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Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 465
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    Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence
    Book Description:

    Renaissance Florence has often been described as the birthplace of modern individualism, as reflected in the individual genius of its great artists, scholars, and statesmen. The historical research of recent decades has instead shown that Florentines during the Renaissance remained enmeshed in relationships of family, neighborhood, guild, patronage, and religion that, from a twenty-first-century perspective, greatly limited the scope of individual thought and action. The sixteen essays in this volume expand the groundbreaking work of Gene Brucker, the historian in recent decades who has been most responsible for the discovery and exploration of these pre-modern qualities of the Florentine Renaissance. Exploring new approaches to the social world of Florentines during this fascinating era, the essays are arranged in three groups. The first deals with the exceptionally resilient and homogenous Florentine merchant elite, the true protagonist of much of Florentine history. The second considers Florentine religion and Florence's turbulent relations with the Church. The last group of essays looks at criminals, expatriates, and other outsiders to Florentine society.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92822-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations of Archival Sources
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    William J. Connell

    Among scholars, but also in the general learned public, there has been a slow but dramatic change in the way we understand Renaissance Florence. It used to be said that Florence was one of a very few special historical places that gave birth to the modern understanding of the individual. The individual of the Renaissance was described most famously by the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt in hisCivilization of the Renaissance in Italy(1860) with words that are as well remembered as they are often now challenged: “In the Middle Ages . . . [m]an was conscious of himself only...

  6. 1 “Be Rather Loved Than Feared” Class Relations in Quattrocento Florence
    (pp. 13-50)
    F.W. Kent

    One night in October 1486, Maria Villani was murdered as she slept, her infant son beside her, in her villa near Carmignano. Florence’s police magistracy, the Eight of Ward (Otto di guardia), found Maria’s black slave, Lucia, guilty of the crime, charging that it had been long premeditated with three accomplices: Marsilia, the daughter of a local peasant; the manservant of her husband Alberto, Giovanni da Cascia; and a second man with a humble surname. According to the sentence, Lucia, having failed to poison Maria, had crept into her mistress’s bedroom dressed in the manservant’s clothes and, after a violent...

  7. 2 Giannozzo and His Elders Alberti’s Critique of Renaissance Patriarchy
    (pp. 51-78)
    John M. Najemy

    Giannozzo Alberti has recently become a notorious figure. In life, he was a moderately important merchant and an otherwise undistinguished member of a great Florentine family, who, like the rest of the Alberti men of his time, spent many years in exile. He does not seem to have been particularly influential or prominent either among the Alberti or, in the years before and after the exile, within the Florentine ruling class. Giannozzo is of course much better known as the character who dominates the third book of the dialogues on family life written by his famous cousin, Leon Battista. This...

  8. 3 Li Emergenti Bisogni Matrimoniali in Renaissance Florence
    (pp. 79-109)
    Julius Kirshner

    Li emergenti bisogni matrimoniali¹—namely, the urgent necessity at the outset of marriage to adorn brides with extravagant clothing and jewelry, to decorate the nuptial chamber, and to arrange wedding festivities—entailed sizable expenditures of capital on the part of new husbands and their kin in Renaissance Florence. In a legal opinion written in 1400, the Florentine jurist Filippo Corsini observed that “even before sexual intercourse, it is necessary for the husband to shoulder the expenses for his wife’s clothing and other accessories, as well as other expenses related to the wedding.”² In another opinion, Paolo di Castro, who taught...

  9. 4 Michele del Giogante’s House of Memory
    (pp. 110-136)
    Dale Kent

    In hisRenaissance Florence, Gene Brucker described Florentine identity as forged from an amalgam of four distinct elements; Christian, feudal, mercantile, and communal; in the fifteenth century, the classical tradition fused with these to create the city’s distinctive Renaissance culture.¹ The truth of his observations can be demonstrated in many contexts: this chapter is concerned with how the merchant’s penchant for making records, lists, and inventories provided the framework within which the literature of the classical and feudal worlds, which shaped Christian and civic ideals, was preserved and ordered in the construction of a house of memory.

