Value and Symbolic Practices: Exch

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Value and Symbolic Practices: Exch
Value and Symbolic Practices: Objects, Exchanges, and Associations in the
Italian Courts (1450-1500)
Leah Ruth Clark
Department of Art History and Communication Studies
McGill University, Montreal
February 2009
A thesis submitted to McGill University in partial fulfilment of the requirements
of the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Copyright 2009 by
Clark, Leah Ruth
All rights reserved.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract
English
French
4
7
Acknowledgements
10
List of Figures
14
Introduction
I. The Court: The Prince, Communities, and Associations
II. Materiality: Subjects, Objects, Exchange, and Consumerism
23
27
51
Chapter 1. Carafa’s testa di cavallo: The Life of a Bronze Gifthorse
I. Introduction
II. The Literary Life of a Horse’s Head
Later Histories of the Horse’s Head
III. Lorenzo and Diomede: Arbitrators Between Florence
and Naples
IV. The Significance of the Equine: Palii, Barberi, and Gift horses
V. The Horse’s Head and the Culture of Collecting
VI. The Agency of the Thing Given: Conclusion
64
64
68
83
87
Chapter 2. Bankers, Merchants, and Pawning: Practices
and Circulation
I. Introduction
II. Circuits and Networks: Merchants, Clients, and the Courts
Banchieri a Napoli: The Florentine Firms of the Strozzi,
the Medici, and the Gondi
Clients and Consumers: The Neapolitan Court and Nobility
III. Material Things and Their Histories: Beds, Gems, and Books
The Florentine Lettuccio in Naples
Gems, Medallions, and Books: Circulation, Replication,
and Transmission
IV. The Practices of Pawning: Objects and Contenders
V. Between Naples and Ferrara: The Bejewelled “Crocetta”
VI. Conclusion
125
Chapter 3. “An altarpiece that closes like a book”: Collection and
Intertextuality at the Court of Ferrara
I. Introduction
II. Folding Images: A Genealogy of the Diptych Form
Engaging with the Diptych Form: Obverse, Reverse,
Frames, and Images
Other Diptychs in Eleonora’s Collections
105
116
121
125
130
132
146
149
150
169
178
199
207
211
211
216
221
226
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III. The Painting and Scriptura Debate: Paragone,
Social Positioning, and the Status of Art in Ferrara
IV. Word and Flesh: Caterina Vegri and the Corpo di Christo
V. Eleonora’s Collections
Fabula and Forms of Assembly
Paragone and the Intertext
VI. Other Forms of Citation in Eleonora’s Collections
VII. Conclusion
229
238
244
248
251
265
272
Chapter 4. The Order of the Ermine: Collars, Clothing, and
Representation
I. Introduction
II. Della Giarreta e dell’Armellino: The History of the Order of
the Jar and the Order of the Ermine
III. The Statutes of the Order of the Ermine
IV. Members and International Association
V. Representations of the Ermine: Architecture, Manuscripts,
and Painting
VI. Ceremonial: Mantles, Collars, and Bodily Inscription
VII. Allegorical Representation of the Order of the Ermine:
Roberti’s Three Famous Women Panels
VIII. Conclusion
276
Conclusion
360
Primary Archival Sources
Archives Consulted and Abbreviations
Libraries Abbreviations
368
368
369
Appendix I. Genealogies of the Aragonese, Sforza, and Este
370
Figures
376
Works Cited
434
276
283
291
298
307
329
348
357
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Abstract
Arguing for a reconsideration of the object’s function in court life, this
thesis investigates how the value of an object is tied to the role it plays in
symbolic activities, which formed the basis of court relations at the end of the
fifteenth century. This study thus examines the courts of Italy (particularly Ferrara
and Naples) through the myriad of objects—statues, paintings, jewellery,
furniture, and heraldry—that were valued for their subject matter, material forms,
histories, and social functions. Such objects are considered not only as
components of court life, but also as agents which activated the symbolic
practices that became integral to relations within and between courts. These
activities—the exchange of diplomatic gifts, the consumption of precious objects,
the displaying of collectibles, and the bestowing of knightly orders—were all
ways that objects acted as points of contact between individuals, giving rise to
new associations and new interests.
The end of the fifteenth century was a pivotal moment in the courts of Italy,
fraught with alliances and counter-alliances involving not only the courts on the
Italian peninsula but also abroad. The court was an important space where
individuals sought to assert and legitimise their power, and this was often done
through material and visual means. The court is thus examined from diverse
angles, taking the object as a starting point, and tracing relationships and networks
through visual, textual, material, and literary sources. Shifting the focus away
from artistic intentions and patronage, this study examines how objects constitute
relations, often in unpredictable ways, not only forging connections but also
revealing instabilities and latent hostilities. The constant circulation of precious
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objects in the late fifteenth century reveals a system of value which placed
importance not only on ownership, but also on the replication, copying, and
translation of those objects in an array of media. The quotation of both objects and
texts in contemporary works of art, I argue, gave rise to new modes of viewing
visual imagery that are most apparent in studiolo culture. This form of viewing
requires decipherment; it asks viewers to piece together disparate parts and
fragments thereby constructing meanings across space and media.
Diverse material forms are thus brought together. A bronze fragmented
horse’s head is examined as a gift that forged connections between two diplomats.
Its fragmented equestrian form gives rise to narratives and discussion about its
provenance and the object is connected to the lending, gifting, and racing of real
horses. The circulation of jewels and gems between courts was facilitated by the
practices of merchant-bankers through pawning and credit. Circulation gave these
objects histories but also imbricated a wide range of individuals into complex
webs of association, obligation, and dependencies. A small devotional diptych
belonging to a larger collection is examined in relation to humanist, social, and
religious debates at the court of Ferrara, revealing how its particular form is
closely tied to how one engages with, and interprets, the object. The diptych
referenced other texts and objects and was also the model for numerous copies,
encouraging the viewer to piece together the visual and textual quotations to
produce meaning. The Neapolitan Order of the Ermine is examined through the
mantle, gold collar, representations of the emblem, and statutes of the Order to
demonstrate how these material aspects constituted the rites of the Order. These
material objects became crucial components of membership by linking members
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Leah R. Clark 6
across Italy and Europe into forms of obligation and indebtedness. The court at
the end of the fifteenth century in Italy, I argue, can thus be found not only in the
body of the prince, but also in the objects that constituted symbolic practices,
initiated political dialogues, created memories, and formed associations.
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En considérant la fonction de l’objet dans la vie à la cour princière, cette
thèse examine comment la valeur d’un objet est liée au rôle qu’il joue dans les
pratiques symboliques qui, à la fin du quinzième siècle, est à la base même des
relations à la cour. Ce projet examine les cours d’Italie (en particulier celles de
Ferrare et de Naples) à travers une multitude d’objet (statues, peintures, bijoux,
meubles, et emblèmes héraldiques) qui étaient évalués pour leurs matériaux, leur
forme, leur historique, et leurs fonctions sociales. Ces objets sont ici étudiés non
seulement comme représentatifs de la vie à la cour, mais aussi comme des agents
actifs des pratiques symboliques importantes aux relations entre les différents
cours. Ces pratiques – l’échange de cadeaux diplomatiques, la consommation
d’objets précieux, étalage d’objets de collection, et investitures dans des ordres
chevaleresques – sont autant de manières par lesquelles les objets servent de point
d’attache entre individus et génèrent, de la sorte, de nouvelles associations et de
nouveaux intérêts.
La fin du quinzième siècle était un moment clé pour les cours d’Italie,
chargé des alliances et contre-alliances entre non seulement les cours de la
péninsule italienne mais aussi celles de l’étranger. La cour est alors un espace
important où les individus cherchent à revendiquer et à légitimer leur pouvoir par
des moyens matériels et visuels. Ainsi, mon investigation, qui a pour point de
départ l’objet, retrace les associations entre individus et entre cours à travers les
sources visuelles, textuelles, matérielles, et littéraires. En plaçant l’objet au centre
de l’investigation, ce projet, plutôt que de se préoccuper des intentions artistiques
ou mécénales, redirige l’attention sur la fonction certaine, mais combien variable,
des objets dans la formation de relations sociales et démontre comment elle peut
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révéler l’existence de tensions et d’hostilités latentes. La circulation continue
d’objets précieux met en relief un système de valeurs qui est à l’œuvre à la fin du
quinzième siècle et qui met l’accent sur la possession d’objets mais aussi sur leur
réplication, leur reproduction et leur traduction vers d’autres médias. Je soutiens
que la citation d’objets et de textes dans des œuvres d’art qui leur sont
contemporaines a donné lieu à une nouvelle manière d’observer les images et qui
est apparente, notamment, dans la tradition du studiolo. Cette nouvelle façon
d’observer exigeait de l’observateur qu’il la déchiffre et qu’il en rapièce certains
éléments disparates et autres fragments afin de donner un sens aux objets et
d’ainsi établir des rapports sans bornes géographiques.
Les divers supports sont ainsi étudiés ensembles. Un fragment de tête de
cheval en bronze est étudié en tant que cadeau diplomatique démontrant les
relations entre deux diplomates. Sa forme équestre, mais fragmentaire, donne lieu
à des narrations et discussions variées à propos de sa provenance et est raccordée
aux activités d’échanges, de dons, et des courses des chevaux. Des bijoux et des
pierres précieuses de la cour étaient constamment en gage et circulaient
fréquemment grâce aux activités des marchands-banquiers. Une telle circulation a
donné des réseaux complexes d’associations, d’obligations et de dépendances. Un
petit diptyque de piété appartenant à une grande collection est étudié par rapport
aux débats humanistes, sociaux, et religieux à la cour de Ferrare en révélant
comment sa forme particulière est étroitement attachée à la manière dont on
s’engage et interprète l’objet. Le diptyque fait allusion à d’autres textes et objets,
et, à la fois, est la source de nombreuses copies. Ces références à d’autres œuvres
encouragent l’observateur à faire des liens entre les citations littéraires et visuelles
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qui peuvent révéler le sens de l’objet. L’Ordre napolitain de l’Hermine est
examiné par la cape, le collier d’or, les représentations d’emblèmes, et les statuts
de l’ordre pour démontrer comment ces attributs matériaux deviennent des parties
intégrantes des rites de l’Ordre. Ces objets matériels forment des composantes
critiques pour l’Ordre grâce à leur capacité d’associer différents membres italiens
à d’autres membres européens dans des rapports d’obligations et de dettes. Je
soutiens donc qu’à la fin du quinzième siècle, la cour peut être localisée non
seulement dans le corps du prince, mais aussi dans ces objets qui constituent des
activités symboliques, qui initient des dialogues politiques, qui créent des
souvenirs, et façonnent des associations.
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Acknowledgements
Throughout the course of this project I have become indebted to numerous
individuals who have helped me in diverse ways, and I would like to attempt to
thank them here.
My engagement with art history has been influenced by various individuals
at numerous institutions along the way. I especially thank the faculty at the
University of British Columbia who provided me with encouragement in the early
stages: Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe, Maureen Ryan, Katherine Hacker, and Rose
Marie San Juan (now at UCL). I thank Patricia Rubin, Caroline Elam, and Joseph
Koerner for their insight and support at the Courtauld, providing an environment
in which I was able to grow and learn at an unprecedented rate. I thank the faculty
in the department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill
University who have been beneficial throughout the various stages of this
dissertation, especially Angela Vanhaelen, who has co-supervised this project,
and my supervisor Bronwen Wilson (currently at UBC). I want to acknowledge
here the remarkable amount of time Bronwen spends on all of her students, which
does not go unnoticed. I am also indebted to those involved in the Making Publics
project, as I have benefited from the diverse discussions, conferences, and
workshops initiated by this project. I want to thank all members of the early
modern reading group, both in Montreal and in Vancouver, always so generously
hosted by Bronwen. I thank you all for providing a stimulating environment in
which to discuss theory over glasses of wine. I would also like to acknowledge all
of the participants and moderators at the Getty Dissertation Workshop 2008, who
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 11
provided me with some extremely useful advice when I was in the middle of
writing the thesis.
I cannot express sufficiently my gratitude to the institutions that have
funded this project. I thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
of Canada (SSHRC), which has provided the largest contribution. I want to
acknowledge the Italian government for the nine-month stipend, which enabled
me to conduct archival research in Italy. I am also indebted to the various
scholarships and grants offered by McGill, including recruitment scholarships,
travel grants, and the Bram Garber Fellowship. As I have always funded my own
education, these scholarships have not only been welcomed but also have made
this project possible.
Through the course of my research, I have consulted materials in a variety
of different libraries, archives, and institutions. Without access to these
institutions and the help of the staff, this thesis would never have been completed.
I thank the staff at the British Library and the Warburg Institute in London. I
would like to thank all the staff at the Archivio di Stato di Modena, who were so
helpful and friendly, making my six months of research there enjoyable. I would
also like to express my gratitude towards the other archives and libraries
consulted in Italy and in Europe: the Archivio di Stato in Mantua, Milan,
Florence, Ferrara, and Naples, the Biblioteca Universitaria and Biblioteca
Comunale dell'Archiginnasio in Bologna, the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria and
the Biblioteca Civica d'Arte L.Poletti in Modena, the Biblioteca Vaticano in
Rome, the Biblioteca Ariostea in Ferrara, the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples
(especially the librarians in the Sezione Napoletana), and the Bibliothèque
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 12
National in Paris. I want to thank all the various individuals with whom I came in
contact during my nine months conducting research in Italy, who not only made
this project possible but also enjoyable and memorable.
I am particularly grateful to my family around the world, for their advice,
support, and example. I thank my parents who have taught me that life is about
learning, and that we are only capable of fully growing when we are prepared to
set sail, whole-heartedly, for the adventure ahead. I thank my four sisters who
have, each in their unique way, provided support and constant inspiration from
their distant places across the globe: to Julia in Vancouver for her steady
encouragement and advice; to Rachel in Mexico for her enthusiasm and
sympathetic ear; to Christina for offering academic and personal advice when
sought, whether she was in Africa, the UK, or Canada, as well as reading sections
of the thesis; to Esther in Ecuador for always believing in me. I also thank my
nieces and nephews for providing me with the necessary reminders about the joys
and realities of life. I thank my grandparents who encouraged my determination
and sense of adventure. I thank my family in the UK, especially Charley and Liz
for providing me with a ‘home away from home’ and the necessary refuge and
encouragement when needed, and to Pete and Sheena who traipsed around Ferrara
with me, as I showed them numerous churches.
I am indebted to Kathryn Baldwin Kirtley, fellow art historian and travel
companion, for her unfailing encouragement, faith, and support both in life and
academics. Her academic and general life advice has proven to be invaluable. I
am also extremely grateful to my colleagues and fellow students at various
institutions for their support and encouragement, especially Sylvie Simonds,
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 13
Sonia del Re, Anuradha Gobin, Krystel Chehab, Maja Dujakovic, Amanda Herrin,
Stephanie Chan, and Aurore Bouvier Rault.
Most importantly, this thesis is indebted to the invaluable supervision of
Bronwen Wilson and Angela Vanhaelen. I thank Angela for the crucial editorial
remarks during the last phases of writing and her constant enthusiasm in the
project. Many many thanks are owed to Bronwen—her patience, insight,
enthusiasm, and academic vigour have proved to be the backbone of this thesis.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 14
List of Figures
Figure 1. Map of Italy in 1494. From Martines, Lauro. Power and Imagination:
City-States in Renaissance Italy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979: Map 2.
Figure 2. Castel Nuovo façade and the arch depicting Alfonso I d’Aragona’s
triumphal entry. Photo by author.
Figure 3. Unknown artist, Tavola Strozzi, 1465? Tempera on panel. Museo di San
Martino, Naples. From Cole, Alison. Virtue and Magnificence. Art of the Italian
Renaissance Courts. New York: Harry N. Abrams Incorporated, 1995: 32-3,
Figure 24.
Figure 4. Map of Ferrara, late fifteenth century. Woodcut. BE Ms It. 429 Alpha
H.5.3. Photograph by author, with permission from Biblioteca Estense.
Figure 5. Diomede Carafa’s Palace in July 2008 with terracotta copy of horse’s
head. Photograph by author, with permission from porter.
Figure 6. Donatello or antique artist, Carafa’s horse’s head, fifteenth century or
antiquity. Bronze, height 175cm, maximum width 181cm. Museo Archeologico
Nazionale, Naples. From Borrelli, Licia Vlad. "Considerazioni su tre
problematiche teste di cavallo." Bollettino d’Arte 71 (1992): 73, Figure 13.
Figure 7. Title page with the two insignie of the Seggi di Capuana and Nido on
top left corner. Parrino, Domenico Antonio. Nuova guida de’ forestieri. BNN.
SEZ NAP VII.C.200. Naples: Il Parrino, 1725. Photograph by author, with
permission from Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli.
Figure 8. Antonio Bulifon, “Palazzo del cavallo di bronzo,” 1697. Engraving.
From Sarnelli, Pompeo. Guidi dei forestieri. BL: 574.a.22. Naples: Antonio
Bulifon, 1697. Reprinted in de Divitiis, Bianca. Architettura e committenza nella
Napoli del Quattrocento. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2007: Figure 49.
Figure 9. Comparison between the Medici and Carafa horses’ heads. From
Borrelli, Licia Vlad. "Considerazioni su tre problematiche teste di cavallo."
Bollettino d’Arte 71 (1992): 68, Figures 1 and 2.
Figure 10. Unknown artist, Medici horse’s head, antiquity. Museo Archeologico
Nazionale, Florence. From Borrelli, Licia Vlad. "Considerazioni su tre
problematiche teste di cavallo." Bollettino d’Arte 71 (1992): 71, Tav III.
Figure 11. Horse’s head ROMANO issue, reverse. Didrachmn of Rome. BM
1956-1-1-33. From Crawford, Michael H. Coinage and Money Under the Roman
Republic. Italy and the Mediterranean Economy. Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1985: 28, Figure 5.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 15
Figure 12. Cavalli coin issued under Ferrante. Copper. From Jessop Price,
Martin. Coins, An Illustrated Survey. 650 BC to the Present Day. New York and
London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd, 1980: Figure 822B.
Figure 13. King Solomon giving audience from his lettuccio. From the Malermi
Bible, printed in Venice, c 1493. BL IB 23096. From Thornton, Peter. The Italian
Renaissance Interior. 1400-1600. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1991: 152,
Figure 167.
Figure 14. Example of a lettuccio. Detail from Life of St. Nicholas by Francesco
Pessellino, c 1443. Galleria Buonarotti, Florence. From Thornton, Peter. The
Italian Renaissance Interior. 1400-1600. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1991:
151, Figure 166.
Figure 15. Surviving lettuccio from the late fifteenth century, formerly in the
Demidoff collection in Florence. From Trionfi Honorati, Maddalena. "A proposito
del ‘lettuccio’." Antichità Viva 20, no. 3 (1981): 43, Figure 7.
Figure 16. Print from Girolamo Savonarola’s Predica dell’arte del Bene morire,
Florence, 1496. BL: I.A. 27321. From Thornton, Peter. The Italian Renaissance
Interior. 1400-1600. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1991: 148, Figure 162.
Figure 17. Surviving lettuccio from the fifteenth century, Museo Horne, Florence.
From Trionfi Honorati, Maddalena. "A proposito del ‘lettuccio’." Antichità Viva
20, no. 3 (1981): 40, Figure 1.
Figure 18. Diomedes and the Palladium. Carved chalcedony, 4.5 x 3.3 cm. Cades
Collection III, E, 283. From Dacos, Nicole, Antonio Giuliano, and Ulrico Pannuti,
eds. Il tesoro di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Le gemme. Catalogo della Mostra Palazzo
Medici Riccardi. Vol. I. Florence: Sansoni Editore, 1973: Figure 19.
Figure 19. Replication of Diomedes and the Palladium in Alfonso d’Este’s
Breviary. From Alexander, Jonathan J. G., ed. The Painted Page: Italian
Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550. London: Royal Academy of Arts,
1994: 14, Figure 4.
Figure 20. Detail of Figure 19.
Figure 21. Workshop of Donatello, Diomedes and the Palladium. Medallion in
the Medici courtyard, Palazzo Medici, Florence. From From Dacos, Nicole,
Antonio Giuliano, and Ulrico Pannuti, eds. Il tesoro di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Le
gemme. Catalogo della Mostra Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Vol. I. Florence:
Sansoni Editore, 1973: Figure 83.
Figure 22. Alexandrian, Sostratos, Dionysus on a Chariot Led by Psychai, onyxsardonyx/agate-sardonyx cameo, 40-31 or 34 BC. Museo Nazionale, Naples.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 16
From Fusco, Lauri, and Gino Corti. Lorenzo de’ Medici: Collector and
Antiquarian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006: 125, Figure 127.
Figure 23. Replication of antique gems, including Dionysus on a Chariot Led by
Psychai, Illumination attributed to Gherardo di Giovanni di Miniato, Florence,
1479-83. Filippo Pliny’s Natural History, Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1476.
Bodleian Library, Arch. G.b.6. From Alexander, Jonathan J. G., ed. The Painted
Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550. London: Royal
Academy of Arts, 1994: Cat. 85.
Figure 24. Replication of antique gems, including Dionysus on a Chariot Led by
Psychai, Illumination attributed to Gherardo di Giovanni di Miniato, Florence, c.
1470s. Alfonso’s copy of Livy’s Roman History. From Alexander, Jonathan J. G.,
ed. The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550.
London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1994: 160, Cat. 76.
Figure 25. Replication of antique gems, including Dionysus on a Chariot Led by
Psychai, Illumination attributed to Attavante degli Attavanti. Thomas Dol’s
Missal, 1483. From Alexander, Jonathan J. G., ed. The Painted Page: Italian
Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550. London: Royal Academy of Arts,
1994: 54, Cat. 3a.
Figure 26. Pendant reliquary cross. German c. 1450-75. Silver-gilt, ruby, sapphire,
garnets, pearls. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. From Lightbown, Ronald.
Mediaeval European Jewellery. London: The Victoria & Alberto Museum, 1992:
474, Plate 134.
Figure 27. Aragonese copy of Horace’s Odes (perhaps owned by Alfonso II), with
depictions of jewels. Illumination attributed to Giovanni Todeschino. Written in
Naples c. 1490-5, probably by Gianrinaldo Mennio of Sorrento. Berlin, Staatliche
Museen zu Berlin, Preussicher Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78 D 14.
From Alexander, Jonathan J. G., ed. The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book
Illumination 1450-1550. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1994: 112, cat 45.
Figure 28a-b. Ercole de’ Roberti, diptych. Left panel, Nativity Right panel, Christ
supported by Angels, with St. Jerome and St. Francis, c. 1490-3 or 1486. Tempera
on panel, 17.8 by 13.5 cm. National Gallery, London. From Molteni, M. Ercole
de’ Roberti. Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 1995: Cat 29.
Figure 29. Jean le Tavernier, Philip the Good at Mass, c. 1460. Manuscript
illumination from Traité sur l’Oraison Dominicale, MS 9092, fol 9r, Brussels,
Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier. From: Belozerskaya, Marina. Luxury Arts of the
Renaissance. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005:191, Fig. v-4.
Figure 30a-d. Piero della Francesca, Portrait diptych of Duke Federigo da
Montefeltro and Battista Sforza, with reverse Triumphs, c. 1472-4. Panel, 47 x 33
cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. From Paoletti, John T., and Gary M. Radke.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 17
Art In Renaissance Italy. Second ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002:
288, Figures 6.13 and 6.14.
Figure 31a-b. Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de’ Benci (obverse and reverse), c.
1474-8. Oil on panel, 38.1 x 37cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alisa
Mellon Bruce Fund. From Brown, David Alan, Elizabeth Cropper, Mary
Westerman Bulgarella, Dale Kent, Victoria Kirkham, Roberta Orsi Landini,
Eleonora Luciano, and Joanna Woods-Marsden. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s
Ginevra de’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women. Edited by Susan
Higman. Washington: The National Gallery of Art and Princeton University
Press, 2001: 142-4, Cat. 16.
Figure 32a-b. Ercole de’ Roberti, Giovanni II Bentivoglio and Ginevra Sforza
Bentivoglio, c. 1475. Oil on panel, 53.7 x 38.1 cm. National Gallery of Art,
Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection. From Warnke, Martin. "Individuality as
Argument: Piero della Francesca’s Portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino."
From Brown, David Alan, Elizabeth Cropper, Mary Westerman Bulgarella, Dale
Kent, Victoria Kirkham, Roberta Orsi Landini, Eleonora Luciano, and Joanna
Woods-Marsden. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra de’ Benci and
Renaissance Portraits of Women. Edited by Susan Higman. Washington: The
National Gallery of Art and Princeton University Press, 2001:103-5, Cat. 2.
Figure 33. Andrea Mantegna, The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1450-1. Tempera on
canvas, transferred from panel, 40 x 55.6 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York. From Martineau, Jane, ed. Andrea Mantegna, Exhibition Catalogue, The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Royal Academy of Arts, London.
New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1992: 126-9, Cat. 8.
Figure 34. (Copy 1A): Attributed to Gian Francesco Maineri, Nativity. Late 15thearly 16th c? 30.5 x 24 cm. Private Collection. Sold at Christie’s December 1969,
Lot 140. From Christie’s Catalogue, 93.
Figure 35. (Copy 2A): Attributed to Gian Francesco Mainieri, Nativity. Panel, 24
x 18.5cm. Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam. Kleeman, Eva C.
Italiaanse schilderijen, 1300-1500: eigen collectie / Italian paintings, 1300-1500:
Own Collection. Rotterdam: Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, 1993: Cat. 19.
Figure 36. (Copy 2B): Christ dead, previously in Cook Collection. From
Catalogue of San Marco Casa d’Aste Spa, Venice 9 July 2006: 284, Cat. 93.
Figure 37. Ercole de’ Roberti, Saint Jerome, c. 1474. Tempera and oil emulsion
on panel, 34 x 22 cm. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. From Molteni, M.
Ercole de’ Roberti. Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 1995: Cat. 14.
Figure 38. Circle of Gian Francesco Maineri, Madonna and Child, with a Penitent
Saint Jerome. Late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. New York, Private
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 18
Collection. From Manca, Joseph. The Art of Ercole de’ Roberti. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1992: Figure 63.
Figure 39. Unknown North Italian artist, Pietà with the Penitent Saint Jerome, c.
1500-05. Gemäldegalerie, Dresden. From Barstow, Kurt. The Gualenghi-d’Este
Hours. Art and Devotion in Renaissance Ferrara. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty
Museum, 2000: 184, Fig 92.
Figure 40. Unknown North Italian artist, Orpheus Playing to the Animals, late
fifteenth or early sixteenth century. Drawing. Galleria degli Uffizi, Gabinetto
disegno e stampe. From Manca, Joseph. The Art of Ercole de’ Roberti.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992: Figure 89.
Figure 41. Justus of Ghent, probably reworked by Pedro Berruguete. Federigo da
Montefeltro and His Son, Guidobaldo, about 1476. Oil on wood. Galleria
Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino. From Raggio, Olga. The Gubbio Studiolo and Its
Conservation. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Federico da Montefeltro’s Palace at Gubbio and its
Studiolo. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, 39, Figure 3-18.
Figure 42. Albrecht Dürer and workshop, representation of the gold collar of the
Order of the Jar from Maximillian’s Arch, 1512. From Chmelarz, Eduard.
Maximilian’s Triumphal Arch. Woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer and Others. New
York: Dover Publications, 1972, Plate 14.
Figure 43. Impresa of the Ermine from Paolo Giovio’s Dialogo dell’imprese
militari et amarose. From Kau, Joseph. "Daniel’s Delia and the Imprese of Bishop
Paolo Giovio: Some Iconological Influences." Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes 33 (1970): 328, Plate a.
Figure 44. Ermine emblem from the statutes belonging to Virgino Ursino, 1486.
BL MS. Add. 28,628. From de Marinis, Tommaro. La biblioteca napoletana dei
re d’Aragona. Vol. 1. Milan: Ulrico Hoepli Editore, 1952: 135.
Figure 45. Pisanello, medal of Bellotto Cumano, depicting Ermine (reverse),
1447. From Wittkower, Rudolf. "Hieroglyphics I. The Conceptual Impact of
Egypt from the Fifteenth Century Onward." In Selected Lectures of Rudolf
Wittkower. The Impact of Non-European Civilizations on the Art of the West,
edited by Donald Martin Reynolds, 94-112, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1989, 102, Figure 6-8.
Figure 46. Unknown medallist, medal of Federigo da Montefeltro, obverse and
reverse. Sixteenth century copy? From Hill, George Francis. A Corpus of Italian
Medals of the Renaissance Before Cellini. London: British Museum, 1930, Plate
50, Cat. 317.
Figure 47. Armellino, coin issued under Ferrante I d’Aragona, obverse and
reverse. Museo Nazionale, Naples. From Filangieri, Museo Gaetano, ed. Un
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 19
secolo di grande arte nella monetazione di Napoli (1442-1556). Vol. I. Naples:
Museo Filangieri, 1973, 78, Cat. 67.
Figure 48. Armellino coin issued under Alfonso II d’Aragona, obverse and
reverse. Museo Nazionale, Naples. From Filangieri, Museo Gaetano, ed. Un
secolo di grande arte nella monetazione di Napoli (1442-1556). Vol. I. Naples:
Museo Filangieri, 1973, 96, Cat. 104.
Figure 49. Detail of ermine medallion, Castel Nuovo doors (copies in situ),
Naples. Bronze. Originals, c. 1474-75 by Guglielmo lo Monaco. Photograph by
author.
Figure 50. Guglielmo lo Monaco, Castel Nuovo doors, c. 1474-5. Bronze. Museo
Civico del Castel Nuovo, Naples. From Hersey, George L. The Aragonese Arch at
Naples. 1443-1475. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1973, Plate
57.
Figure 51. Guglielmo lo Monaco, detail of the central right panel, Castel Nuovo
doors, c. 1474-5. Bronze. Museo Civico del Castel Nuovo, Naples. From Hersey,
George L. The Aragonese Arch at Naples. 1443-1475. New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 1973, Plate 62.
Figure 52. Aragonese Arch. Engraving in Pompeo Sarnelli’s Guida dei forestieri,
Naples: Antonio Bulifon, 1685, 34. From Hersey, George L. The Aragonese Arch
at Naples. 1443-1475. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1973,
Plate 2.
Figure 53. Aragonese arch, with view of main portal (where bronze doors, when
closed, are visible). Castel Nuovo, Naples. Marble, 1442-75. From Hersey,
George L. The Aragonese Arch at Naples. 1443-1475. New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 1973, Plate 27.
Figure 54. Giuliano da Maiano? Detail of coffered ceiling, with ermine,
completed by 1475. Urbino studiolo. From Raggio, Olga. The Gubbio Studiolo
and Its Conservation. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Federico da Montefeltro’s Palace at Gubbio
and its Studiolo. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, 108, Figure
5-49.
Figure 55. Illuminations by Cola Rapicano, Andrea Contrario’s Reprehensio sive
objurgatio in calumniatorem divini Platonis, folio 3r, 1471. BNP, Paris, latin
12947. From Alexander, Jonathan J. G., ed. The Painted Page: Italian
Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550. London: Royal Academy of Arts,
1994, 65, Cat. 10.
Figure 56. Illuminations by Cola Rapicano, Duns Scotus’ Quaestiones on the
Sentences of Peter Lombard, Book IV: Distinctiones, 1-16, folio 8r, c. 1480-5.
BL, London, Additional MS. 15273. From Alexander, Jonathan J. G., ed. The
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 20
Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550. London: Royal
Academy of Arts, 1994, 64, cat. 9.
Figure 57. Frontispiece to Diomede Carafa’s De istitutione vivendi, c. 1476.
Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, cod. 1654. Script by Giovan Marco Cinico. From de
Divitiis, Bianca. Architettura e committenza nella Napoli del Quattrocento.
Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2007, 13, Figure 4.
Figure 58. Guido Mazzoni, bust of Ferrante d’Aragona (or Alfonso II?), c. 148992. Bronze. Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples. From Hersey, George L.
Alfonso II and the Artistic Renewal of Naples 1485-1495. New Haven and
London: Yale University Press, 1969, Plate 36.
Figure 59. Portrait of Ferrante from Scipione Mazzella’s Le vite dei re di Napoli.
BNN. SEZ NAP II.C.74. Naples: Gioseppe Bonfadino, 1594, 318. Photograph by
author, with permission from BNN.
Figure 60. Studiolo of Urbino with coffered ceiling, Famous Men, and intarsia,
with detail of ermine collar. View of the west and north walls, c. 1470s. From
Cheles, Luciano. The Studiolo of Urbino: An Iconographic Investigation
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986: 118, Pl II.
Figure 61. Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano or Francione and Pontelli? Portrait
of Federigo da Montefeltro. Intarsia, north wall. Urbino studiolo. From Cheles,
Luciano. The Studiolo of Urbino: An Iconographic Investigation University Park:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986: Figure 105.
Figure 62. Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano, ermine detail, 1480s. Intarsia.
Gubbio studiolo. From Raggio, Olga. The Gubbio Studiolo and Its Conservation.
2 vols. Vol. 1. Federico da Montefeltro’s Palace at Gubbio and its Studiolo. New
York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, 118, Figure 5-66.
Figure 63. Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano, collar of the Order of the Ermine
detail, 1480s. Intarsia. Gubbio studiolo. From Raggio, Olga. The Gubbio Studiolo
and Its Conservation. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Federico da Montefeltro’s Palace at Gubbio
and its Studiolo. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, 121, Figure
5-76.
Figure 64a-b. Illuminations by Guglielmo Giraldi, Dante Alighieri’s Divina
Commedia, Purgatorio, folio 97r, 1478-82. BAVat, Urb. Lat. 375. Federigo da
Montefeltro’s copy. From Raggio, Olga. The Gubbio Studiolo and Its
Conservation. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Federico da Montefeltro’s Palace at Gubbio and its
Studiolo. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, 123, Figure 5-78.
Figure 65a-b. Illumination attributed to Francesco Rosselli, Leonardo Bruni’s
Historia florentini populi, folio 2r, c. 1440-50, with first page rewritten, c. 147582. BAVat, Urb. Lat. 464. From Alexander, Jonathan J. G., ed. The Painted Page:
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 21
Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550. London: Royal Academy of
Arts, 1994, 141, Cat. 64.
Figure 66. Vittorio Carpaccio, Portrait of a Knight (?Francesco Maria delle
Rovere), 1510? or early sixteenth century. Oil on canvas. Thyssen-Bornemisza
Collection, Madrid. From Sgarbi, Vittorio. Carpaccio. Translated by Jay Hyams.
New York and London: Abbeville Press, 1994, 155, Cat. 34.
Figure 67. Leonardo da Vinci, The Ermine as Symbol of Purity, c. 1494. Pen and
brown ink over slight traces of black chalk, on paper. Reference Number, 7503,
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. From the Fitzwilliam Museum’s website:
http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk
Figure 68. Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani). Oil on
panel, 53.4 x 39.3 cm. Czartoryski Museum, Cracow. From Cole, Alison. Virtue
and Magnificence. Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts. New York: Harry N.
Abrams Incorporated, 1995: 99, figure 72.
Figure 69a. Detail of Ferrante bestowing the Order of the Ermine on Federigo da
Montefeltro, folio 2R, 1474. Illumination from the oration on the occasion of
Federigo’s investiture, written by Joan Marco Cinico. Biblioteca Marciana, codice
lat xi, 53 (4009). From de Marinis, Tommaro. La biblioteca napoletana dei Re
d’Aragona. Vol. IV. Milan: Ulrico Hoepli Editore, 1947: Tavola 301. (Photo of
the reproduction, granted by UBC Library, Rare Books and Special Collections).
Figure 69b. Frontispiece and script from the oration on the occasion of Federigo’s
investiture, signed by Joan Marco Cinico, 1474. Biblioteca Marciana, codice lat
xi, 53 (4009). From de Marinis, Tommaro. La biblioteca napoletana dei Re
d’Aragona. Vol. IV. Milan: Ulrico Hoepli Editore, 1947: Tavola 301. (Photo of
the reproduction, granted by UBC Library, Rare Books and Special Collections).
Figure 70a. Ercole de’ Roberti, Portia and Brutus, c. 1486-90. Tempera on panel,
48.7 x 34.3 cm. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. From Allen, Denise, Luke
Syson, Jennifer Helvey, and David Jaffé. "Catalogue: Ercole de’ Roberti: The
Renaissance in Ferrara. Special Supplement." Burlington Magazine CXLI, no.
1153 (1999): xxxv, Cat. VIII.
