Writing letters to powerful people to win their favor and garner rewards such as political office, tax relief, and recommendations was an institution in Renaissance Florence; the practice was an important tool for those seeking social mobility, security, and recognition by others. In this detailed study of political and social patronage in fifteenth-century Florence, Paul D. McLean shows that patronage was much more than a pursuit of specific rewards. It was also a pursuit of relationships and of a self defined in relation to others. To become independent in Renaissance Florence, one first had to become connected. With The Art of the Network, McLean fills a gap in sociological scholarship by tracing the historical antecedents of networking and examining the concept of self that accompanies it. His analysis of patronage opens into a critique of contemporary theories about social networks and social capital, and an exploration of the sociological meaning of “culture.”
McLean scrutinized thousands of letters to and from Renaissance Florentines. He describes the social protocols the letters reveal, paying particular attention to the means by which Florentines crafted credible presentations of themselves. The letters, McLean contends, testify to the development not only of new forms of self-presentation but also of a new kind of self to be presented: an emergent, “modern” conception of self as an autonomous agent. They also bring to the fore the importance that their writers attached to concepts of honor, and the ways that they perceived themselves in relation to the Florentine state.
When writer Merrill Joan Gerber is invited to join her husband, a history professor, as he takes a class of American college students to study in Florence, Italy, she feels terrified at the idea of leaving her comforts, her friends, and her aged mother in California. Her husband tries to assure her that her fear of Italy—and her lack of knowledge of the Italian language—will be offset by the discoveries of travel. "I can’t tell you exactly what will happen, but something will. And it will all be new and interesting." Botticelli Blue Skies is the tale of a woman who readily admits to fear of travel, a fear that many experience but are embarrassed to admit. When finally she plunges into the new adventure, she describes her experiences in Florence with wit, humor, and energy.
Instead of sticking to the conventional tourist path, Gerber follows her instincts. She makes discoveries without tour guides droning in her ear and reclaims the travel experience as her own, taking time to shop in a thrift shop, eat in a Chinese restaurant that serves "Dragon chips," make friends with her landlady who turns out to be a Countess, and visit the class of a professor at the university. She discovers a Florence that is not all museums and wine. With newfound patience and growing confidence, Gerber makes her way around Florence, Venice, and Rome. She visits famous places and discovers obscure ones—in the end embracing all that is Italian. Botticelli Blue Skies (accompanied by the author’s own photographs) is an honest, lyrical, touching account of the sometimes exhausting, often threatening, but always enriching physical and emotional challenge that is travel.
Aristocratic women exerted unprecedented political and social influence in Florence throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. During this period, female members of the powerful Medici family governed the city for the first and only time in its history. These women also helped shape the city's artistic life, commissioning works of music, art, and theater that were inscribed with their own concerns and aspirations. Echoes of Women's Voices examines the patronage of individuals and institutions, particularly convents, which have remained, until now, largely neglected by scholars.
Through commissions, patrons sought to promote a vision of the world and their place in it. The unique social norms, laws, educational backgrounds, and life experiences of female patrons meant the expression of a worldview that differed significantly from that of their male counterparts. Joining exceptional archival research with telling analysis of significant examples of music, art, and drama, Kelley Harness challenges the prevailing view that Florence saw a political and artistic decline during this period. She argues convincingly that the female domination of these years brought forth artistic patronage that was both continuous and well-conceived.
On November 4, 1966, the Arno River in Florence, Italy, flooded its banks, breaching the basements and first floors of museums, libraries, and private residences and burying centuries of books, manuscripts, and works of art in muck and muddy water. Flood in Florence, 1966documents a symposium held to mark the 50th anniversary of a natural disaster that served as an impetus for the modern library and museum conservation professions. The proceedings feature illustrated, first-person remembrances of the flood; papers on book conservation, the conservation of works of art, disaster preparedness and response, and the continuing needs for education and training; and a keynote that points toward a future where original artifacts and digital technologies intersect. Providing new insights on a touchstone event by three generations of preservation and conservation professionals, the proceedings deepen our understanding of major advances in conservation practice and shed light on some of the most important lessons from those advances for future generations and the digital age.
The city of Florence has long been admired as the home of the brilliant artistic and literary achievement of the early Renaissance. But most histories of Florence go no further than the first decades of the sixteenth century. They thus give the impression that Florentine culture suddenly died with the generation of Leonardo, Machiavelli, and Andrea del Sarto.
Eric Cochrane shows that the Florentines maintained their creativity long after they had lost their position as the cultural leaders of Europe. When their political philosophy and historiography ran dry, they turned to the practical problems of civil administration. When their artists finally yielded to outside influence, they turned to music and the natural sciences. Even during the darkest days of the great economic depression of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, they succeeded in preserving—almost alone in Europe—the blessings of external peace and domestic tranquility.
James Banker and Carol Lansing have shaped a collection of the works of Marvin B. Becker, a respected scholar in Florentine and Renaissance history. Becker began his work in 1953 when he arrived in Florence as a Fulbright Scholar, only eight years after the end of World War II. Italy was still struggling with the turbulent wake of the war's end. In those chaotic circumstances, Becker commenced his study of the tumultuous past of Florentine society, producing a rich amount of scholarly work to enhance the field.
In the capital of humanism, he initiated what was to be a lifelong examination of the Western civil tradition. In Florence he could study the interplay of ideas and action in what he was to call the "public world." The rise of this world out of the private, feudal and corporate structures of the medieval commune, its functioning and its eventual subversion by the authoritarian structures of the early modern state were, he thought, valuable information for modern political cultures. In the 1950s and 1960s, Becker produced approximately twenty papers dealing with a wide variety of themes and issues raised by the work of other scholars such as Davidson, Salvemini, Ottokar, Panella, Rodolico, Barbadoro, Baron, and others. He also introduced his own formulations on a range of subjects including the political role of Florence's minor guilds, usury, taxation, public debt, popular heresy, church-state relations, the city's chroniclers, the influence of "new men" upon Florentine government and changing mentalities.
These papers, in their originality, their richness of documentation and their suggestiveness, are still relevant for current scholarship. The editors of this volume have chosen the papers for the convenience of readers who may know Becker only through his books, or from the myriad of footnotes of other scholars who have drawn so much from his work. This volume will be of interest to scholars, students, and others interested in Renaissance history, whether it be social or political.
Marvin B. Becker is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History, University of Michigan. James Banker is Professor of History, North Carolina State University. Carol Lansing is Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara.
A contemporary of Shakespeare and Monteverdi, and a colleague of Galileo and Artemisia Gentileschi at the Medici court, Francesca Caccini was a dominant musical figure there for thirty years. Dazzling listeners with the transformative power of her performances and the sparkling wit of the music she composed for more than a dozen court theatricals, Caccini is best remembered today as the first woman to have composed opera. Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court reveals for the first time how this multitalented composer established a fully professional musical career at a time when virtually no other women were able to achieve comparable success.
Suzanne G. Cusick argues that Caccini’s career depended on the usefulness of her talents to the political agenda of Grand Duchess Christine de Lorraine, Tuscany’s de facto regent from 1606 to 1636. Drawing on Classical and feminist theory, Cusick shows how the music Caccini made for the Medici court sustained the culture that enabled Christine’s power, thereby also supporting the sexual and political aims of its women.
In bringing Caccini’s surprising story so vividly to life, Cusick ultimately illuminates how music making functioned in early modern Italy as a significant medium for the circulation of power.
The Fruit of Liberty
Nicholas Scott Baker Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress DG738.13.B35 2013 | Dewey Decimal 945.51106
In the middle decades of the sixteenth century, the republican city-state of Florence--birthplace of the Renaissance--failed. In its place the Medici family created a principality, becoming first dukes of Florence and then grand dukes of Tuscany. The Fruit of Liberty examines how this transition occurred from the perspective of the Florentine patricians who had dominated and controlled the republic. The book analyzes the long, slow social and cultural transformations that predated, accompanied, and facilitated the institutional shift from republic to principality, from citizen to subject.
More than a chronological narrative, this analysis covers a wide range of contributing factors to this transition, from attitudes toward officeholding, clothing, the patronage of artists and architects to notions of self, family, and gender. Using a wide variety of sources including private letters, diaries, and art works, Nicholas Baker explores how the language, images, and values of the republic were reconceptualized to aid the shift from citizen to subject. He argues that the creation of Medici principality did not occur by a radical break with the past but with the adoption and adaptation of the political culture of Renaissance republicanism.
A Great and Wretched City
Mark Jurdjevic Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress DG736.3.M333J87 2014 | Dewey Decimal 945.506
Dispelling the myth that Florentine politics offered only negative lessons, Mark Jurdjevic shows that significant aspects of Machiavelli's political thought were inspired by his native city. Machiavelli's contempt for Florence's shortcomings was a direct function of his considerable estimation of the city's unrealized political potential.
The Letters of Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli University of Chicago Press, 1988 Library of Congress DG738.14.M2A4 1988 | Dewey Decimal 320.10924
This collection of the most brilliant and characteristic letters of Niccolò Machiavelli displays the vital and penetrating mind of the man who wrote the first work of modern political science. These letters, which reveal Machiavelli's critical intelligence, sense of humor, and elegant sense, are our chief source of information about his personal life. As such, they will serve as a vivid introduction to the personalities and events of the most turbulent period of the Renaissance, and they will also enlighten people who have been fascinated by the political thinker who wrote The Prince and The Discourses on Livy.
Machiavelli: A Portrait
Christopher Celenza Harvard University Press, 2015 Library of Congress JC143.M4C38 2015 | Dewey Decimal 320.1092
The man whose name is shorthand for all that is ugly in politics was more nuanced than his reputation suggests. Christopher Celenza’s portrait of Machiavelli removes the varnish to reveal not just the hardnosed philosopher but the skilled diplomat, learned commentator on ancient history, comic playwright, tireless letter writer, and thwarted lover.
The Medicean Succession
Gregory Murry Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress DG738.17.M87 2014 | Dewey Decimal 945.507092
Cosimo dei Medici stabilized ducal finances, secured his borders, doubled his territory, attracted scholars and artists to his court, academy, and universities, and dissipated fractious Florentine politics. These triumphs were far from a foregone conclusion, as Gregory Murry shows in this study of how Cosimo crafted his image as a sacral monarch.
Although the fourteenth-century Italian merchant Francesco Datini has received attention from business historians, there has previously been no full study of his wife, Margherita Datini. Drawing on a sizable trove of Margherita’s correspondence held in the Archivio di Stato di Prato, including hundreds of letters she exchanged with Francesco, Ann Crabb investigates the social and economic importance of women’s roles as wives and mothers, early modern European views on honor, and the practice of letter writing in Margherita’s world.
Margherita’s often colorful comments demonstrate her attitudes toward her rather unhappy marriage and her inability to have children, along with other aspects of her life. Her letters reveal the pride she felt in carrying out her many responsibilities as a wife and, later, a widow: in scribal letter writing, in business, in household management, and in farming. Crabb emphasizes that the role of a wife was a recognized social position, beyond her individual relations with her husband, and provided opportunities beyond what restrictive laws or restrictive views of female honor would suggest. Further, Crabb considers Margherita’s successful efforts, on her own initiative and in her late thirties, to learn to read and write at a literate level.
This book will be of interest to both scholars and general readers of women’s history. In addition, historians of early modern Italy and, more generally, of early modern Europe will find this book valuable.
This book explores the co-development of political, social, economic, and artistic networks of Florentines in the Kingdom of Hungary during the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg. Analyzing the social network of these politicians, merchants, artisans, royal officers, dignitaries of the Church, and noblemen is the primary objective of this book. The study addresses both descriptively the patterns of connectivity and causally the impacts of this complex network on cultural exchanges of various types, among these migration, commerce, diplomacy, and artistic exchange. In the setting of a case study, this monograph should best be thought of as an attempt to cross the boundaries that divide political, economic, social, and art history so that they simultaneously figure into a single integrated story of Florentine history and development.
Orpheus in the Marketplace
Tim Carter Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress ML410.P292C43 2013 | Dewey Decimal 782.1092
The Florentine musician Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) is known as the composer of the first operas--they include the earliest to survive complete, Euridice (1600), in which Peri sang the role of Orpheus. The recent discovery of a large number of private account books belonging to him and his family allows for a greater exploration of Peri's professional and personal life. Richard Goldthwaite, an economic historian, and Tim Carter, a musicologist, have done more, however, than write a biography: their investigation exposes the value of such financial documents as a primary source for an entire period.
This record of Peri's wide-ranging investments and activities in the marketplace enables the first detailed account of the Florentine economy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and opens a new perspective on one of Europe's principal centers of capitalism. His economic circumstances reflect continuities and transformations in Florentine society, and the strategies for negotiating them, under the Medici grand dukes. They also allow a reevaluation of Peri the singer and composer that elucidates the cultural life of a major artistic center even in changing times, providing a quite different view of what it meant to be a musician in late Renaissance Italy.
John Henderson examines the relationship between religion and society in late medieval Florence through the vehicle of the religious confraternity, one of the most ubiquitous and popular forms of lay association throughout Europe. This book provides a fascinating account of the development of confraternities in relation to other communal and ecclesiastical institutions in Florence. It is one of the most detailed analyses of charity in late medieval Europe.
"[A] long-awaited book. . . . [It is] the most complete survey of confraternities and charity, not only for Florence, but for any Italian city state to date. . . . This book recovers more vividly than other recent works what it meant to be a member of a confraternity in the late middle ages."—Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., Economic History Review
"Henderson offers new and fascinating information. . . . A stimulating and suggestive book that deserves a wide readership." —Gervase Rosser, Times Higher Education Supplement
In 1434, the new Medici government exiled Matteo Strozzi as an enemy of the regime. Soon afterwards, Matteo and three of his eight children died of the plague. His young widow, Alesandra, struggled to make arrangements for her five remaining children, preparing her sons for merchant careers and finding husbands for her daughters. Her three sons left Florence in the 1440s to enter relatives' merchant banking firms. Their absence, prolonged by a sentence of exile imposed on them in 1458, gave rise to the family correspondence that informs this rich study.
The Strozzi correspondence tells the story of the decline and recovery of one Florentine patrician family. Eventually, the Strozzi brothers earned the greatest fortune of their era, and, after the repeal of their exile, Filippo, the eldest, most successful, and longest lived, spent the last years of his life in Florence as one of its foremost citizens. Set in the context of other documentary evidence and of modern historical and anthropological studies, Crabb's study illuminates the role of women, kinship, solidarity, honor, and profit. These letters provide nuanced insights into values and practices that more impersonal sources cannot rival.
As well as appealing to those interested in the Renaissance, Florence, and Italy, this book will attract those wanting to read about topics in social history that cross time periods: women, family and kinship, business, and honor. It confronts issues of Renaissance Florentine historiography by presenting a more positive view of the role of women than does current orthodoxy, by providing evidence of the impact of extended kinship ties, a controversial issue, and by illuminating further the value placed on honor and profit.
Ann Crabb teaches medieval history at James Madison University.
Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, a brilliant historian of the Annales school, skillfully uncovers the lives of ordinary Italians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Tuscans in particular, young and old, rich, middle-class, and poor. From the extraordinarily detailed records kept by Florentine tax collectors and the equally precise ricordanze (household accounts with notations of events great and small), Klapisch-Zuber draws a living picture of the Tuscan household. We learn, for example, how children were named, how wet nurses were engaged, how marriages were negotiated and celebrated. A wealth of other sources are tapped—including city statutes, private letters, philosophical works on marriage, paintings—to determine the social status of women. Klapisch-Zuber reveals how women, in their roles as daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers, were largely subject to a family system that needed them but valued them little.
Leonardo Bruni is widely recognized as the most important humanist historian of the early Renaissance. Gary Ianziti undertakes a systematic work-by-work investigation of the full range of Bruni’s output in history and biography, and assesses in detail the impact of the Greek historians on humanist methods of historical writing.