    The merchant-adventurer Benedetto...

  10. 5 Inheritance and Identity in Early Renaissance Florence The Estate of Paliano di Falco
    (pp. 137-154)
    Thomas Kuehn

    In his novel about a Sardinian village in the early twentieth century, Salvatore Satta, himself a jurist, depicted a society wracked with ubiquitous, never-ending lawsuits. “It was not a question of winning or losing it, and indeed it was vital to do neither, for otherwise the lawsuit would be over and done with. A lawsuit was part of the personality, if not the only visible sign of it, to such an extent that there was often no real animosity between the litigants, because they both needed each other.”¹ Satta’s Sardinian villagers used the impersonal and abstract nature of codified law...

  11. 6 Perceived Insults and Their Consequences Acciaiuoli, Neroni, and Medici Relationships in the 1460s
    (pp. 155-172)
    Margery A. Ganz

    In August and September 1466 the anti-Medicean movement that had been building since the death of Cosimo de’ Medici two years earlier came to fruition. Luca Pitti, Niccolò Soderini, MannoTemperani, and especially Agnolo Acciaiuoli and Dietisalvi Neroni led a coup that attempted to depose the Medici from the leadership of Florence and to restore “a truly republican government” to the city. This event was the watershed in Medici rule because afterward life was never the same in Florence—neither for the Medici nor for theottimati. The events of 1466 had revealed to the Medici the danger of alternate patronage...

  12. 7 The War of the Eight Saints in Florentine Memory and Oblivion
    (pp. 173-214)
    David S. Peterson

    Memory forgets, sometimes quite willingly. It is a process whereby individuals, groups, and entire societies conserve and record, but also filter, repress, and configure past experience to shape and accommodate their identities for presentation to self and others. The aims (or results) may range from explanation to concealment, self-congratulation to exculpation, self-justification and legitimation to the nurturing (construction, and elaboration) of grievances against others. Although memories may be preserved even fortuitously in texts and artifacts, their storage there can just as well be part of a deliberate and selective process. This is especially so when the objects concerned are carefully...

  13. 8 Naming a Nun Spiritual Exemplars and Corporate Identity in Florentine Convents, 1450–1530
    (pp. 215-240)
    Sharon T. Strocchia

    In the winter of 1493 the nuns of the Benedictine convent of Sant’Agata gathered at the grate of their parlor to announce some good news. The sisters had decided to accept the five-year-old girl Lionarda di Giovanni Nelli as a nun in their community. Lionarda’s entrance was supported by a fifty-florin dowry offered by her father and paid on the spot by his father-in-law. Henceforth, the nuns declared, little Lionarda would be known as Suora Eustochia.¹

    This episode, repeated countless times with minor variations in the monastic records of Renaissance Florence, offers a point of entry into a cluster of...

  14. 9 The Prophet as Physician of Souls Savonarola’s Manual for Confessors
    (pp. 241-260)
    Donald Weinstein

    If by burning Fra Girolamo Savonarola and his two confederates the Florentine authorities thought they were lifting “the intolerable burden” of religious politics from the backs of a restive populace, they misfired.¹ Savonarolan millenarian ideology continued to be a factor, at times even a dominant force, for the four decades remaining in the life of the Republic.² Just as futile was the gesture of throwing the bones and ashes of the three friars into the Arno; even without relics to foster a martyr’s cult, many believed that at least one saint had died in the flames of 23 May 1498.³...

  15. 10 Raging against Priests in Italian Renaissance Verse
    (pp. 261-277)
    Lauro Martines

    To pick up the voice of anticlerical sentiment in the poetry of the Italian Renaissance is a recovery of lost conversation. In everyday life, the intensity of feeling against priests and friars was often muted, unless privacy or anonymity promised safety, such as around the statue of Pasquino in Rome during the early sixteenth century, when a cascade of anonymous poems raged against the turpitude of popes and cardinals.¹ At times fiercely humorous, the anticlerical theme is anything but funny for the history of Italy.

    Becoming the motor of Italian political strife in the late eleventh century, galvanizing the Guelfs...

  16. 11 Liturgy for Nonliturgists A Glimpse at San Lorenzo
    (pp. 278-292)
    William M. Bowsky

    This is a suggestive essay written by a historian of medieval Italy who himself only recently turned to liturgical sources in an effort to widen his investigation of the secular Church of San Lorenzo in Florence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. One of Florence’s oldest churches, San Lorenzo was dedicated by Saint Ambrose during the closing years of the fourth century and lay claim to being the city’s first cathedral. The parish of San Lorenzo was the city’s largest, and its parishioners an extremely varied lot. Among them were Guelf and Ghibelline nobles, great merchants, tradesmen, small shopkeepers, and...

  17. 12 The Florentine Criminal Underworld The Underside of the Renaissance
    (pp. 293-314)
    John K. Brackett

    All the artistic glories of the society of the High Italian Renaissance could not mask the fact that the sixteenth century was a troubled time for Italy and for Florence. The creation of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, particularly theLast Judgment, is one example of the creativity and the anxiety that were equally present in Italian society. In Florence, Michelangelo erected his giant sculptureDavid(“Il Gigante”) in the piazza Signoria. Benvenuto Cellini’s sculpturePerseus Holding the Head of Medusawas also put up in Florence in the Loggia next to the signorial palace. Other creations...

  18. 13 Lay Male Identity in the Institutions of a Tuscan Provincial Town
    (pp. 315-336)
    James R. Banker

    The formation of identity in the fifteenth century in the Tuscan town of Borgo San Sepolcro may be viewed as a process by which an individual was placed, or chose a place, in several among a wide panoply of institutions existing within and without the town.¹ An individual did not conceive of himself as fashioning a self from the disparate parts of his society. From this town of four or five thousand people and from the vast majority of Italians in the fifteenth century, there are no documents of self-fashioning such asricordanze, or instructions on how to divide one’s...

  19. 14 Insiders and Outsiders The Changing Boundaries of Exile
    (pp. 337-383)
    Alison Brown

    There is no exile without a homeland from which to be expelled. The effectiveness of exile as a political punishment depended on strong affective bonds between the exile and the city of his birth that made leaving it a penalty—as well as a guarantee of loyalty.¹ For exile was a double-edged weapon, as Savonarola realized: “If you send away your citizens and exile them, they will go to princes and will reveal the secrets of your state, which could damage you quite a lot.”² It was also economically dangerous, for in exiling wealthy citizens, the city lost their “great...

  20. 15 The Identity of the Expatriate Florentines in Venice in the Late Fourteenth and Early Fifteenth Centuries
    (pp. 384-408)
    Paula Clarke

    In recent decades, the work of theAnnalesschool and, in particular, that of Fernand Braudel has drawn attention to the importance and the permanence in history of broad social movements such as immigration. This, together with increased stress on economic and social history and on the history of the lower classes, has led to a growing interest in immigration as a fundamental but neglected phenomenon in the history of medieval and early modern Europe. This interest has extended to Italy and resulted in important studies elucidating problems such as the incidence of immigration, its origins, and its economic or...

  21. 16 Clement VII and the Crisis of the Sack of Rome
    (pp. 409-434)
    Paul Flemer

    For full on seven months, from May to December 1527, the Roman pontiff was the prisoner of imperial soldiers in Castel Sant’Angelo. From the ramparts of the fortress, which even today afford one of the best views of the city, Clement VII daily gazed down on scenes of carnage and destruction. Beginning with the entry of the duke of Bourbon’s undernourished and unpaid troops into Rome on the morning of 6 May, the Holy City, which had undergone a splendidrenovatioduring the preceding eighty years, was steadily reduced to a suffering mass of half-ruined palaces and churches, its streets...

  22. Contributors
    (pp. 435-438)
  23. Index
    (pp. 439-454)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 455-455)