Figure 70b. Ercole de’ Roberti, The Wife of Hasdrubal and Her Children, c. 148690. ?Tempera on panel, 47.1 x 30.6cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington.
From Allen, Denise, Luke Syson, Jennifer Helvey, and David Jaffé. "Catalogue:
Ercole de’ Roberti: The Renaissance in Ferrara. Special Supplement." Burlington
Magazine CXLI, no. 1153 (1999): xxxiv, Cat. VI.
Figure 70c. Ercole de’ Roberti with Giovan Francesco di Maineri or workshop,
Lucrezia, Brutus and Collatinus, c.1486-90. ?Tempera on panel, 48.7 x 35.5cm.
Galleria Estense, Modena. From Allen, Denise, Luke Syson, Jennifer Helvey, and
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 22
David Jaffé. "Catalogue: Ercole de’ Roberti: The Renaissance in Ferrara. Special
Supplement." Burlington Magazine CXLI, no. 1153 (1999): xxxiii, Cat. VII.
Figure 71. Entry from ASMO, Amministrazione dei Principe 638, 7R.
Photography by author with permission from ASMO.
Figure 72. Parchment cover from ASMO, Amministrazione dei Principe 638.
Photograph by author with permission from ASMO.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 23
Introduction
In September 1479 Paulo Antonio Trotti, the Ferrarese ambassador, wrote
to Eleonora d’Aragona Duchess of Ferrara about his visit with Duke
Giangaleazzo Maria Sforza of Milan. 1 Trotti reported that the Duke of Milan had
shown him a number of his possessions and Trotti took note of the duke’s
necklace, describing it as “a ruby attached to a gold chain, extremely big and
large, which was the [jewel] called il spigo once belonging to Re Alfonso [I
d’Aragona], which is the most beautiful thing I have seen.” 2 Trotti continues to
describe his visit:
Yesterday [the duke] showed me all of his jewels which are all things
certainly stupendous, and he also showed me many gold saints […]
and other animals all in gold which are worth many millions of ducati
and today he let me see the medals containing his portrait and [that
of] Duke Galeazzo, which are each ten thousand ducati […] Then we
saw 12 large silver candlesticks which were bigger than two men and
very large and after [that] eight really large silver saints and a cross
and other candlesticks which were on the altar. I’ve never seen such
fine and honourable things and these were in the cappella where sung
mass is heard every day. 3
Trotti’s report of his visit to the Duke of Milan’s collections is a common enough
example among fifteenth-century ambassador reports, but it highlights some
1
ASMO AMB MIL 3. 241-2. The letter is dated 22 September 1479. For all archival abbreviations
please refer to the section labelled “Primary Archival Sources” at the end of this thesis. All
translations by author unless otherwise noted.
2
“epso duca haeva al collo uno balasso atachato in una cadenella de oro, grosissimo e grande ch[e]
fu quello ch[e] fu del Re alfonso chiamato il spigo ch[e] no[n] vidi mai la piu bella cosse” ASMO
AMB MIL 3. 242.
3
“Heri la mo[n]strete tute le zoglie ch[e] la al s. ch[e] certame[nte] sono cosse extupende e qui la
ne feri mostrari cosse assai come fu molti sancti de oro massizo no[n] p[er]o tropo grandi e altri
animali tuti doro ch[e] valeno assai meglione de ducati et hozi la ne dele fare vedre le medaie
ch[e] e la figura sua e del duca galeazo ch[e] li son antro p[e] cadauna dici milia ducati e dice
ch[e] la ne ha dicti de queste si ch[e] queste sono cosse grande e da gran signori se vedesti xij
ca[n]deleri de argento grandi piu ch[e] no[n] sono quasi dui homini e grosissimj e da poi octo
sancti di argento assai grande e una croze e altri candelerei ch[e] seno suso lo altaro no[n] vedesti
nimi la piu digna e honorevole cosse e questi co[n]tinuame[n]te sono stati in la capella dove olde
il. S messe cantata ogni die.” ASMO AMB MIL 3. 242.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 24
important aspects of objects in relation to court culture. Attention to jewellery and
clothing is a remarkably standard feature in ambassadorial correspondence.
Narratives of gems and jewels circulated in a variety of forms, exemplified here
by Trotti’s letter, but we also find the histories of such objects circulating in print,
often found in texts written on histories of artists, people, or cities. 4 The jewel, as
was common in the late fifteenth century, is given a name: “il spigo.” Il spigo is
also described as once belonging to King Alfonso I of Naples. These two aspects
are significant: first, the naming of jewels individualises them, making them
precious rarities, with histories, which were crucial to their value. Second, owning
an item once owned by an illustrious individual—in this case, the former King of
Naples—became an essential part of the prestige of ownership, all concerns that
are addressed in chapter two. These jewels circulated frequently, since they were
often used as pawns, serving as liquid capital or a form of currency. In addition,
knowledge about these gems or jewels was of central importance, allowing not
only owners, but also viewers and visitors to display their knowledge when
discussing the objects. Images crafted in these jewels and gems were also copied
in a variety of media, from manuscript illumination to seals to architectural
medallions. These replications ask us to consider the different ways these visual
forms were circulated and also prompt us to investigate why these objects were
copied in the first place.
Trotti’s report also emphasises Duchess Eleonora’s need to be informed on
the objects owned by the Duke of Milan. This is significant for a number of
reasons. Objects were markers of social status and it was important for rulers to
4
See chapter two for examples of such stories and narratives about gems and jewels.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 25
ensure that their right to rule was reflected and legitimated in the magnificence of
the objects he or she collected and displayed. The Duke of Milan, like many
rulers, sought to show off his collections to visitors, and undoubtedly hoped that
an ambassador like Trotti would report back to Ferrara on the glory of his
treasures. Knowledge of objects, especially for a collector like Eleonora, was also
extremely important. Since precious objects circulated frequently through the
economy of pawning, credit, and gifting, it was necessary to know who owned
what, where that object was currently located, and how it might be procured in the
future. After all, Alfonso I was Eleonora’s grandfather and such a jewel was
thereby charged with memories of lineage. Purchasing an object once owned by
another ruler could prove contentious, and acquisition was often political. But
knowledge of where objects were located, the relationships between objects, their
stories, and their provenances also proved to be a crucial aspect of
connoisseurship, related to the practices of collecting and humanist culture.
Tracing the circulation of objects through gift exchange, pawning, and collecting,
reveals connections between individuals across the courts, and also underlines the
relationship between people and things, that is, between the social and the
material.
Copying and quoting artistic forms—whether gems, jewels, paintings,
antique fragments, or architecture—became an essential component of visual
imagery and representation in the late fifteenth century. The replication,
invention, and translation of artistic forms brings forward new ways of
understanding not only ownership of these objects, but also the importance of
copies and how this establishes relationships between objects. The quotation of
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 26
both objects and texts in contemporary works of art, I argue, gave rise to new
modes of viewing visual imagery that are brought forward by studiolo culture.
This form of viewing requires decipherment; it asks viewers to piece together
disparate parts and fragments thereby constructing meanings across space and
media.
Giovanni Pontano, the famous Neapolitan humanist, court secretary, and
counsellor, also details the prominence of objects at court in his De splendore. 5
He states:
On some occasions rarity can also determine value. It is said that
[King] Alfonso [I d’Aragona of Naples] jumped for joy when
Ciriaco d’Ancona gave him a metal plaquette (elettro) 6, which
contained a fly with its wings spread: a very small thing, but its
rarity made it great in the eyes of the prince, who was measuring
not its price, but its rarity. Sometimes art makes an acceptable gift.
What did the same Alfonso keep with such pleasure but a picture
by the painter Giovanni [Jan van Eyck]? There are some that prefer
the tiniest little vase of that material which they call porcelain to
vases of silver and of gold even though the latter are of higher cost.
It does happen occasionally that the excellence of the gift is not
judged so much by its cost, as by its beauty, its rarity, and its
elegance.
-Giovanni Pontano, De splendore, 1498 7
Pontano brings to the fore many of the issues that this thesis addresses: the
importance of objects in the Italian courts in the late fifteenth century, the
5
Giovanni Pontano, I libri delle virtù sociali, ed. Francesco Tateo (Rome: Bulzoni Editore, 1999).
For a discussion on De splendore see Evelyn S. Welch, "Public Magnificence and Private
Display. Giovanni Pontano's De Splendore (1498) and the Domestic Arts," Journal of Design
History 15, no. 4 (2002). For an overview of Pontano see Jerry H. Bentley, Politics and Culture in
Renaissance Naples (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 127-34.
6
“elettro” refers to a silver-gold alloy, a material used in Greek coinage. Presumably, Pontano is
referring to a sort of coin-shaped plaquette, with a carved or imprinted fly depicted on it. See entry
for elettro in Alcide Giallonardi, ed., Dizionario Larousse dell'antiquariato. Maggiore e minore
(Rome: Gremese Editore, 1991).
7
Pontano, Virtù sociali, 213. Also partially quoted in English in Welch, "Public Magnificence,"
212.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 27
different means by which objects accrue value, the various social exchanges
established through the circulation of objects, and the ways in which the value of
an object is intrinsically tied to the role it plays in ritual or symbolic activities.
Pontano illuminates the significance of social interactions attached to objects
through the notion of the gift. Here, he celebrates the rarity of a small plaquette
and notes the importance of artistic style in a northern painting by van Eyck.
Pontano thus stresses the varied values of objects at court, not only monetary, but
the diverse qualities—rarity, elegance, style, and materials—that imbue objects
with meaning and value.
This thesis examines the courts of Italy through the myriad of objects—
statues, paintings, jewellery, furniture, and heraldry—that were valued for their
particular material forms, histories, and social functions. Such objects are
examined not only as components of court life, but agents which activated the
symbolic and ritual practices that constituted relations within and between courts.
These activities—the exchange of diplomatic gifts, the consumption of precious
objects, the displaying of collectibles, and the bestowing of knightly orders—
were all ways that objects acted as points of contact between individuals, giving
rise to new associations and new interests. It was through these very practices that
objects partook in social life, accruing histories that contributed to their cultural,
economic, and material values.
I. The Court: The Prince, Communities, and Associations
A focus on objects moves us away from traditional approaches to court
society, which have tended to concentrate on the prince. This project thus opens
up avenues to examine the interrelationships and interconnections between courts,
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 28
suggesting how political relations could often be found in the objects themselves.
Numerous studies have placed emphasis on the prince, which will be addressed
below, but I would like to start with Lauro Martines’ 1979 study of Italian
Renaissance city-states to underline why we need to question such assumptions.
The “prince” functions in Martines’ and others’ studies as a title for anyone who
holds power over a court, which could include a marquis, count, duke, or king.
Martines states:
Everything went to serve him [the prince]. This meant not only the
physical fact that he was flanked by teams of servitors and
servants, but also that consciousness itself was turned his way.
Men were there to carry out his wishes: they had no social identity
apart from the one profiled in the fundamental relation at court,
that between service and lordship. 8
For Martines, social identities of members of the court are determined by the
prince alone, which leaves little room to analyse the more complicated
associations, social groups, identities, and relations that were formed between
courts and within courts that may not necessarily have had a direct correlation
with the ruler. Moreover, the different artefacts I examine throughout this thesis
also bring forward the importance of regents and consorts at court. The prince, for
Martines, constitutes the “centerpoint of the courtly order of consciousness,” it is
“around that point (lordship) [that] all life revolved (service), all the dominant
forms of thought, passion, and entertainment.” 9
While Martines constantly reiterates the central power of the prince, there
appears a tension in his analysis between the prince/court and the communal
8
Lauro Martines, Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1979), 227.
9
Martines, Power and Imagination, 229.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 29
government or other communal groups, which he does not fully address. He
notes, for instance, that the signorial lord took interest in whom was appointed on
communal councils, “which implies that the council had more value than
historians have often supposed and that even rubber-stamping was an important
operation in the conduct of signorial government.” 10 This suggests, contrary to
Martines’ main argument, that the prince was not the only power, and that court
life was often about a negotiation between the interests of the prince (or those in
power) and those of other groups.
However, while Martines argues for a conception of the court as strictly
revolving around the prince, his study does suggest the importance of
representation, and hints at the ways in which the idea/ideal of the court is not the
same as the actual court. He notes that the courts were inclined to promote selfimagery, whether it was expressed in portraits found on medals, in frescoes, or in
the singular painted portrait, or “to be found in the objects around: in court
tapestries, playing cards, decorated earthenware, embroidered silks, wedding
chests, engraved arms and armor plate, and even a variety of sugar confections for
special banquets.” 11 These forms of self-imagery are the modes of representation
through which the prince attempted to promote the hegemony of the ruling
dynasty, and to legitimate his rule. As I will argue, it was not only the prince, but
also the different actors at court who required these forms of representation to
legitimate their position, and it was through the myriad of objects, often used in
ritual, that individuals made claims for power.
10
11
Martines, Power and Imagination, 104.
Martines, Power and Imagination, 230.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 30
The courts of Ferrara and Naples are central to this thesis, but their
interrelationships with other Italian centres such as Milan, Urbino, and Florence
are also essential (Figure 1). By taking various objects as starting points for
examining these relationships, this project moves away from the study of one
patron or prince or one court, and instead, examines the various actors involved in
the courts, which I argue consisted of both objects and subjects. The objects
chosen are varied, allowing for a variety of perspectives and materials to be
studied: a colossal bronze fragmented statue; small jewels, cameos, and hardstone
vases, and their replication in a variety of media; the lettuccio or daybed; a
devotional diptych; and the impresa of the Order of the Ermine and its
dissemination across media. The vast array of material objects and visual imagery
studied is not meant to be comprehensive but rather serves to underline the very
diversity of objects within the court context, and the ways in which those objects
interacted or entered into dialogue with each other across media. Studying the
trajectories of these varied objects—through their movement and circulation—
provides an intriguing way to understand how they acted as points of contact
between individuals. This circulation may be fairly restricted in some cases, such
as a portable diptych in a collection, examined in chapter three, which was taken
out and used in one’s apartments or taken along in travel. But circulation could
also be quite wide, as the example of small gems that were pawned and frequently
changed hands within Italy and even across Europe, demonstrated in chapter two.
The objects that constitute the focus of this thesis are ones that repeatedly
resurface in the textual and visual sources. These sources include paintings,
sculpture, furniture, jewellery, manuscript illuminations, and architecture, as well
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 31
as official and unofficial documents, such as ambassadorial reports, chronicles,
personal letters, diplomatic correspondence, account books, inventories,
manuscripts, printed books, statutes, anecdotes, and local narratives. The objects,
then, were chosen because they have something polemical or controversial about
them; they initiated discussion or prompted interest. 12
Numerous individuals—dukes, duchesses, kings, counts, artists,
ambassadors, and merchants—resurface throughout this thesis: King Alfonso I
d’Aragona, King Ferrante d’Aragona, 13 Count Diomede Carafa of Maddaloni,
Duchess Ippolita Sforza and Duke Alfonso II d’Aragona of Calabria, at the court
of Naples; Duke Ercole d’Este, Duchess Eleonora d’Aragona, and the artist
Ercole de’ Roberti of Ferrara; Duke Galeazzo Sforza and Ambassador Francesco
Maleta of Milan; and Lorenzo de’ Medici, Filippo Strozzi, and Giuliano Gondi of
Florence, among many others. The relationships between these individuals are
drawn out further by examining the objects exchanged between them, whether
through gift exchange, mercantile networks, credit, or pawning.
Ferrara and Naples were intertwined through marriage and political ties, as
well as through cultural exchange, and thus serve as important courts to focus on.
These social, political, and cultural networks also provide intriguing examples of
interrelations between courts. Both courts at the end of the fifteenth century were
fervent humanist centres: Ferrara had a very distinct artistic style exemplified in
works by Cosmè Tura and Ercole de’ Roberti, while Naples was a mix of a
12
For some important thoughts on ‘polemical objects’ see the issue of Res devoted to the subject:
Philip Armstrong, Stephen Melville, and Erika Naginski, "Polemical Objects," Res 46 (2004).
13
It should be noted that King Ferrante of Aragon, son of Alfonso I d’Aragona, is referenced as
both Ferrante and Ferdinando in the literature. I use the name Ferrante unless quoted as
Ferdinando by another author.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 32
variety of styles, including French, Catalan, and Italian. Ferrara, one of the
smaller northern courts—a dukedom—provides a useful contrast to the larger
southern Kingdom of Naples. Ferrara’s court records, now in Modena, are some
of the best preserved administrative court documents to survive from the fifteenth
century, thus providing a wealth of archival sources, especially in terms of
account books and inventories. Fifteenth-century Neapolitan court archives,
unfortunately, were destroyed during World War II, and as a result, fifteenthcentury Naples has often been neglected in the English literature. 14 However,
Milanese ambassador reports to Naples still survive in extremely good condition
in Milan and detailed nineteenth-century transcriptions of Neapolitan account
books also prove to be very useful. By focussing on Ferrara and Naples, I have
been able to study closely two very different, yet interconnecting courts, while
also engaging with their interrelations with other courts and centres across Italy.
An emphasis on the circulation of objects reveals that political relations
could be frequently manifested in the objects themselves, rather than the assumed
locations of power, such as the body of the prince, and allows us to question some
of the previously conceived notions of the court. By investigating the different
materials and forms of each object, we can understand how objects operate within
ritual and social practices in dramatically diverse and intriguing ways. Chapter
one examines the gift of a bronze colossal horse’s head, sent from Lorenzo de’
Medici to Diomede Carafa, Count of Maddaloni, and political advisor to the King
of Naples. The sculpture is a fragment, an object whose provenance and date is up
14
For a recent reassessment of Naples, see the introduction and other essays in the special volume
of Art History: Cordelia Warr and Janis Elliott, "Introduction: Reassessing Naples 1266-1713," Art
History 31, no. 4 (2008).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 33
for debate, and it thus serves as the source for numerous narratives. The horse’s
head is described both as an antiquity—the vestiges of an equestrian statue that
was synonymous with Neapolitan identity and history—and a Renaissance
creation—the remains of an unfinished project by Donatello planned for the
triumphal Arch at the Castel Nuovo to honour King Alfonso I. The value of the
object, I argue, is located both in its material form—that of the bronze fragment
and its unknown provenance and equestrian iconography—as well as in its role as
a diplomatic gift between two political figures who were active collectors.
The horse’s head is also examined in relation to the tradition of the equine
in Italy at this time, which included the gifting, lending, racing, and collecting of
real horses. The fragmentary nature of the bronze horse’s head proves crucial in
understanding the sculpture as a part of a whole, or I should say, a part of various
wholes: it is part of a larger destroyed or unfinished statue, part of the history and
foundation of Naples, part of the diplomatic negotiations between Naples and
Florence, part of the insignia of the Seggio (quarter) of the Nido, part of the rituals
of lending, racing and owning horses, part of the collection of Diomede Carafa,
and consequently part of the Carafa Palace.
Moving from the colossal fragment, we turn to smaller and more intimate
objects that circulated much more easily, as a form of currency in chapter two.
The narratives told about the horse’s head can be related to the significance of
stories for the value of antique gems, jewellery, and hardstone vases, that moved
through mercantile networks in the late Quattrocento. The copying and replication
of such gems in a variety of media, from manuscript illumination to architectural
medallions, acted as a means to manage or stabilise these objects, which were
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 34
somehow loose when used as currency. The possession of such objects, then, is
linked to temporality, since this was often for a limited time. Value, however, also
migrates through replication and representation, and knowledge is disseminated
through this process.
The lettuccio was another luxury good that brought merchant-bankers
together with the courts, through the shipment of the daybed from Florence to
Naples. The practice of pawning is examined to demonstrate how objects could
also cause conflicts between courts when one ruler purchases the pawned
possession of another. Chapter two, then, deals with a diversity of objects and
materials examining how they served as points of contact between individuals
from artisans, servants, and customs agents, to merchant-bankers, counts,
duchesses, and kings.
The replication and copying of gems is also linked to what Leonard Barkan
has called “an alternative system of value” whereby many collectors owned
contemporary copies of an antiquity, as well as the original. 15 Works of art,
whether an antique gem or a contemporary painting, are thus seen within a
tradition of artistic invention and inspiration, giving rise to copies and new ways
of exploring subject matter or form. Chapter three examines a diptych painted by
Ercole de’ Roberti, belonging to the collections of Duchess Eleonora d’Aragona
of Ferrara, that copied elements of a painting by Andrea Mantegna, and that gave
rise to a series of copies and imitations by other artists. In this chapter, I pay
attention to the diptych form, and examine the ways the multiple images on the
15
Leonard Barkan, Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of
Renaissance Culture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), 260.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 35
diptych, and their reference to other objects and texts in Eleonora’s collections,
encouraged a particular mode of viewing, asking the viewer to piece together the
various textual and visual sources in an intertextual manner. I argue that this
intertextual reading can be linked to new modes of viewing exemplified in the
tradition of fabula and myth, which became a crucial aspect of studiolo culture
and collecting.
Paying close attention to the book-like form of the diptych, and the
emphasis on the body and the senses in the images depicted, I examine the ways
the diptych spoke to humanist debates and religious practices in Ferrara. These
debates held a deeper resonance, engaging not only in cultural questions, but
alluding to social controversies around the rise of a new nobility, initiated under
the rule of Borso d’Este, and continued under Ercole d’Este. 16 Visual images in
Ferrara are thus not only a reflection of these debates, but active agents, which
engage with, and contribute to, these controversies.
In my final chapter I turn to the impresa—the Order of the Ermine—to
examine how a repeatable sign is employed across media to link a specific body
of individuals across time and space, and how the material components of the
Order—the mantle with ermine fur and the gold collar with the pendant ermine—
are crucial to the rites of that Order. The Order was inaugurated by King Ferrante
in 1465 after his successful victory over the rebellious barons, and it was thus
closely associated to his rule and Aragonese hegemony. In contrast to the
replication of gems in a multiplicity of forms, examined in chapter two, the
16
Much of my thinking on this subject has been greatly influenced by Campbell. See Stephen
Campbell, "Pictura and Scriptura: Cosmè Tura and Style as Courtly Performance," Art History 19,
no. 2 (1996): 267-95.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 36
emblem of the ermine always remains the same, even when translated in different
media such as coins, medals, architectural medallions, portraiture, sculpture, and
manuscript illumination. The emblem’s fixed repeatable sign becomes crucial in
its ability to reference a constellation of symbolic associations and claims within
an image. The impresa asks the viewer to piece together the visual sign of the
ermine, the written mottoes, and the symbolic references associated with the
Order, which operates in a similar way to emblematic or fabulesque modes of
reading/viewing. The chapter concludes with three panels by Roberti belonging to
Eleonora d’Aragona (Ferrante’s daughter), which depict the mottoes of the Order
of the Ermine in allegorical form. 17 Here, three different stories of antique
heroines are woven together from a series of sources, which read together, lead
the viewer to decipher the main motto of the Order of the Ermine, malo mori
quam feodari (death rather than dishonour).
In attempts to elucidate some of the social and political relationships within
and between courts, I will provide here an outline of the political history of the
Italian courts, with a focus on Ferrara and Naples. In its brevity, the complexity of
such relations is only touched upon. It is meant to demonstrate why we need to reexamine Martines’ and others’ theories of the prince as the central focus of the
court, and to insist that there were a variety of communities and social groups,
that interacted within and across courts.
In 1443, Alfonso I d’Aragona entered Naples in triumphal entry, an event
depicted in marble relief on the façade of the triumphal arch at the Castel Nuovo
17
Wilkins-Sullivan was the first to correlate the paintings with the Order’s motto, Ruth Wilkins
Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels on the Theme of "Death rather than Dishonour" and the
Neapolitan Connection," Zeitschrift Für Kunstgeschichte 57, no. 4 (1994): 610-25.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 37
in Naples (Figure 2). 18 Alfonso had been granted the rights to the kingdom by
Giovanna II, the last Angevin monarch, who adopted Alfonso and made him her
successor. 19 Alfonso faced opposition by a number of barons as well as by René
d’Anjou, who also laid claim to the kingdom. Alfonso won the kingdom through a
fierce military campaign and attempted to consolidate his position through
political and diplomatic support within the kingdom and across Italy. To counter
the influential Neapolitan barons, Alfonso encouraged the development of a class
of educated and talented bureaucrats, who were dependent on him for honours
and benefices. The Kingdom of Naples, however, was itself a dependency of the
Holy See, so that upon Alfonso’s death in 1458, Alfonso’s illegitimate son,
Ferrante d’Aragona (Duke of Calabria), had to seek papal approval for his
election. 20 This was not granted by Calixtus, but with the election of Pius II,
Ferrante was established as ruler of the Kingdom of Naples. Contestations to
Ferrante’s rule from many Neapolitan barons and the Angevins resulted in
18
For the arch see George L. Hersey, The Aragonese Arch at Naples. 1443-1475 (New Haven and
London: Yale University Press, 1973).
19
While there is much written on the political history of Naples, I have found the following
sources extremely useful for this particular time period. Bentley, Politics and Culture, 7-21; David
Abulafia, "Introduction: From Ferrante I to Charles VIII," in The French Descent Into
Renaissance Italy 1494-95: Antecedents and Effects, ed. David Abulafia (Hampshire and
Vermont: Variorum Ashgate Publishing Company, 1995), 1-25; Vincent Ilardi, "Towards the
Tragedia d'Italia: Ferrante and Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Friendly Enemies and Hostile Allies," in
The French Descent into Renaissance Italy 1494-95: Antecedents and Effects, ed. David Abulafia
(Hampshire and Vermont: Variorum Ashgate Publishing Company, 1995), 91-122. For other
studies on Naples see Ferdinando Bologna, Napoli e le rotte mediterranee della pittura. Da
Alfonso il Magnanimo a Ferdinando il Cattolico (Napoli: Società Napoletana di Storia Patria,
1977); Vittorio Gleijeses, La Storia di Napoli dalle origini ai giorni nostri, vol. 2 (Naples:
Edizioni Alfonso d'Aragona da Legma, 1996); George L. Hersey, Alfonso II and the Artistic
Renewal of Naples 1485-1495 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969); Atanasio
Mozzilo and Giuseppe Galasso, eds., Storia di Napoli. Napoli Aragonese, vol. IV tomo I (Torino
e Firenze: Arti Grafiche, 1974); Ernesto Pontieri, Per la storia del regno di Ferrante I D'Aragona
re di Napoli. Studi e ricerche (Naples: A. Morano Editore, 1969); Francesco Sabatini and Mario
Santoro, eds., Storia di Napoli. Napoli Aragonese, vol. IV tomo II (Torino e Firenze: Arti
Grafiche, 1974).
20
Abulafia, "Introduction," 4.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 38
warfare until 1465 (Figure 3 depicts the triumphal flotilla of the Aragonese
entering victoriously into Naples’ harbour). Alfonso I allowed for increased
authority of the barons over feudal communes, while ensuring central control by
appointing officials as representatives in the feudal towns. Ferrante altered these
policies slightly, by attempting to assert new members into the baronage and
renewing the administrative systems in the provinces, thus creating a relative
mobility in the ranks of the feudal nobility. 21 Furthermore, this social mobility
ensured that an overlap occurred in the administration of the noble seggi (quarters
or neighbourhoods) in Naples, whereby the old urban nobility could be countered
by new Aragonese supporters. 22
While a Neapolitan noble such as Diomede Carafa entered into service for
the Aragonese, and in general, can be seen as supportive of Aragonese rule, he
also had his own political and social interests apart from the Aragonese. A
prominent humanist, collector, count, and an important figure in his
neighbourhood, the Seggio di Nido, Carafa was also political advisor, diplomat,
secretary, and guardarobiere for the Aragonese. An individual like Diomede, as
discussed in chapter one, thus had a variety of loyalties, and required
representation to legitimise his own eminence in political, social, and cultural
spheres. It was through the receiving and giving of gifts—such as the colossal
horse’s head displayed in Diomede’s courtyard and given to him by Lorenzo de’
Medici—that served to solidify political relations and to secure individuals with
21
Eleni Sakellariou, "Institutional and Social Continuities in the Kingdom of Naples Between
1443 and 1528," in The French Descent into Renaissance Italy 1494-95: Antecedents and Effects,
ed. David Abulafia (Hampshire and Vermont: Variorum Ashgate Publishing Company, 1995).
22
Sakellariou, "Institutional and Social Continuities," 339-40. Also see Abulafia, "Introduction,"
8-11.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 39
powerful positions at court. While Diomede was very loyal to the Aragonese, the
Neapolitan crown’s relations with other local barons were constantly unstable. It
has been noted that it was the expansionist policies of Alfonso II, Duke of
Calabria, which caused the second Baron’s Revolt in 1485-6, although Ferrante’s
“anti-feudal policy” no doubt played a role as well. 23 In attempts to secure fidelity
among individuals across Italy and Europe, Ferrante instituted the Order of the
Ermine in 1465, as examined in chapter four. The gold collar, the mantle, the
statutes, and the repeated sign of the emblem of the ermine, served as material
memories of investiture, binding members into obligation.
The Lega or Italian League instituted in 1455 saw the Aragonese enter into
a formal alliance with Florence and Milan. The treaty was to secure a “diplomatic
hegemony” between Milan, Florence, and Naples, and was bolstered by the dual
marriage alliances of Ippolita Sforza and Sforza Maria, two children belonging to
Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, with Ferrante’s children, Alfonso II d’Aragona
and Eleonora d’Aragona respectively. 24 Gift-giving between these individuals
became a crucial rite in these negotiations, which sometimes resulted in
unexpected obligations. The Sforza, Aragonese, Medici, and Este were also
frequently in competition with each other over the procurement of antiquities and
precious objects, which often complicated relations. Peace was hardly realised as
23
Abulafia, "Introduction," 11.
For these political negotiations see Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia." Also see below, chapter one
for an expanded analysis.
24
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 40
alliances and counter-alliances between other states hindered any secure coalition,
and deteriorated to the extent that a new Lega had to be re-established in 1470. 25
The Aragonese’s rise to power in Naples was quite different from other
families who gained prominence and power in the courts, although the instability
of rule and the need for legitimisation was common among the leading political
figures in Italy. As Jacob Burckhardt remarked in his famous text, The
Civilization of the Renaissance, a striking feature of this period was the rise to
power, and the institution of, independent dynasties by condottieri, who were
most often illegitimate. 26 Federigo da Montefeltro is often cited as the
quintessential example of how an illegitimate son of a count could rise to the
status of duke through his military prowess. 27 Federigo, from 1460 until his death
in 1482, was the general not only of the King of Naples, but also the league of
Italian states, while at the same time serving the papacy, and he was thus caught
in conflicting loyalties. 28 Federigo’s studiolo, as examined in chapter four,
contained numerous representations of the ermine, emblematising Federigo’s
membership in the prestigious Order of the Ermine and his loyalty to the
Neapolitan crown.
In contrast to Republican Florence, for instance, those who held power in
seigniorial states, whether they were a lord, marquess, duke, count, or king, were
not hindered by the same accusations of flaunting too much wealth. Rather, as
25
Lorenzo de' Medici, Lettere, ed. R. Fubini, vol. I (Florence: Giunti, 1977), 236; Ilardi, "Towards
the Tragedia," 104.
26
Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance (London and New York: The Phaidon
Press and Oxford University Press, 1944), 9-13.
27
Burckhardt singled him out as a “brilliant representative of the princely order.” Burckhardt,
Civilization of the Renaissance, 29.
28
Cecil H. Clough, "Federico da Montefeltro and the Kings of Naples: A Study in FifteenthCentury Survival," Renaissance Studies 6, no. 2 (1992): 118 and 46.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 41
Rupert Shepherd has argued, magnificence was a virtue not only becoming, but
expected of a prince. 29 Sabadino degli Arienti’s De triumphis religionis celebrates
the ten religious virtues embodied by Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara, including
that of magnificence:
The lofty virtue of magnificence, which you [Duke Ercole I d’Este
of Ferrara] display with singular glory in everything […]
Magnificence therefore must be considered as consisting of
sumptuous, great, and sublime things. As [does] her name, [so] she
proclaims largesse and vastness in spending gold and silver on
things eminent, high and divine as befits magnificence, always
according to the condition and status of the man.
-Sabadino degli Arienti, De triumphis religionis, 1497 30
Throughout his text, Arienti describes ephemeral celebrations and feasts, lavish
banquets, numerous buildings and over twenty fresco cycles (the majority of
which have been destroyed), detailing the clothing, jewels, and courtiers
depicted. 31 The magnificence of the prince and his court is manifested in the
various things that make up the court, and which, as Arienti explains, are tied to
ritual and festivity: banquets, marriage celebrations, jousts, receptions of foreign
dignitaries, and triumphal entries. However, while magnificence served the
29
Rupert Shepherd, "Republic Anxiety and Courtly Confidence: The Politics of Magnificence and
Fifteenth-Century Italian Architecture," in The Material Renaissance, ed. Michelle O'Malley and
Evelyn S. Welch (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2007), 47-70.
30
Translation in Rupert Shepherd, "Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti, Ercole I d'Este and the
Decoration of the Italian Renaissance Court," Renaissance Studies 9, no. 1 (1995): 51.
“Sequitaremo ala narrata tua liberalitate ducale, religiosissimo Principe, Signor mio charo, l’alta
virtù dela magnificentia, la quale in ogni cosa con singulare gloria ostendi, perchè pensi non più
ala religione che al preclaro sangue convenirsi. La magnificentia dunque considerare si debbe che
in cose sumptuose, grane et sublime consiste. Come il nome de epsa suona largheza et amplitudine
in expendere auro et argento in cose eminente, alte e dive ala convenientia del magnifico, secondo
sempre la conditione e stato del’huomo.” Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti, Art and Life at the
Court of Ercole I d'Este: The 'De triumphus religionis' of Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti, ed.
Werner L Gundersheimer (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1972), 50. Also discussed in Guido Guerzoni,
"Liberalitas, Magnificentia, Splendor: The Classic Origins of Italian Renaissance Lifestyles," in
Economic Engagements with Art, ed. Neil De Marchi and Craufurd D. W. Goodwin (Durham and
London: Duke University Press, 1999), 359.
31
For a discussion of the text see Arienti, triumphis religionis; Shepherd, "Sabadino degli
Arienti."; Shepherd, "Republic Anxiety," 54-9.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 42
prince, it could run counter to local or other factions. Thus the strategy of
legitimation through magnificence and splendour could be contentious. It should
be stressed too, that many of the prominent Italian courts, while often seen as
independent rulers, were actually dependent on a greater overlord. Ferrara and
Urbino, for example, were actually territories of the papacy; Milan and Mantua,
were ruled by feudal lords who owed military service to the emperor. 32
In the case of Ferrara, the Este ruled as papal vicars, a relationship that
dated back to the fourteenth century (Figure 4). 33 The three rulers of Ferrara in the
fifteenth century, from 1441 to 1505, were all sons of Niccolò III, First Marquis
of Ferrara: Leonello (1441-50), Borso, First Duke of Ferrara (1450-71), and
Ercole I (1471-1505). Duke Borso was a respected general and held numerous
condotte, and was largely responsible for restructuring the Ferrarese nobility by
selling positions every year and creating a circle of individuals dependent on him
32
Martines, Power and Imagination, 222.
Werner Gundersheimer, Ferrara: The Style of a Renaissance Despotism (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1973), 48. Gundersheimer provides a useful background on the rise of the Este.
There are numerous studies on the Este and Ferrara, to list just a few see Luciano Chiappini, ed.,
Gli Estensi a Ferrara e Modena (Rome: Editalia-Edizioni d'Italia, 1994); Edmund Garratt
Gardner, Dukes and Poets in Ferrara: a Study of the Poetry, Religion and Politics of the Fifteenth
and Early Sixteenth Centuries (London: Archibald Constable & Co Ltd, 1904); Roberta Iotti, ed.,
Gli Estensi. La Corte di Ferrara (Modena: Il bulino edizioni d'arte, 1997); Alessandra Molfino
Mottola, Mauro Natala, and di Andrea Lorenzo, eds., Le Muse e il principe: Arte di corte nel
Rinascimento padano., vol. I (Modena: 1991); Alessandra Molfino Mottola, Mauro Natala, and di
Andrea Lorenzo, eds., Le Muse e il principe: Arte di corte nel Rinascimento padano., vol. II
(Modena: 1991); Charles M. Rosenberg, The Este Monuments and Urban Development in
Renaissance Ferrara (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Thomas Tuohy, Herculean
Ferrara: Ercole d'Este, 1471-1505, and the Invention of a Ducal Capital (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1996); Paolo Rossi, ed., Il rinascimento nelle corti padane. Società e cultura
(Bari: De Donato Editore, 1977); Jadranka Bentini, ed., Gli Este a Ferrara. Una corte nel
rinascimento, Exhibition. Castello di Ferrara 14 March-13 June 2004 (Milan: Silvana Editoriale,
2004); Richard Michael Tristano, "Ferrara in the Fifteenth Century: Borso d'Este and the
Development of a New Nobility (Italy)" (PhD Thesis, New York University, 1983); Dennis
Looney and Deanna Shemek, eds., Phaethon's Children: The Este Court and Its Culture in Early
Modern Ferrara, vol. 286, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (Tempe: Arizona Center
for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005).
33
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 43
for entitlements and distinction. 34 During Borso’s reign, his younger brother,
Ercole, was shipped off to Naples to receive a humanist and military education,
and to be protected from any local assassination attempts by contenders to the
throne. 35 In 1460, Ercole returned to Ferrara and gained a reputation in arms and
politics, leading to his appointment as successor. While in the 1460s, Ercole took
arms against his childhood companion, Ferrante d’Aragona, by siding with the
French, an alliance was sealed between Ferrara and Naples when the Sforza
Maria-Eleonora d’Aragona marriage was annulled and Eleonora married Ercole in
1473. The Neapolitan-Ferrarese alliance was to be extremely beneficial for
Ferrara, when in 1483-4 Venice entered into war with Ferrara and the Este were
assisted by Aragonese troops and their allies. The Venetians were not the only
ones to challenge Este rule under Ercole. After Eleonora produced the first male
heir in 1476, Niccolò di Leonello (another branch of the Este) attempted a coup,
which was, however, unsuccessful. Eleonora played a commanding role in the
politics of Ferrara, and often acted as regent when Ercole was away. 36 Ercole and
Eleonora continued Borso’s policies of selling court offices, and thus maintained
the ‘new nobility’ created under Borso. They were also both avid collectors and
many of the objects in their collections spoke to humanist and political debates in
Ferrara. This is exemplified by a diptych in Eleonora’s collections, examined in
chapter three, that entered into dialogue with humanist texts as well as other
34
For a more detailed analysis see, Tristano, "Ferrara and New Nobility". As well as below,
Chapter 3.
35
Gundersheimer, Ferrara, 175-6.
36
Gundersheimer provides a useful summary of her political activity, Werner Gundersheimer,
"Women, Learning, and Power: Eleonora of Aragon and the Court of Ferrara," in Beyond Their
Sex: Learned Women of the European Past, ed. Patricia H. Labalme (New York: New York
University Press, 1980), 43-65.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 44
objects in the court collections. It should be noted that there still existed a
communal government in Ferrara, and although the Este were involved in the
electoral policies of these institutions, the communal groups could act in
opposition to court policies. 37 Furthermore, it should be remembered that Ferrara
was under papal jurisdiction, and ecclesiastical offices thus had their own
hierarchical structure and political authority outside of, or at least alongside, Este
power. 38
Florence played a crucial role in relations among the Italian states. The
Lega involved Florence, most notably for its financial capabilities. Prominent
Florentine banking firms such as the Strozzi, Gondi, and Medici were continually
called upon to supply funds for numerous wars and military campaigns, often in
exchange for pawned objects belonging to royal collections, as examined in
chapter two. Individuals such as Filippo Strozzi and Lorenzo de’ Medici, I will
argue, played a crucial role in the activities at the courts of Ferrara and Naples, on
cultural, monetary, and political levels, suggesting that merchants from
Republican Florence were also critical actors at court.
Martines’ study follows a tradition of court studies that locates power in the
body of the prince, and ultimately leads to the rise of the absolutist state. This
approach is most famously exemplified in the work of Norbert Elias. Elias’ The
Court Society, originally published in 1969, saw the court as an instrument to
37
Trevor Dean, "Commune and Despot: The Commune of Ferrara under Este Rule, 1300-1450,"
in City and Countryside in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy. Essays Presented to Philip
Jones, ed. Trevor Dean and Chris Wickham (London and Ronceverte: The Hambledon Press,
1990).
38
Campbell’s examination of religious art in Ferrara brings forward many of these tensions,
Stephen Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara: Style, Politics and the Renaissance City, 1450-1495
(New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 45
domesticate the nobility, whereby the prince became increasingly central through
his accumulation of power and wealth. 39 The need to legitimate one’s position
through wealth and expenditure led, it is argued, to a “vicious circle of
conspicuous consumption” and made the nobility increasingly dependent on the
court and the prince. 40 J.H. Shennan, while arguing in The Origins of the Modern
European State that the “people” or prince’s subjects may have had, at times, an
indirect influence upon the ruler, states that it would be a mistake to emphasise
the role of the community as having any “politically significant elements,” and
that in the end, “the prince is the key figure upon whom attention should be
focused.” 41 Recent scholarship has questioned these notions, stressing the open
nature of court society, viewing the court as an open and contingent space, rather
than a closed, structured, and unchanging environment. 42 Ronald Asch, in his
39
Norbert Elias, The Court Society, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher,
1983).
40
Jeroen Duindam, Myths of Power. Norbert Elias and the Early Modern European Court, trans.
Lorri S. Granger and Gerard T. Moran (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1994), 19.
41
J.H. Shennan, The Origins of the Modern European State. 1450-1725 (London: Hutchinson
University Library, 1974), 112.
42
See Ronald Asch’s introduction to a selection of papers on the courts of Europe, which,
unfortunately does not include a paper on the Italian courts, Ronald G. Asch, "Introduction. Court
and Household from the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries," in Princes, Patronage and the
Nobility. The Court at the Beginning of the Modern Age c. 1450-1650, ed. Ronald G. Asch and
Adolf M. Birke (London and Oxford: The German Historical Institute London and Oxford
University Press, 1991). Duindam, Myths of Power. John Larner’s article, although from 1983,
still provides a useful review of the state of court literature, John Larner, "Europe of the Courts,"
The Journal of Modern History 55, no. 4 (1983): 669-81. Chittolini has stressed the importance of
“private” groups such as kinship, factions and informal courtly circles in relation to the more
“public” role of court politics, Giorgio Chittolini, "The "Private", the "Public", the State," Journal
of Modern History 67, no. supplement issue: The Origins of the State in Italy, 1300-1600 (1995):
S34-61. Lazzarini has also studied the urban landscape of the court as a “complex tissue of
enterprises” consisting of the court and the prince’s institutions of power, as well as the familial
and residential habits of the political elites. Isabella Lazzarini, "Sub signo principis. Political
Institutions and Urban Configurations in Early Renaissance Mantua," Renaissance Studies 16, no.
3 (2002). Also see Isabella Lazzarini, Fra un principe e altri stati. Relazioni di potere e forme di
servizio a Mantova nell'età di Ludovico Gonzaga (Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano Per il Medio
Evo, 1996). For the court as a site for cultural transfer, see Dorothea Nolde, Elena Svalduz, and
María José del Río Barredo, "City Courts as Places of Cultural Transfer," in Cultural Exchange in
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 46
introduction to a volume of papers on the courts of Europe, questions Elias’ view,
asking how much this “spatial unity” is more “ideal than real.” 43 Similarly, Jeroen
Duindam provides an analysis and critique of both Elias’ Court Society and
Jurgen von Krudener’s The Role of the Court (Rolle des Hofes), suggesting the
need for a more nuanced view of relations between the court and the nobility. 44
While both Elias and Krudener argue that the nobility was domesticated by the
court through the financial strain created by conspicuous consumption and
competition, Duindam notes that the court could also be a lucrative place for
nobles, and that many costs were indeed paid by the monarch. 45 The prince, as
Duindam argues, and my thesis demonstrates, was often not the richest man at
court; the court often sought money from a variety of individuals, which formed
political and social dependencies on those who lent funds. 46 Furthermore,
Duindam notes that the relationship between the prince and nobles was often
ambivalent, and that the monarch frequently remained dependent on a number of
intermediary groups, such as the nobility, the clergy, and other corporate bodies. 47
Central authority was often only exerted with the approval and cooperation of
these groups.
Trevor Dean has published numerous articles on the Italian courts, with a
focus on Ferrara, noting that scholarship that views the court as a closed system of
signs and theatrics misses the historical variables by neglecting the “study of
Early Modern Europe, ed. Donatella Calabi and Stephen Turk Christensen, Cities and Cultural
Exchange in Europe, 1400-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 254-85.
43
Asch, "Court and Household," 8.
44
Duindam, Myths of Power.
45
Duindam, Myths of Power, 39.
46
Duindam, Myths of Power, 83-6.
47
Duindam, Myths of Power, 49.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 47
relations between court and society (whether the material support of the court or
its political support through patronage networks and faction).” 48 Dean’s
understanding of the court has influenced this project, particularly, his emphasis
on the court as an open space with a constant flow of objects and individuals:
To become aware of the temporary nature of presence at court,
whether of persons or objects, is also to conceive of the court as an
open rather than a closed space, a space open to a vast range of
outside influences. Ambassadors were often not courtiers at home.
Traders might practice in the court but not be of it. On festal
occasions, artists would be fetched from cities outside the state,
silver would be borrowed from churchmen, itinerant entertainers
and friars would be hired. When visited by dignitaries, princes
were often forced to accommodate them or their entourages in
borrowed houses. 49
This open and transient nature of actors—both objects and people—and the
diverse ways these different actors could become involved with the court, is
brought forward by my study.
Apart from these conceptual and theoretical perspectives on the court, the
historical and art historical literature on the Italian courts tends to be restricted to
individual courts or patrons. General studies such as Alison Cole’s Virtue and
48
Trevor Dean, "The Courts," in The Origins of the State in Italy 1300-1600, ed. Julius Kirshner
(Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 139. See also: Trevor Dean, "Notes on
the Ferrarese Court in the Later Middle Ages," Renaissance Studies 3, no. 4 (1989); Dean, "Crown
and Economy."; Trevor Dean, "Court and Household in Ferrara, 1494," in The French Descent
into Renaissance Italy 1494-95: Antecedents and Effects, ed. David Abulafia (Hampshire and
Vermont: Variorum Ashgate Publishing Company, 1995); Dean, "The Courts."; Trevor Dean,
"Ferrarese Chroniclers and the Este State, 1490-1505," in Phaethon's Children: The Este Court
and Its Culture in Early Modern Ferrara, ed. Dennis Looney and Deanna Shemek, Medieval and
Renaissance Texts and Studies (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies,
2005). Dean’s reference to theatrics points at a body of literature that investigated the court in
relation to ritual, see for example Roy Strong, Art and Power. Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650.
(Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1973); Sean Wilentz, ed., Rites of Power: Symbolism, Ritual,
and Politics Since the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985); David
Cannadine and Simon Price, eds., Rituals of Royalty. Power and Ceremonial in Traditional
Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
49
Dean, "The Courts," 144.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 48
Magnificence provide an overview rather than an in-depth study. 50 Focussed
studies on individual courts offer an advantage in that they research a particular
archive to offer a close examination of not only the prince, but also of court
administration and the various artistic projects within the city and court. Every
court has a distinctive administrative system and historical constituency, heavily
dependent on how the ruling family came into power; therefore a close analysis of
these particularities enables a clear understanding of the relationships between
administration, court power, and existing social groups. However, the
interrelations and interdependencies between courts are often neglected.
Furthermore, in art historical literature, the patronage of the prince or the ruling
family often takes precedence over that of other communities or social groups. 51
As Evelyn Welch has noted in her study on Milan, the ducal chancellery
generated an attempt to centralise authority around the prince, and in starting her
project, she believed that visual propaganda in Milan supported ducal hegemony.
It was only by switching archives and looking through the cathedral documents
that she realised the story was much more complicated and filled with tensions
50
Alison Cole, Virtue and Magnificence. Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts (New York: Harry
N. Abrams Incorporated, 1995). There are also edited volumes which deal with the larger
conception of the court in Europe, A.G. Dickens, ed., The Courts of Europe: Politics, Patronage,
and Royalty: 1400-1800 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977). Asch, "Court and Household."
51
Studies on Mantua, for instance, concentrate around the Gonzaga, and in particular, Isabella
d’Este. See for example, David Chambers and Jane Martineau, eds., Splendours of the Gonzaga
(London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1981); Cesare Mozzarelli, Mantova e i Gonzaga dal 1382
al 1707 (Turin: Utet Libreria, 1987); Joanna Woods-Marsden, The Gonzaga of Mantua and
Pisanello's Arthurian Frescoes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988); 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,
ed. Sheryl E. Reiss and David G. Wilkins (Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2001).
Rebecchini has studied the collections of a larger range of individuals in Mantua, Guido
Rebecchini, Private Collections in Mantua 1500-1630 (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura,
2002). The Este of Ferrara also take precedence in Ferrarese court studies, Arienti, triumphis
religionis; Gundersheimer, Ferrara; Rosenberg, Este Monuments; Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara;
Bentini, ed., Gli Este a Ferrara.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 49
and collaborations between ruler and ruled. 52 Similarly, Stephen Campbell has
shown that the Ferrarese court was composed of a variety of social groups, and
too often, many of the existing artworks are attributed to Estense patronage, even
though prominent families who held high ecclesiastical offices may have had a
hand in art commissions and patronage as well. Ferrarese art works, then, may not
always assert ducal hegemony but indeed act as sites of negotiation or mediation
between Ferrarese communities, and may speak to particular conflicts or
tensions. 53
Recent studies on humanism and artistic production at court have also
tended to stress the exchanges between cultural groups within and between courts.
Rinaldo Rinaldi has used the term “intellectual mobility” to characterise the
phenomenon of humanists who moved between courts, gained prestige, and
operated within tightly knit networks, which encouraged exchanges and
correspondence. 54 The court artist has also been re-examined, moving away from
placing emphasis on the autonomous actor, he or she is now considered within
systems of patronage and clientage. 55 However, Campbell has also stressed the
need to be cautious about putting too much weight on either patron or artistic
52
Evelyn S. Welch, Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan (New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1995).
53
Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara. We must also remember that many courts were in urban
centres, and that like other urban centres, such as Florence, urban life was composed of a complex
web of associations and relations, involving kin, neighbours, clients, patrons, business associates,
and clients. See Ronald Weissman, "The Importance of Being Ambiguous: Social Relations,
Individualism, and Identity in Renaissance Florence," in Urban Life in the Renaissance, ed. Susan
Zimmerman and Ronald Weissman (Newark, London and Toronto: University of Delaware Press
and Associated University Presses, 1989), 269-80. See as well the other essays in this collection of
essays.
54
Rinaldo Rinaldi, "Princes and the Culture in the Fifteenth-Century Italian Po Valley Courts," in
Princes and Princely Culture (c. 1450-1650), ed. Martin Gosman, Alasdair Vanderjagt, and Arjo
MacDonald (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2003), 23-42.
55
Stephen Campbell, ed., Artists at Court. Image-Making and Identity, 1300-1500 (Boston and
Chicago: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and University of Chicago Press, 2004).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 50
intentions, arguing for an understanding of the relationships between artists and
patrons, and underlining the necessity in considering what works of art do and
how they are received by a varied audience. 56 If art became a critical political
tool, it is also useful to consider the ways in which artistic exchange and
translation played a role in shaping or articulating those politics. Cultural
translation for Campbell and Stephen Milner consists not only of cultural
exchange—the copying or imitation of styles from one artistic centre to another,
for example—but also the ways in which the migration of styles can secure or
resist hegemony, acting as a negotiator across borders. 57 This proves a very
intriguing and fruitful way of thinking about artistic transfers, not only in the
situation of an artist who might move from one court to another, but also through
the replication and dissemination of forms, motifs, or objects. The replication of
images on gems in a variety of media, such as manuscript illumination,
architectural medallions, seals, and rings, examined in chapter two, linked not
only a plurality of objects but also connected the spaces in which those objects
were found. These quotations of visual forms encouraged viewers to create
dialogues and forge connections between these objects and their owners, which
has led me to investigate what was at stake in copying or owning copies of such
objects. This brings us to the focus of this thesis: the material objects and imagery
that made up the court and created associations and initiated exchanges between
courts.
56
Stephen Campbell, "Mantegna's Triumph: The Cultural Politics of Imitation "all'antica" at the
Court of Mantua, 1490-1530," in Artists at Court. Image-Making and Identity, 1300-1500 (Boston
and Chicago: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and University of Chicago Press, 2004), 96.
57
Stephen Campbell and Stephen Milner, "Introduction. Art, Identity, and Cultural Translation in
Renaissance Italy," in Artistic Exchange and Cultural Translation in the Italian Renaissance City,
ed. Stephen Campbell and Stephen Milner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 1-13.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 51
II. Materiality: Subjects, Objects, Exchange, and Consumption
[King] Alfonso [I of Naples] ornamented and decorated his most
splendid house and court with draperies and hangings of
embroidery and silk, and small vases of gold and silver in
incredible quantities; vases of gems and precious stones, in which
he collected in perfection from all over the world.
-Gian Battista Carrafa, Dell’historie del regno di
Napoli, 1572 58
A study that emphasises the role that objects play within and between
courts undoubtedly engages with a wide body of literature and debates on
materiality, objects, and things. The term “material culture” has been so broadly
used within different disciplinary trajectories, that its use, and what is meant by
the term, is no longer apparent. In order to steer away from the generality of
“material culture,” this thesis focuses on the distinctiveness of individual objects.
Furthermore, in contrast to economic studies on the flow of goods, this project is
an art historical investigation that brings important questions about form, style,
iconography, material, and representation, into consideration with specific art
objects, and particular social and political contexts.
Studies on materiality can be categorised broadly into disciplinary
trajectories—anthropological analysis, socio-historical and socio-economic
studies, and theoretical and philosophical enquiries—however, these are not
mutually exclusive and indeed, often overlap. The focus on objects has gained
currency in anthropology through the analysis of the mutual relations between
subjects and objects, and the importance of objects in ritual, exemplified in works
58
“Era alfonso nell’apparato & ornamenti di casa & di sua corte splendidissimo, con paramento &
cortinaggi di ricami & di seta, & vasellamenti d’oro & d’argento in quantita` incredibile; vago di
gemme, & pietre preciose, le quale da tutto il mondo in somma perfettione raccolse.” Gian Batista
Carrafa, Dell'historie del regno di Napoli. BNN B. BRANC. 35.C.9 (Naples: Giuseppe Cachij,
1572), 268. All manuscripts and early printed books are provided with the library in which they
were consulted with call number.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 52
such as that of Marcel Mauss; in the examination of the history and biography of
objects in work by Arjun Appadurai and Igor Kopytoff; and the attention to
artefacts and materiality in the edited volumes by Daniel Miller, among others. 59
Objects, in terms of commodities and fetishes, have been analysed by
anthropologists and socio-economic historians in a tradition inherited from Marx,
but re-surfacing in cultural materialism and new materialism. 60 Stemming from
this, although in quite a different direction, socio-historical studies have also
examined the role of consumerism and economic exchange in early modern
Europe. 61 This includes a vast body of work, from studies that deal with “material
culture” and the general history of domestic objects and furnishings, to projects
that focus on consumption practices, collecting, and the emergence of the modern
capitalist self. 62 Literary theory, sociology, and philosophical studies have
59
Marcel Mauss, The Gift. Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, trans. Ian
Cunnison (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc, 1967). Kopytoff and Appadurai’s
contributions are published in Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in
Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). Other anthropological
studies which deal with material culture, for example can be found in the work of Daniel Miller,
Daniel Miller, "Why Some Things Matter," in Material Culture: Why Some Things Matter, ed.
Daniel Miller (London: UCL Press, 1998); Daniel Miller, "Materiality: An Introduction," in
Materiality, ed. Daniel Miller (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005); James
Ferguson, "Cultural Exchange: New Developments in the Anthropology of Commodities,"
Cultural Anthropology 3, no. 4 (1988): 488-513; Nadine Pence Frantz, "Material Culture,
Understanding and Meaning: Writing and Picturing," Journal of the American Academy of
Religion 66, no. 4 (1998): 791-815.
60
Marx’s fetish comes up repeatedly in the literature across disciplines. For a useful summary of
cultural materialism see Curtis Perry, ed., Material Culture and Cultural Materialisms in the
Middle Ages and Renaissance, vol. 5, Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
(Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2001).
61
There is a vast literature on this, to list just a few see Chandra Mukerji, From Graven Images.
Patterns of Modern Materialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983); Evelyn S. Welch,
Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400-1600 (New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 2005); Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance
(London: Macmillan, 1996). Allerston’s study outlines some of the varied views on consumption,
both in modern literature and in the period itself, Patricia Allerston, "Consuming Problems:
Worldly Goods in Renaissance Venice," in The Material Renaissance, ed. Michelle O'Malley and
Evelyn S. Welch (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2007), 11-46.
62
Marina Belozerskaya, Luxury Arts of the Renaissance (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum,
2005); John Kent Lydecker, "The Domestic Setting of the Arts in Renaissance Florence" (PhD
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 53
examined the agency of objects and the role they play in networks and
associations. 63
In his introduction to a volume on material culture, Daniel Miller asks “why
some things matter” to emphasise the importance of examining particular things
rather than a general inquiry into materiality. 64 This specificity is extremely
important, not only because objects often carry ambivalent or conflicting
identities, but especially because their meaning and modes of engagement are
historically contingent and dependent on their very materiality. Material cultural
studies, such as those that examine the domestic sphere, have been useful in a
historical sense for revealing the importance of many previously neglected objects
in every day life. 65 Lacking a theoretical perspective, however, these studies tend
to situate objects within social history—as reflections of social relations—without
examining the materiality of the objects, or questioning what those objects
actually do and how they might produce, initiate, or complicate those social
relations. Other studies, while speaking to “materialism,” neglect the actual
Thesis, The John Hopkins University, 1987); Luke Syson and Dora Thornton, Objects of Virtue:
Art in Renaissance Italy (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum Publications, 2001); Dora Thornton,
The Scholar in his Study: Ownership and Experience in Renaissance Italy (New Haven and
London: Yale University Press, 1997); Peter Thornton, The Italian Renaissance Interior. 14001600 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1991); Richard A. Goldthwaite, "The Empire of Things:
Consumer Demand in Renaissance Italy," in Patronage, Art, and Society in Renaissance Italy, ed.
F. W. Kent and Patricia Simons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987); Richard A. Goldthwaite,
Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy 1300-1600 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1993).
63
See for instance, Bill Brown, "Thing Theory," Critical Inquiry 28, no. 1 (2001); Bruno Latour,
"The Berlin Key or How to Do Words With Things," in Matter, Materiality, and Modern Culture,
ed. Paul Graves-Brown (London: Routledge, 2000); Bruno Latour, "From Realpolitik to
Dingpolitik. Or How To Make Things Public," in Making Things Public: Atmospheres of
Democracy, ed. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge and Karlsruhe: The MIT Press and
ZKM Center for Art and Media, 2005); Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to
Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). Also Martin
Heidegger, "The Thing," in Poetry, Language, Thought (New York: Harper and Row Publishers,
1971).
64
Italics my emphasis. Miller, "Things Matter."
65
See for instance, Lydecker, "Domestic Setting".
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 54
materiality of the objects themselves. In an introduction to a series of essays on
material meanings, Elizabeth Chilton notes that “the essays that follow do not
focus on artefacts themselves,” but instead the emphasis is on the “social and
technical contexts” of production and the “interpretation of materials by
researchers in the present.” 66 While these contexts are crucial for understanding
how objects are made and perceived in any particular circumstance, and how their
meanings change in different environments, neglecting the specificity of the
artefacts overlook the work of materiality: why some things matter more than
others.
Evelyn Welch’s Shopping in the Renaissance examines the particular social
component of shopping and consumption in this period, offering an analysis of
the different kinds of objects purchased, from cloth to antiquities. A focus on
shopping rather than on the actual objects bought and sold allows us to understand
the act of shopping and to examine a particular phase in an object’s life—that of
the commodity—but sidesteps the multiple roles these objects often played in the
period. My emphasis on the social life of objects is indebted to the work of
Appadurai and Kopytoff, who have examined the ways in which things move in
and out of the commodity phase, providing those objects with biographies. 67
Their studies are extremely pertinent to the late Quattrocento, when cultural
objects were constantly moving in and out of the commodity sphere, whether it
66
Elizabeth S. Chilton, "Material Meanings and Meaningful Materials," in Material Meanings.
Critical Approaches to the Interpretation of Material Culture, ed. Elizabeth S. Chilton (Salt Lake
City: University of Utah Press, 1999), 1.
67
Igor Kopytoff, "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process," in The Social
Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1986), 64-91; Arjun Appadurai, "Introduction: Commodities and the
Politics of Value," in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun
Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 3-63.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 55
was due to political instabilities, lack of funds, credit, or death. The recent project,
The Material Renaissance, headed by Welch and Michelle O’Malley, has been
important in underlining the social relationships involved in the wide range of
economic practices during the Renaissance. 68 The essays in their edited volume
address the socio-economic consequences of “material culture,” which consists of
“food, clothing and everyday furnishings, as well as books, goldsmiths’ work,
altarpieces and other luxury goods.” 69 My project, while underlining the social
relationships formed through economic exchange, is less about the market or even
economic value, and more about the different types of symbolic value objects
accrue, and how they acquire biographies. In addition, I examine the objects not
only during their phase as a commodity, but I also consider what happens to these
objects once they enter collections and are put on display. The objects of analysis,
then, are things that have a particular cultural or political relevance and salience;
things that are symbolically rich in their materiality and have the ability to convey
complex social messages within court culture.
This project has drawn from anthropological studies, which stress the
importance of objects in social interactions and exchanges and the formation of
networks. Appadurai’s study on the social life of things suggests a need for a less
rigid distinction between commodity and gift exchange and emphasises the
different paths and diversions an object might take throughout its social life.
Kopytoff has raised important issues in relation to the polarity often drawn
between individualised persons and commoditised things, running along the same
68
Michelle O'Malley and Evelyn S. Welch, eds., The Material Renaissance (Manchester and New
York: Manchester University Press, 2007).
69
O'Malley and Welch, eds., Material Renaissance, 2.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 56
lines as the confrontation we find in the subject/object binary. While many
scholars have recently found reason to locate the beginnings of capitalism in the
early modern period, there is also a need here to be historically specific. We need
to understand the ways in which exchange and commodities, and the perception
of objects at the end of the fifteenth century, while operating within certain forms
of capitalist exchange, may be different from our contemporary world. Richard
Goldthwaite has located the rise of the discriminating modern consumer in the
mercantile culture of the Italian Renaissance. 70 In this view, the Renaissance
individual celebrated in the Burckhardtian spirit is the precursor to the modern
consumer, surrounding himself with a plethora of goods, and perfectly able to
purchase and delight in shopping without moral scruples. 71 Lisa Jardine,
similarly, has found “the seeds of our own exuberant multiculturalism and bravura
consumerism […] planted in the European Renaissance” and its entrepreneurial
spirit. 72 Robert Weissman has questioned such economic studies that view
Renaissance capitalism as giving rise to liberated individualists, free from
communal and familial bonds. 73 As my thesis argues, (see especially chapter
two), there did exist exchange and mercantile networks, but these existed
70
Goldthwaite, Wealth and Demand. Also discussed in Stephen Campbell, The Cabinet of Eros.
Renaissance Mythological Painting and the Studiolo of Isabella d'Este (New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 2006), 40.
71
For a criticism of this form of ‘new materialism,’ see Douglas Bruster, "The New Materialism in
Renaissance Studies," in Material Culture and Cultural Materialisms in the Middle Ages and
Renaissance, ed. Curtis Perry, Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Turnhout:
Brepols Publishers, 2001), 233-4. Also see Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 40. Ann Matchette has also
drawn attention to the fact that objects were not only hoarded but also sold, exchanged, and
pawned, Ann Matchette, "To Have and Have Not: The Disposal of Household Furnishings in
Florence," Renaissance Studies 20, no. 5 (2006): 701-16.
72
Jardine, Worldly Goods, 34. For a critique of Goldthwaite and Jardine’s studies see Lauro
Martines, "Review Essay: The Renaissance and the Birth of Consumer Society," Renaissance
Quarterly 51 (1998): 193-203.
73
Weissman, "Importance of Being Ambiguous," 269-71.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 57
alongside other forms of exchange and economic practices such as those of
pawning, credit, pledging, and gifting, all of which created social bonds. 74 By
examining particular objects that circulated through these forms of exchange, I
show that objects could be used as capital, but they were also residual. Objects are
absorbent and sticky things; with each transaction, something of the social sticks
to them. In this sense, Webb Keane’s notion of “bundling” seems appropriate,
whereby objects are always bound up with other qualities, associations, and
correspondences, and “these qualities together in any object will shift in their
relative salience, value, utility, and relevance across contexts.” 75 If we understand
that many luxury objects in the late fifteenth century circulated as commodities at
one point or another in their lifetime, we should, however, not be so quick to
assume that these objects were merely neutral monetary commodities.
Peter Stallybrass and Ann Rosalind Jones have argued, in support of
Kopytoff, that the polarity drawn between “individualized persons and
commoditized things” is actually recent. 76 Indeed, they note Mauss’ claim that
“things-as-gifts are not “indifferent things”; they have “a name, a personality, a
past.” Similarly, in the livery economy of Renaissance Europe, things took on a
life of their own. That is to say, one was paid not only in the “neutral” currency of
money but also in material that was richly absorbent of symbolic meaning and in
74
Matchette has recently argued a similar case, Ann Matchette, "Credit and Credibility: Used
Goods and Social Relations in Sixteenth-Century Florence," in The Material Renaissance, ed.
Michelle O'Malley and Evelyn S. Welch (Manchester and New York: Manchester University
Press, 2007), 225-41.
75
Webb Keane, "Signs Are Not the Garb of Meaning: On the Social Analysis of Material Things,"
in Materiality, ed. Daniel Miller (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005), 188.
76
Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory,
ed. Stephen Orgel, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2000), 8.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 58
which memories and social relations were literally embodied.” 77 My examination
of pawned jewels in chapter two demonstrates that the same objects which were
used for pawning and collateral, were also invested with names, histories, and
symbolic meaning, and were thus both ‘individualised’ and ‘commoditised.’ Thus
as Jones and Stallybrass argue “it is not the capitalist present that has suddenly
started to obsess about the value of things. On the contrary, capitalist cultures are
often squeamish about value, attempting to separate cultural value from
economics, persons from things, subjects from objects, the priceless (us) from the
valueless (the detachable world).” 78
That is not to say that tensions did not exist in the period, but they are better
located by looking at subject-object relations, rather than positing the subject in
opposition to the object. 79 New wealth and the rise of a new nobility in Ferrara
and Naples and in other centres in Italy undoubtedly raised anxieties and tensions
around the relation between the acquisition of goods and noble status. This is
apparent in Poggio Bracciolini’s On Nobility written in 1440, where characters
debate over the qualities of nobility. One character, Niccolò Niccoli notes:
Our host, having read that illustrious men of old used to ornament
their homes, villas, gardens, arcades, and gymnasiums with
statues, paintings, and busts of their ancestors to glorify their own
name and their lineage, wanted to render his own place noble, and
himself, too, but having no images of his own ancestors, he
acquired these meagre and broken pieces of sculpture and hoped
77
Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 8.
Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, "Fetishizing the Glove in Renaissance Europe,"
Critical Inquiry 28 (2001): 116.
79
Studying subject-object relations, rather than positing the object against the subject is examined
in Margreta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan, and Peter Stallybrass, "Introduction," in Subject and
Object in Renaissance Culture, ed. Margreta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan, and Peter Stallybrass,
Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1996).
78
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 59
that the novelty of his collection would perpetuate his fame
among his own descendants. 80
This particular tension between objects, ownership, and nobility, is brought out
again when Niccolò notes that “if sculptures and paintings confer nobility, then
sculptors and painters must be more noble than other men, since their homes are
full of works of art.” 81 Such issues were raised in the humanist circles at the court
of Ferrara, where the opulence of painting and the beauty of books were criticised
as a sign of the decline in humanist rigour, during the rule of the illegitimate
Borso d’Este, discussed in chapter three. 82 Collecting thus becomes an important
site to examine some of these complicated issues.
The literature on collecting has often focussed on one patron and his or her
particular sensibilities and personality in relation to the objects collected, a
tendency well-known to those who have written on Isabella d’Este. 83 By
focussing on the objects themselves, I have been able to trace the different
relations formed between individuals through the process of collecting—whether
the object was bought, given, inherited, or exchanged. Two contradictory notions
have always been attached to the studiolo, ever since its conception: that of the
study as a space for private devotion or contemplation, and that of the study as a
80
Renée Neu Watkins, "Poggio Bracciolini 1380-1459," in Humanism and Liberty: Writings on
Freedom From Fifteenth-Century Florence (South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press,
1978), 122-3.
81
Watkins, "Poggio Bracciolini," 123.
82
This is most apparent in Decembrio’s De politia literaria. For a discussion of these issues, see
chapter three below, as well as Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, 18.
83
For a useful critique of the literature on the “insatiable” collector, see Rose Marie San Juan,
"The Court Lady’s Dilemma: Isabella d’Este and Art Collection in the Renaissance," Oxford Art
Journal, no. 14 (1991); Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 2-5.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 60
social space, in which intellectual ideas are exchanged and engaged with. 84 These
two notions, as Campbell has argued, are also brought out in the literature on
collecting: the tendency to view the studiolo as humanistic and attached to ideas,
reading, and intellect, or that of the studiolo as a place for social exchanges and
sumptuary display. 85 Both trajectories risk losing sight of the objects, locating the
studiolo and its practices in the history of ideas on the one hand, and on the other,
finding the birth of the self and the modern individual in the vast array of objects
displayed. 86 Paula Findlen’s work has attempted to reconcile some of these
tensions or disconnects, although her work focuses mostly on the discipline of
natural history from a later period. 87 In response to criticism on new trends
towards material culture in Renaissance and early modern studies, Findlen
suggests “that there is a wide range of interactions with objects during this period,
many of which have nothing to do with modernity at all.” 88 It is these different
interactions with objects and the material forms of those objects in which I am
particularly interested. Issues of collecting appear throughout this thesis, as it is at
84
For the history of the studiolo, see Thornton, The Scholar. Studies on collecting, the studiolo,
and the museum have also touched upon these notions, see Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature:
Museums, Collecting and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (Berkeley, Los Angeles and
London: University of California Press, 1994); Krzysztof Pomian, Collectionneurs, amateurs, et
curieux. Paris, Venise: XVIe-XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Gallimard, 1987); Krzysztof Pomian, Collectors
and Curiosities: Paris and Venice, 1500-1800, trans. Elizabeth Wiles-Portier (Cambridge: Polity
Press, 1990); Cecil H. Clough, "Art as Power in the Decoration of the Study of an Italian
Renaissance Prince: The Case of Federico da Montefeltro," Artibus et Historiae 16, no. 31 (1995):
19-50. For the multiplicity of objects and their relationship to the organization of knowledge and
memory, see Lina Bolzoni, The Gallery of Memory. Literary and Iconographic Models in the Age
of the Printing Press, trans. Jeremy Parzen (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001). Also see
Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 29-57 (Chapter 1).
85
Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 41.
86
See, for instance, Goldthwaite who understands Renaissance man’s attachment to material
possessions as a moment when modern civilization was born: Goldthwaite, Wealth and Demand.
Also see Campbell for a discussion of these issues, Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 40-1.
87
Findlen, Possessing Nature.
88
Paula Findlen, "Possessing the Past: The Material World of the Italian Renaissance," The
American Historical Review 103, no. 1 (1998): 87-8, n. 20.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 61
the end of the fifteenth century that the practices of collecting begin to gain more
prominence, and become an essential practice in any court. It is within these
particular collecting practices that I see an emerging interest in the ways
humanism could take on visual and material form, which gives rise to new forms
of interpreting and deciphering visual imagery. 89 It is through the assembly of
objects in a collection—a circumstance that allows the viewer to draw
comparisons between objects, between objects and texts, and between objects and
paintings—that encourages the production of new art works through the quotation
of texts, objects, or visual forms.
Douglas Bruster has recently criticised the “new materialism” in
Renaissance scholarship for turning away from Marxist theories, which he calls a
critical fetishism, a “fetishism that, in replacing large with small and the
intangible with what is capable of being touched or held threatens to restrict the
new materialism’s usefulness as social and historical explanation.” Bruster
suggests turning to the materialist attitudes of the time period itself, by drawing
from contemporary texts, whose “authors often display a reflexive materialism.” 90
I would agree with Bruster to the extent that we need to be historically specific,
but his analysis threatens to give primacy to textual sources, ignoring the ways in
which objects and visual imagery might also serve as sources, and might reveal
complementary or contradictory ways of seeing things. Indeed, following
Bruster’s insistence on textual sources we might cite a sixteenth-century Ferrarese
89
These issues are also discussed in Stephen Campbell, "Giorgione's Tempest, Studiolo Culture
and the Renaissance Lucretius," Renaissance Quarterly 56 (2003): 299-332; Maria Ruvoldt,
"Sacred to Secular, East to West: The Renaissance Study and Strategies of Display," Renaissance
Studies 20, no. 5 (2006): 640-57.
90
Bruster, "New Materialism," 237.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 62
source that highlights the notion that texts do not always do what paintings (or
other visual imagery) can do: “letters, they tell us, help us to express the
sensations and thoughts of the mind. Yet does not painting perhaps do this better?
Men of letters themselves employ painting when they have to speak about
something that is extremely difficult to remember, or something which literary
description alone cannot express.” 91 Furthermore, it is often the ambivalence or
the “openness of things” to use Keane’s phrase, which can highlight interesting
and different ways of understanding textual sources, as well as uncovering
associations or mediations we might not find in textual references. 92 It is why,
throughout this thesis, my sources are varied, drawing from both visual and
textual sources.
We also need to be wary of applying too hastily the label “fetish.” As Jones
and Stallybrass have articulated, “this constant repetition of “fetishism” as a
category of abuse repeats rather than illuminates the problem.” 93 While the fetish
often figures in discussions on materiality, I have not discussed it in my thesis, as
I have found that such a label often makes the assumption that our engagement
with objects is always similar, rather than illuminating the diversity of objects and
our engagement with them. Moving away from a preoccupation with the fetish,
91
From Lelio Giraldi’s Progymnasma adversus litteras et litteratos, translated by Franco
Bacchelli and quoted in Campbell, "Giorgione's Tempest," 302, n.9.
92
Keane, "Social Analysis of Material Things," 191. For the agency of objects and their roles in
associations and as mediators see Latour, Reassembling the Social.
93
Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 10. For an important history of the fetish and its
use as a term, see William Pietz, "Fetishism and Materialism: The Limits of Theory in Marx," in
Fetisihism as Cultural Discourse, ed. Emily Apter and William Pietz (Ithaca and London: Cornell
University Press, 1993), 119-51. For a discussion of Pietz’s fetish, also see Jones and Stallybrass,
"Fetishizing the Glove," 114-5. For Latour “we explain the objects we don’t approve of by treating
them as fetishes.” Objects, for Latour, can act, can do things, and can make you do things, and
they are far too strong to be labelled as fetishes, while they are also too weak to be “treated as
indisputable causal explanations of some unconscious action.” Bruno Latour, "Why Has Critique
Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern," Critical Inquiry 20 (2004): 241.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 63
then, we may find it more fruitful to look at subject-object relations, to understand
in Bill Brown’s words “not what things are but what work they perform” and to
move beyond the paradox that things can be both meaningful and material. 94
This thesis thus takes very different objects of analysis to demonstrate how
the myriad of objects at court constituted relationships between and within courts,
how they could initiate relations, and were crucial in the ritual and symbolic
activities integral to court culture and the legitimation of power. By starting with
the objects themselves, I trace a variety of associations across the Italian
peninsula, opening up the concept of the court. The court, I argue, is not found
only in the body of the prince, but also in the variety of objects, that were integral
to ritual and symbolic practices, and that were important for the mutual and
conflicting relations between diverse social groups.
94
Brown, "Thing Theory," 7. Lorraine Daston has explored this material/meaningful paradox in
her introduction to a collection of essays, Lorraine Daston, "Introduction. Speechless," in Things
That Talk: Object Lessons From Art and Science, ed. Lorraine Daston (New York: Zone Books,
2004), 9-24. For a useful collection of papers on subject-object relations in the Renaissance see,
de Grazia, Quilligan, and Stallybrass, "Introduction," 1-13.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 64
Chapter 1. Carafa’s testa di cavallo: The Life of a Bronze Gifthorse
I. Introduction
“Very beautiful, a bronze head of a horse, and it is believed that it
came from a horse dedicated to Nettuno equestre, which belonged to
the Neapolitans in antiquity.” -Giulio
Cesare
Capaccio,
Il
forastiero 1
Giulio Cesare Capaccio’s commentary on a large bronze horse’s head
prominently displayed in the palace courtyard of Diomede Carafa, the first Count
of Maddaloni, is only one of many similar accounts. Viewers today who stroll
down Via San Biago dei Librai in the centro storico of Naples, can still catch a
glimpse of the colossal horse’s head (albeit a terracotta copy) in the somewhat
decrepit Carafa palace currently under scaffolding for restoration (Figure 5).
Capaccio’s observation on the horse’s head can be found in his Il forastiero from
1634, but starting from the fifteenth century, when the horse first made its
appearance in the courtyard of Diomede Carafa, Diomede’s antiquities, and most
notably the horse’s head, have featured prominently in the literature. The bronze
head has sparked the interest of a variety of individuals, including contemporary
diplomats and ambassadors, as well as later figures such as Johann Winckelmann.
In addition to the early narratives that speak to the bronze statue, scholars have
returned again and again to the fragment over the centuries. Certain facts about
the horse’s head remain unresolved including its original function, the artist of the
work, and its most disputable factor—the question of whether the horse’s head is
an antiquity or an early modern creation. The horse’s head is an enigmatic object
1
“Assai bella vna testa di cauallo di bronzo, e credesi che fusse di vn cauallo dedicato a Nettuno
equestre che anticamente haueano i Napolitani.” Giulio Cesare Capaccio, Il forastiero. BNN: B.
Branc 35.c.26 (Naples: Gio. Domenico Roncagliolo and Felix Tamburellus Vicarius General.,
1634), 855.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 65
and in spite of the efforts of Neapolitan historians and art historians, it raises
questions that have not been resolved.
The horse’s head, now in the Museo Archaeologico in Naples, is of bronze,
an expensive material, and has been skilfully executed. Because it is a colossus,
the features are rendered in their extreme: the eyes are large; the veins visible and
protruding; the nostrils flared and immense; the mouth open bearing teeth; the
skin taut in some places while wrinkled in others; and the ears carefully rendered
with individual hairs fully visible (Figure 6). The details of its features and its
colossal size would allow for the viewer to engage with it in diverse ways, either
from up close or from afar. Its placement in the Carafa courtyard drew in a varied
audience, including visitors to the palace and onlookers from the street. The
anatomical and physiognomical features of the creature are somewhat distorted in
their largeness, as Francesco Caglioti has observed, but it is perhaps the
exaggeration of its features, its sculptural hyperbole, as it were, that commands
our attention. 2
Besides its colossal features, the fragmentary status of the horse’s head, I
contend, is also the cause for discussion. Carafa’s horse’s head should be
considered within the category of “loquacious” things, to use Lorraine Daston’s
words. 3 For Daston, particular objects give rise to a surprising amount of talk, but
things also have the ability to talk if we are willing to listen to them. 4 The bronze
horse’s head is a quintessential example of this verboseness. While the bronze
2
Caglioti has noted the distorted features of the sculpture, Francesco Caglioti, "Horse’s head
(Naples, Museo Archeologica Nazionale)," in In the Light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance and
Greece. Exh. cat. Athens and Milan 2004, ed. Mina Gregori (Athens and Milan: Cinisello
Balsamo and The Hellenic Culture Organization, 2003), p. 199.
3
Daston, "Speechless," 9-24.
4
Daston, "Speechless," 11.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 66
head has featured prominently in Neapolitan literature, and to some extent in the
literature on Lorenzo de’ Medici (the benefactor of the horse), it is often treated as
mute. Scholars have attempted to solve the mystery of its origins and to date it,
either from antiquity or the Renaissance, and they have battled over Giorgio
Vasari’s attribution of the work to Donatello. What I intend to do here is
something different. While discovering the ‘true’ history of the horse’s head
might shed some interesting light on the object itself, I hope to demonstrate how
the horse’s head epitomises and concretises certain social and political
relationships. Furthermore, I hope to show why particular objects get taken up at
precise historical moments and in specific cultural and political milieus. To push
this further, I argue that the horse’s head not only represented certain political
relationships, but also constituted or referenced particular spheres of cultural
production. I mean cultural production in the largest sense and in ways that are
crucial to the early modern period: the making of memories, friendships,
alliances; the participation and institution of ritual events such as gift-giving,
public contests, spectacle; and the consumption, connoisseurship, acquisition, and
collection of things.
As long as details such as date, execution, or artist remain unknown, we are
left with unanswered facts and become hindered by the process of trying to obtain
those facts rather than looking at the thing itself. It is the very impossibility of
obtaining all facts and knowledge about the horse’s head—its elliptical nature as a
fragment—that has made scholars concentrate specifically on finding those facts.
But perhaps the very inaccessibility of this information should serve as a prompt
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 67
to study the object in new ways. 5 That is to say, rather than looking through an
object, we might try to understand what “work things perform,” and in what ways
they may have something to say about particular subject-object relations as Bill
Brown has suggested. 6 Brown analyses our tendency to “look through objects”
because they are “codes by which our interpretive attention makes them
meaningful, because there is a discourse of objectivity that allows us to use them
as facts.” But he points out that we rarely get to the thing itself. 7 Brown suggests
that we often begin to confront the “thingness” of objects when they stop working
for us. 8 Taking Brown as a starting point and because key facts about the horse’s
head remain elusive, it is perhaps more fruitful to consider the horse’s head not
only as a means to understanding Neapolitan court society at the end of the
fifteenth century, but also in terms of what actions it compelled, what relations it
formed, what connections it produced, and what reactions it provoked. Instead of
viewing the individuals in the exchange as the only active agents, we might look
at the ways in which the object exchanged is also an active player. To use a
question posed by Marcel Mauss, we might ask “what force is there in the thing
given?” 9
To begin, I will consider how the horse’s head generated various narratives
about its provenance, by examining literary texts on the history of Naples. The
statue takes up a prominent place within Neapolitan history, where the symbol of
the equestrian is seen as synonymous with Neapolitan identity. The horse’s head
5
For an insightful study on fragments in the Renaissance, see Barkan, Unearthing the Past,
Chapter 3.
6
Brown, "Thing Theory," 1-22.
7
Brown, "Thing Theory," 4.
8
Brown, "Thing Theory," 11.
9
Mauss, The Gift, 1.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 68
will then be examined as a diplomatic gift between Lorenzo and Diomede,
situating the statue as an active agent in solidifying political relationships at the
end of the Quattrocento. Furthermore, I will study the horse’s head in relation to
the gifting, lending, and racing of horses, which constituted elite forms of
sociability and revealed political dependencies and instabilities. Finally, I will
situate the horse’s head within the culture of collecting, demonstrating that its
value is not only manifested in its identity as a precious object, but in its
importance as an object of exchange that forged connections between individuals.
II. The Literary Life of a Horse’s Head
Throughout the centuries the narrative of Carafa’s horse’s head was
interwoven with a tradition regarding an antique equestrian statue. The historian
Gaetano Filangieri was the first modern scholar to trace these narratives through
the literary sources discussing the horse’s head. 10 In his article of 1882, Filangieri
demonstrates that the histories of two horse heads became conflated in the
sixteenth century. These histories will be outlined in detail below by examining
the primary sources themselves, but for clarity, I will provide a brief synopsis of
the two traditions here.
The first tradition of a horse’s head is linked to the history of an equestrian
bronze statue, which was believed to have been placed in front of Naples’ Temple
of Neptune in antiquity. This horse was alleged to have been cast by the poet
Virgil, and had magical healing powers for all infirm horses. When the Temple of
Neptune was destroyed, the Duomo of Naples was built in its place; however the
10
Gaetano Filangieri, "La testa di cavallo di bronzo già di casa Maddaloni in via Sedile di Nido,"
Archivio storico per le province napoletane vii (1882).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 69
equestrian statue remained and through popular legend, the tale of its healing
powers continued into the Christian period. The horse was also said to be a
symbol of Neapolitan freedom, so that in 1253, King Conrad IV of Hohenstaufen
(known as Re Corrado to the Italians) demonstrated his dominion over the
rebellious city by placing a bridle on the horse and attaching an epigram. This
epigram stated that the Neapolitan horse had governed itself until the just king
placed reins on it, symbolising his authority (“Hactenus effrenis, domini nunc
paret habenis, Rex domat hunc aequus Parthenopenis, equum”). 11 The horse stood
in front of the cathedral until 1322 when the archbishop had the body of the
bronze statue destroyed to make the bells for the campanile of the cathedral. The
horse’s head was then taken up as an insignia of the city as well as adopted as
imprese (emblems) for two of the elite “seggi” or quarters of Naples (Figure 7).
Filangieri has noted that the first author to conflate the story of the cathedral’s
horse’s head with the bronze head found in Carafa’s palace was Giovanni
Tarcagnota in 1566, who after telling the story of the cathedral’s equestrian statue,
declared the relic horse could still be viewed in the courtyard of the palace of the
Count of Maddaloni (Diomede Carafa’s palace). 12
The other narrative is of the Carafa horse head itself. In the sixteenth
century Diomede’s horse’s head is both reported as an antiquity (from the Temple
of Neptune) as well as a work by Donatello. Vasari notably dates it as an antiquity
11
Alfred de Reumont, The Carafas of Maddaloni: Naples Under Spanish Dominion (London:
William Clowers & Sons, 1854), 120; Licia Vlad Borrelli, "Un dono di Lorenzo de' Medici a
Diomede Carafa," in La Toscana al tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico : politica, economia, cultura,
arte : convegno di studi promosso dalle Università di Firenze, Pisa e Siena : 5-8 novembre 1992,
ed. Luigi Beschi (Pisa: Pacini editore, 1996), 236; George L. Hersey, "The Arch of Alfonso in
Naples and its Pisanellesque "Design"," Master Drawings 7, no. 2 (1969): 19.
12
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 408-9.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 70
in his first edition of the Lives and proceeds to attribute it to Donatello in his 1568
edition. 13 It is also said that the Carafa’s horse may be part of an unfinished work
of an equestrian statue of King Alfonso I d’Aragona, which was to be part of the
sculptural decoration of the triumphal arch at the Castel Nuovo. 14 It was not until
the nineteenth century that a letter from Diomede Carafa to Lorenzo de’ Medici
was found in the Archivio di Stato in Florence that solved part of the mystery.
Diomede writes to Lorenzo thanking him for the horse’s head and says he has
displayed it prominently in his courtyard. 15 While the letter indicates that
Diomede’s horse’s head is most likely not the remains of the Duomo’s equestrian
statue, scholars still battle over the question of whether the horse’s head is a work
by Donatello or an antiquity, and some still maintain it is the remnant from the
cathedral. 16
The primary sources unfortunately do nothing to solve the mystery and if
anything, seem to confuse the issue. One of the first narratives about the colossal
horse comes from Giovanni Villano’s sixteenth-century chronicle of Naples. 17 In
his recounting of Virgil and his great deeds, Villano relates the story of Virgil’s
creation of a metal horse, which cured the infirmities of horses and which was
13
Lauri Fusco and Gino Corti, Lorenzo de’ Medici: Collector and Antiquarian (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2006), 349, Doc 228 for both versions.
14
Caglioti, "Horse's Head," 198-200.
15
For the reproduction of the letter see Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 283, Doc 10;
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 416.
16
Hersey, for instance, still believes it be the Virgilian relic. Hersey, "Arch of Alfonso," 22.
17
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 407. Villano’s text was first published in the sixteenth century,
with a later edition in the seventeenth century. Giovanni Villano, "Croniche de la Inclita Cità de
Napole emendatissime, con li Bagni di Puzzolo, & Ischia nouamente ristampate, con la Tauola
cum Priuilegio," in Raccolta di varii libri (BNN. RACC. NOT.C.314) (Naples: Regia Stampa di
Castaldo, 1680).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 71
then destroyed to build the bells of the cathedral. 18 He goes on to say that the
remains of the horse were to be found in the ‘corte’ of the main church of Naples
and that the neighbourhood of the Piazza de Capuana incorporated a gold horse
lacking a bridle for their insignia or arms. In addition, Villano reports that the
neighbourhood around the Piazza di Nido took the insignia of a black horse
without reins, symbolising the horse on which the king attached the epigram to
show his control over the citizens. 19 Following Villano is the fifteenth-century
historian and humanist, Pandolfo Collenuccio who repeats the same story,
claiming it was Conrad who placed the Latin inscription. 20 Filangieri also notes
that the Neapolitan Pietro de Stefano repeats Collenuccio’s and Villani’s
narratives, stating that the bronze statue was destroyed by religious authorities to
be used in the construction of a large bell for the cathedral and maintaining that in
memory of this horse, the Seggio di Capuana used the insignia of the horse with
bridle but without reins. 21
18
Villano, "Croniche," 13 (Chapter 20). “Come fè un Cavallo sub certa constellatione che sanava
la infirmità de li Cavalli CAP XX: Anche fe` forgiare vno Cauallo de Metallo, sub certa
co’stellatione de Stelle, che per la visione sola, dil quale Cauallo, le infirmitate s’haiuano remedio
di sanità, il quale Cauallo li Miniscarchi de la cità de Napoli hauendo di cio’ grande dolore, che
non haniano guadagno à le cure de li Caualli infirmi, si andaro vna nocte & roctura, il dicto
Cauallo perdì la virtù & f`o conuertuto a’ la constructione de le campane de la maiore Ecclesia de
Napoli, in nello Anno MCCCXII. Il quale Cauallo si staua guardato à la Corte de lapredicta
Ecclesia di Napoli, del quale cauallo si crede, che la Piazza de Capuana portel’Arme, ò vero
insegne, cioè vno cauallo in colore d’oro, senza freno, per la qual cosa quando il Serenissimo
Principe Re Carlo primo, intrò in la Città di Napoli, marauiglandose de la Arme di questa Terra, ò
vero Piaza & de la Piaza di Nido, la quale hauia per Arme vno Cauallo nigro, pure senza freno, si
comandò, che sosteno scripti doiversi.
Hactenus effrenis, nunc freni portat habenas,
Rex domat hunc Aequus, Parthenopensis Equum.
Deli quali Versi la sentential in vulgare si è questa, che el Re iusto di Napoli doma questo Cauallo
isfrenato, `a li homini senza freno, li apparecchia le retine del freno.”
19
Villano, "Croniche," 13.
20
Pandolfo Collenuccio, Historiae Neapolitanae. BNN: RACC.VILL.A.65 (Basil: Apud Petrum
Pernam, 1572), 161-2, Libro IIII. Also see Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 408.
21
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 408.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 72
As mentioned, it is Giovanni Tarcagnota (also known as Lucio Fauno) who
introduces a new element to the story, which has particular interest for the Carafa
horse as it is at this moment that the two horse heads get conflated. 22 In
Tarcagnota’s 1566 Del sito et lodi de la cita di Napoli, he repeats the narrative of
the Duomo horse’s head but adds that this head can now be viewed in the house
of the Duke of Maddaloni. 23 Filangieri notes however, that the next historian,
Luigi Contarino, in his Nobiltà di Napoli recounts the story of the Duomo’s horse
but makes no reference to Diomede Carafa. 24 However, Tarcagnota’s conflation
of the Duomo’s horse with Carafa horse’s head does not get forgotten and in 1585
Antonio Summonte recounts a similar tale. After describing the bronze horse’s
head and its original placement in front of the cathedral, he claims that the relic of
this head can now be found in the courtyard of the Duke of Maddaloni in the
Seggio di Nido and remarks that the first noble seggi still take the horse as their
insignia today. 25 Summonte also notes that during his time, while the walls near
the Porto Capuana were being fortified, a marble bust of a horse was discovered
22
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 408-9. Also see Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 347 Doc
226.
23
“Et quella gran testa di bronzo, che se vede hora in casa del Signor Duca di Madaloni, potrebbe
agevolmente essere reliquia di quel cavallo.” Quoted in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 347
doc 226.
24
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 409.
25
“Soggiunge il Collennuccio, che andando Corrado verso la Chiesa Maggiore di Napoli: la quale
all’hora era la Chiesa di S. Restituta nel piano auanti la porta (c’hora è doue stà posto
l’Arciuescouato, fondato da Carlo I.) ritrouò vn Cauallo formato di bronzo (reliquia del quale è
quella testa; fabricata dentro’l cortiglio del Duca di Maddaloni al Seggio di Nido:) qual cauallo no’
`e dubbio alcuno, che fù l’insegna della Città, poi che vedemo che i due primi seggi, ò piazze de’
Nobili di q’sta Città fin’ hoggi dì se ne serueno p/ loro insegne, dico quei di Capuana, e Nido...”
Giovanni Antonio Summonte, Dell'Historia della città , e regno di Napoli. Tomo Secondo nel
quale si descriveno i gesti di suoi Re Normandi, Tedeschi, Francesci, e Durazzeschi, dall'anno
1127 infino al 1442. Seconda editione. BNN: B.BRANC. 117 K (28 (Naples: Antonio Bulifon
and Novello de Bonis, 1675), 116.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 73
lacking both its feet and head, 26 thus demonstrating that the equine was
incorporated into the iconography of the city and became a visual topos for
Neapolitan society. Later in the sixteenth century, Gian Battista Carafa, a distant
relation of Diomede Carafa, wrote a history of Naples, including the history of the
Virgilian horse but makes no connection between it and the horse’s head in the
Carafa palace. 27 In 1592 Lorenzo Shrader of Halberstand lists the antiquities in
the Carafa courtyard and mentions a colossal horse’s head but makes no other
reference to its history or provenance. 28 Scipione Mazzella, in his history of the
kings of Naples dating from 1594, recounts the history of the Duomo’s head but
makes no mention of Carafa’s horse. 29
Giulio Cesar Capaccio’s Il forastiero of 1634 makes reference to the horse
twice. 30 Capaccio’s book takes the form of a discussion between a foreigner and a
local, and the first reference to the horse’s head is described by the “cittadino”
when he recounts the history of the “cauallo di bronzo” that was placed in front of
the Duomo, which he says is an ancient Greek work originally dedicated to
26
Summonte, Historia Tom. II, 116-7.
Carrafa, Historie, 93-4 (Libro Quarto). Gian Batista Carafa quotes the same Conradian Latin
verse, and in addition adds his own vulgar translation “Questo destrier già di fortezza pieno, Del
suo Rè giusto hor obedisce al freno.”
28
“Caput aenei aequi ex colosso” quoted in Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 410; Italo M. Iasiello, Il
collezionismo di antichità nella Napoli dei Viceré (Naples: Liguori Editore, 2003), 113. Shrader’s
text was printed in Helmestad under the title Monumentorum Italiae hoc nostro saeculo et a
Christianis poita sunt, Libri quatuor.
29
Scipione Mazzella, Le vite dei re di Napoli. BNN. SEZ NAP II.C.74 (Naples: Gioseppe
Bonfadino, 1594), 60-1. “[Corrado] Ando` poi alla chiesa maggiore & in mezzo del campo di essa
era vn bel cavallo di bronzo antico postoui per ornamento del luogo per dinotare la liberta` della
citta`. Currado che intesse il simbolo dell’animale che era senza freno, gli fece porre il freno, sopra
del quale vi fece intagliare, questi due versi latini.
Hactenus effrenis, domini nunc paret habenis
Rex domat hunc aequus Parthenopensis equum.
Onde poi i cavalieri Napoletani del Seggio di Capoana vsarono di fare per insegna del detto loro
Seggio vn cauallo d’oro col freno in campo rosso, ma no’ cos`i fecero i cavallieri del Seggio di
Nido, i quali per arme del loro colleggio, vsarono di far’ vn cauallo sfrenato nero in campo d’oro,
per dinotare che la liberta` son fu maia ` loro tolta.”
30
Capaccio, Forastiero. Also commented on in Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 410-11.
27
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 74
Nettuno Equestre and later bridled by Corrado. 31 The “forastiero” proceeds to ask
about the two seggi that use the horse as their insignia. 32 The “cittadino”
conjectures that the “Cauallieri di capoana” have retained the impresa of the
bridled horse in memory of this action of Corrado to show their obedience to the
ruling house, whereas the “Caualieri di Nido” have retained the horse without
bridle, as a means to show that vassals should never have to render allegiance by
force. 33 The second mention of the horse’s head appears when the “cittadino” is
describing all the antiquities to be found in the “casa del Duca di Madaloni” (the
Carafa palace). 34 After listing numerous statues he notes that there is a beautiful
head of a bronze horse, which is believed to be the same horse that was dedicated
31
Capaccio, Forastiero, 173.
Capaccio, Forastiero, 173.
33
Capaccio, Forastiero, 173-4. “C. Non mai la peggio al sicuro. Anzi per dimostrar domino più
tirannico, ad vn Cauallo di Bronzo ch’era nella piezza della Chiesa maggiore, opera molto antica,
e giudicato che i nostri antichi Greci la dedicassero a Nettuo Equestre (di che mancai di ragionarui
nella nostra Religione) fè porre vn freno, con vn’Epigramma scritto, oue si dischiarua di voler
esser domator di questo cauallo, e le parole sono queste che e tengo bene `a memoria;
Hactenus essrenis Domini nunc paret habenis
Rex domat hunc aeequus Parthenopensis Equum.
F. Hò veduto in due vostri Seggi due Caualli dipinti; in vno vn Caual bianco con freno, in vn’altro
vn Cauallo nero senza freno. Sarebbero forse significatori di questo negotio?
C. Non potrei affirmar cosa alcuna di certo. Ben presuppongo che i Cauallieri di Capoana
ritenessero l’impresa del Cauallo frenato, forse per memoria di quest’attione di Corrado, ma’l
freno se ne sta’ sciolto, per mostrar che sono obedientissimi, e che’l freno potrà girarlo oue vuole
chi’l caualca, massime quando’l caualcatore saprà fare il maneggio, come sono i presenti Re, non
come Corrado che per caualcar a suo modo, cadde dal cauallo, e non l’indouinò nel governo. E
come che i Caualieri di Nido, sono quasi tutto con corpo con quei di Capoana, com’intenderete
vn’altro giorno, essendo vniti ne i voti, & in ogni altra cosa che appartenga alle loro Piazze, ha
voluto ritenere anch’essi l’impresa del cauallo, ma di altro colore acciò che da gli altri siano
conosciuti, e senza alcun freo, p/ che la fedeltà di Vassalli non deue hauer hauer seruitù soggetta
per forza, ma seruitù tale che sia grata a i Principi per auualersene quando, e come ad essi piace, e
forse anco han voluto significar, che se prima gli altri Re volsero mantener in qualche freno i
Napolitani, alla fine poi gli altri il rilasciarono, conoosciuta c’hebbero la lor fedelta, come nel
principio di caualcar vn cauallo si raffreno, che conosciuta la sua natura, se gli può rallentar la
briglia. Intendete però questa inaudita crudeltà di Corrado, che venendo Henrico suo nipote da
Sicilia, il fè vccidere per camino.’
34
Capaccio, Forastiero, 854.
32
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 75
to Nettuno equestre and on which Corrado placed a bridle, thus conflating the two
stories. 35
Filangieri remarks that Francesco Capecelatro in 1640 recounted the horse’s
placement in front of the Duomo but rejected the legend of the bridle and
Corrado, however he asserted that the relic of the Duomo’s bronze horse could
still be viewed in the palazzo of the Conti di Maddaloni. 36 Filangieri also
observed that Francesco de Magistris in the late seventeenth century retained the
traditional story of Corrado, linking Carafa’s horse with the Duomo horse. 37
Pompeo Sarnelli’s Guida dei forestieri from 1685 deals with the horse’s head
twice. 38 First in reference to the insignia of the elite seggi, and again in his section
on the history of the cathedral, recounting the story of Virgil and the destruction
of the horse’s body, stating that the head is now conserved in the courtyard of the
“Palagio di Diomede Carafa nella via di Seggio di Nido.” 39 Sarnelli provides us
with something very important in the 1688 and 1697 editions of his Guida—an
engraving of the courtyard of the Palazzo Carafa, depicting the antiquities to be
found there (Figure 8). 40 Most interesting is the title given to the image depicting
the Carafa Palace, which is labelled “Palazzo del Cavallo di Bronzo.” The bronze
35
Capaccio, Forastiero, 854-5.
“di cui, come dicono, è reliquia quella testa ancor oggi si vede nel palagio dei Conti di
Maddaloni” quoted in Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 411.
37
Status rerum memorabilium tam ecclesiasticarum, quam politicarum ae etiam aedificiorum
fidelissimae civitatis neapolitane. Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 411-2.
38
Pompeo Sarnelli, Guida dei forestieri. BNN: RAC.NOT B1076 (Naples: Antonio Bulifon,
1685), 53.
39
“…onde rupperto la detta Statua, e del corpo, ne fu formata la Campana grande della
Cathedrale; e’l capo conservatoli fu pemesso nel cortile del Palagio di Diomede Carafa nella via di
Seggio di Nido.” Sarnelli, Guida, 53 and 72-3.
40
For reproductions of the image see Bianca de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza nella Napoli
del Quattrocento (Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2007), 79, fig. 49; Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de'
Medici, 37, Fig 12; Rosa Franzese, "Luoghi favalosi nella posilicheata di Sarnelli," Napoli
Nobilissima 23 (1984): 117 fig 3.
36
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 76
horse’s head thus becomes the symbol of the palace and the family itself. This is
particularly important considering that palazzi were deemed to be the seat of a
family and were frequently named after the family who built them, even after they
changed hands. 41 Here the horse has become symbolic, and to an extent,
metonymic of the palace and also of the Carafa family itself. The horse’s head is
prominently depicted in the courtyard, almost alive in its realism, and resembles a
real horse’s head more than bronze statuary.
Carlo Celano’s Delle notizie del bello, dell’antico e del curioso della città
di Napoli originally published in 1692 repeats the story of the Duomo’s horse’s
head in the “prima giornata,” complete with the legend of Virgil, the healing of
sick horses, and the statue’s destruction for the cathedral’s bell. 42 He includes the
fact that the head and the neck of this horse can be now found in the cortile of the
palazzo of the Conti di Maddaloni. 43 Later on in the “giornata terza” he lists
numerous antiquities to be found in the palazzo of Diomede Carafa including a
large horse’s head. 44 Celano remarks that many have marvelled at this statue, and
he attempts to clear up some confusion around the history of the horse’s head. He
notes that Giorgio Vasari had claimed it to be a work by “Donatello Fiorentino”
41
For the importance of the palazzo in the early modern period, especially in Florence, see
Richard Goldthwaite, "The Florentine Palace as Domestic Architecture," in Banks, Palaces and
Entrepreneurs in Renaissance Florence (London: Variorum, 1995); Brenda Preyer, "Florentine
Palaces and Memories of the Past," in Art, Memory, and Family in Renaissance Florence, ed.
Giovanni Ciappelli and Patricia Rubin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 176-94.
42
Carlo Celano, Delle notizie del bello, dell'antico, e del curioso della città di Napoli, vol. I
Notizie generale e giornata prima. BNN: RAC VILLA 615 (Naples: Salvatore Palermo, 1792),
112-3. Filangieri also mentions Celano see, Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 412.
43
“Il capo ed il collo restò fano e si conserva dentro del cortile della casa de’ Signori antichi Conti
di Maddaloni, come in altra giornata si vedrà.” Celano, Notizie Vol I, 112.
44
Carlo Celano, Delle notizie del bello, dell'antico, e del curioso della città di Napoli, vol. II
Giornata seconda e terza. BNN: RAC VILLA 615 (Naples: Salvatore Palermo, 1792), 146.
Filangieri wrongly cites this in the second day rather than the third day, Filangieri, "Testa di
cavallo," 412-3.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 77
and yet Celano insists that many ancient historians have always spoken of this
statue as the impresa of the city, still retained by the Seggi di Capuana and Nido.
Celano also corrects Vasari by explaining that the horse made by Donatello was
not the colossal horse’s head, but a small equestrian statue on a column, which
was placed in the middle of the Carafa courtyard, and was a copy of the larger
horse (both visible in the Bulifon print, Figure 8). 45 He explains that one day King
Ferrante was to go hunting with Diomede Carafa, but instead of waiting for
Diomede at the Castello, Ferrante showed up at Diomede’s palazzo before Carafa
was dressed. Ferrante waited in the courtyard, and Diomede, in honour and in
commemoration of his king, erected in his courtyard a statue of Ferrante on a
horse in the exact spot where Ferrante had waited. 46 It is this statue—not the
bronze head—that Celano declares to be the work of Donatello. 47 Diomede’s
horse’s head and its connection with the ancient equestrian statue of Neptune is
thus recounted throughout the centuries, but another narrative emerges here,
connecting Donatello to the work.
We cannot be certain where and how the authorship of Donatello became
associated with the horse’s head, but there are a few documents from the sixteenth
century that affirm that Donatello’s authorship was already under deliberation.
Early records come from two manuscript copies of Antonio Billi’s Lost Libro in
the Magliabechiano in Florence, probably dating between 1506-30; however the
45
Celano, Notizie Vol II, 148-9.
Celano, Notizie Vol II, 148-9.
47
Celano, Notizie Vol II, 148-9. “Un giorno avendo stabilito Ferdinando di andar col Conte a
caccia, e levatosi per tempo, non essendo venuto in castello, secondo l’appuntato, il Conte; egli
postosi a cavallo andò nel suo palazzo a sollecitarlo, e l’aspettò nel cortile, finchè fosse levato da
letto, e vestito; onde il Conte in memoria di un cosi segnalato favore, fece eriggere in quel luogo,
dove aspettato l’aveva, la colonna, come si vede, e sopra vi collocò la statua del Re a cavallo, e
questa fu quella, che fece Donatello, trovandosi in Napoli.”
46
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 78
date of the actual manuscript is unknown. 48 The two manuscripts, identified as the
Codice Strozziano and the Codice Petrei are very similar, with only minor
variations in text. Both note under the section on Donatello that the artist created a
large head and neck of a horse, which was to be part of an unfinished portrait of
“re Alfonso di Aragona, Sicilia, Napoli e di altri reami” and that this head is now
in Naples in the “palazzo del conte di Matalona de’ Caraffi.” 49 Giovambattista
Gelli, in his Vite d’Artista, notes that Donatello made the head and neck of a horse
in Naples for a portrait of King Alfonso, but that it was left unfinished, and he
does not mention it in relation to Diomede Carafa’s horse’s head. 50 In 1524,
Pietro Summonte, in a letter written from Naples to Marcantonio Michiel in
Venice, comments on a beautiful colossal horse’s head found in the “casa del
signor conte di Matalone” and observes that it is by the hand of Donatello. 51 In the
1550 edition of the Lives, Vasari notes that many have attributed the horse’s head
48
The manuscript itself is up for debate, as scholars have questioned whether Antonio Billi was
actually the author, or simply the owner, and whether the text was written by a single author or by
a number of writers. Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 38 and 343 doc 218; Licia Vlad
Borrelli, "Considerazioni su tre problematiche teste di cavallo," Bollettino d'Arte 71 (1992): 74;
Borrelli, "Un dono," 240.
49
Fastidio first noted the connection to the Maglibechiano text in 1893, Don Fastidio, "Notizie ed
osservazioni: la testa di cavallo del Palazzo Maddaloni," Napoli Nobilissima 2, no. 9 (1893): 159.
The two texts are quoted in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 343, doc 218. Codice Strozziano:
“una testa et il collo d’uno cavallo di molta grandezza, è opera molto degna fatta per finire il resto
del cavallo sul quale è l’immagine del re Alfonso di Ragona e Sicilia, Napoli e altri reami, la quale
è oggi in Napoli in casa del conte di Matalona de’ Caraffi”; Codice Petrei: “Fece una testa col
collo di un cavallo di molta grandezza, opera molto degna, con il resto del cavallo in sul quale è la
immagine del re Alfonso di Aragona, Sicilia, Napoli e di altri reami, la quale è in Napoli nel
palazzo del conte di Matalona de’ Caraffi.” Also see Carl Frey, ed., Il Codice Magliabechiano
cl.XVII.17 (Berlin: G. Grote'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1892), 78.
50
“Fece ancora a Napoli il collo con la testa di cavallo opera meravigliosa per fornirlo e farvi su
la immagine di re Alfonso, ma non lo finì.” Girolamo Mancani, "Vite d'Artisti di G.B Gelli,"
Archivio storico italiano xvii (1896): 60. Also quoted in Borrelli, "Un dono," 240.
51
“In questa cittá [Napoli], in casa del signor conte di Matalone, di man di Donatello, e quel
belissimo cavallo in forma di colosso, cioé la testa col collo di bronzo.” Fausto Nicolini, L'Arte
Napoletana del Rinascimento e la lettera di Pietro Summonte a Marcantonio Michiel (Naples:
Riccardo Ricciardi Editore, 1925), 166. Also see Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 332, doc
196.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 79
in Diomede Carafa’s palace to Donatello, but he claims that Donatello was never
in Naples. 52 In his 1568 edition, he states that in the palazzo of the counts of
Maddaloni there is a horse’s head by the hand of “Donato,” and because it is so
beautiful many believe it to be antique. 53 In the nineteenth century Filangieri
discovered the inventory of Roberta Carafa, Duchess of Maddaloni dating from
12 January 1582, which listed the goods in the palazzo on the via Sedile di
Nido. 54 Among the list of antiquities held in the palazzo, the inventory notes a
“cavallo di bronzo, opera del Donatello.” 55 Scholars have debated whether this
was in reference to the horse’s head or the smaller equestrian statue of Ferrante. 56
It should be noted here that no inventories exist of Diomede Carafa’s goods from
the fifteenth century. A copy of Diomede Carafa’s will of 1487 can still be found
in the Archivio di Stato di Napoli, but it contains no reference to his collection,
only bequeathing his property and lands to his relatives. 57
Recently, art historians have returned to the fragment in attempts to fill in
the missing pieces. Art historian George Hersey suggests that the colossal statue
52
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 349, doc 228.
Both texts are quoted in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 349, doc 228. The 1550 edition
reads, “Attribuiscongli alcuni che e’ facessi la testa del cavallo che è a Napoli in casa del conte di
Matalone; ma non è verisimile che così sia, essendo quella maniera antica e non essendo egli mai
stato a Napoli.” The 1568 edition reads, “ed in casa del conte di Matalone, nella città medesima
[Naples], è una testa di cavallo di mano di Donato tanto bella che molti la credono antica.”
54
By this date, the Carafas had a number of palaces but this address confirms that the inventory
taken was the original 1466 palace of Diomede Carafa. Unfortunately I can not locate this
inventory. Filangieri notes that the original of this inventory was shown to him by his friend,
“Signore duca di Maddaloni” who had obtained his title and rights to the “Casa Maddaloni e
Colubrano” through his maternal family. I searched in the Archivio Carafa di Maddaloni e di
Colubrano in the Archivio di Stato di Napoli for this inventory but it no longer exists, and has not
been located by other scholars. When the inventory is mentioned in the literature, Filangieri is
always referenced as the source. Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 419.
55
Quoted in Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 419.
56
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo."; Reumont, The Carafas, 119-20.
57
ASNA Archivio Carafa di Maddaloni e di Colubrano I.A.2. The will was published by Persico
in 1899 as an appendix to his biography of Diomede and more recently his collection has been
discussed by de Divitiis. Tommaso Persico, Diomede Carafa. Uomo di stato e scrittore del secolo
XV (Napoli: Luigi Pierro, 1899); de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza.
53
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 80
once belonging to Diomede and now in the Museo Nazionale in Naples is antique
and is actually the Conradian horse from the Duomo, but that it has been touched
up by a Renaissance artist. 58 Hersey believes that it was used by Donatello as a
model for the unfinished equestrian statue of Alfonso, which he explains as
follows. In 1458 Donatello’s assistant and bronze sculptor, Antonio Chellino,
arrived in Naples to work on the triumphal arch. 59 As Chellino had worked on the
statue of Gattamelata with Donatello in Siena, Hersey assumes that he must have
been brought down to Naples to work on a large equestrian portrait of Alfonso,
which was intended for the upper niche of the arch of the Castel Nuovo. 60 To
further this theory, he cites two letters written by Alfonso to the Venetian Doge
Francesco Foscari and to the Venetian ambassador in Naples, demonstrating that
Alfonso was aware of the Gattamelata statue by Donatello and was interested in
having a similar one made. 61 Hersey then tries to establish a theory that would
coincide with both stories of the horse’s head: both its connection to Donatello
and its status as a relic of the Cathedral horse. He states that Alfonso probably
sent the antique statue north in 1452 to be used as a model for Donatello as an
“ideal prototype.” 62 He also proposes that the head was probably remodelled and
altered upon Lorenzo de’ Medici’s request, thereby making a suitable gift for
58
Hersey states “a number of writers have even gone so far as to suggest that Diomede’s
possession had no relation to the cathedral horse, but that it, and perhaps also the small statue,
were made by Donatello or his assistants in preparation for an equestrian portrait of Alfonso.”
Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 53. Hersey also dealt with the subject in 1969, where he suggested that
Diomede’s horse could either be a copy of the Duomo’s horse, or the actual horse. Hersey, "Arch
of Alfonso."
59
Hersey, "Arch of Alfonso," 22.
60
Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 53.
61
Alfonso wrote, “when we heard about the skill and subtlety of mind of Master Donatello in
making statues of bronze and marble, we had a great desire to have him near us and in our service
for a time.” Quoted in Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 54 and full Latin text on page 66, Doc 7.
62
Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 54.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 81
Diomede. Hersey thus contends that Chellino, an expert in bronze, would have
arrived in Naples in 1458 to supervise the work on the equestrian group that
Donatello was undertaking. In June 1458, Alfonso died, only a few months after
Chellino had arrived. Due to the political turmoil with Ferrante’s succession to the
throne, work on the arch was not resumed until 1465; by 1466 Donatello had died,
leaving the statue incomplete and thus Ferrante commissioned a smaller project
for the upper niche of the arch. Hersey suggests that Lorenzo sent the prototype,
the “Virgilian head,” now reworked, back to Naples to Diomede as a gift. 63
Recently, art historian Francesco Caglioti has found other connections with
Donatello in documents pertaining to the Florentine merchant Bartolomeo
Serragli. 64 Serragli (d 1458) dealt in luxury objects often between Florence and
Naples and was closely tied with the Medici and the Aragonese. In the autumn of
1456 payments are recorded to Donatello for a large unspecified work in bronze. 65
It was also in the autumn of 1456 that work on the triumphal arch at Castel Nuovo
was undertaken. In addition, Caglioti has noted that in February 1453 Serragli
paid money to an intermediary, Antonio di Lorenzo, who was “busying himself
with a bronze horse that must be done.” 66 Caglioti refutes Hersey’s argument that
the horse’s head is an antique and claims it is the work of Donatello. Caglioti
contends that Antonio Lorenzo, who had been paid a sum for a bronze horse,
probably travelled up to Padua, where Donatello was working to strike a deal with
the sculptor and to examine the equestrian statue of Gattamelata. Caglioti argues
63
Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 54.
Caglioti, "Horse's Head."
65
Caglioti, "Horse's Head," 199.
66
Caglioti, "Horse's Head," 199.
64
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 82
that Donatello must have accepted the commission, but suspended work after
trying to juggle too many projects, only completing the horse’s head. Work was
resumed on the arch in 1465 and completed in 1471, but by this time Donatello
had already died. Caglioti also conjectures that when Lorenzo de’ Medici visited
Naples in April 1466 he must have noticed the empty space in the upper arch.
When Donatello died later that year, Caglioti suggests that Lorenzo may have
remembered the horse’s head in Florence, and as the Medici were prominent
patrons of Donatello, the statue could have easily been found in one of the Medici
workshops. 67 Recalling the original purpose for the statue, Caglioti argues,
Lorenzo shipped the horse’s head to Carafa in 1471, uncoincidentally the same
year that the arch was finally completed. 68 Caglioti has also remarked on the
statue’s strange construction, noting that the head is not tilted, and therefore
appears a bit too upright and rigid. This, he proposes, is because the neck is cut
obliquely and therefore suggests that it should have been part of a larger statue. 69
It is evident, then, that whether or not a work by Donatello, the horse’s head
created a web of associations around it. If, as Caglioti suggests, it was a work by
Donatello, commissioned by Alfonso but ending up in Lorenzo’s hands, the
horse’s final passage down to Naples and into the courtyard of Carafa underlines
the connections such an object activates through its social life. 70 The numerous
narratives that were generated by the statue demonstrate how its fragmentary
nature prompted discussion about its provenance. It is its very elusiveness that
67
Caglioti, "Horse's Head," 200.
Caglioti, "Horse's Head," 200.
69
Caglioti, "Horse's Head," 199.
70
I use the term “social life” in reference to Appadurai, ed., Social Life of Things.
68
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 83
gives rise to diverse stories, causing some writers to connect it to the historical
foundations of Naples, while encouraging others to attribute it to fifteenth-century
artistic invention and skill. This ambiguity seems to be part of its appeal, fostering
interest in its very fragmented incomplete form.
Later Histories of the Horse’s Head
In addition to the early narratives, Carafa’s horse’s head continued to be a
source of commentary in subsequent centuries. In 1755 Margravine Wilhelmina
of Baireuth confirmed the presence of the horse’s head in Carafa’s palace and
noted that it was an antique bronze. 71 Both Winckelmann in 1758 and Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe in 1787 also record visits to the Palazzo Carafa. 72
Winckelmann contests Giorgio Vasari’s attribution to Donatello and comments
that it is “exceedingly beautiful” and references the tradition of the horse’s head
being an antique from the Duomo. 73 The antiquities of the Palazzo Carafa slowly
diminished through the centuries, and in 1809, the heir to the collections,
Francesco Carafa, Prince of Colubrano, donated the horse’s head to the Museo
Reale. 74 In a letter dating from 14 January 1809, the Minister of Internal affairs
71
“Au Palais Carafa ou Il ya la Tête d’un cheval Antique de Bronze. Le Cheval etoit entier
lorsqu’on le deterra, et force de L’admirer le Comun Peuple lui rendit un espece de Culte. Ce qui
fut cause qu’un fut obligé de la Briser. Il est dans la Cour de ce Palais. Il ny a rien de curieux dans
cette Maison qu’une grande quantité de Vases Etrusques.” Quoted in Iasiello, Collezionismo di
antichità, 117 n. 91.
72
Iasiello, Collezionismo di antichità, 117.
73
“At Naples, one admires, in the inner court of the Colobrano palace, the exceedingly beautiful
head of a horse, which Vasari wrongly ascribes to the Florentine sculptor, Donatello.” Johann
Joachim Winckelmann, History of Ancient Art, trans. Alexander Gode, vol. III (New York:
Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1968), Chapter II, 82. In the note, he comments: “It is
impossible to praise too highly the colossal head of a horse for its admirable workmanship.
According to the tradition, it is a remnant of an entire horse of bronze which formerly stood in
front of the Cathedral at Naples, but which was converted by the order of an archbishop in to a
bell.” 383, n. 25
74
Giuseppe Ceci, "Il Palazzo Carafa di Maddaloni, poi di Colubrano," Napoli Nobilissima 2, no. 9
(1893): 170; Iasiello, Collezionismo di antichità, 118.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 84
thanks the Prince of Colubrano for the donation, commenting that it is one of the
most beautiful works done by the hand of an antique sculptor. 75 In 1822 Lorenzo
Giustiniani published a guide to the Royal Bourbonic Museum in Naples (the
collection which is now mostly housed in the Museo Nazionale) claiming that the
horse’s head was a Greek antiquity. 76 He retold the mythic history of the horse’s
head and noted that he was currently writing a dissertation to clear up some of the
history of the horse’s head, but to my knowledge, these findings were never
published. The horse’s head is currently in the Museo Nazionale di Napoli;
however it is not on public display and can be found in the administrative
entrance to the museum. There are two copies of the horse’s head in the city: a
terracotta version in the Palazzo Carafa on via San Biago dei Librai (Figure 5) and
a bronze cast in one of the Metro stations. 77
Recent studies and technical examinations have done little to end debate
about the dating of the horse. Scholars have looked to other works by Donatello in
attempts to trace similarities or differences. Donatello’s Gattamelata, for instance,
has often been a source of comparison. Filangieri saw a close similarity between
the Gattamelata and the horse’s head, while Aldo De Rinaldis in 1911 was not
convinced there were enough similarities and believed the statue to share affinities
75
“Il Re ha molto gradito l’offerta fattaglia da V.E. del monumento in bronzo rappresentante un
busto di cavallo, riguardato come una delle più belle opere della mano maestra degli antichi
scultori, che fiorirono un tempo nella nostra patria, e mentre le manifesto la compiacenza della
M.S., La prevengo che sarà collocata nel Museo Reale con delle note incise in marmo ove sarà
fatta onorevole menzione del dono che Ella ha fatto.” Quoted in Ceci, "Palazzo Carafa," 170.
76
Lorenzo Giustiniani, Guida per lo Real Museo Borbonico/A Guide Through the Royal
Bourbonic Museum (Naples: Tipografia Francese, 1822), 42-3.
77
Caglioti incorrectly states that the original is in the metro station. Caglioti, "Horse's Head," 198.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 85
with works from the Greco-roman period. 78 More recent work by Licia Vlad
Borrelli attributes the metallic composition of the bronze and its facture to
Renaissance practices and particularly to the workshop of Donatello. 79 In
addition, Edilberto Formigli’s technical analysis of the horse’s head has led him to
believe it was a Renaissance construction, executed by Donatello or in the circle
of his workshop. 80 However, Lauri Fusco and Gino Corti cite two recent
publications on the collections in the Museo Nazionale (1995 and 1996), which
propose that the head is ancient. 81 This has led Fusco and Corti to believe that the
small equestrian statue of Ferrante, which was in the courtyard of Carafa’s
palazzo, is the work by Donatello and the bronze horse’s head is probably
ancient. 82
The Carafa horse’s head has also been compared to an ancient horse’s head
that belonged to the Medici and was known to have been on display in the
courtyard of the Medici Palace in Florence. The Medici horse’s head has always
been declared an antiquity, but some suggest that Donatello copied the Medici
horse’s head and that Lorenzo de’ Medici subsequently gave the Donatello copy
to Diomede as a gift. 83 The Medici horse is much smaller than the Neapolitan one
and the two have been compared recently by Borrelli (Figures 6, 9 and 10). 84
78
For a discussion of the different scholarly views in relation to Gattamelata see Fusco and Corti,
Lorenzo de' Medici, 224, n. 26; Borrelli, "Un dono," 241. I have not been able to procure the
article by de Rinaldis (A. de Rinaldis, “Di un’antica testa di cavallo in bronzo attribuita a
Donatello” Bollettino d’arte 5 (1911): 241-60)
79
Borrelli, "Considerazioni."; Borrelli, "Un dono."
80
Edilberto Formigli, "La grande testa di cavallo in bronzo detta 'Carafa': un'indagine
tecnologica," Bollettino d'Arte 71 (1992): 83-90.
81
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 39.
82
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 38-9.
83
A summary of the literature can be found in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 224 n. 26.
also see Borrelli, "Considerazioni," 75.
84
Borrelli, "Considerazioni."
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 86
Luigi Beschi has traced the Medici horse’s head, beginning with a document of
1495 that inventoried sculptures to be moved from the palazzo Medici by the
Signoria during the Medici exile. 85 Among the items listed is a “testa di cavallo
che era nell’orto.” 86 It was later returned to the Medici courtyard, where it was
seen in 1536 by Johann Fichard who commented on a bronze head of a horse,
noting that it was much smaller than the Neapolitan one. 87 The Medici horse’s
head was later listed in sixteenth-century inventories of the palace and is currently
on exhibit in the Museo Archeologico in Florence. 88 We can only be certain that
Lorenzo de’ Medici at one time owned or had access to two horse heads, one that
he kept and one that he sent down to Naples as a gift to Diomede. While Naples
had a particular connection to the symbol of the horse, equestrian statues were
also highly regarded across Italy, and Carafa’s horse’s head should be viewed
within this broader iconography, whereby a wide range of individuals collected,
commissioned, and displayed equestrian statues. 89
Carafa’s horse’s head has thus become a subject of contention among
historians and art historians, from the sixteenth century to the present. Its
fragmentary nature—both in its form and in its unknown provenance—gives rise
to speculation and narratives. Its equestrian iconography, as noted in the early
85
Luigi Beschi, "Le sculture antiche di Lorenzo il Magnifico," in Lorenzo il Magnifico e il suo
mondo: convegno internazionale di studi (Firenze, 9-13 giugno 1992), ed. Gian Carlo Garfagnini
(Florence: L.S. Olschki, 1994), 295. Also see Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 35.
86
Beschi, "Lorenzo," 295.
87
Beschi, "Lorenzo," 295. The text is also quoted in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 37 and
344, Doc 219.
88
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 36-7.
89
For two useful studies on the equestrian in the early modern period, see Pia F. Cuneo, "Beauty
and the Beast: Art and Science in Early Modern European Equine Imagery," Journal of Early
Modern History 4, no. 3/4 (2000): 269-321; Lisa Jardine and Jerry Brotton, Global Interests.
Renaissance Art Between East and West (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), pp. 132-85, Ch.
3.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 87
narratives, is linked to existing legends of Naples’ history. The statue encouraged
discussion not only about its provenance, but also about the individuals who
exchanged it. The horse’s head, as a gift, was thus connected to larger political
dialogues taking place on the Italian peninsula.
III. Lorenzo and Diomede: Arbitrators Between Florence and Naples
“We were there [Palazzo Carafa], looking at the
bronze statues he [Diomede] had received from
Lorenzo de’ Medici.”
-Zaccaria Barbaro 90
After a lengthy history of the horse’s head and its life in literary narratives,
we can now turn to the individuals involved in the exchange of the horse’s head.
Understanding the intense political scene and commercial interests of King
Ferrante and the Medici will provide a political and economic backdrop for the
gift of the bronze horse’s head. Rather than examining the horse’s head as a static
object in a collection, it is more fruitful to examine how it participated as a key
agent in socio-political networks. As Arjun Appadurai has effectively
demonstrated, it is studying objects in their historical trajectories that illuminates
their social and political potential. 91 To begin, I will provide a brief overview of
the individuals involved in negotiations between Florence and Naples. I will then
turn to the horse’s head and its place within these politics.
Diomede Carafa, first Count of Maddaloni is well known in the world of
fifteenth-century Italian politics. Not only was Carafa known for his various roles
at the Neapolitan court and his close relationships with the Aragonese, he was
90
“stemo assia lì [il palazzo Carafa], vedendo le statue de bronzo l’havea hauto da lorenco de’
Medici. Et, prexa licentia, trovai messer Zuanbatista.” Gigi Corazzol, ed., Dispacci di Zaccaria
Barbaro (1 novembre 1471-7 settembre 1473 ), Corrispondenze diplomatiche veneziane da
Napoli. Istituto Italiano per gli studi filosofici (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato,
1994), 399.
91
Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 5.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 88
also renowned as a famous collector and antiquarian, as well as the author of
numerous Memoriali, a series of humanist texts dedicated to the Aragonese. 92
Diomede is also reported as having an important role in the successful siege of
Naples by Alfonso I d’Aragona, stressing his support of Aragonese rule. 93
92
The most reliable and comprehensive biography on Diomede is still Persico’s nineteenthcentury study, see Persico, Carafa. Other useful biographical information can be found in Franca
Petrucci Nardelli, ed., Memoriali di Diomede Carafa (Roma: Bonacci Editore, 1988); Gioacchino
Paparelli, Diomede Carafa: Dello Optimo Cortesano (Salerno: Beta, 1971); Franca Petrucci
Nardelli, "Carafa, Diomede," in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, ed. Alberto Maria Ghisalberti
(Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1976). Two recent studies have examined Diomede’s
antiquities and architectural patronage, de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza; Iasiello,
Collezionismo di antichità, specifically 110-18. For English publications see John D. Moores,
"New Light on Diomede Carafa and his 'Perfect Loyalty' to Ferrante of Aragon," Italian Studies 26
(1971). Bentley, Politics and Culture, 141-6 . de Divitiis has also published a few articles in
English based on her Italian book, see Bianca de Divitiis, "Building in Local All'antica Style: the
Palace of Diomede Carafa in Naples," Art History 31, no. 4 (2008): 505-22; Bianca de Divitiis,
"New Evidence on Diomede Carafa's Collection of Antiquities," Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes 70 (2007). Reumont’s text of the Carafa family, although translated in
English, is often riddled with mistakes as he relies essentially on sixteenth century sources.
Reumont, The Carafas. Diomede also often features in Florentine literature, specifically studies
that look at artistic exchanges between Florence and Naples, see Borrelli, "Un dono."; Eve
Borsook, "A Florentine Scrittoio for Diomede Carafa," in Art, the Ape of Nature: Studies in Honor
of H.W. Janson, ed. Mosche Barash and Lucy Freeman Sandler (New York: Harry N. Abrams,
1981); F. Sricchia Santoro, "Tra Napoli e Firenze: Diomede Carafa, gli Strozzi e un celebra
‘lettuccio’," Prospettiva 100 (2000); Mario del Treppo, "Le avventure storiografiche della Tavola
Strozzi," in Fra storia e storiografia. Scritti in onore di pasquale villani ed. P. Marcy and A.
Massafra (Bologna: Società editrice il Mulino, 1994). For his palace see Georgia Clarke, Roman
House-Renaissance Palaces, Inventing Antiquity in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2003), 36-8; Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo."; Ceci, "Palazzo Carafa."
The first history of the Carafa family was published by Biagio Aldimari, Historia genealogica
della famiglia Carafa, vol. Secondo. BNN: Bibl Branc 111.H. 18 (1691). For the horse’s head see
the above section on its literary life.
93
Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 1. While scholars have deliberated over Diomede’s true role
in the campaign, he is often said to have been involved in the final siege and to have altered the
fortunes of the Aragonese at a moment when their victory appeared to be in peril. A wound to
Diomede’s leg while defending a tower allowed a sufficient amount of Alfonso’s troops to enter
Naples and lay claim to the city. While the literature is conflicting on whether it was actually
Diomede who was decisive in the Aragonese victory, letters in the Modena archives attest to an
injury to Diomede’s leg, something he complains about later on in life to his former student,
Eleonora d’Aragona, daughter of King Ferrante and Duchess of Ferrara. (“calò a la gamba dove
ebe la ferita quando trasivemo in Napoli” 4 April, year unknown, ASMO CPE 1248/4.) Some of
these letters are also quoted in Moores, "New Light on Diomede."; de Divitiis, Architettura e
committenza, 25. The sources that differ come from sixteenth-century accounts of the siege.
Angelo di Costanzo in Historia del Regno di Napoli (1581) reports that Diomede Carafa was the
leader of the expedition; Bartolomeo Facio (also known as Fazio) in De rebus gestis ab Alphonso
primo (1512) claims the defender of the tower who forfeited his life for the Aragonese cause was
not Diomede but Giovanni Michele Calatovillo; Tomaso Fazelli gives all the honour of the siege
to Diomede and claims he was the first to hoist the Aragonese flag (De rebus siculis). For
variations in the literature see Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 2.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 89
Aside from his military career, Diomede was respected for his loyalty to the
Aragonese cause and was involved in administration at court. By 1451, Diomede
already had the title of “scrivano di razione” and on 28 May of that same year he
also assumed the role of “amministratore generale dei beni.” 94 These roles are
often outlined as multifaceted; he has been labelled treasurer, guardarobiere,
counsellor, as well as general secretary and administrator. 95 Rather than
attempting to define Diomede’s specific job description, it is perhaps more useful
to see it as characteristic of Diomede’s many roles at court, which seemed to get
only more numerous with time and which functioned on both personal and
political levels in his relations with the Aragonese. After Alfonso’s death,
Ferrante was made king, and at his coronation ceremony in 1459 Diomede was
made cavaliere. 96 During Ferrante’s reign Diomede’s power increased; he was
granted feudal titles and lands, and he frequently appears on the diplomatic scene
as a crucial participant in privy councils, as advisor to the king, and as arbitrator
with political figures across Italy. 97 In 1466 Diomede was granted the title of
Count of Maddaloni, and in this year he also finished construction on his famous
palazzo in the Seggio di Nido, where he moved the office of scrivano di razione. 98
94
Paparelli, Diomede Carafa, 14; Petrucci Nardelli, "Carafa, Diomede," 525; Persico, Carafa, 66.
Persico, Carafa, 74; Paparelli, Diomede Carafa, 15; Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 7.
96
Antonio de Trezzo, the Milanese ambassador in Naples, reports in a letter from 10 February
1459, ASMI SPE 200, Letter 92. When the letters are numbered in a busta, I have provided the
number; however, many of these letters are often numbered in an arbitrary sequence, not
necessarily in chronological order, and are often placed out of sequence. In addition, I have often
found different letters with the same number. Petrucci Nardelli, "Carafa, Diomede," 525.
97
Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 9.
98
Paparelli, Diomede Carafa, 17-8. The moving expenses were paid for on 5 March 1466: “A
Cola Schiavo ed a 3 altri fecchini un ducato per recar tavole e cassoni dell’Uffizio dello scrivano
di razione dall’Arsenale di Napoli, ove si teneva il detto Uffizio, fino a Nido in casa di Diomede
Carafa dove nuovamente e ordinato che si tenga.” Nicola Barone, "Le Cedole di Tesoreria
dell'Archivio di Stato di Napoli dal 1460 al 1504," Archivio storico per le province napoletane IX
(1884): 207.
95
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 90
The palace was host to visiting dignitaries and illustrious people such as
Sigismondo d’Este, Antonio of Burgundy, and Matteo Maria Boiardo, among
others. 99 In addition, the Palazzo Carafa is frequently noted in diplomatic
documents as a place where ambassadors and other diplomats often went to
confer. 100 Diomede seems to have acquired a lot of wealth through his land
holdings, both in property outside of Naples as well as shops and houses in the
city centre, and is noted as providing financial assistance to the crown during
times of deficit. 101
Diomede’s power and wealth at times rivalled the king’s, but his success
was due to his unfailing loyalty to the Aragonese cause. While Diomede’s loyalty
to King Ferrante was unwavering, he also stands out as an astute arbitrator and
negotiator, not merely a puppet for Ferrante, but a clever advisor who acted in the
interest of Ferrante, but not necessarily always in compliance with the king. 102
Many ambassadors commented on Diomede’s powerful position and he was
regarded as an integral part of diplomatic relations. Diomede was also a recipient
of numerous diplomatic gifts, suggesting that he was seen as an important
negotiator for Ferrante and for Italian politics at large. Zaccaria Barbaro, the
Venetian ambassador in Naples, noted that Diomede had the reputation of a
99
Paparelli, Diomede Carafa, 18; Petrucci Nardelli, "Carafa, Diomede," 526.
The Venetian ambassador Zaccaria Barbaro often discusses visiting Diomede in his palace
“Andando hoçi a visitare Madama Leonora el magnifico signor conte, che era al zardino suo.”
Among other visits, he records going to see Diomede while he is sick with fever in bed, and he
finds all the sons and daughters of the king at his bedside. Barbaro also notes that all of the
ambassadors had been there visiting Diomede throughout the day. Corazzol, ed., Barbaro
Dispacci, 130, Letter 60, from January 7 1472 and 225, letter 104, 31 March The Milanese
ambassador also reported a visit of the Venetian ambassador to Diomede’s garden on 8 April
1475, see ASMI SPE 227.
101
Persico, Carafa, 120, 35.
102
Moores’ analysis of Diomede reveals the Count’s political savvy most tellingly. Moores, "New
Light on Diomede."
100
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 91
“secundo re.” 103 In 1458, Firmano Petrucci wrote to the Neapolitan ambassador in
Milan, Bartolomeo da Recanati, commenting that Diomede was a sort of factotum
and stating that the best way to ingratiate oneself with King Ferrante was to get on
Diomede’s good side. 104
In 1472 the dissolution of the marriage between Eleonora d’Aragona,
daughter of Ferrante and Sforza Maria was under negotiation and Diomede Carafa
played an important role in the Sforza divorce and her betrothal to Ercole d’Este,
Duke of Ferrara. 105 It was at this time that Diomede received a medal from Ercole
d’Este via the Ferrarese ambassador, asking in return a portrait of Eleonora. 106
Diomede was thus assumed to have a particular force in the outcome of the
marriage negotiations. Consequently, in 1473 during the marriage ceremonies in
Naples for Eleonora and Ercole, Ercole’s brother and proxy in the nuptials,
Sigismondo d’Este, presented Diomede and the secretary of the court with gifts of
silver. 107 Diomede was also the recipient of silver items from the Venetian
ambassador in 1471 and a series of gifts from Filippo Strozzi. 108
Also telling are the recommendations given by Ippolita Sforza, Duchess of
Calabria to her brother, Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan in 1472 for gifts to be
given to the Neapolitan court, detailed in a letter I found in the Milanese
103
“Costui fì reputado el secundo re et però io lo honoro...”Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 225,
letter 104, from 31 March 1472.
104
Paparelli, Diomede Carafa, 15.
105
See for instance letter from Francesco Maleta to the Duke of Milan from 24 April 1472, ASMI
SPE 221.
106
Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 212, Letter 101 from 28 March 1472.
107
ASMI SPE 224. 238. Letter from Francesco Maleta to the Duke of Milan, from 22 May 1473.
108
The gift from the Venetian ambassador is reported by the Milanese ambassador, Giovanni
Andreas in a letter to Galeazzo Maria Sforza in a postscript dated 28 March 1471. See ASMI SPE
220. 205. The gifts from Filippo Strozzi were part of many gifts brought down from Florence by
Filippo in 1473 to the Neapolitan court. See chapter two below as well as del Treppo,
"Avventure," 510. Originals for the Strozzi account books are located in ASF, cart. strozziane v
22, 95r.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 92
archives. 109 In response to advice asked by Galeazzo, Ippolita recommends giving
two horses to the king and two horses to the Duke of Calabria, but in addition, she
suggests that he give one to the “Conte di Matalone” (Diomede Carafa). 110 She
explains the addition of the gift to Diomede is necessary because if Galeazzo has
both the duke and the count as partisans, he has “the heart of the king in [his]
hands.” 111 Ippolita, who was often caught between loyalties for her natal family,
the Sforzas of Milan, and her marital family, the Aragonese, was well aware of
the intrigues at the Neapolitan court and who one might ask to obtain favours,
even though this often aggravated political relations between the Sforza and
Aragonese. 112 In addition to these gifts, Diomede was also the recipient of many
other presents from figures such as Lorenzo de’ Medici and Eleonora
d’Aragona. 113
Lorenzo de’ Medici first travelled to Naples in April 1466, where he went
to establish relations with the Aragonese court and to promote the Medici
cause. 114 Lorenzo went to Naples again in the winter of 1479-80 to seek peace,
when political relations between Florence and Naples were in utter turmoil
109
Francesco Maleta, Milanese ambassador to the Duke of Milan, ASMI SPE 223. 228, 31
December 1472.
110
ASMI SPE 223. 228.
111
“…se anchora paresse ad quella mandarne uno al Conte de Matalone: ad me pareria senon bem
facto: ch[e] havendo v[ostra] subl[imi]ta dicto conte e lo Duca p[er] v[ost]ri vuy haveti el cuore
del Re i[n] mano.” ASMI SPE 223. 228.
112
For Ippolita Sforza and her controversial role at the Neapolitan court, see Evelyn S. Welch,
"Between Milan and Naples: Ippolita Maria Sforza, Duchess of Calabria," in The French Descent
into Renaissance Italy 1494-95: Antecedents and Effects, ed. David Abulafia (Hampshire and
Vermont: Variorum Ashgate Publishing Company, 1995), 123-36.
113
See below for gifts from Lorenzo de’ Medici. For exchanges of gifts between Eleonora and
Diomede see ASMO CPE 1284/4, letters of 17 November, 22 November, 26 May, 8 July, 10
February. Written in Diomede’s own hand, none of these letters are given a year.
114
Judith Hook, Lorenzo de' Medici: An Historical Biography (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1984),
20-1; Borrelli, "Un dono," 239.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 93
following the Pazzi Conspiracy. 115 It was upon the first visit to Naples that
Lorenzo became acquainted with Diomede. A series of letters from Diomede to
Lorenzo surviving in archives in Italy and abroad suggest that the two men were
in regular correspondence. 116 While the gift of the horse’s head is often seen as a
sign of a great friendship between Diomede and Lorenzo, their relationship should
not be disassociated from the Italian political scene. 117 Both Lorenzo and
Diomede were diplomats who acted on behalf of larger regimes and interests:
Diomede for the Aragonese and Lorenzo both for Florence and the Medici bank.
John Moores has questioned how close this friendship really was, and suggests
that both Lorenzo and Diomede were conscious of the benefits such a friendship
and its reputation could provide. 118 Comprehending the political situation and the
particular climate that such gifts were given will shed light on the ways in which
such objects do not merely symbolise political relationships, but in many cases
constitute and even sometimes complicate those particular relationships.
Although the first surviving letter between Diomede to Lorenzo dates from
March 1471, it suggests that there was earlier correspondence that has now been
lost. In the letter of 5 March 1471, first published by Francesco Novati in 1894,
Diomede sends a Neapolitan buffone to Lorenzo for the festivities in Florence in
honour of Galeazzo Maria Sforza’s visit. 119 Lorenzo, as mentioned, had been in
115
Hook, Lorenzo, 113-4.
Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 11.
117
Borrelli calls it a “grande amicizia” Borrelli, "Un dono," 239. For a more realistic portrayal of
the relationship see Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 12.
118
Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 12.
119
Francesco Novati, " I manoscritti italiani d’alcune biblioteche del Belgio e dell’Olanda,"
Rassegna bibliografica della letteratura italiana II (1894): 206. “Magnifice domine honorande
comm.: hauendo fatto pensiero che alla uenuta de lo Ill.mo S. Duca de Milano in Florenza se
faranno de le feste et piaceri et recordamonce che v.s. pilliao piacere quando fo in Napoli de quisto
116
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 94
Naples in 1466 and according to the letter from Diomede, had found the particular
Neapolitan buffone amusing. The letter from Carafa regarding the buffone dates
from 5 March 1471 and five months later on 12 July 1471 we find another letter
from Diomede to Lorenzo, thanking him for the colossal horse’s head. 120 This has
led Borrelli to conjecture that the gift of the horse’s head may have been given as
a counter gift from Lorenzo for the buffone sent to Florence. 121 However, I
suggest that these actions are not simply examples of gift exchange, but rather
should be seen as symbolic of the rituals of gift-giving, which constitute larger
political and social relations. Furthermore, attention needs to be paid to the
specific forms and materialities of the objects exchanged, rather than merely
studying the reciprocity of gifts.
The late 1460s and early 1470s were filled with complex negotiations
between Naples and Florence, which involved constantly changing alliances and
secret agreements with other ruling powers. As Vincent Ilardi has put it “nothing
is more illustrative of the total disorientation of the Italian diplomacy in the three
year period following the death of Francesco Sforza than this display of moves,
and counter-moves, a constant ripple effect, devoid of any grand design or
goal.” 122 With this in mind, political relations between individuals of state were
extremely uneasy and prone to constant scrutiny. In 1470 there was talk of
nostro creato de lo actigiare suo hauemo deliberato mandarlo alla s.v. extimando adesso li piacer à
piú che allora et hauemoli ordinato et commeso che iusi (sic) che starà in Florenza il magnifico
misser Antonio Cicinello stia dicto mio creato ad ordinicione et comandamento de v.s. alla quale
me recomando et offero in omne cosa gli posso compiacere et seruirla me lo uollia ordinare che
me serà gratissimo satisfarli. Dat. Neapoli v˚ marcij 1471.”
120
Filangieri, "Testa di cavallo," 416; de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 98-9; Borrelli,
"Considerazioni," 76; Borrelli, "Un dono," 239; Persico, Carafa, 107.
121
Borrelli, "Considerazioni," 76.
122
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 98.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 95
renewing the triple alliance or Lega between Milan, Florence, and Naples. The
league was to provide a form of “diplomatic hegemony” in the peninsula on a
Milan to Naples axis with Florence, namely the Medici, providing financial
support. 123 The aim of the Lega was to provide a strong alliance that would deter
the Venetians from any expansions in the mainland and provide enough influence
to determine favourable elections of popes. 124 Maintaining a solid Lega would
also ensure, it was hoped, to deter any foreign powers, notably the French and the
Turks from invading. 125 The actual result was much less simple and even less
executable.
In the late 1460s Galeazzo Sforza was eager to reclaim Bergamo, Brescia
and Crema, which had been ceded to Venice with the Treaty of Lodi, and he was
seeking Ferrante’s help in obtaining these lands from Venice. 126 In May 1469 a
papal-Venetian alliance was instituted, and Pope Paul II was anxious to have
Ferrante pay tributes and arrears that were owed by the kings of Naples as vassals
of the Holy See. 127 Consequently, this led Galeazzo and Ferrante to strike a secret
agreement, whereby Galeazzo assured aid to Ferrante in the case of war between
Naples and the papacy and Ferrante in return would provide support for the
recovery of the lands from Venice. 128 Turkish threats to Venice’s Negroponte in
1470 forced Italian states to reconsider a unified Italy to counter the Turks, and
specifically there were rumours that Venice was seeking a secret alliance with
Naples. These rumours provoked enough suspicion in Galeazzo Sforza and
123
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 93-4.
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 94.
125
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 94.
126
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 96.
127
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 97.
128
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 98.
124
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 96
Lorenzo de’ Medici, that they sent ambassadors down to Naples to insist on a
triple alliance. 129 The Italian League was re-established on 22 December 1470;
however it served more as an attempt at reconciliation than a reflection of actual
political stability. 130 With the fall of Negroponte to the Turks, the Turkish
invasion was ever more a reality to Ferrante, and on 1 January 1471, the king
signed a secret alliance with the Venetian ambassador, Vittore Soranzo. This was
primarily an allegiance against the Turks but it also contained a clause that
stipulated either party would provide defence if attacked by the enemy, notably
Galeazzo and the Angevins. 131 By October 1471 the rupture between Galeazzo
and Ferrante had reached its height and Cavalchino Guidoboni, a go-between for
the two rulers, had lost all hope for any reconciliation. 132 Specifically, Guidoboni
blamed Galeazzo because he had antagonised Venice’s fans at court, specifically
Diomede Carafa and Orso Orsini. 133 It was also in October 1471 that Galeazzo
became the butt of many Neapolitan jokes, causing Diomede to comment that
Galeazzo was such a coward that “he would not dare to enter Bergamo and
Brescia even if their gates were left open.” 134
As noted, Ferrante had signed a secret treaty with the Venetian ambassador,
Vittore Soranzo on 1 January 1471. Only a few months later in March of that
year, the Milanese ambassador, Giovanni Andreas, reported to Galeazzo Sforza
that the Venetian ambassador had given Diomede a gift of two silver flasks and a
129
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 98; Medici, Lettere I, 175-6 and 206-7.
Medici, Lettere I, 236; Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 104.
131
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 106.
132
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 109.
133
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 109.
134
“s’el Sig.re vedesse aperte le porte de Bergomo et de Bressa, che non haviria ardire de intrarli.”
Translated by Ilardi, from a letter from Cagnola to Cicco, Naples, 15 October 1471, ASMI SPE
220, Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 110.
130
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 97
“large and beautiful” confetera. 135 This demonstrates that Diomede was often
used as a target for diplomatic gifts and such gifts could win favours or constitute
larger dependencies. The fact that the Milanese ambassador found it necessary to
report the news of this gift in a letter to the Duke of Milan also indicates that such
gifts were understood as tell-tale signs of allegiances, specifically when relations
between these states were already fraught. Although Diomede disliked Galeazzo,
he was also aware that a war between Milan and Naples would cause irreparable
harm to the state of Italy, and on 14 July 1472 he was part of a secret agreement
with the Milanese ambassador Francesco Maletta, Ippolita Sforza, and other
trusted advisers. The agreement included a pledge by Galeazzo not to aid the
rebels in Barcelona, and in return Ferrante was limited to how much aid he would
provide Venice if attacked by Milan. 136
As Humphrey Butters has noted: “the world of Italian politics was so fluid
and treacherous, the creation of impressions so cardinal a feature of it, that no
single ruler or regime could ever expect to command a clear view of what was
going on.” 137 Lorenzo de’ Medici was embroiled in these constant negotiations
between Milan and Naples and he had the Florentine ambassador in Naples
monitor and analyse Ferrante’s behaviour. Lorenzo also sought other sources of
information so that he could be provided with a clear understanding of the
135
A confetera is a type of dish often elaborately decorated with precious stones. “Questo
ambassatore ven[eziano] secu[n]do ho da bon loco ha facto qua de molti p[rese]nti degni in nome
de la Seg.re cioe al conte de mathalone [Diomede Carafa] al quale ha donato duy fiaschi dargento
e una confetera grande e bella.” ASMI SPE 220, Postscript dated 28 March 1471 from letter 206
from Giovanni Andreas to Galeazzo, Duke of Milan.
136
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 114.
137
Humphrey Butters, "Lorenzo and Naples," in Lorenzo il Magnifico e il suo mondo: convegno
internazionale di studi (Firenze, 9-13 giugno 1992), ed. Gian Carlo Garfagnini (Florence: L.S.
Olschki, 1994), 145.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 98
situation and his place in it. 138 Lorenzo’s relationship with Ferrante was complex;
he often found Ferrante difficult to deal with and was aware that their friendship
was clearly based on Ferrante’s acknowledgement that Lorenzo had political and
financial advantage. 139 Part of Lorenzo’s stakes in Naples was based less on a
belief in Ferrante’s rule, but rather a fear of the increase in power to the Pope or
the French if they were to overthrow Naples. 140
Aside from the specific diplomatic negotiations of political alliances,
Lorenzo’s relationship with Naples was also embroiled in the interests of the
Medici bank. Thus while Florence was negotiating a renewal of the Lega in 1471,
that same year the Medici bank decided to re-establish a branch in Naples, which
had been inactive since 1426. 141 Raymond de Roover sees no reason why Lorenzo
would have opened the bank in this year, but suggests that it had to do with
political motivations. 142 Hook proposes that the reopening of the bank was not for
commercial purposes at all, but solely to “foster the Florentine-Neapolitan
alliance.” 143 It is noted that the bank did extremely poorly, due partly to
mismanagement and partly to the fact that the majority of the loans were made out
to the Neapolitan crown, notorious for its deficit, thus underlining its political
intent rather than any hopes for profit. 144
In addition to re-instituting the Medici bank in Naples, the Medici and the
Aragonese were involved with other commercial negotiations in relation to alum
138
Butters, "Lorenzo and Naples," 145.
Butters, "Lorenzo and Naples," 145.
140
Butters, "Lorenzo and Naples," 150.
141
Raymond de Roover, The Rise and Decline of the Medici Bank. 1397-1494 (New York: W.W.
Norton & Company Inc, 1966), 257.
142
de Roover, Medici Bank, 257.
143
Hook, Lorenzo, 30.
144
de Roover, Medici Bank, 254-61.
139
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 99
mines in 1470-1. 145 The papacy sought to have a monopoly over alum and from
the mid 1460s the Medici were the primary associates for the papacy in the
market of alum. 146 The Neapolitan crown also laid claim to alum mines on the
island of Ischia, which were farmed by a Neapolitan merchant, Angelo Perotto. In
1470 the Medici bank in Rome entered into a twenty-five year agreement with the
operator of the Ischia mines, and the deal was ratified in June 1470 by Pope Paul
II, Ferrante, and the Medici as owners and financers of the Tolfa and Ischia
mines. 147 Although the contract was stipulated to last twenty-five years, the
agreement dissolved in 1471. De Roover suggests that the dissolution of the
contract may have been due to the Medici’s recognition that the alliance was not
advantageous or it may have been due to the dissatisfaction of consumers of the
poorer quality of the Ischia alum, while others have suggested that the contract
was revised to be more equitable because of the improved relationship between
the papacy and Naples with the election of Sixtus IV. 148 Whatever the reason, it is
clear that the Medici and the Aragonese were imbricated in a series of economic
and political dependencies throughout this time. In what follows, I would like to
highlight the particular agency of the horse’s head as a material form of exchange
within these socio-political relations.
As noted, Diomede sent a buffone from Naples to Lorenzo in Florence to
partake in the festivities of Galeazzo Sforza’s visit to Florence in March 1471.
This was specifically at a time when there were a series of alliances and counter-
145
de Roover, Medici Bank, 152-66.
de Roover, Medici Bank, 153.
147
de Roover, Medici Bank, 154.
148
de Roover, Medici Bank, 156, n.3.
146
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 100
alliances between Florence, Milan, and Naples. Diomede, an astute player in the
scene of politics, would have realised the importance in maintaining and
reminding Lorenzo of their relationship. But Lorenzo may have also realised the
importance of the friendship. Not only would he have been aware that Galeazzo’s
relationship with King Ferrante threatened the re-signing of the League; but
presumably, he also realised that Galeazzo’s behaviour was not winning any
points with Diomede. King Ferrante is known to have been a difficult individual
with whom to negotiate— “molto timido, pauroso et povero,” as Giovanni
Lanfredini, the Florentine ambassador in Naples in 1484, reported to
Lorenzo 149—and thus Diomede was probably a more suitable candidate for
negotiations. It may have been his understanding of Diomede’s character that
prompted him to give him the gift of the horse only a few months later. As Beschi
has noted, Carafa, the collaborator of Ferrante, was a good target diplomatically
for this gift especially considering the concurrent political instability. 150 Lorenzo
may have recognised that having Diomede on his side would be a critical
component in his diplomatic relations in Italy. In addition to the intricacies of the
triple alliance, it should also be remembered that Lorenzo was establishing the
Medici bank in Naples in the spring of 1471 in addition to the negotiations around
the alum mines, the same year that the horse’s head was given. Eve Borsook has
observed that Lorenzo must have sent the bronze horse’s head to Diomede just
before Lorenzo’s departure as an ambassador to Rome for the coronation of
149
150
Quoted in Butters, "Lorenzo and Naples."
Beschi, "Lorenzo," 294-5.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 101
Sixtus IV. 151 With a new pope on the scene, political relations would have been
unstable, necessitating the re-negotiations of alliances. While determining his
relations with the new pope, Lorenzo most likely wanted an ally like Diomede, as
Naples was sure to be a key player in future negotiations concerning not only
political alliances but alum and commercial interests.
In short, the gift of the buffone, right at the moment when Galeazzo was
visiting Florence, was an explicit gesture made by Diomede to encourage Lorenzo
to respect Florence’s alliance with Naples, and the gift of the horse’s head was a
way for Lorenzo to solidify his relations with Diomede, with the understanding
that the diplomatic relationship was going to be a long one, and extremely crucial
in the game of Italian politics. But in addition to the horse’s head Lorenzo also
provided Diomede with a series of other antiquities. It is unclear whether these
were gifts or purchases; however it demonstrates that the exchange of objects
encouraged and facilitated communication and conversation between Lorenzo and
Diomede. 152
Lorenzo’s trip to Rome in 1471 was successful on various fronts: on a
political level, Lorenzo established himself as an astute negotiator and diplomat;
on an economic level, he strengthened relations between the papacy and the
Medici bank; and on a cultural level, he acquired the majority of the late Paul II’s
collection of antiquities. 153 While many of these antiquities were desired by
various rulers across Italy from Ludovico Gonzaga to Galeazzo Sforza, Lorenzo
151
Borsook, "Florentine Scrittoio," 93.
If these antiquities were indeed gifts, then Fusco and Corti who claim that Lorenzo only ever
gave one antiquity away, that being the horse’s head, are incorrect. They make no note of these
other antiquities, passed from Lorenzo to Diomede. Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 11.
153
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 6-9.
152
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 102
was successful in procuring the majority of the booty, as the Medici bank
ingratiated itself with Sixtus IV, cancelling previous debts in return for many of
the items in Paul II’s collection. 154 This enraged Galeazzo Sforza who had his eye
on some particular items in July 1471, and who was later told in September that
he could not buy directly from Sixtus but would have to deal with the Medici
bank. 155 Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici were granted the positions of
“depositors general” of the Camera Apostolica in 1472, 156 thus revealing that they
had achieved favour with the pope, profiting economically from the alliance, and
they must have also hoped for political advantage through the connection. Beyond
the seizing of Paul II’s property, Lorenzo received “two ancient marble heads
with the images of Augustus and Agrippa” from Sixtus as a gift. 157 While the
relationship with Sixtus had deteriorated by December 1474, which resulted in the
revocation of the office of Depositor General, Lorenzo still managed to come
away from Rome with many of Paul II’s antiquities. 158
After sending the horse’s head in late spring or early summer of 1471 to
Diomede, Lorenzo must have felt that he still needed to ingratiate himself with the
primary counsellor to King Ferrante. In March 1472, exactly a year after Diomede
had sent the buffone to Lorenzo, the Venetian ambassador Barbaro reported that
154
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 9.
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 8-9.
156
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 9.
157
“di settembre 1471 fui eletto imbasciatore a Roma per la incoronatione di Papa Sisto IV, dove
fui molto tornando e di quindi portai le due teste di marmo antiche della imagine di Augusto e
Agrippa, le quali me donò detto Papa.” Quoted from Lorenzo’s Ricordi, see Fusco and Corti,
Lorenzo de' Medici, 6 and 337, doc 204.
158
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 9.
155
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 103
Diomede had received some “cameini” from Lorenzo. 159 Barbaro was visiting
Carafa who was sick in bed with a fever when Diomede showed him the “cameini
belissimi” that had belonged to Paul II, noting that these “cameini” had arrived in
the last few days via the Medici. 160 Barbaro uses the idiom that these gems had
been “capitati nel suo [Diomede’s] cogolo,” an expression in the Venetian dialect
making reference to a heavy net, usually used to catch eels more effectively. 161
Barbaro continues to comment that Diomede has the reputation of a second king,
and therefore Barbaro will honour him and entertain (“acchareço”) him as is
needed. 162 Barbaro, who was at the Neapolitan court to solidify an alliance
between Naples and Venice, rightly notes Diomede’s particular importance at
court, but also seems to be an astute observer of Diomede’s capabilities of
utilising this position in procuring gifts and favours. There is a hint of disdain in
Barbaro’s observations: first in his “cogolo” expression, indicating that Diomede
was somewhat aggressive in his acquisition of antiquities; and second, coming
from an ambassador from the Republic of Venice, Barbaro’s comment about
Diomede as a second king should be seen as a negative quality with tyrannical
overtones. In the autumn of that year, Barbaro remarks on six antique bronzes that
Diomede had received from Lorenzo de’ Medici. 163 A few days later, Barbaro
reports having been at the Palazzo Carafa, and having seen the “statue de bronzo”
159
Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 225, letter 104 from March 31 1472. The terms “cameini” or
“cameo” were used in the period often in reference to gems carved in relief, and were usually
antiquities. See Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, xxii.
160
Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 225.
161
Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 225, editor’s note.
162
“Costui fì reputado el secundo re et però io lo honoro et acchareço in modo luy vuol” Corazzol,
ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 225.
163
“Lorenço de’ Medici ha mandato al conte de Matalone 6 figure antique de bronço; et cum simel
et altri meçi cercha fare el fatto suo, et vienli fatto.” Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 381, Letter
181, from 4-5 October 1472.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 104
that Diomede had received from Lorenzo. 164 Whether these were actual gifts or
items purchased through Lorenzo it is unclear, but as it has been noted many
rulers across Italy were seeking to obtain the antiquities from Paul II. The fact that
Diomede got his hands on a few items through Lorenzo demonstrates that
Lorenzo had privileged Diomede.
Diomede Carafa was astute in recognising the importance of enmeshing his
personal reputation with that of Aragonese hegemony and how the nurturing of
culture could become a political and social tool. Similarly, as Melissa Bullard has
observed, Lorenzo de Medici’s ability to understand the political potential of his
well-crafted image is reflected in his ability to weld his ‘personal reputation’ with
Florence, but also in his knowledge of ‘how culture and its patronage could be
potent instruments of prestige and power’. 165 Both Diomede and Lorenzo had to
walk a fine line in order not to overstep their preconceived role within politics.
Lorenzo was fully aware of his precarious place within a republic while still
attempting to formulate his political and economic leadership through discreet
means. Diomede comprehended the necessity of stressing his loyalty to the crown,
yet sought political and economic power through his role as political mediator,
landowner, humanist, and collector. In his Memoriali, Carafa is careful to
emphasise the need of the courtier to exhibit virtue by pleasing his Signore and to
let go of any aspirations for political power, while he also warns against excessive
164
Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 399, Letter 188 17 October 1472.
Melissa Meriam Bullard, 'Lorenzo de' Medici: Anxiety, Image Making, and Political Reality in
the Renaissance', in Lorenzo de' Medici. Studi, ed. Gian Carlo Garfagnini, Florence, 1992, 9-12.
165
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 105
riches and prodigality. 166 It seems Carafa’s writings were an attempt not only to
provide recommendations for the present court and for future generations, but also
acted as a foil to any criticisms there may have been about his own political
ambitions and excessive expenditure on his palace. Lorenzo and Diomede were
thus both astute observers of social decorum and understood the ways in which
political power was often about acting as arbiters and negotiators. Lorenzo and
Diomede’s understanding of the relationship between politics and culture
contributed to their success. Studying the exchange of objects, such as the horse’s
head, thus illuminates the interdependencies between the political and the
material.
IV. The Significance of the Equine: Palii, Barberi, and Gift horses
Why a horse and what did the equine mean for fifteenth-century viewers?
By understanding the significance of horses in the late Quattrocento, we might
come to a better appreciation of the importance of the object’s iconography.
Horses were a common gift between rulers of state and horseracing was a popular
social activity in the Quattrocento. Indeed, as Michael Mallett has observed,
horses “represented something more than sport or recreation: they provided
political and social prestige.” 167 The importance of horses should be viewed
within three main activities: the giving and loaning of horses between rulers and
important figures, which constituted diplomatic relations and political
manoeuvring; the actual horseraces or palii, which were connected to a city’s
166
Giuliana Vitale, "Modelli culturali nobiliari a Napoli tra Quattro e Cinquecento," Archivio
Storico per le Province Napoletane 105 (1987): 89.
167
Michael Mallett, "Horse-Racing and Politics in Lorenzo's Florence," in Lorenzo the
Magnificent: Culture and Politics, ed. Michael Mallett and Nicholas Mann (London: Warburg
Institute, 1996), 257.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 106
identity, and often its patron saint; and the participation in the actual event of the
horseracing, either as observer, contestant, or as owner of a racehorse.
Horses, in particular, provided a range of ways to signify prestige and social
standing. To purchase and breed horses one had to have access to a substantial
amount of funds. In addition, one had to have the knowledge about horses as there
were many types of breeds, some special to jousting, others more suitable to
hunting and riding. 168 The Gonzaga were famous for their stables; 169 Lorenzo de’
Medici became increasingly interested in purchasing and maintaining horses as
well as partaking in tournaments; 170 Ferrante was also renowned for his
“collection” of horses and indeed, is also recorded commissioning books on
medicine for horses; 171 but many leading members of the Italian elite across Italy
all owned or took interest in horses, horseracing, and the gifting of horses. 172 King
Ferrante played a key role in the exchange of horses with individuals across Italy
and abroad. In 1460 Ferrante is recorded sending a horse to the pope; 173 in 1471
Ferrante sent four great corseri to the Duke of Modena complete with all their
apparel and cloth; 174 in 1472 he sent two horses to the Duke of Milan; 175 in 1473
168
Mallett, "Horse-Racing," 255.
Mallett, "Horse-Racing," 255.
170
Hook, Lorenzo, 17 and 34-5.
171
On 3 March 1474, Neapolitan court records show a payment to a Giovanni Marco for three
books on the medicine of falcons, of men, and of horses. Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 397. On 17
November 1492 the court records note a payment to “Antonio Scariglia di Napoli”, a miniaturist
for work on a “libretto di s[ua] m[aesta] de medicine de cavallj.” Nicola Barone, "Le Cedole di
Tesoreria dell'Archivio di Stato di Napoli dall'anno 1460 al 1504," Archivio storico per le province
napoletane x (1885): 20.
172
Mallett, "Horse-Racing." Also see Lorenzo de' Medici, Lettere, ed. R. Fubini, vol. V (Florence:
Giunti, 1977), Introduction to letter 467, page 34-7.
173
Payment recorded 1 May 1460, Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 12.
174
“Questo s[igno]re Re ha mandato a donare alo Ill[ustrissimo] ducha de Modena quarto belli
corseri co[n] le selle coperte de brochato doro et con li fornim[en]ti simili forniti dargento
sopradorato lavorati molto dignam[en]te.” ASMI SPE 220. 6, 1471 10 June, Giovanni Andrea to
Galeazo Maria Duke of Milan
169
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 107
he gave horses to the individuals involved in the bridal party of his daughter,
Eleonora d’Aragona, including Sigismondo and Alberto d’Este. 176 Many horses
were exchanged between the Gonzaga and Ferrante, 177 and in 1492 Francesco
Gonzaga requested a particular horse from Ferrante to use for a giostra in
Milan. 178 Horses were also a common gift between foreign powers, and were
continually exchanged between Naples and France and Naples and Turkey—two
powers who were constant threats to the Neapolitan kingdom. 179 King Ferrante
also commonly gave a horse and a gold chain to ambassadors upon their departure
from Naples. 180 The gift of horses carried political import, often when relations
were unsteady or undetermined. For instance, during the hostile relations between
Naples and Milan in 1471, Cagnola, the Milanese ambassador, was given the
175
“hogi la P[refa]ta M[aes]ta me ha facti vedere li duy cavalli ch[e]l manda a v.s. [Duke of
Milan] a dirvi el vero s[igno]re sonno duy nobilissimi e bellissimi corseri e giurame essa M[aes]ta
che] poyche glie Re non ussirono del regno duy megliori corseri.” ASMI SPE 223, Letter 147, 19
November 1472, Francesco Maleta to the Duke of Milan.
176
“La M[aes]ta del Re ha donate ad M Sigismondo e M/ Alb[er]to otto corseri cum le barde
dorati d[el]le piu belle se facino ad Napoli. Vinti altri cavalli cu[m] le selle solam[em]te ha
distribuita fra questi gentilhoi[mini] principali...” Francesco Maleta to Galeazzo Sforza, ASMI
SPE 224. 2, 23 May 1473.
177
In 1467 Ferrante wrote to Ludovico Gonzaga about a horse that Ludovico particularly liked,
which the king had bought for Ludovico, ASMA AG 802 letter of 23 February 1467. In November
1478 Ferrante sent two more horses to Mantua, to Federico Gonzaga, ASMA AG 802, letter of 28
November 1478, Ferrante to Federico Gonzaga. On 24 January 1482 Georgio Brongoli reported
that Ferrante was giving a “corsero” and a “zanetto” to Francesco Gonzaga, see letter of 24
January 1482, Georgio Brongoli to Francesco Gonzaga, ASMA AG 806.
178
Letter of 25 July 1492, Ferrante to Francesco Gonzaga, ASMA AG 802.
179
For example Ferrante gave horses to the ambassador of the King of Datia in April 1474 (ASMI
SPE 225); he gave a horse to the ambassador of France on 25 March 1474 (ASMI SPE 227); the
Hungarian ambassadors are given horses in 1475 (ASMI SPE 227); in March 1467 and in April
1482 the ambassador of the Turk gave horses to Ferrante as gifts from the Sultan (ASMA AG 805
and ASMI SPE 241, respectively); gifts from the French ambassador in November 1484 include
horses (ASMI SPE 244) and upon the French ambassador’s departure he is also presented with
horses and mules in January 1485 (ASMI SPE 245).
180
In 1472 Ferrante gave a horse and some silver to Carlino Cammastro, a Milanese ambassador
to Naples (ASMI SPE 221); in 1475 he provided the Hungarian ambassadors with cloth and horses
(ASMI SPE 227) and in February and March 1482 the Milanese and Florentine ambassadors
received horses from the king (ASMI SPE 237 and 238).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 108
unpleasant role of intermediary between Galeazzo and Ferrante. 181 Cagnola was
embarrassed about Galeazzo’s reputation in Naples, and Galeazzo, sensing
Cagnola’s timidity, recalled him for being too gentle with the Neapolitan court. 182
Upon his departure, Ferrante, who understood Cagnola’s awkward position,
awarded the ambassador with a horse and a gold chain. 183
Horses were also deemed to be a suitable gift for Ferrante. When Francesco
Maleta, the Milanese ambassador in Naples, was asked by the Duke of Milan in
1474 what an appropriate gift for the king would be, he recommended sending
horses. 184 In particular, Maleta provides three suggestions that would be suitable
as a gift from “principe ad principe”: his first suggestion is two or three horses;
the second, a pair of beautiful stallions; and his third suggestion, some falcons
with their own special cage. 185 The relations between the papacy and the
Kingdom of Naples were constituted by the gift of a horse. Tribute payments to
the papacy were always accompanied by the present of a white riding horse from
the rulers of Naples, dating back to the times of the Angevin monarchy. 186 During
unstable relations with the papacy, Paul II demanded the tribute money from
Ferrante, but the king only sent the token white horse, which did not satisfy Paul
II, and as an act of breaching social and diplomatic decorum, he sent back the
horse to Ferrante. 187
181
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 110-11.
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 110.
183
Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia," 111.
184
A copy of the letter sent by the Duke of Milan requesting recommendations for suitable gifts
can be found in ASMI SPE 226 (Letter number 107 from 14 November 1474, from the Duke to
Francesco Maleta).
185
ASMI SPE 226. 100 from 29 November 1474.
186
Bentley, Politics and Culture, 28.
187
Bentley, Politics and Culture, 28.
182
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 109
The exchange of horses between Ferrante and Lorenzo de’ Medici allows us
to see how political relations between these two individuals were embroiled in the
gifting of horses. Mallett has demonstrated that gifts and loans of barberi were
part of patronage and gift-giving networks and that Lorenzo’s dependence on
horses from Ferrante in the early stages of their relations should be seen as a sign
of a broader dependence on Naples. 188 At the end of July 1470 when relations
between Milan, Florence, and Naples were most unstable, Lorenzo had Otto
Niccolini look into procuring four horses from Sicily and the king became
involved, offering two horses to Lorenzo as gifts. 189 More horses were exchanged
between Lorenzo and Ferrante in 1477 and again in April 1480 when six corsieri
and a mule arrived in Florence as a gift from Ferrante. 190 As Judith Hook has
noted, the exchange of horses played a large role in diplomatic manoeuvring so
that in 1477, when relations between Ferrante and Lorenzo were deteriorating,
Lorenzo gave the king two stallions, il Sardo and il Gentile. 191 It was also in 1477,
preceding the Pazzi Conspiracy, when threats to Lorenzo’s life were already
circulating in rumours and his relationship with King Ferrante was particularly
unstable, that Ferrante opened up his stables for Lorenzo’s servant to select a pair
of jousting horses to be borrowed for a tournament in Florence. Lorenzo then
returned the favour by the gift of a mare to the king. 192 In 1482 Lorenzo received
the gift of a Turkish war horse sent by Ferrante from the spoils taken after the
188
Mallett, "Horse-Racing," 260-1.
Medici, Lettere I, 179.
190
Medici, Lettere V, 35; André Rochon, La jeunesse de Laurent de Médicis (1449-1478) (Paris:
Société d'édition 'Les Belles Lettres', 1963), 263-4; Mallett, "Horse-Racing," 258.
191
Hook, Lorenzo, 34. Medici, Lettere V, 35.
192
Hook, Lorenzo, 92.
189
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 110
recapture of Otranto. 193 In light of the political situation and in conjunction with a
letter from Diomede to Lorenzo this is particularly noteworthy.
In 1481 Ferrante sought aid from Lorenzo in evicting the Turks from
Otranto, relying heavily on Lorenzo for financial assistance. 194 In return, Ferrante
offered the restitution of lands occupied by the Sienese that had been controlled
by Naples in the Pazzi war of 1478-80. 195 As Butters has noted, it was the
invasion of the Turks in Otranto that forced the Duke of Calabria to leave Siena,
where he had been enjoying a commanding political role. 196 Relations between
Lorenzo and Ferrante have been traditionally assumed to be good in the early
1480s, but Moores, among others, have recently shown that the restitution of the
Sienese territories took longer than expected. 197 A letter from Diomede to
Lorenzo demonstrates that the lands were only being slowly reacquired after
much deliberating and general hostility. The letter dates from 9 January 1482 and
Diomede is particularly offended by Lorenzo’s aggressiveness in the matter,
rebuking Lorenzo for his treatment of Ferrante. 198 With this in mind, Ferrante’s
gift of the Turkish war horse in 1482 could signal larger political and social
tensions, but is also indicative of the ways in which horses not only signified
relations, but were used in constituting political dependencies. Furthermore,
horses could be used as a testing ground for understanding the nature of political
193
Hook, Lorenzo, 34.
Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 11.
195
Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 11.
196
Butters, "Lorenzo and Naples," 147.
197
Pontieri stresses that relations were good during this time, Ernesto Pontieri, "La dinastia
Aragonese di Napoli e la casa de' Medici in Firenze," Archivio storico per le province napoletane
26 (1940): 280. Butters and Moores have stressed the fraught nature of the relations, Butters,
"Lorenzo and Naples," 147; Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 11-2.
198
Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 12 and 22-3, doc VII.
194
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 111
relations. For instance, Hook suggests that Lorenzo’s request in 1478 for a loan of
jousting horses to the rulers of Piombino and Forli had little to do with the actual
need of horses, but were rather a criterion for investigating their political attitude
toward the Medici and Florence, significantly during the hostilities that followed
the Pazzi Conspiracy. 199
The gift of horses is also connected to the public horse race known as the
palio. The palio derives its name from the pall or embroidered cloth that was
awarded to the winner of the horse race. 200 The palio should be seen in connection
to public rituals, so often enacted in the early modern period, where civic identity
and personal prestige are confronted and negotiated. Prestige and honour could be
bestowed in many ways. A rider who successfully won a race would have the
honour of being the winner, but likewise, the owner of the horse would be
similarly honoured. In addition, it was prestigious to have one’s horse partake in
another city’s palio, and would thus establish one’s social reputation in another
city. The palio however was also a site of political tensions and sometimes
revealed latent hostilities.
One particularly instructive example of the political dimension of
horseracing is the palio of Siena in the 1480s. Siena occupied an uncertain
position between various ruling powers, and was therefore a crucial race for
foreign leaders to compete in. 201 Lorenzo was thus very eager to participate in the
Assumption palio in August 1480 in Siena, where Alfonso d’Aragona had
profited from a pro-Neapolitan coup in April of that year and where the fate of the
199
Hook, Lorenzo, 35.
Mallett, "Horse-Racing," 254.
201
Mallett, "Horse-Racing," 259.
200
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 112
ceded Florentine lands was to be decided. In addition, those who partook in
organising the race were influential diplomatic figures. 202 Competing in the palio
was a way for Lorenzo to re-establish himself in the city. It appears that Lorenzo’s
horses were not successful that year, 203 but what becomes clear is that the palio
was often connected to politically-heightened moments and made apparent sociopolitical relationships.
The exchange of horses as gifts or loans thus constituted political and social
networks between influential individuals. Appadurai has examined how the kula
system of the Western Pacific—the exchange of shells between powerful men—
belongs to a paradigm that he titles “tournaments of value.” 204 Tournaments of
value are “periodic events” where participation is usually restricted to those in
positions of privilege and usually constitute a form of contest or assertion of
prestige, power, and even cultural capital. 205 Appadurai thus uses the term to draw
a comparison between kula exchange and Baudrillard’s understanding of the art
auction, which “like the fête or the game, institutes a concrete community of
exchange among peers.” 206
202
Mallett, "Horse-Racing," 258; Medici, Lettere V, 36-8.
Medici, Lettere V, 39.
204
Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 21. The kula system of the Western Pacific involves
the exchange of kula shells between powerful men. The term “keda” is used to describe the route
or path that the kula shells take, but it also refers to the wealth, power, and prestige that are
attached to these forms of exchange. It is the very complex relationship between subjects and
objects, that is, between people and things that is illuminated by the exchange of kula shells.
Anthropologists who have studied this phenomenon note that it is not only the men who define the
shell value, but the shells also define the value of men, thus indicating that both shells and men are
mutual agents in defining one another’s value. This particular reciprocity of value is defined by
Nancy Munn, quoted in Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 20. The active agency of things is
effectively argued by Mauss. For his discussion of the kula, see Mauss, The Gift, 20-5.
205
Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 21.
206
Baudrillard quoted in Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 21.
203
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 113
Gifthorses and horseracing should be categorised as tournaments of value,
as should the gifting and displaying of antiquities during the same period, since
both activities constitute certain forms of association, prestige, power, and
knowledge. Within the exchange of kula shells, “keda” is a term used to define
both the movement of the shells and their social function. Keda, for Appadurai,
“is thus a polysemic concept, in which the circulation of objects, the making of
memories and reputations, and the pursuit of social distinction through strategies
of partnership all come together.” 207 The circulation of things between courts
created memories, social distinction, and instituted strategic alliances. The gift of
the horse’s head, then, should be seen within these tournaments of value, but
unlike kula shells, the horse’s head is a specific rather than a general object. The
value of the horse’s head lies not only in the fact that it was an object that partook
in symbolic exchanges, but that it was a representation of a symbolic object. The
placement of the head in the Carafa courtyard became a mnemonic device, a
reminder of the exchange between Diomede and Lorenzo, and alluded in its
iconography to the exchange of live horses.
The protome of the equine as a gift from Lorenzo to Diomede thus was
interlinked with notions of the equestrian associated with gifthorses, horseracing,
and political prestige and alliances. The symbol of the horse had a particular
identity with Naples, as already mentioned, it was imbricated in the history of the
city connected to the Virgilian equestrian statue and the tyrannical bridling of
Corrado; it was connected to the market of horses as Naples was a trade route
from North Africa and the East; it was adopted as insignia for two elite seggi; but
207
Underline, my emphasis. Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 18.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 114
it also had a connection to Neapolitan coinage. As an emblem of the city, the
horse featured prominently on Neapolitan coins in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, but already in the Roman period, a horse’s head was featured on coins
in the Campania region (Figure 11). 208 In February 1472 Ferrante decided to
produce new coinage, which became commonly called “cavalli,” named after the
horse depicted on the reverse, with the portrait of Ferrante on the front (Figure
12). 209 The equine depicted on the coin was an unreined horse, with the motto
EQUITAS REGNI, stressing Ferrante’s just rule, but also alluding to the history
of the horse that was bridled by Corrado’s tyranny. 210 Ferrante’s own succession
to the throne had been threatened by the barons’ revolt and alliance with the
Angevins, which culminated in the Aragonese victory at the Battle of Ischia in
1465. 211 The Baron’s Revolt of 1485-7 was also blamed on Ferrante and his son
Alfonso’s tyrannical policies. 212 The coin was thus a symbol of Aragonese
legitimation linking their rule to the history of the city, and by depicting a reinless
horse, Ferrante was suggesting that his rule provided freedom to the people, and
subverted any tyrannical undercurrents.
But once again, Ferrante’s policies and power assertion do not stray far
from Carafa’s own legitimation of power. What is perhaps most telling is a letter
written by Ferrante to the officials of the royal camera from 16 February 1472,
208
Mario Rasile, I 'cavalli' delle zecche napoletane nel periodo Aragonese. (Gaeta: Presso la
Poligrafica, 1980), 7; Borrelli, "Un dono," 235-6. The date of the Roman coin is debatable see
Michael H Crawford, Coinage and Money Under the Roman Republic. Italy and the
Mediterranean Economy (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985), 26-30
and 8-9 and 106, Figure 33.
209
It was also referred to as “cavalluzzo”, “calaluzzo”, “cavallirazzo” or “callo.” Rasile, Cavalli,
7.
210
Hersey, "Arch of Alfonso," 20 and 3, n. 14.
211
Bentley, Politics and Culture, 24-5.
212
Bentley, Politics and Culture, 29-33.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 115
indicating that it was Diomede Carafa who had suggested depicting the horse on
the reverse of the coin. 213 We know that Diomede already had the bronze horse’s
head in place in his courtyard by July 1471, so he must have suggested to Ferrante
soon afterwards that the equestrian symbol would be a suitable image for the coin.
Already an emblem for the two prominent seggi of Naples, and specifically the
Seggio of Nido, in which Diomede’s palace was erected, his suggestion to put the
equine on the back of the new Neapolitan mint aligned Diomede, his family, and
his palazzo with the institution of the coin. Although horses were not an
uncommon motif in the early modern period, featuring prominently in equestrian
statue iconography and also often on coins and medals, Carafa’s suggestion can
still be seen as closely tied with the horse’s head given by Lorenzo. It should be
noted that the horse featured on the back of Ferrante’s coin is a full body of a
horse and not a fragmentary head; any link to Carafa is thus not overt. We also do
not know whether Carafa’s suggestion specified a full bodied horse or just the
bust. The depiction of a bust of a horse, however, had already been depicted on a
medal for Francesco Sforza by Pisanello. 214 With the fraught political situation in
the early 1470s, Naples may not have wanted to make any reference to the
Sforza’s medal or assume any alliances with the Sforzas, which may have
influenced the decision to steer away from depicting only the horse’s head on the
coin.
213
Rasile, Cavalli, 7.
Francesco Sforza’s medal by Pisanello from 1441, had his portrait on the front, and on the
reverse was an image of a horse’s head with no bridle, see George Francis Hill, A Corpus of
Italian Medals of the Renaissance Before Cellini (London: British Museum, 1930), 8, number 23.
214
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 116
As the horse on the coin referenced the city’s history and Aragonese rule, it
might have also reminded viewers of the new horse’s head prominently displayed
in Carafa’s courtyard. Rather than viewing the horse on the coin as an explicit
reference to Carafa, then, it should be seen as contributing to concepts of the
equine and how Carafa’s horse’s head was perceived within the larger symbolism
of the equestrian. The naming of the coin as “cavalli” zoomorphicised a monetary
value, providing a further connection between the equestrian symbol and signs of
wealth and prestige. Aragonese legitimacy, Neapolitan identity, and Diomede’s
own political and social prestige, thus are all associated with the symbol of the
equine. My archival research detailing the exchange of horses between important
political figures highlights the ways in which the equestrian iconography of the
horse’s head, and its role in gift exchange between Lorenzo and Diomede, would
have been closely connected to the social and political associations of the equine.
V. The Horse’s Head and The Culture of Collecting
Beyond the political, economic, and diplomatic aspects of the gift of the
horse’s head, the object should also be understood within the sphere of culture,
which comes with its own set of politics. Neither Diomede nor Lorenzo were
heads of state. They were important diplomatic players in the games of peninsular
politics, but both obtained their powerful roles through careful manoeuvring. As
has been shown, it was through the delicate giving or accepting of gifts, and the
amicizie that were formed through letter-writing and gift-giving that gained them
access to their political prestige and power. But the gifts chosen and the timing of
their proffering was a learned skill and has very much to do with the culture of
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 117
collecting and display, intrinsically linked to the politics of knowledge. 215 The gift
of the horse’s head and the procurement of other antiquities for Diomede, are
clear indications that Lorenzo knew what would be suitable for an individual like
Carafa. Instead of giving Diomede a live horse, which may have underlined his
military and cavalleresque qualities, Lorenzo chose to give a bronze horse’s head,
stressing Diomede’s knowledge of antiquities and his reputation as a collector, yet
still alluding to the valour and prestige embodied in the equine.
Diomede’s thank-you letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici clearly states the
prestige bestowed by the gift of the horse’s head, as well as Carafa’s
understanding of the need to publicly display the statue. Diomede states in the
letter that he has placed it well in his house, whereby it can be viewed from every
angle. He goes on to note that not only will its placement provide continual
memory of Lorenzo de’ Medici to Carafa, but to Carafa’s sons, and that they will
always be obliged to Lorenzo for his love shown through such a gift, which is an
“ornamento alla dicta casa.” 216
Diomede’s palace was a form of museum: ancient busts were built into the
exterior walls; spoliated columns supported the cortile; busts of pagan emperors,
ancient sculpture, epigraphs, and the famous horse’s head occupied prominent
places in the courtyard; and sculpture, medals, modern art objects and paintings
215
For the politics of knowledge around the social life of things see Appadurai, "Commodities and
Politics," 41-56.
216
“ho recevuto la testa del cavallo la Signoria Vostra s’è dignata mandareme, de che ne resto
tanto contento quanto de cosa havesse desiderato et re[n]gracione Vostra Signoria infinite volte sì
per essere stato dono digno como per haverlo da la Signoria Vostra. Avisandola ll’ò ben locato in
la mia casa, che se vede da omne [sic] canto, certificadove che non solo de Vostra Signoria ad me
ne starà memoria ma ad mei fillioli, i quali di continuo haveranno la Signoria Vostra in
observanciai et serannoli obligati, extimando l’amore quella ha mostrato in voolere [sic=volere]
comparere con tale dono et ornamento alla dicta casa....” Quoted in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de'
Medici, 283, Doc 10.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 118
filled the interior rooms and studiolo. 217 The collection was discussed, as was the
horse’s head, throughout the centuries, being compared by Johann Fichard in
1536 to one of the most important early collections in Rome, that of the Palazzo
della Valle. 218 While Diomede’s collection was made up of many different items
he received as gifts, many of the antiquities were pillaged from the Temple of
Neptune in Pozzuoli, currently part of the church of San Francesco. 219 Indeed,
Diomede founded the diocese of San Francesco and acquired the lands in 1472
through the intercession of his cousin Tommaso Carafa, who was the archbishop
of Pozzuoli, and thus found many antiquities on his property. 220 Pozzuoli was a
well-frequented destination with the Aragonese and nobility, not only for its
restorative baths, but also as a site to visit antiquities and ruins. 221 The Neapolitan
palace thus became a depository for Carafa’s collections, the seat of the lineage,
and also a political locus, containing the office of the scrivano di razione. It thus
acted as a material signifier of the Carafa lineage, but also spoke to Carafa’s
political allegiance to the Aragonese. 222 Carafa had the reputation of a staunch
supporter of the Aragonese, but this reputation was reiterated, if not largely
created, by Diomede himself. The inscription on the cornice of the entrance portal
217
For a recent study of Diomede Carafa’s collection see de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza,
95-127; Iasiello, Collezionismo di antichità, 110-18.
218
Clarke, Roman House, 226.
219
de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 102.
220
de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 102.
221
For instance in October 1489, artists are paid by the Duke of Calabria to visit Pozzuoli to look
at the antiquities there. Barone, "Cedole ASPN X," 6. In 1466 Ippolita writes to her mother,
Bianca Maria, about going to Pozzuoli for the baths and to look at antiquities there, ASMI SPE
215. 101, 6 January 1466. “Domane el mio ill[ustrissi]mo consorte me mena a pozolo et a caccia
et avedere quelli bagni et quelle antiquitade inseme...”
222
The Carafa Palace and Diomede’s collection as a material embodiment of Carafa’s political and
familial aspirations was the study of an assessed essay I wrote during my Masters at the Courtauld
Institute of Art. I am particularly grateful to Patricia Rubin and Caroline Elam for their insights
and advice on the subject.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 119
to Carafa’s palazzo declares his wish to honour Ferrante and his patria, followed
by the title of Count of Maddaloni. 223 In addition to other inscriptions, the palace
is adorned with the Carafa arms and imprese as well as the Aragonese arms and
Ferrante’s own devices on the façade, courtyard, and doors. 224
Many recent studies on early modern culture and collecting practices have
shown that collecting and the spaces of collections have links to larger
epistemological discourses and the construction of knowledge. 225 It is through the
ordering of things and the accumulation of artefacts wrought from diverse
materials in collections, that the past is manipulated and knowledge is
constructed, understood, and legitimated. It was in this vein that heads of state,
popes, and prominent families collected and celebrated their collections. The
slippery nature of some objects—whether they were truly ancient or all’antica—
only added to the display of connoisseurship: active engagement with the object
prompted efforts to discern its true provenance. 226 Collections were also used to
223
IN ONOREM OPTIMI REGIS FERDINANDI ET SPLEDOREM NOBILISSIMAE PATRIAE
DIOMEDES CARAFA COMES MATALONE MCCCCLXVI, Clarke, Roman House, 243;
Roberto Pane, Architettura del rinascimento in Napoli (Naples: E.P.S.A., 1937), 107; de Divitiis,
Architettura e committenza, 48-9. Another inscription in the courtyard, on the pedestal of a
spoliated column, claims that Carafa founded the “building in praise of his king and as an
ornament to his fatherland; perhaps there might be a more suitable larger site in this city but he
thought it shameful to forsake his ancestors.” Clarke, Roman House, 36-7; de Divitiis, Architettura
e committenza, 48-9.
224
A large marble slab with Ferrante’s stemma with the inscription FIDELITAS ET AMOR is still
visible today in the centre wall of the courtyard. This inscription is also repeated in the frontispiece
in two of Diomede’s memoriali written for Beatrice and Eleonora d’Aragona (Figure 57), de
Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 48. The original doors are still used, with the insignia of the
Carafa along with Ferrante’s, carved onto the front panels, so that when the doors were open
Ferrante’s stemma would have been visible from the street, along with the other antiquities, and
when they were closed, the portal inscription and the carved insignia would be clearly visible as a
symbol of Carafa’s allegiance to the king.
225
Bolzoni, Gallery of Memory; Findlen, "Possessing the Past."; Michel Foucault, The Order of
Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (London: Tavistock Publications, 1970); Pomian,
Collectionneurs; Pomian, Collectors.
226
For a useful study on antiquities and their reception in the early modern period, see Barkan,
Unearthing the Past.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 120
create one’s identity through the objects collected, possessed, and celebrated and
they could serve certain political or social goals. The horse’s head thus provided a
perfect gift: a colossal fragmented sculpture given from collector to collector. The
sculpture itself provides a venue for the legitimation and testing of knowledge
(today as in the fifteenth century), in discerning whether it is an antiquity or an
all’antica work.
The sheer size of the horse must also be taken into account as part of its
material value as a gift and then as a collector’s item. It is not a small intimate
cameo or even a miniature bronze equestrian statue, which would be found in the
studiolo or in more interior spaces of the palazzo. The size of the horse and its
placement within the courtyard of the Palazzo Carafa turns a private statue into a
public monument, an object whose visibility and status generates discussion and
forms of association. The gift of the horse’s head itself thus becomes a public
statement, a gift that fosters new possibilities for viewership and engagement.
Anonymous viewers would have obtained glimpses of the statue through the open
doors of the palazzo, whether they were participating in a passegiata down the
street or whether they were visitors who had come to see the statue specifically.
Political leaders, diplomats, ambassadors, members of the court, and friends of the
Carafa family would have had a closer engagement with the statue. Even if they
merely passed the bust on their way into the inner sanctum of the Palazzo Carafa,
its colossal form and its prominent placement would have commanded an
engagement with it. The numerous sources that talk about the statue lead me to
believe that many would have had a significant connection with the horse’s head.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 121
It solicited, as it still solicits today, much attention and interest, taking an identity
of its own, separate from Carafa, and yet always somehow connected to him.
VI. The Agency of the Thing Given: Conclusion
Returning to the question posed by Mauss concerning the force of the thing
given, I would like to reiterate that the horse’s head should be seen as an active
player in gift exchange, which is undoubtedly tied to its larger role in political
partnerships. The bronze statue was not only a material signifier of political
relations, it created memories of association and partnership. Ronald Weissman
has observed that during the early modern period individuals sought to engage
with family, friends, or patronage networks, and when this was unobtainable, one
looked to convert “all necessary contacts with strangers into ties of obligation,
gratitude, and reciprocity.” 227 The case of the horse’s head demonstrates how ties
of obligation and reciprocity were constituted by material things, in this instance,
a gift. This particular gift can be seen as a diplomatic manoeuvre by Lorenzo, but
it constituted a series of political dependencies, obligations, and reciprocities.
Pomian has examined the ways cultures single out certain things as
“sémiophores”—objects which are harbourers of meaning and signification. 228
Pomian distinguishes between the visible and the invisible, that is to say, between
objects that are useful or utilitarian (objets utiles) and those that are meaningful,
outside utility (sémiophores, “objects qui n’on point d’utilité”). 229 For Pomian it
is the meaningfulness of objects that is the basis for their exchange value for
227
Ronald Weissman, "Taking Patronage Seriously: Mediterranean Values and Renaissance
Society," in Patronage, Art, and Society in Renaissance Italy, ed. F. W. Kent and Patricia Simons
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 44.
228
Pomian, Collectionneurs, 12-3 and more in depth in his section on ‘Les collections: les visible
et l’invisible’ 30-53.
229
Pomian, Collectionneurs, 42.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 122
collecting, and their preciousness is due to the fact that they represent the
invisible, the symbolic. 230 This idea of sémiophores and its connection with the
invisible is something I have attempted to get at. The meaningfulness of the
horse’s head operates on multiple levels. It is not only that there is an
interestedness in the object; that is, it is not only that certain historical individuals
are interested in, and engaged with the horse’s head, but there is an interestedness
inherent in the object itself. In short, the thing becomes something that has
interest, that has agency. As in the circulation of kula shells, it is not only the
people that give the thing value, but the thing itself which brings value and
prestige to the giver and receiver. Its agency is bound to its symbolic value, which
is what makes it a sémiophore. It is here that my use of Pomian’s terms “useful”
and “meaningful” must be truly understood as there is potential for confusion. The
value of the sémiophore is linked to the thing’s meaningfulness (symbolic value)
rather than an overt usefulness (utilitarian value). While the opposition of the
sémiophore with the utilitarian object certainly resonates with distinctions made
between gift and commodity exchange, I am hesitant to stress the gift/commodity
polarity. As it will become evident in the proceeding chapter, objects at the end of
the fifteenth century often occupied a position that can be characterised both as
commodity and sémiophore. My aim in this chapter is to demonstrate why certain
objects get singled out at particular times, and how they become culturally
relevant. In this case, why a bronze fragmented statue in the form of a bust of a
horse is deemed an appropriate diplomatic gift between two individuals heavily
involved in politics on the Italian peninsula. Why is that specific horse
230
Pomian, Collectionneurs, 43.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 123
prominently displayed in that palace courtyard, and why does it elicit so much
discussion? It is because certain objects—in their iconography, their form, their
provenance—are particularly salient, and can convey complex political and social
messages. The enigmatic nature of the horse’s head—its uncertain provenance, its
reference to a body of equestrian iconography, its fragmented form—makes the
object particularly resonant.
Mauss has claimed “the thing given is not inert. It is alive and often
personified.” 231 For Mauss, interestedness is intrinsically linked to the notion of
obligation: “obligation is expressed in myth and imagery, symbolically and
collectively; it takes the form of interest in the objects exchanged” and the objects
are never completely separated from those who exchange them. 232 What I would
like to stress in closing is that the exchange of objects is not only about things and
not only about individuals, but it is about relations between people and things. It
is about the obligation that a thing solicits, and the particular subject-object
relations that get formed.
The horse’s head becomes a topos that gets taken up throughout the
centuries. Given as a diplomatic gift, it defined the value of Lorenzo and Diomede
on a variety of different levels. The horse’s head distinguished both Lorenzo and
Diomede as political arbitrators and astute diplomats; it established both men as
collectors, antiquarians, and learned individuals in the circle of humanists; it
pushed them into the circle of gift-giving rituals between heads of state;
231
232
Mauss, The Gift, 10.
Mauss, The Gift, 31.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 124
furthermore it connected the gift with the symbolism of the equine, linked to the
prestation, giving, collecting, jousting, and racing of horses.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 125
Chapter 2. Bankers, Merchants, and Pawning: Practices and Circulation
I. Introduction
Benedetto [da Maiano], maestro of the lettuccio, left yesterday for
Rome [...] on which he has already applied, in gilding, 300 pieces
of gold, I don’t know if it will be enough [...] He assembled it this
morning in the shop, without saying anything to me, and everyone
leaving from the sermon saw it, and it was noted by everyone that
you were making it for the King [of Naples]: if it was by your
commission or by the order [of the king], I don’t believe anyone
could guess. And it was esteemed a beautiful thing and was much
admired by everyone who saw it, those [versed] in the arts as well
as [regular] citizens. [Giovanni Bonsi] and [Alessandra Macinghi
Strozzi] returned more than once to see it, because they really
admired it; and those [familiar with the shop] say that these things
are made to great perfection there, and all in all it was highly
praised. Even if Pierfrancesco [de Medici]’s [lettuccio] cost 200
fiorini larghi and […] the cornice decoration on his is prettier, I
don’t believe the body of it to be.
-Marco Parenti in Florence to Filippo Strozzi in
Naples, 12 April 1473 1
Marco Parenti’s commentary on the grand lettuccio (daybed) commissioned
by Filippo Strozzi and sent as a gift to King Ferrante of Naples raises a number of
issues in relation to the social exchanges and associations formed through the
circulation of objects between Florence and Naples. Made in the workshop of the
1
“Benedetto, maestro del lettuccio, partì ieri per Roma [...] òvi già messo, a dorare, 300 pezi
d’oro, non so se basteranno [...] Rizollo a queste mattine in bottega, sanza dirmi nulla, e all’uscire
della predicha ognuno il vide, e è noto per tutto che tu l’ài fatto fare pe’ l Re: se è per sua
comessione o per tuo ordine questo non credo che sia inteso. È tenuo da chi l’à veduto una bella
cosa e piace molto a ognuno, chosì dell’arte chome cittadini .16. (Giovanni Bonsi) e .17.
(Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi) vi ritornorono a vedere più d’una volta perché stimo piacessi assai;
e chi è stato costà dice che queste cose sono fatte molto a punto [(a perfezione)] a coteste costà, e
insomma è molto lodato. Nondimeno quello di Pierfranceso costò fiorini 200 larghi e credo anche
che sia più bello el corniciame [(l’ornamento delle cornici)], ma il mezo [(il corpo)] non credo.”
The text is from an edited version of Parenti’s letters; the translation is mine. The explanatory text
in brackets, such as the names in cipher and the translation, are from the editor’s notes. Marco
Parenti, Lettere, ed. Maria Marrese, vol. XXXVIII, Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento.
Studi e testi (Florence: Olschki, 1996), 236-8, letter 92. Del Treppo’s and Borsook’s transcription
vary slightly as they do not recognise that ‘16’ and ‘17’ are ciphered names rather than the amount
of people who viewed the lettuccio, see del Treppo, "Avventure," 488-9; Eve Borsook,
"Documenti relativi alle Capelle di Lecceto e delle Selve di Filippo Strozzi," Antichità Viva 9, no.
3 (1970): 14, Appendix I.9.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 126
da Maiano brothers in Florence, who were famous for their intarsia work across
Italy, displayed both in Florence and in Naples, the lettuccio attracted the
attention of many, and indeed influenced a taste for lettucci and for the work of
the da Maiano brothers in Naples. The especially large form of the lettuccio and
its function as a daybed asked viewers to engage with it in a particular way, which
emphasises the need to pay specific attention to the forms, materials, and
functions of objects. Indeed, as I argued in the previous chapter, it is often
something in the thing itself—its material, its form, its value—which is the cause
of its movement, and such trajectories often illuminate the object’s political and
social potential. 2
This chapter examines the practices of merchant-banking through pawning,
credit, and mercantile networks, which facilitated the circulation of objects,
causing objects to change hands constantly, and to come into contact with a wide
range of individuals, a process through which objects accrued histories. Gems,
jewellery, and antique hardstones were sought after, not only for their material or
artistic qualities, but also for their histories, their provenances, and their previous
illustrious owners. Used as collateral, many objects could be pawned or given as
credit, but unlike money, objects were, and are, absorbent of meaning and
memories, thus not only forging bonds between those who come in contact with
them, but also bringing about hostilities and complications. These objects also
circulated in visual form through replication across media from architectural
medallions to manuscript illumination. This circulation across space provided the
2
For the correlation between the trajectories of objects and their social and political potential, see
Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics."
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 127
basis for further representations creating a field of visual citations. This process
not only circulated the fame of the objects, but such representations also served as
a means to stabilise the loose and circulatory nature of the objects themselves,
allowing individuals to own copies of these transient objects.
Much of the literature on merchants and banking in the early modern period
has been examined in terms of economics, providing a quantitative analysis of
items, prices, supply, and demand. 3 Other studies have looked at the cultural
aspects of merchant families, such as the famous Florentine merchant-banking
houses, concentrating on cultural products in terms of family chapels and artistic
patronage. 4 More recent studies, notably work by Lisa Jardine and Evelyn Welch,
3
Michele Cassandro, "Affari e uomini d'affari fiorentini a Napoli sotto Ferrante I d'Aragona
(1472-1495)," in Studi di storia economica Toscana nel medioevo e nel rinascimento. In memoria
di Federigo Melis, Biblioteca del 'Bollettino Storico Pisano' (Pisa: Pacini Editore, 1987); de
Roover, Medici Bank; Raymond de Roover, Business, Banking, and Economic Thought in Late
Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Selected Studies of Raymond de Roover., ed. Julius Kirshner
(Chicago and London University of Chicago Press, 1974); Lorenzo Fabbri, Alleanza matrimoniale
e patriziato nella Firenze del '400. Studio sulla famiglia Strozzi, vol. XII, Quaderni di
Rinascimento (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1991); Michele Jacoviello, "Affari di Medici e
Strozzi nel regno di Napoli nella seconda metà del Quattrocento," Archivio storico italiano 144
(1986); Giuseppe Petralia, Banchieri e famiglie mercantili nel Mediterraneo aragonese.
L'emigrazione dei pisani in Sicilia nel Quattrocento, vol. 34, Bolletino storico pisano (Pisa: Pacini
Editore, 1989); Alfonso Silvestri, "Sull'attività bancaria napoletana durante il periodo aragonese,"
Bollettino dell'Archivio Storico Banco di Napoli 6 (1953); Pasquale Sposato, "Attività
commerciali degli Aragonesi nella seconda metà del quattrocento," in Studi in onore di Riccardo
Filangieri (Naples: L'arte Tipografica, 1959); Sergio Tognetti, "Uno scambio diseguale. Aspetti
dei rapporti commerciali tra Firenze e Napoli nella seconda metà del Quattrocento," Archivio
storico italiano 158 (2000); Alfonso Leone, ed., Il giornale del Banco Strozzi di Napoli (1473),
Fonti e documenti per la storia del Mezzogiorno d'Italia (Naples: Guida Editori, 1981). Mario del
Treppo and Alfonso Leone, Amalfi Medioevale, ed. Luigi de Rosa, vol. 5, Biblioteca di studi
meridionali (Naples: Giannini Editore, 1977). The first general studies on merchants in the
Medieval period and Renaissance are Jacques le Goff, Marchands et banquiers du Moyen Age
(Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1966); Georges Yver, Le commerce et les marchands dans
l'Italie méridionale au XIIIe et au XIVe siècle (Paris: Albert Fontemoing Éditeur, 1903).
4
For instance, the literature on Filippo Strozzi focuses mostly on his artistic patronage, rather than
on his position as merchant-banker. John Russell Sale, "The Strozzi Chapel By Filippino Lippi in
Santa Maria Novella" (PhD Thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1976); Borsook, "Documenti
relativi alle Capelle di Lecceto e delle Selve di Filippo Strozzi."; Eve Borsook, "Documents for
Filippo Strozzi's Chapel in Santa Maria Novella and Other Related Papers-I," The Burlington
Magazine 112, no. 812 (1970); F. W. Kent, "'Più superba de quella de Lorenzo': Courtly and
Family Interest in the Building of Filippo Strozzi's Palace," Renaissance Quarterly 30, no. 3
(1977). Goldthwaite has studied Strozzi’s banking activities in relation to the wealth of the Strozzi
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 128
have broadened our understanding of the social aspects of consumerism, looking
at what it meant to shop and purchase objects in the early modern period. 5 In
addition, there have been other larger studies that place the Renaissance at the
beginning of the history of consumerism and materialism, in contrast to studies
that situate the genesis of these trends in the Industrial Revolution. 6 This body of
literature discusses consumerism and commodities, but rarely gets to the actual
materialities or the things themselves. This chapter focuses on particular objects
and their material forms as well as the dynamic relations formed through the
circulation of objects, facilitated by merchant-bankers in the purchasing of goods,
the transferring of objects, the pawning of possessions, and the circulation of
material things. All of these give rise to interests in particular materials, to the
formulation of narratives about objects, and to new forms of association. In
contrast to the colossal horse’s head which had a restricted circulation—from
Florence to Naples—the gems and jewellery examined in this chapter circulated
much more frequently as currency and thus implicated a wider range of users and
owners. The smaller nature of these objects also incited a more intimate
family: Richard A. Goldthwaite, Private Wealth in Renaissance Florence. A Study of Four
Families (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 31-73.
5
Jardine’s work is useful conceptually, but has been critiqued for its historical inaccuracies.
Jardine, Worldly Goods; Welch, Shopping. For the critique see, Martines, "Review," 193-203.
Matchette’s recent work has also examined the social aspect of the second hand market,
Matchette, "Credit and Credibility." Other studies include Lawrin Armstrong, Ivana Elbl, and
Martin M. Elbl, eds., Money, Markets and Trade in Late Medieval Europe. Essays in Honour of
John H.A. Munro (Boston and Leiden: Koninklijke Brill, 2007); Sanjay Subrahmanyam, ed.,
Merchant Networks in the Early Modern World, vol. 8, An Expanding World. The European
Impact on World History 1450-1800 (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996); Donatella Calabi and Stephen
Turk Christensen, eds., Cities and Cultural Exchange in Europe, 1400-1700, vol. 2, Cultural
Exchange in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Marcello
Fantoni, Louisa C. Matthew, and Sara F. Matthews-Grieco, eds., The Art Market In Italy. 15th17th Centuries/ Il mercato dell'arte in Italia secc. XV-XVII (Ferrara: Franco Cosimo Panini
Editore, 2003); Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen, eds., Merchants and Marvels. Commerce,
Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe (New York and London: Routledge, 2002).
6
Findlen, "Possessing the Past," 83-114; Mukerji, Graven Images; Goldthwaite, "Empire of
Things."; Goldthwaite, Wealth and Demand.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 129
attachment from the beholder, as they were held in the hand or worn on the body.
The lettuccio, while a larger object, is examined to demonstrate how Florentine
merchant-bankers working with the Neapolitan court introduced new luxury
goods, leading to the formulation of tastes and knowledge around certain types of
objects.
The term “merchant-banker” is used to reference individuals who were
involved in trade, but also in transactions dealing with large quantities of money.
In the period itself, “mercante” is often used to refer to those who are involved in
transactions that we would associate today with banking. Frederic Lane and
Reinhold Mueller have distinguished three types of individuals dealing with
money: international bankers, pawnbrokers, and local deposit bankers; however
these can often be interchangeable, and in the case of Florentine bankers who
worked with the Neapolitan court, this diversification was certainly the case. 7
Furthermore, many firms acted in the capacity as merchants and sometimes this
was their primary business, whereby credit, pawning, and loans were secondary,
and often linked to their business transactions in goods.
This chapter begins with an introduction to the various individuals involved
in the circulation of goods, focussing on three main merchant-banking firms—the
Strozzi, the Medici, and the Gondi—as well as their clients. I examine the wide
range of individuals who came into contact with one another through the
exchange of goods. The Strozzi bank is given particular attention and I examine a
7
Frederic C. Lane and Reinhold C. Mueller, Money and Banking in Medieval and Renaissance
Venice. Coins and Moneys of Account, vol. I (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1985), 69. De Roover has stressed the diversification of Italian merchant
bankers, de Roover, Business, Banking, 210.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 130
list of gifts given from Filippo Strozzi to “friends” in Naples to show the variety
of individuals the merchant-banker was in contact with, and how these gifts could
solidify relations and give rise to new interests in different objects and artists. I
then turn to the things themselves, to demonstrate how the particular shape,
material, and function of an object results in different forms of engagement with,
and interests in, that object. The commissioning of Florentine lettucci and their
shipment to Naples involved a series of intermediaries, and also prompted
competitive commissioning, leading to certain forms of knowledge around the
consumption and commissioning of particular objects. The circulation of gems
and their diverse owners allowed objects to accrue histories, and led to the
formulation of narratives about specific gems. These histories contributed to their
value, as did the dissemination of those gems through replications in visual
imagery, from architectural medallions to manuscript illumination. Finally, the
last section investigates the practices of pawning, and examines how the
circulation of jewels could often complicate relationships as individuals competed
against each other for these objects. The final section also looks at the ways in
which individual jewels were invested with names, becoming personified and
personalised through the process of naming.
II. Circuits and Networks: Merchants, Clients, and the Courts
The manufacture, purchasing, exchange, and circulation of luxury goods
allowed for numerous individuals to come into contact with those goods. This
section will outline the people involved in the circulation of objects, beginning
with the merchant-bankers who facilitated the movement of objects, followed by a
brief outline of their clients, which included dukes, duchesses, kings, queens,
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 131
counts, and barons. It is also important, however, to stress that besides the
merchant-bankers and the consumers involved in the exchange of goods, a wide
range of other individuals also participated in the circulation of objects.
Individuals hired by the court such as guardarobieri, secretaries, ambassadors,
and servants were often involved in procuring, receiving, storing, or maintaining
goods. There were often, too, a series of intermediaries in the process of moving
objects, and this could include various individuals ranging from those who packed
and shipped the goods, customs agents who recorded duties, to operators of ships
carrying goods oversea or of carriages overland. Indeed, as Arnold Esch notes in
his study on Roman custom registers from 1470-80, “the statues, inkwells,
decorative vessels of precious metal, dainty candelabra and caskets that
surrounded […] cardinals in their studies, or which are depicted in paintings of St.
Jerome or St. Augustine by Ghirlandaio, Carpaccio and Botticelli are the same
objects that the customs official held in his hand, examined and evaluated, and
upon which he conferred a name.” 8 Furthermore, as is evident from the excerpt
from Marco Parenti’s letter above, artists and the makers of the objects were, of
course, also directly involved with the artefacts and sometimes even accompanied
them. The type of engagement with the object depended upon its size, and its
particular material form. In the case of the lettuccio, Benedetto da Maiano
travelled to Naples to assemble the daybed for the king as will be elaborated upon
below. There were also varied viewers, as Marco’s letter notes, sometimes
8
Arnold Esch, "Roman Customs Registers 1470-80: Items of Interest to Historians of Art and
Material Culture," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 42, no. 1 (1995): 87.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 132
anonymous passers-by during the production stage, or as invited guests or visitors
at court, when the objects were on display and used.
Banchieri a Napoli: The Florentine Firms of the Strozzi, the Medici,
and the Gondi
Trading if on a small scale, should be considered a vulgar
thing; if, however, it is on a grand scale, importing many
things from different parts of the world and distributing them
without fraud to all, then it should not be despised. Indeed it
seems worthy of praise, if those who undertake it, once they
are satisfied with the fortunes they have made retire from the
ports to their lands in the countryside. 9
The presence of foreign merchants and bankers operating in the Neapolitan
kingdom had been facilitated by King Alfonso I’s favourable policies towards
foreign trade, and this practice was continued under his son and successor, King
Ferrante. 10 Foreigners operating in business within the kingdom included
Florentines, Genoese, Pisans, Sienese, and Catalans, among others. Ferrante’s
policies furthered Alfonso’s, as he continually sought to abolish export taxes on
raw materials and granted individual tax exemptions to particular merchants. 11
Ferrante’s trade strategies have been studied to reveal that they created a “scambio
9
Tomas Garzoni’s sixteenth-century rephrasing of Cicero. Quoted and translated in Welch,
Shopping, 68.
10
For banking operations and foreign merchants in the Mezzogiorno see Mario del Treppo, "Il re e
il banchiere. Strumenti e processi di razionalizzazione dello stato aragonese di Napoli," in Spazio,
società, potere nell'Italia dei Comuni, ed. Gabriella Rossetti (Naples: Liguori Editore, 1986); del
Treppo and Leone, Amalfi Medioevale; David Abulafia, "The Crown and the Economy under
Ferrante I of Naples (1458-94)," in City and Countryside in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy.
Essays Presented to Philip Jones, ed. Trevor Dean and Chris Wickham (London and Ronceverte:
The Hambledon Press, 1990), 125-46; Silvestri, "Attività bancaria," 80-121; Sposato, "Attività
commerciali."; Tognetti, "Uno scambio."; Bianca Mazzoleni, ed., Fonti Aragonesi. Fabrica del
Castello di Cotrone (1485), Libro de Fuste di Policastro (1486), Registro IV della Tesoreria
Generale (1487), Concessione di Sale ai Monasteri (1497-1498), vol. IX serie II, Testi e
documenti di storia napoletana pubblicati dall'Accademia Pontaniana (Naples: Presso
L'accademia, 1978).
11
Ferrante’s relatively tolerant policy towards the Jews and Jewish refugees has also been seen to
be financially motivated as he saw them as potential financiers and expert artisans, particularly in
the cloth industry, Abulafia, "Crown and Economy," 134-7.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 133
diseguale,” that is, an unequal exchange between north and south: the south
exporting raw materials and foodstuff, while many textiles and luxury goods were
imported into the kingdom from the north. 12 What becomes evident is that
Ferrante’s economic dependencies did not steer clear from political dependencies,
and that the circulation of goods and money constituted political, social, and
economic relations. My study will concentrate on the role the circulation of
objects played in exchanges between north and south and how these exchanges
initiated, solidified, and complicated relationships. By understanding the ways
objects partake in these social exchanges, we can also begin to comprehend how
objects themselves can be sites of particular tensions and conflicts.
There were a number of companies engaged in trade and banking with the
Neapolitan court at the end of the fifteenth century, including the firms of the
Spannochi, Nacci (Medici), di Gaeta, Strozzi, and Gondi. 13 While these
companies served the crown, the records show that the Aragonese only
constituted part of their clientele, which included merchants, barons, and the
nobility. 14 The circulation of goods and money, then, was not restricted to the
king and his court, but involved a more open clientele and provided wider areas of
exchange. 15 This also suggests that the court should be viewed as an open system,
12
Tognetti, "Uno scambio."; Abulafia, "Crown and Economy," 126.
del Treppo, "Re e banchiere," 279.
14
The accounts of the Strozzi Bank in 1473 for instance shows that the state only formed 36.6% of
its clientele, while merchants constituted 53%, citizens 5.10%, and ‘feudatari’, such as local lords
and counts, comprising 5.3.%. del Treppo, "Re e banchiere," 248.
15
For a study on the court as a site of cultural exchange as an open rather than closed institution,
see Nolde, Svalduz, and del Río Barredo, "City Courts," 254-85.
13
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 134
and constantly in flux through the steady circulation of objects and people. 16 The
merchant-banking companies of the Strozzi, the Gondi, and the Medici will be my
main focus here, as they offer a wide range of examples from which to draw.
Filippo Strozzi, an exile of Florence, became one of the main bankers
serving the Neapolitan crown at the end of the Quattrocento. 17 The Strozzi family
had been exiled from Florence in the 1430s due to anti-Medicean sentiment
stemming from one branch of the family. 18 Upon the death of his father, Filippo
Strozzi, not yet thirteen, took on the responsibility of providing for his family and
regaining the family’s prosperity. Filippo had family relations who were involved
in business ventures internationally in Spain, Bruges, Rome, and Naples. In 1447
Filippo moved down to Naples from Spain to work with his cousin, Niccolo di
Leonardo Strozzi and in 1461, his brother Lorenzo joined him from Bruges. 19
Although he continued to be an exile from Florence, Filippo became a
correspondent for the Medici in 1455, while continuing to work under his cousin,
Niccolo Strozzi. 20 When Niccolo left Naples for Rome in the early 1460s,
Lorenzo and Filippo took the opportunity to branch out on their own, and on 28
16
The court as an open system is receiving acceptance from many scholars in court studies,
especially in regards to the earlier courts of the fifteenth century. See my introduction and see
Asch, "Court and Household."; Dean, "The Courts."
17
Goldthwaite’s study of the Strozzi remains to be one of the most informative on the family, see
Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 31-73. Sale’s PhD Thesis also proves to be a useful source, Filippo
Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", especially 7-82. For Strozzi patronage see Borsook, "Documenti relativi
alle Capelle di Lecceto e delle Selve di Filippo Strozzi." One account book of the Strozzi Bank is
published, see Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi. Filippo Strozzi kept constant correspondence with
his brother-in-law, Marco Parenti and the letters are published in Parenti, Lettere. For Strozzi’s
quest to return from exile see, Mark Phillips, The Memoir of Marco Parenti. A Life in Medici
Florence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). For the Strozzi family in general see
Fabbri, Alleanza matrimoniale. The Strozzi archives in Florence are also well preserved,
containing letters as well as account books. Carte Strozziane (CS), Archivio di Stato di Firenze
(ASF).
18
Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 7.
19
Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 9-11.
20
Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 9.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 135
January 1463, King Ferrante conceded to Filippo Strozzi and his agents the rights
to conduct business in the kingdom. 21 Filippo’s relations with the king served him
well. Not only did Filippo’s business in Naples—the establishment of a bank and
fondaco—earn great revenues, he was granted the title of councillor of state, and
it was Ferrante who negotiated Filippo’s repatriation to Florence. 22 On 13
September 1466 Ferrante wrote to Lorenzo de’ Medici, urging him to allow
Filippo to return to Florence. 23 Ferrante also arranged for his son, Don Federigo,
to negotiate with Piero de’ Medici on the part of the Strozzi, when Federigo was
passing through Florence for the wedding celebrations of Ippolita Sforza and
Alfonso II d’Aragona. 24 On 20 September 1466, the Florentine magistrate council
of the Otto di Guardia lifted the ban on many exiled Florentines, including the
Strozzi and on 30 November 1466, Filippo returned to Florence. 25 While Filippo
established himself in Florence, his brother Lorenzo remained in Naples and
together, they opened a branch in Florence in 1470 and later a branch in Rome in
1482. 26 Although Filippo was based now in Florence, he still carried out
commissions and loans for the Neapolitan crown, and the south continued to be a
great source of revenue for the Strozzi Bank. Filippo was also still heavily
involved with the Aragonese, travelling down to Naples throughout the 1470s.
Ironically, Filippo, once an exiled Florentine, was given the role of intermediary
between Florence and Naples following the Pazzi Conspiracy and he was asked to
21
Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 55.
Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 56-7.
23
Pontieri reproduces the letter from Ferrante to Lorenzo, see Pontieri, "La dinastia Aragonese di
Napoli e la casa de' Medici in Firenze," 288.
24
Phillips, Memoir, 127.
25
Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 14.
26
Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 14-5.
22
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 136
accompany Lorenzo de’ Medici to Naples in 1478. 27 Correspondence in the
Strozzi Archives in Florence reveals Filippo maintained close relations with many
ruling families across Italy, including the Aragonese, suggesting that his business
formed both mercantile as well as more personal relations with a wide range of
individuals. 28 It was Filippo’s business relations with the Aragonese, which
provided him with important social contacts, and led to his repatriation to
Florence.
The Strozzi bank was used for a variety of purposes. As a banker, Strozzi
provided quick capital for the crown, furnished loans to the Aragonese, supplied
credit for pawns and bills of exchange for larger payments. In his capacity as a
merchant, Strozzi purchased various luxury objects in Florence and shipped them
to the Neapolitan court and he also arranged for Florentine artists to travel to
Naples and work for the court. Throughout his life, Filippo was an important
contact for books shipped from Florence to Naples. While Naples had a set of
resident court humanists, scribes, and illuminators and there are frequent
payments to these individuals in the accounts, the Neapolitan court still sought to
purchase and commission books outside of Naples, notably from Florence. 29
Filippo also acted as an agent for the Florentine book-seller Vespasiano da
27
Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 56-7.
For instance, Filippo named his daughter and son after the king’s children, Eleonora and
Alfonso. When Filippo’s son, Alfonso Strozzi, was baptised in Florence, Filippo had Lorenzo de’
Medici serve as the proxy Godfather for the boy’s namesake, Alfonso II d’Aragona, Duke of
Calabria. This is noted in 1467 in one of Filippo Strozzi’s record books, see ASF, CS, Serie V-17,
189V. Eleonora d’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara, for instance, wrote to Filippo on 17 December
1475, thanking him for advising her on the health of her father, King Ferrante, ASF CS, serie III,
133, 47R.
29
Just to list one example, on 28 September 1470, Ferrante paid 37 ducati 2 tari and 18 grana
through Filippo Strozzi for Aristotle’s Etica Economica e Poetica. Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX,"
230.
28
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 137
Bisticci, providing many books for Neapolitan clients, including the court
secretary Antonello Petrucci, Ferrante’s ambassador Marino Tomacello, and the
humanist, court counsellor and secretary, Giovanni Pontano. 30 As we will
continue to see, these merchant bankers were not merely pawns or disinterested
intermediaries for the flow of books and other such objects; they also contributed
to the taste for these objects, as they actively purchased many of the same items
for themselves. For instance, Filippo is recorded as purchasing a wide range of
books for himself, some directly from Vespasiano: texts on ancient history,
contemporary histories of Florence and Italy, other contemporary works, and a
series of religious texts such as the Psalms and the Gospels. 31 Filippo’s collection
included printed books and manuscripts and he is recorded paying for expensive
illumination, most notably for his famous Pliny, which will be elaborated on
below. His purchases from Vespasiano also strengthened relations with the
bookseller, and in the late 1480s Vespasiano gave Filippo a collection of the lives
of four Strozzi family members, which included a forward to Filippo. 32 Filippo’s
mercantile activities thus solidified relations with the Aragonese and also led to
30
On 22 July 1471 Marino Tomacello asked Filippo for help in urging Vespasiano to complete a
book Marino had ordered, and again Marino is recorded shipping books through the Strozzi
Company in 1474 and 1475. Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 37 and 73, n. 137. Marino Tomacello, who
served as Neapolitan ambassador to Florence, also appears to have functioned as a contact for the
shipment of books for the Neapolitan court. On 28 November 1473 Marino was paid for a large
quantity of books including Tre deche di Livio, Commentarii di Cesare, a volume of works by
Virgil, among others consigned to the Biblioteca Reale. There were ten books in all in the account,
see Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 237. Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 37. Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 37 and
73, n. 137. On 22 March 1473 Marino was in charge of shipping four books of poetry from
Florence to Naples through a Florentine “mulattiere” named Biagio di Marzo, Barone, "Cedole
ASPN IX," 387. Giovanni Pontano purchased a number of unnamed books from Vespasiano
through Filippo Strozzi in 1467 and 1468, Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 73, n. 138. In 1480, Strozzi is
also noted procuring books for Federigo da Montefeltro for a sum of sixty-six florins, Sale,
"Strozzi Chapel", 37.
31
Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 38-43.
32
At about the same time, in 1487, Filippo is recorded offering a gift of rich violet cloth to
Vespasiano which cost Filippo 12 d’oro larghi. Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 37 and 516, Appendix A,
Doc. 6.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 138
interests in new objects, which will be elaborated on in the example of the
lettuccio below.
In addition to the lettuccio sent to King Ferrante in 1473, Filippo recorded
sending numerous gifts to various individuals in the Neapolitan kingdom
demonstrating that Filippo sought to ingratiate himself not only with the king, but
also with a larger social group, including the king’s children, as well as
humanists, advisors, secretaries, and merchants at the Neapolitan court. The list of
gifts, first published by Mario del Treppo, appears in one of Filippo Strozzi’s
account books, which records credits and debits, as well as more personal notes
and details, such as those often found in Florentine ricordanzi. 33 The pages
detailing the gifts to Naples begins with gifts to the royal family, proceeded by a
list of gifts given to influential individuals at the Neapolitan court. The next
individual listed after the king to be bestowed with gifts is Diomede Carafa who
was given two “marble heads,” presumably antiquities, two painted Flemish
cloths, as well as a painting of Saint Francis by “Rugiero,” generally accepted to
be by Rogier van der Weyden. 34 Following Diomede, are gifts for Orso Orsini,
33
For instance, there is mention of the birth of his son and his baptism, while there are also records
of business transactions such as an account of jewels consigned to Giuliano Gondi. ASF, CS V.22.
The list of gifts is located on 95R. For a published version of the gift list, see del Treppo,
"Avventure," 511.
34
Al S[ignore] Mes[ser] diomedes Carraffa conte di Matalon[e]
Ij teste de marmo costorono
....... f. 8 la[rghi]
Ij pannj d[i] fiandra depintte
……f. 12
}In t[ut]t[o] f.40
I sanfranc[esco] depinto in una tavola di ma[no] d[i] Rugierj
Costo d. 10, ma valeva 20 ........f.20
j˚ bacino di bischotellj
My transcription. ASF, CS V.22 95R. Also see del Treppo, "Avventure," 511.
Most scholars agree that surely this was a painting by Roger van der Weyden. See de Divitiis,
Architettura e committenza, 37, 96; del Treppo, "Avventure," 516; Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 13.
Northern paintings and Netherlandish art had a particular cultural value across Italy, but in
particular in Naples. In the fifteenth century the demand for northern art increased, with improved
trade and commercial contacts between northern centres such as Bruges and the Italian cities of
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 139
Duke of Ascoli and Count of Nola, who received one marble head “in
perfezione,” presumably not damaged or broken, which cost 5 florins (one florin
more than each of the heads Diomede received). 35 Next after Orso Orsini is a list
of gifts for the king’s sons: Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, and Don Federico. Both
received the same gift of a chess set in ivory as well as foodstuff; each chess set
costing 12 florins. 36 Eleonora d’Aragona, soon to be the Duchess of Ferrara,
received a mirror, with the reflecting plate made of polished steel in a wooden
frame with her arms carved in intarsia. 37 The gift of the mirror would have given
Florence, Venice, and Genoa. Rather than commissioned pieces, northern paintings circulated
between the north and south as commodities, and this circulation also imbued the paintings with
histories, which contributed to their value. In addition, the northern identity of these paintings also
added something novel to their value within the commodity of style, and encouraged such
paintings to be viewed as collectibles. Bartolomeo Facio, a humanist at the Neapolitan court, for
instance, included van Eyck and van der Weyden in his biography of the four most eminent
painters of his time. Michael Baxandall, "Bartholomaeus Facius on Painting: A Fifteenth-Century
Manuscript of the De Viris Illustribus," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 27
(1964): 90-107. For the taste for Netherlandish art in Italy see Paula Nuttall, From Flanders to
Florence. The Impact of Netherlandish Painting, 1400-1500 (New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 2004). Also see Roberto Weiss, "Jan Van Eyck and the Italians Part I," Italian
Studies 11 (1956): 9-13; Andreas Beyer, "Princes, Patrons and Eclecticism. Naples and the North,"
in The Age of Van Eyck. The Mediterranean World and Early Netherlandish Painting, 1430-1530,
ed. Till-Holger Borchert (New York and London: Thames and Hudson, 2002), 119-27.
35
“j˚ testa di marmo in p[er]fezio[ne] costo...f.5” ASF CS V.22 95R. Also transcribed in del
Treppo, "Avventure," 511.
36
“Al s. ducha di chalab[r]ia
j˚ tavoliere e schachiere dosso lavoravo molto bello e con li schachi e tavole davorio costo f. 12
12 marzolini grossi
j˚ bacino di finochio...f. 3
in tutto f. 15”
The entry of ‘S. don Federicho suo fratello” is very similar. ASF CS V.22 95R. Also see del
Treppo, "Avventure," 511-2. Their younger brother, Don Giovanni, however only received some
foodstuff amounting to 3 florins,
37
“La Ill[ustrissi]ma Madama lionora loro sorella j spechio dacio quadro adornato d[i] no’cie
i[n]tarsiato co[n] la sua arma molto bello co’stoni f. 14 l[arghi]......f. 14” ASF, CS V, 22. 95R.
Also transcribed in del Treppo, "Avventure," 512; Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 515, Appendix A.iv.4.
I found no mirrors corresponding exactly to this description in Eleonora’s inventories or account
books, although there are a few which may reference this mirror. An account book which records
the comings and goings of Eleonora’s possessions from 1478-85, lists only one specchio:
“Specchio, uno grande dorado de relevo de legno cu[m] l’arme de conte da mattalone [Diomede
Carafa] la q[ua]le e una charto tirado in cerchio et sta ditte specchio in guardaroba a piechado.”
ASMO AP 638.135R. On 10 February 1490 Eleonora gave a specchio with a silver frame to
Isabella d’Este: “a di x di febraro 1490. Spechio: uno da arxento como il pe et fodro se pexa [onze]
cinto quarante oto lo qu[ale] la Ill[ustrissi]ma M[adam]a lo adato ala ill[us]tra marhesana sua fiolla
in compto di dono.” ASMO AP 640. 25R. The same account book of AP 640 also lists the mirror
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 140
Eleonora something to take with her to Ferrara, and may have been strategic on
Filippo’s part, as a way to form relations with the court of Ferrara. Indeed, two
years later, on 25 February 1475 Eleonora d’Aragona, now in Ferrara, wrote to
Filippo Strozzi in Florence, requesting information on the “Maestro” of the mirror
he had given her so that she could commission another similar mirror. 38 This letter
reveals that a merchant-banker such as Filippo was not only a supplier of goods to
the courts, but his relationships with individuals from the court were initiated
through the exchange of goods and his gifts, such as the mirror, which spurred
further interests in such objects. These objects were also signs of Filippo’s own
participation in the commissioning and exchanging of luxury objects that the high
with the arms of Diomede Carafa, and notes that it is now broken, 61V. Another mirror is listed of
wood in a triangle but claims that this has the arms of the Este: “spechio uno di legno fato a
triangolo mese doro atorno come una arma dala cha[sa] d’este vechio e rotto,” 116V. There are a
number of mirrors listed in the inventory taken after her death in 1493, some of which are listed as
“di azalo,” a Ferrarese variant of the world for steel “acciaio”: “uno specchio di azalo dopio
[scilicet] da doe lute di ramo smaltato”; “Uno specchio di azalo in uno tabernacelo di legno
dorata”; “uno altro specchio di azalo in uno tabernaculo di legno dorato”;“Uno spechio di azale in
uno quadreto che se assera cum doe porte cum lavorieri intagliati di lavorieri di legno”; “uno
spechio di azale tondo in uno quadreto cornisato e dorato”; “uno spechio di azale quadro grande in
uno quadro di legno cum la soa porta di legno di mezo releva dorate,” ASMO G 114. 75V and
131R (formerly AP 641). Also published in Adriano Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara in età
umanistica e rinascimentale. Testimonianze archivistiche., vol. II.II (Ferrara: Corbo Editore e
Gabriele Corbo Editore, 1997), 35. For mirrors and their decoration and composition in the early
modern period see Thornton, Italian Renaissance Interior, 234-5. Del Treppo also noted that
Isabella d’Este possessed a “specchio d’azzaio,” which may have been any of the mirrors once
owned by Eleonora, although Isabella is recorded as commissioning a number of steel mirrors. del
Treppo, "Avventure," 505. For Isabella d’Este’s mirrors see Thornton, Italian Renaissance
Interior, 234.
38
“Nobilis amice dilectissime. Intexo q[uan]to ne scrivesti agiorni proximi circal facto del
specchio in havevemo richesto etc: vi dicemo q[ua]n[do] havesti il modo farne far[e] uno simile ad
quello ce donasti ad quello M[aestro] dicete ritrovarsi in Roma che fece laltro hare[m]o grato ce ne
facciati fare] uno che sia la[v]orato per excelentia & tanto [d]igno q[uan]to sia possibile: & fornito
chel sera procurareti indrizarnelo per mo[ripped]uo & incontinenti mi remetteremo li denari del
consto: ma no[n] il potendo [ripped-far?] far[e] al dicto M[aestro] no[n] durareti fatica farlo far[e]
ad altro. Parendoni p[er] altre mane[ripped] cio non potre essser[e] benservita. Benvalete,
ferr[ari]e xxv februarj 1475
Elyonora:
Elio[no]ra de Aragonia
Ducissa ferrarie
Vincentuis secrete”
My transcription. Also see del Treppo, "Avventure," 505, n.86. del Treppo states that the letter is
autograph. Indeed, the letter is signed by Eleonora but the body of the letter is written in elegant
humanist script by her secretary and not in her hand.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 141
elite, such as courtly individuals, also participated in. Eleonora’s list of gifts
concludes the entries for the royal family, and the account is tallied at this point,
coming to 283 florins.
It is interesting to note that both Diomede Carafa and Orso Orsini are
included in the list comprising the gifts for the royal family, rather than on the list
detailed on the following page, which consists of less costly things and includes
gifts for important members of the court. While most of the gifts on this following
page range in value from 2 to 4 florins, two individuals are singled out to receive
higher priced items. Pasquale Diaz Garlon, “chastelano del chastello novo” and
guardarobiere of King Ferrante, who also served under Alfonso I, is the recipient
of a tapestry depicting green foliage designs, costing 10 florins. 39 The secretary
Antonello Petrucci (later hung by Ferrante for his traitorous alliance with the
Barons) also received a smaller tapestry with foliage designs. 40 All of the other
individuals listed received foodstuff. These included: Guglielmo Candell,
Ferrante’s scrivano di razione; Giovanni Sanchez, a Catalan merchant; Michele di
Belprato, another of Ferrante’s scrivano di razione; Giovanni Pontano, 41 the
famous humanist and secretary; Pere Bernat, tesoriere generale; Nicolò da
Procida, Count of Aversa; Ferdinando di Ghevera, Count of Belcastro; Tomasso
Tecchini, a Tuscan merchant; Cola d’Allegro, credenziere and scribe for the royal
sigillo; Ghalzerano Martino, a Catalan merchant; Luigi Coppola, influential
39
“j˚ portale d’arazo a verdure minuta molto bello.” Pasquale also receives one “bacino di
bischotelli”, ASF, CS V, 22. 95v. del Treppo, "Avventure," 512.
40
“j˚ portale d’arazo a verdure minuta.” He also received a “bacino de bischotelli” and a “bacino
di finochio” ASF, CS V, 22. 95v. del Treppo, "Avventure," 512.
41
As an important figure, both in political and humanistic circles, it is interesting that he only
received one “bacino […] pieno de bischotelli” for the cost of 2 florins.” del Treppo, "Avventure,"
513.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 142
merchant and father of Francesco Coppola; 42 Francesco Schales, son of a Catalan
merchant; Galeazzo Sanseverino, Count of Caiazzo; Andrea del Dottore, a
Bolognese lawyer; Roberto Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno. 43 The total amount for
the gifts given to the Aragonese and important courtly individuals came to the
sum of 342 florins. The list reveals the wide range of individuals that Filippo
Strozzi was acquainted with: from the king and his children, to political advisors
and humanists, princes and counts, as well as merchants. Not all of the recipients
were Neapolitan, but included individuals from Tuscany, Bologna, and Catalonia.
It is also intriguing that many of these individuals hold the titles of “scrivano di
razione”, “credenziere” or “tesoriere,” all positions that involved dealings with the
accounts, the movement of goods, or the maintenance and upkeep of luxury
objects, and thus Filippo most likely came into contact with them through the
exchange of goods.
The history of the Medici Bank in Naples is more complicated and seems to
have been based primarily on political motives rather than financial gain. 44 From
1426 to 1471 there was no branch of the Medici bank in Naples. 45 During this
time the Medici had correspondents in Naples, such as Filippo Strozzi, Benedetto
Guasconi, and Bartolomeo Buonconti. 46 The reopening of the bank in 1471 was
not as successful as it could have been as the branch dealt with frozen credits in
1475 and during the Pazzi War in 1478, all Medici property was sequestered to
42
Francesco Coppola was also executed by Ferrante as a conspirator with the Barons against the
king.
43
del Treppo, "Avventure," 512-4.
44
See chapter one for the political role of the Medici in Naples. For a general survey of the Medici
Bank see de Roover, Medici Bank. For the Medici Bank in Naples see Jacoviello, "Affari," 169-96.
45
de Roover, Medici Bank, 254.
46
de Roover, Medici Bank, 257.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 143
the Neapolitan crown. 47 In the 1480s the Medici bank operated under the direction
of Francesco Nacchi and Company, and it is his name that often appears in court
records. 48 The Medici Bank was also involved in negotiations around alum in the
1470s, which included a contract between the Papacy, Naples, and the Medici. 49
While the larger company of the Medici Bank was involved with commerce and
banking in Naples, it seems that Lorenzo de’ Medici had a more personal
relationship in financing the Neapolitan Crown. Lorenzo was responsible for
giving out personal loans to individuals such as Ippolita Sforza, Duchess of
Calabria and was often asked to negotiate on her behalf for other loans that she
had accrued, which will be elaborated upon below in the section on pawning. 50 In
1483 Lorenzo was nominated “camerlengo” by the king and he also received
various concessions on custom duties for the regions of Naples and Puglia. 51 He
was also responsible for artistic exchanges between Florence and Naples. In April
1488 Ferrante asked Lorenzo de’ Medici for a plan of a palazzo to be sent down
to Naples, and later in that year Giuliano da Sangallo accompanied his design of a
grand palace. 52 As will become evident, Lorenzo’s mercantile and political
47
de Roover, Medici Bank, 258.
Also recorded as Nazi, Nasi, or Nacci, de Roover, Medici Bank, 259.
49
See chapter one on the horse’s head, and also de Roover, Medici Bank, 152-66.
50
This will be elaborated on below. In 1485 Ippolita asked Lorenzo for 2000 ducati to redeem
jewels from the Scolari brothers in Florence. See ASF MAP filza 45, 241R. In 1469 Alfonso
d’Aragona wrote to Lorenzo apologising for Ippolita’s defaults in unpaid credits. For the letters
see Pontieri, "La dinastia Aragonese di Napoli e la casa de' Medici in Firenze," 291 and 341. Also
see Welch, "Between Milan."
51
Jacoviello, "Affari," 194.
52
The plan still survives in a book of Sangallo’s designs. For a reproduction see Stefano Borsi,
Giuliano da Sangallo. I disegni di architettura e dell'antico (Rome: Officina Edizioni, 1985), 395.
Vasari’s famous passage recounts that upon his departure from Naples, Sangallo received presents
of horses, clothes, and antiquities, as well as money from Ferrante. Sangallo,Vasari claims, refused
both the money and gifts for himself, and instead decided to take the antiquities back to Lorenzo
de’ Medici as gifts. These included a bust of Hadrian, a nude female, and a sleeping cupid in
marble. Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 350; Erasmo Percopo, "Nuovi documenti su gli
48
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 144
activities often complicated his relations with the Aragonese and provide a useful
example of how objects create ties and obligations between individuals.
There is much less known about the Gondi Company. While the Gondi
repeatedly appear in Neapolitan court account books and also in other court
records such as in Ferrara, not much is known about their social and political roles
in Italy. 53 The Gondi Company seems to have made its fortune in gold, starting as
a “mestiere dell’oro” but soon became involved in the import/export business of
textiles. 54 Giuliano di Leonardo Gondi (1421-1501) worked with many of the
courts of Italy and was active in Naples as early as 1452. 55 Giuliano’s brother,
Antonio, was responsible for bringing the silk and battiloro industries into
Giuliano’s business and the two brothers often worked together. 56 Giuliano Gondi
is often noted in records for the Neapolitan court in obtaining various luxury
objects from Florence as well as pawning court objects for credit, and he is also
recorded as being active in other courts such as Ferrara and Urbino. 57 As a
company originally based in the textile industry, it is not surprising the Gondi are
scrittori e gli artisti dei tempi aragonesi," Archivio storico per le province napoletane XX (1895):
315-6. Although the payment of 100 ducati to Sangallo in the Neapolitan Tesoreria has led many
to question Vasari’s story, the tale illuminates the ways in which these artists were sources of
cultural exchange between states and individuals, and how the stories of these objects circulated.
Percopo, "Nuovi documenti vol xx," 314-6; Borsi, Giuliano da Sangallo, 401.
53
Goldthwaite notes that there are no diaries, or ricordanze for the Gondi and they do not appear
as being involved in the public life of Florence. Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 157-86. The
archives for the Gondi exist in Florence (Archivio Gondi in ASF). There are also later documents
(mostly sixteenth century) in the Lea Library of the University of Pennsylvania, see Rudolf Hirsch
and Gino Corti, "Medici-Gondi Archive II," Renaissance Quarterly 23, no. 2 (1970). For a general
biography on Giuliano Gondi see S. Tabacchi, "Gondi, Giuliano," in Dizionario Biografico degli
Italiani, ed. Alberto Maria Ghisalberti (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1976), 656-9.
54
Tabacchi, "Gondi, Giuliano," 656; Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 160.
55
Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 161.
56
Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 164.
57
Although the majority of the Neapolitan court records were destroyed in World War II, we are
fortunate to have Nicola Barone’s nineteenth century transcriptions of many of the documents. See
Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 5-34, 205-348, 87-429, 601-37; Barone, "Cedole ASPN X," 5-47;
Nicola Barone, "Un nuovo registro di Cedole della Tesoreria Aragonese," XI (1886).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 145
often recorded providing different types of cloth. For instance, in 1473 Duke
Alfonso d’Aragona bought silk and brocade from the Gondi through the Strozzi
bank and in 1478 the court records note that the Gondi were paid for “la valuta di
certa quantita di panni e sete” (cloth and silk). 58 They are also listed as providing
other cultural objects for the Aragonese, such as a map of Lombardy on 6 May
1486. 59
The Gondi brothers were also responsible for the transferral of books from
Florence to Naples. On 2 August 1478 Giuliano Gondi was reimbursed for
expensive cloth and he is recorded in court documents making payments to
“Vespasiano de Filippo” for a Tera Deca by Livio. 60 On 19 April 1486 Giuliano
Gondi is recorded in a payment for the cost of a work by Seneca, transcribed for
Alfonso II d’Aragona and also for payments for costs towards another book by
Livio. 61 Giuliano Gondi’s business with the Aragonese served him well politically
as Ferrante intervened with the Florentine government in 1477 on Giuliano’s
behalf, on grounds that still remain unclear. 62 The Gondi also appear in Ferrarese
court records providing cloth, jewels, and unspecified items for Duchess Eleonora
d’Aragona. 63 Giuliano’s relationship with the Este court in Ferrara must have
58
For the earlier record see Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi, 76. For the latter see Barone, "Cedole
ASPN IX," 402.
59
‘giuliano ed Antonio Gondi, mercantanti fiorentini, ricevono 9 duc 3 tari, prezzo di una carta
ov’e dipinta tutta la Lombardia, consegnata a Pietrantonio Sanese.’ Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX,"
604.
60
Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 402.
61
Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 620.
62
The Florentine chronicler Benedetto Dei reports that Giuliano was “amunito et chondanato […]
per falsario.” Tabacchi, "Gondi, Giuliano," 658. Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 161, n. 18.
63
On 3 January 1487 Giuliano and Antonio Gondi are recorded as receiving payments from
Eleonora d’Aragona for unspecified goods; on 3 April 1487 Giuliano Gondi is recorded being paid
by Eleonora d’Aragona for a cross; on 21 May 1491 Giuliano and Antonio Gondi are paid by
Eleonora for a gold frieze made of cloth, which cost 141 lire marchesane and 15 soldi. ASMO AP
633. 59V, 73V, and 221V. On 22 February 1487 Giuliano Gondi is recorded in Eleonora’s account
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 146
been quite close as I found a document recording Giuliano Gondi giving a gift of
velvet to Anna Sforza upon her marriage to Alfonso d’Este in 1491. 64 The Gondi
also provide another example of how the practices of pawning can lead to disputes
between individuals over objects and will be discussed in detail below in the
section on pawning, when the pawning of a cross led to hostilities between the
Este and Aragonese.
All three companies had different relations with the Aragonese, but what
becomes evident is that each company, in its own way, deepened its relationship
with the Neapolitan court through the trading, exchanging, and pawning of goods.
This was not merely a case of court demand with the Gondi, Strozzi, and Medici
supplying goods for the tastes of the court. Instead, these merchant-bankers
should be seen as an integral part in the formation of tastes around certain objects
and as points of contact between diverse social groups.
Clients and Consumers: The Neapolitan Court and Nobility
Contact was constant between merchant-bankers and the Neapolitan
nobility. As I have mentioned, the relationship of the merchant-bankers with their
clients extended beyond merely business, and often constituted social
relationships, but these could also complicate political relations. Personalities,
politics, interests, and human relationships inevitably complicate these exchanges
and complex ties of obligation and memories were forged as objects circulated
through different hands, whether as gifts or pawns.
books as sending her expensive brocade material which was made into a bed cover (“coperto di
lecto”). ASMO AP 638, 102R. On 30 March 1479 Giuliano Gondi is recorded being paid by
Eleonora d’Aragona for sending 14 braccia of gold brocade cloth for the palio of Saint George.
ASMO G9, 12V.
64
For the gift of cloth see, ASMO AP 589, 42R. Recorded on 31 March 1491. Antonio Gondi also
died in Ferrara, see Goldthwaite, Private Wealth, 164.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 147
Ippolita Sforza, Duchess of Calabria, for instance, constantly pawned her
jewels, and often used her luxury objects as credit to make purchases. Her
secretary, Baldo Martorelli, frequently appears in the Strozzi accounts on behalf
of Ippolita for the purchasing of things such as shoes, silver, clothing, and
jewellery. 65 The accounts—including those of the Neapolitan royal tesoriere and
the Strozzi Bank’s account books—also reveal a pattern of individual loans to one
bank being taken over by another bank, so that the circulation of goods and
money would not only imbricate the bank and the person who sought the loan, but
also other individuals from other banks. For instance, on 2 January 1473, the
Strozzi bank paid 100 ducati to Lorenzo de’ Medici for the account of Baldo
Martorelli, who was working on behalf of Ippolita, who sought to purchase
clothing. This complex transaction demonstrates how many diverse individuals
could be implicated in these kinds of business dealings. 66 Ippolita’s husband,
Alfonso II d’Aragona, also financed much of his cultural patronage through these
various banks. For instance, in 1489 Alfonso purchased a silver portrait of himself
through the Strozzi Bank for just over 34 ducati, to be given to Paolo della Pietra
to be offered as a voto in the name of the duke, at Santa Maria di Loreto. 67
Diomede Carafa, as noted in the previous chapter, was a collector of
antiquities and contemporary art objects. A humanist and political figure, he was
in contact with many individuals across Italy. Beyond Diomede’s official role for
the Aragonese in Naples, which would have required him to correspond with
65
Various entries throughout Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi.
Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi, 15.
67
“all’orefice M. Gabriele de Pontill si pagano pel banco degli Strozzi 34 d 4t e 2 gr prezzo di una
testa d’argento fina con la faccia dal Duca di Calabria al naturale, del peso di lib. 5 once 8 ½.
Questa testa è stata consegnata a Paolo della Preta, perché in nome del Duca la mandi ad ofrire a
Santa Maria di Loreto.” Barone, "Cedole ASPN X," 6; Jacoviello, "Affari," 183.
66
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 148
various merchant-bankers on behalf of the Aragonese, it seems that Diomede and
Filippo Strozzi were in contact quite regularly on a more personal basis. 68
Diomede is recorded sending gloves from Spain through Filippo to Duchess
Eleonora d’Aragona of Ferrara (Diomede’s former student) and “una tassetalla”
for his goddaughter, the young Isabella d’Este in Ferrara. 69 In 1474, Diomede
wrote a letter to Filippo informing him that he was sending his “creato Bernardino
Curiale” on a trip to Ferrara to visit Eleonora, but first he was sending Bernardino
to visit Filippo Strozzi and his family, as well as to Lorenzo de’ Medici in
Florence. 70 Diomede also had a personal account with Filippo and would have
frequently dealt with the Strozzi Bank while serving as the court’s scrivano di
razione. Filippo also served as an important artistic link for Diomede. In March
1467, Filippo is recorded paying two florins to an anonymous artist for a painted
copy of Piero de’ Medici’s scrittoio for Diomede Carafa. 71 Carafa, who was
68
For Diomede’s political role, see chapter one.
Diomede records these gifts are being sent via Filippo Strozzi in a letter to Eleonora. Almost all
of Diomede’s letters are given month and day but with no year, but Moores suggests this letter
may have been written in 1480. ASMO CPE 1248.4. Letter of May 26 14--? from Diomede Carafa
to Eleonora d’Aragona. “Io mando ad dona Isabella una tassetella dove p[er] amo’r mio tal volta
bene e cossi li mando quatro para d qua[n]te [...]alla v[ostra] Ill[ustrissi]ma s[ignoria] mando
quatro para di gua[n]te li quali so’ l[i] q[ua]lli d spangnya di la bona conza [...] Dicte cose mando
alla ve[n]tura p[er] mano di filippo di stroze” Moores, "New Light on Diomede," 21-2, Doc VI; de
Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 27.
70
“Mag[nifi]ce vir et fili car[issi]me salute: mandando oneralm[en]te et noble e dilecto mio creato
b[er]nardino curiale ad visitar’ la Illma Madama Duchessa de Ferrara no[n] me parso honesto
mandalo senza la p[rese]nte al quale b[er]nardino ho o’nerv[a] visita la s.v. li fillioli e lla brigata e
se informe como stan’o p[er]ch[e] de ogne v[ost]ro b[e]n me alegro como q[ue]llo di] mei filliolj
et p[er]ch[e] ha anco da me inco’missione dicto b[er]nardino visite lo Mag[nifi]co Lor[e]nso ne
p[re]go n[ost]re lo indirigate ch[e] me ne farite prater’ et li ho da far’ cosa alcuna p[e] vuj son
p[re]sto. Valete ex Neaplj xxviiij maij mcccclxxiiij. El Vostr conte, De Matalon” ASF CS III.
247, 266R. Also partially quoted in de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 27. It should be noted
that this would have been the second time that Diomede sent a buffone to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the
first on occasion for Galeazzo Maria Sforza’s visit, which may have prompted the gift of the
horse’s head.
71
‘…ed ad detto [x marzo] fiorinj ii paghati a uno m˚ depintore p[er] depinture in su fogli dal
asenp[r]o del palcho della stala e scrittoio d[i] Piero do m[andai] e detti p[er] lo s[ignore] conte di
matalone.’ ASF CS V, 17, 149v. For a discussion of the scrittoio, see Borsook, "Florentine
Scrittoio."
69
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 149
actively collecting antiquities, had moved into his newly erected palazzo in 1466
and was looking for a model for his studiolo, which he built soon afterwards. 72
Filippo also facilitated the commissioning and shipment of a Florentine lettuccio
to Diomede, which will be discussed below.
Del Treppo’s study on the clientele of the Florentine merchant-bankers
working in the Neapolitan kingdom shows that outside the court, various feudal
lords and “signori”—the prominent Neapolitan families such as those of the
Orsini, Sanseverino, Carafa, and Coppola—also used these banks, suggesting a
wide range of individuals connected through the exchange of goods. 73
Furthermore it demonstrates how an individual working for the court, like
Diomede, could form relationships with a merchant-banker like Strozzi, through
transactions that could serve both personal/private and courtly/public interests.
III. Material Things and Their Histories: Beds, Gems, and Books
A wide range of cultural goods were shipped and facilitated by the various
merchant-banking firms in close association with the Aragonese. Payments for
things such as shoes, silverware, clothes, northern paintings, books, and jewellery
appear in the documents for individuals such as Ippolita Sforza, Alfonso
d’Aragona, Diomede Carafa, and King Ferrante. 74 Florentine artists including
Benedetto da Maiano and Giuliano da Sangallo were also sought and their
72
For Carafa’s collection and building enterprise see de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza. Also
see the above chapter on Carafa’s colossal horse’s head.
73
Del Treppo provides a break down of all the clients of the Strozzi bank in 1473, listing those
connected with the administration of the state, women, artisans, ecclesiasts, feudal and noble
clients, del Treppo, "Re e banchiere," 296.
74
Many of these are listed in the Neapolitan court records transcribed by Barone, "Cedole ASPN
IX."; Barone, "Cedole ASPN X."; Barone, "Nuovo reg. di Cedole." For the only published record
of the Strozzi accounts from Naples see Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 150
passage down to Naples was facilitated by Florentine merchant-bankers. 75 While
there are many examples to draw from, I want to focus on a few particular objects
to understand how their materials and their cultural significance gave those
objects value. How did the circulation of goods form interests in specific types of
objects and give rise to narratives and stories?
The Florentine Lettuccio in Naples
Besides Filippo Strozzi’s gift of a lettuccio to King Ferrante, Filippo was
responsible for sending two and possibly three other lettucci down to Naples, all
for different clients and at different times. Lettucci and their decoration varied, but
in general a lettuccio was a piece of furniture similar to a daybed (Figure 13). 76
Lettucci often had armrests, which could be elaborately carved, and decoration
was also frequently applied to the back panel or spalliera, as well as to the
cornices and side panels, and they typically had a cassone or a chest built in
75
For Giuliano Sangallo see Borsi, Giuliano da Sangallo; Giuseppe Marchini, Giuliano da
Sangallo (Florence: G.C. Sansoni Editore, 1942). For Giuliano da Maiano in Naples see Giuseppe
Ceci, "Nuovi documenti su Giuliano da Maiano ed altri artisti," Archivio storico per le province
napoletane xxix (1904): 786. For Poggioreale also see Antonio Colombo, "Il palazzo e il giardino
di Poggioreale," Archivio storico per le province napoletane x (1885): 186-209, 309-42. Giuliano
da Maiano actually died in Naples, and Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, is recorded in court records as
providing medical assistance: “Et havendo nova che Mastro Mariano da Vajano [Giuliano da
Maiano] fiorentino homo experto in la fabrica et in desegni stava malissimo ce mando’ li soi
medeci et pratichi et ordino’ che non li manchasse alchuna cosa ut moris sui erat erga suos. Et
quella stava a sua provisione et facea fare sue fabriche de la Duchesca et del Poggio. Et
demonstrava sua Ill.a Signora che certo l’increscea la malattia de quello: ad ogni hora lo mandava
a visitare.”Gaetano Filangieri, Documenti per la storia, le arte e industrie per le provincie
napoletane raccolti e pubblicati. Effemeridi, Delle cose fatte per il duca di Calabria (1484-91) di
Joampiero Leostello da Volterra da un codice della Biblioteca Nazionale di Parigi, reprinted from
1883 ed., 6 vols., vol. I (Naples: Societa Napoletana di Storia Patria, 2002), LXXIV. Also quoted
in Gaetano Filangieri, Documenti per la storia, le arte e industrie per le provincie napoletane
raccolti e pubblicati. