium Nardi Antonii Recchi Imagines et Nomina, 1651, p. 626 (courtesy of the Whipple Library, University of Cambridge)
At the centre of this article are two physicians active in Rome between 1600 and 1630 who combined medical practice with broader involvement in the dynamic cultural, economic and political scene of the centre of the Catholic world. The city's distinctive and very influential social landscape magnified issues of career-building and allows us to recapture physicians' different strategies of self-fashioning at a time of major social and religious reorganization. At one level, reconstructing Johannes Faber and Giulio Mancini's medical education, arrival in Rome and overlapping but different career trajectories contributes to research on physicians' identity in early modern Italian states. Most remarkable are their access to different segments of Roman society, including a dynamic art market, and their diplomatic and political role, claimed as well as real. But following these physicians from hospitals to courts, including that of the Pope, and from tribunals to the university and analysing the wide range of their writing - from medico-legal consilia to political essays and reports of anatomical investigations - also enriches our view of medical practice, which included, but went beyond, the bedside. Furthermore, their activities demand that we reassess the complex place of anatomical investigations in a courtly society, and start recovering the fundamental role played by hospitals - those quintessential Catholic institutions - as sites of routine dissections for both medical teaching and research. (pp. 551-567).
Pietro Aretino's 1533 play, Il Marescalco, is in some ways a thoroughly conventional example of Italian Renaissance theatre. Aretino's comedy recounts a practical joke played by the duke of Mantua on his stablemaster, who is led to believe that despite his own sexual orientation toward boys, he must take a wife in order to please his prince. This essay discusses a local historical subtext for the comedy's dark view of marriage and erotic self-determination, and suggests that Il Marescalco is as much about tensions between Pietro Aretino and Federico II Gonzaga as it is about marriage, courtiers, and princely power in the Italian courts of the sixteenth century.
Throughout the sixteenth century, numerous compilations of laude were published praising the attributes, charms, and virtues of the most prominent of the Bolognese female patriciate. Lacking a court society dominated by a ruler's wife, but wealthy and conscious of its civic importance, Bologna boasted instead a galaxy of noblewomen who were perceived as incarnating in their very persons all the elegance and refinement associated in other Italian cities with a Medici, Este, or Gonzaga duchess, or with the courtesan culture of Venice or Rome. This study examines how the identity of this group was constructed both from within and without. Many had husbands who were beneficiaries of papal patronage which carried them far from Bologna. Consequently many Bolognese noblewomen were officially left in control of family finances and hence enjoyed an autonomy unusual amongst Italian women of the time. This society is analysed as to its formal composition and kin group linkages. The analysis traces the complex patterns of sociability, with attention to both public and private links (recorded in Libri di Ricordi and chronicles of the city), and spending patterns, with attention to both artistic and charitable patronage. The analysis of this group's identity and dynamic also builds on a variety of literary documents: the laude themselves, plays produced specifically for an audience of Bolognese noblewomen, and the league table of their beauty, a favourite topic of the poetry and prose of many of the city's noblemen and academicians.
This article is an analysis of the 1453 treatise written by the Bolognese noblewoman, Nicolosa Sanuti, demanding the repeal of Cardinal Giovanni Bessarion's sumptuary law of the same year. It is accompanied by the first English translation of the treatise. Whilst questions of authorship and of translator into latin are addressed, the bulk of the article concerns the contents of the treatise. It is argued that the treatise is remarkable in many ways. In the context of protests against sumptuary legislation, it was the lengthiest appeal made during the Renaissance in Italy and was also the only one to question the ideological assumptions of sumptuary law. In the context of humanist debate as to the proper position of women in society, its declared subject was to become a springboard to a discussion of the merits of all women, and of noblewomen in particular. Finally, it is argued, this treatise was the first public defence of women in Italy conceived by a woman. Nicolosa Sanuti's treatise, then, is seen not simply in the context of sumptuary law protests, but as perhaps the earliest Italian contribution by a woman to the ongoing humanist debate concerning the nature and status of women.
Stepfamilies were common in Renaissance England, but raised issues beyond the domestic. Moral duties to stepchildren were hard to reconcile with the obligations that went with blood relationships, a dilemma that took a practical form when children from successive marriages had competing claims on an estate. Disinheriting the children of the first marriage in favour of those of the second or later marriages of a parent was believed by some commentators to have a significance beyond the disappointment of individuals, for it tampered with the practice of primogeniture, and was therefore an attack on the whole social and political order of which primogeniture was a component. Such an analysis made stepfamilies, and remarriage in general, dangerous to the political fabric, and hence highly undesirable. In particular, it was the stepmother who secured an estate for her biological children at the expense of the children of the first marriage who came in for particular odium, and the evil stepmother was at once an illustration of and evidence for the threat that women were said to pose to the social order. Thus the stepfamily was pressed into service in deploring women's sexual subversiveness, for lust caused widows to remarry and put their children at risk from a stepfather, and women's sexual blandishments under-mined the judgement of widowers and persuaded them to disinherit their children with the momentous consequences implicit in such an act. In this often absurd polemic, the contribution that step-parents made to the welfare of dependent children was often forgotten.
Guglielmo Ebreo of Pesaro, De pratica sen arte tripudii: On the Practice or Art of Dancing. Edited, with facing-page translation into English, and introduced by Barbara Sparti; poems translated by Michael Sullivan.
Seeks to demonstrate a clear indebtedness, in Secundus's elegy 1.1, to the three Augustan elegists, especially Ovid, and that he adapts as well as adopts in a display of creative and functional learning. The relationship between elegy 1.1 and Ovid's Amores 1.1 is extensive and substantial, and cannot be put down to coincidence or unconscious reminiscence. But there is also an intentional process of alteration and variation taking place, in which Tibullus and Propertius play a part. Secundus's opening poem shows that the collection as a whole will be learned, literary and intellectual, firmly in the tradition of Augustan elegy.
The later medieval and Renaissance Perugia's culture of civic veneration was influenced by the establishment of various religious and monastic orders in the city; the fact that Perugia belonged to the Papal state; its experience of communal political unrest; periodic expressions of collective religious enthusiasm; and the reputation of locally charismatic individuals (‘living saints’). The comprehensive roster of the 115 saints venerated in Perugia from c. 1200 to c. 1500 can be defined as its ‘total hagiographic programme’ for this period, though it was in constant evolution. A core group of eight saints included traditional patrons like Peter and Paul, Herculanus, Constantius and Lawrence, and new ones like Bevignate, Louis of Toulouse and Bernardino of Siena. Perugia's changing representation of its civic identity by means of its chosen patrons, advocates and intercessors is here assessed.
In June 1300, a procession in honour of Florence's patron saint, San Giovanni, was assaulted by a group of eminent Florentines. For Dino Compagni, the attack was an attempted coup organized by Cardinal Matteo d’Acquasparta, papal legate and former general of the Franciscans, and the Black Guelfs. Compagni, however, is the only chronicler to mention it. Nevertheless, his account of the conflict in 1300 shares in common with Giovanni Villani's Nuova cronica a fight that had broken out between the leading families of the factions during a festa on May Day 1300 and some connection with the Guelf victory at Campaldino in 1289. These events and their retellings provide windows into the manipulation of urban space and concepts of political legitimacy through narrative and ritual.
Several stylistically hetereogeneous paintings from Siena datable to the 1350s and 1360s point to a shift in artistic practices and aesthetic concepts from the earlier part of the century. Analysing various stylistic and technical elements, this article demonstrates the new types of working relationships emerged among painters from diverse artistic backgrounds. The formation of a loosely structured compagnia immediately following the Black Death of 1348 is linked with the largely negative impact on art patronage of the economic and social disturbances caused by the Plague. In addition to a protective economic function, the compagnia altered the nature of the traditional workshop and fostered the development of a new, more synthetic stylistic idiom. The discovery of an inter-workshop network of painters thus provides a new perspective both on late medieval/early Renaissance artistic production and on the famous problem of Sienese painting style after the Black Death.
Giovanni di Lorenzo, The victory of Porta Camollia, 1526 tempera on panel, Museo delle Biccherne, Archivio di Stato, Siena (photo reproduced with permission of Archivio di Stato, Siena)
Twice during his reign the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV travelled to Rome, and both times Siena was an important destination in the journey. During this period Siena was precariously positioned between the emperor and his opponents and shaken up by inner political and social conflicts. Normally the emperor was the far-off and therefore politically irrelevant 'ruler' of the city, but his splendid entry signifies more than a glorious spectacle. It seems that his first entry on 23 March 1355 acted as a catalyst to provoke a revolution against the city's government. The entry of Charles IV in October 1368 was constructed around the theme of the longed-for Prince of Peace, but failed because of the city's political factionalism. This article analyses the two ceremonial entrances as expressions of both political and ritual preoccupations. How was the city represented as a political corporation in the ceremonies? How were place, space, and ephemeral elements represented in the ceremonial? What kinds of rituals, ritualized and ceremonial acts can be uncovered? How did the Emperor respond to the topographical, political, and social structures of the city? Which kind of traditional schemes were used, which kind of dynamics worked through the performative power of the entry?
At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Carmelites introduced the cult of Corpus Domini to Siena, in an effort to enhance the prestige of their Order. The feast's most conspicuous feature was its procession, winding through the streets of Siena attended by all the city guilds, which ended in the square of the Arte della Lana, the guild of woolworkers, that proudly patronised the Carmelites' feast. For the occasion, the entire square was shaded by wool cloths and adorned with greenery, and at the centre a temporary altar was erected, topped by a huge altarpiece by Sassetta. In fact, by the middle of the fifteenth century, the feast gained such momentum as to be adopted by the city government, its venue then transferred from San Niccolò al Carmine to the cathedral. This paper analyses the monastic, guild and civic significance of the Corpus Domini ritual celebrations. What objectives did the Carmelites, the guild and the city government pursue by participating in this ritual and what message did they convey? Special attention will be given to the procession and the erection of outdoor altars. Comparison with other centres will show what is peculiar to the ritual significance and impact of the Sienese Corpus Domini celebrations.
Clemente Miari (c. 1360–c. 1413) did not intend his chronicle, which is something like a ricordanza, for circulation. Clemente was a man of some clerical standing, and prominent in social and political life, and most of his attention is given to local and secular affairs. Although the chronicle is frustratingly uninformative on matters which concern modern historians, it does show how inextricably involved the church was with society and the influence of religion in the private lives of families and individuals.
The Sacristy of the Duomo of Siena (1408–1413) was one of the major civic projects undertaken during the years following the fall of the Visconti. The nine extant panels of the Credo cycle, generally attributed to Benedetto di Bindo, are recognized as lucid, visionary icons of belief. This essay draws attention to certain previously unknown documentary indications of the likely setting, date, and authorship of the cycle, and proposes some explanations for the choice of its unusual subject. It is clear that Benedetto di Bindo worked in close collaboration, from 1411, with Giusa di Fruosino, and the panels' decorative emphasis on the Nicaean Creed relates to Siena's attitude to heresy and papal authority. Sassetta's later work, especially his Arte della Lana altarpiece (1423–1426), is indebted to the work of this preceding generation.
The report of the meeting of the Maius Concilium or Great Council of the Florentine clergy held on 15 November 1424 is a valuable and highly detailed document: it shows that the mixture of conciliar and republican elements in the Constitutiones Sinodales (c. 1418) was actually practised; permits a view of how the clergy themselves perceived the relative significance of their different elements; offers the possibility of determining whether the system proposed by the Constitutiones was actually honoured in reality; and presents the operation of the clerical corporation within the framework of the clergy's relations with the laity and with Rome. The meeting indicates that power did not flow smoothly down the ecclesiastical hierarchy from archbishop to clergy, and that clerical politics reflect shifting alignments and a delicate balancing of theory, serendipity and pragmatism.
The paper draws attention to a description by Saint Bernardino in 1425 of Ambrogio Lorenzetti's famous fresco cycle in the Sala dei Nove of the Palazzo Pubblico. Bernardino uses the frescoes that Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted in the years 1338–1339 in the context of a staged peace ceremony and as a tool of persuasion in order to achieve civic peace in the city. Bernardino's description illustrates how Lorenzetti's painted scheme was viewed by a leading cleric and his audience in the early fifteenth century. Unlike the few other medieval reports of the frescoes available to us, this description is long and detailed, and adds valuable information on the frescoes' particulars. It is particularly interesting that some eighty years after their completion these Lorenzetti paintings were being interpreted as exemplifications of the conditions of war and peace rather than the complex political allegory favoured by many modern scholars. The description is shaped by the historical setting of Siena in 1425 and plays an intriguing role in the sermon itself as a rhetorical device to persuade the listeners to reconcile.
The paper discusses the cultural patronage of the Venetian Pietro Donato, bishop of Padua, concentrating particularly upon his work at Padua's duomo and Studium. Donato presents a useful example of a prolific patron of the arts in a period which currently lacks documented case studies; his artistic commissions bridge the gap between the fall of the Carrara dynasty in 1405 and the flourishing Paduan art market which emerged in the late 1440s. The Council of Basel is identified as having played a key role in the formation of Paduan culture from the early 1430s. Throughout his Paduan office, the bishop's cultural patronage took account of his roles as both father of the Paduan Church and representative of the Venetian authorities. The paper argues that, in both guises, his actions were consistently and strategically defined in relation to the patronage of the previous Carrara rulers in order to address the vacuum left by their sudden fall from power and to nullify their political significance.
Examines the career of Ludovico Gonzaga, professional soldier and prince of Mantua. As a condottiere, or mercenary, Ludovico Gonzaga negotiated annually with politicians in various Italian city-states for favorable terms of service. His contract (condotta) negotiations with Milan in peacetime highlight the difficulty of maintaining his position as leader of a state and increasing his reputation as a fighting man.
In 1436 Giannozzo Manetti wrote an extensive and detailed account, in 3500 words, of the consecration ceremony, in the presence of Eugenius IV, held on 25th March of that year at Santa Maria del Fiore. It provides an eyewitness account of the impression that Brunelleschi's work made on its contemporaries, a testimony of early 15th-century humanist views about architecture, and a discussion of the problems posed by describing a work of art. The Oratio should be seen as an example of an interest in architecture which is informed by humanist and rhetorical concerns for vivid description. The division of the text into exordium, narratio, and conclusion follows the sequence of events at the consecration ceremony. The Oratio reflects a typically humanist concern to understand through sight, and to visualize abstract or absent topics.
Bernard André was responsible for many writings, in verse and prose, in Latin and French, produced in England over a period of 35 years from 1485. His job was to celebrate the deeds of Henry VII and then Henry VIII, and this paper lists the canon of writings that he produced in these circumstances. The 38 works, listed chronologically, are divided into ‘genuine works’, ‘works of dubious attribiution’ and ‘lost works’, and to each is attached appropriate bibliographical information.
This article examines the two long visits of Pope Pius II to Siena in 1459 and 1460 and considers the way in which the presence of the pope, and his large court, altered the social and physical fabric of the city. Discussion centres around painted and documentary accounts of ritual events that punctuated the long papal sojourn in Siena, and assesses the way in which pontifical ceremonial needs were overlaid on the ritual calendar of the Republican city. Special attention is given to the location of the lodgings selected for the pope and his large court, in order to show how the papal court was grounded in the physical space of the city, establishing thus a specifically papal and curial 'ritual geography'.
The Dominican Johannes Cuno (1463–1513) was a talented Hellenist who was closely associated with Aldus Manutius, Mark Mousouros and Johannes Reuchlin. His manuscript London Arundel 550 is currently held in the British Library in London. It is a miscellany of texts, a little bit like a personal notebook; these texts reflect Cuno's interests as well as the interests of the classicists of the time more broadly. This paper presents for the first time two unpublished items from London Arundel 5501 supplied by Johannes Cuno (autograph, Pavia, 1506–8) for the advancement of the learning of the Greek language in the West. These are a) London Arundel 550, f. 28v: Prosody of Greek words (Anonymous, probably Johannes Cuno), and b) London Arundel 550, f. 59v: Glossary of local dialects (Anonymous, after Philostratos).
An examination of the careers of three successive professors of medicine at the University of Ferrara – Nicolò Leoniceno, Giovanni Manardi, and Antonio Musa Brasavola – demonstrates the development of medical humanism, the Renaissance substitution of classical Greek medical authorities, chiefly Galen, for the medieval reliance on Latin translations of Arabic medical authorities. Leoniceno taught philosophy as well as medicine, had an excellent knowledge of Greek, and a substantial knowledge of Greek scientific texts, but little experience or interest in medical practice. Manardi, his successor, had an extensive medical practice as well as a long and distinguished teaching career. He was interested in practical medicine and the practical, medical side of Galen's writings, not the philosophical and abstract. He wrote on his own efficacious use of Galenic therapies for persistent maladies, the systematic terminology of medicine, and botanical pharmacology. His successor, Brasavola, shared his interest in botany, pharmacology, and the practice of medicine. Brasavola's work on Galen includes an extensive index and an exposition of the Aphorisms that displays considerable philological erudition. Medical humanism in Ferrara emphasized the medical classics elucidated through Greek commentary and a practical interest in botany and pharmacology, and it enjoyed considerable success and prestige among scholars and physicians outside the university community.
Reproduces the inventory of Galeazzo Cavriani (1406–66), bishop of Mantua from 1444 until his death. Some knowledge is gained from the inventory concerning the furnishing of a bishop's palace. Cavriani did not live in an especially lavish style and his library reflects little beyond his administrative concerns. The text of the inventory is in Italian.
In late 15th- and early 16th-century Venice devotion to the Virgin Mary, expressed in the printed word and in images, provided laypeople with an accessible means of intercession with God and with an incentive to curb sin and immoral behavior. The humanist Latin approach was educational, comparable to didactic images, whereas vernacular Italian works provided the equivalent of miraculous images for use in intercession and veneration. Latin and vernacular works were produced to a similar quality by the same printers, who addressed themselves to learned and popular audiences.
This article examines the set of spalliera panels representing the Greek legend of Jason and Medea, which were commissioned by the Florentine patrician Giovanni Tornabuoni to commemorate his marriage to Giovanna degli Albizzi in 1486. Unlike Medea, Giovanna degli Albizzi was famed for her chaste virtues, and modern art historians have devised theories of increasing complexity and ingenuity to explain such a choice of subject. However, detailed iconographic analysis suggests that these panels depicting an ancient story are not based on ancient sources. Instead their origins can be found in several late medieval chivalric texts, Guido delle Colonne's Historia destructionis Troiae and Raoul Lefèvre's Histoire de Jason (the latter was written for the Burgundian court, celebrating the origins of the Order of the Golden Fleece). Thus Lorenzo Tornabuoni's Jason and Medea spalliera series elides the two most prestigious cultural value systems of late fifteenth-century Florence: Greek and Roman antiquity and chivalry. The paintings still vividly celebrate the complex interaction and mingling of classicism and chivalry that was such a salient, but still underestimated, characteristic of Florentine culture in the Vasarian ‘Golden Age’ of the 1470s and 1480s.
The correspondence of Alessandro Cortesi (b. ca. 1460) provides a record of the changing nature of courtly society in Florence and Rome during the 1480s. The picture that emerges of Florence is a city in
The marriage of Anna Sforza of Milan and Prince Alfonso of Ferrara was conducted with great ceremony and elaborate protocol. Alfonso's father, Duke Ercole I d' Este, undertook many extraordinary measures to raise revenues sufficient to conduct the February 1491 wedding in a grand style, including the imposition of additional taxes and the forcible removal of art objects and decorations from the outlying area. Thereafter, celebrations of power in Ferrara were undertaken in a manner consistent with the duke's emphasis on grandeur and spectacle.
The paper explicates the literary and historical contexts of Latin verse writings of a young Italian, Johannes Opicius (fl. 1492–1515), on the 1492 invasion of France by the Tudor sovereign Henry VII (r. 1485–1509). Opicius had access to veracious information about the overseas campaign of the English king and army, as is confirmed by other surviving documentary and narrative sources. On the other hand, after the fashion of the Tudor laureate Bernard André (c. 1450–1522), Opicius’ poetry is also shaped by his close imitation of ancient poetry, including the Laus Pisonis (c. 62) and writings by and about M. Annaeus Lucanus (d. 65), as well as standard curricular authors. Classical emulation and historiographical veracity are not inimical to one another in Opicius’ work, however; it is argued finally that both contributed to the English king's glorification. Critical texts and annotations are appended. (pp. 520–546)
Top-cited authors
Peter Mack
  • The University of Warwick
Evelyn Welch
  • King's College London
Gianna Pomata
  • Johns Hopkins University
Peter Burke
  • Emmanuel College cambridge
Brian Vickers
  • University of London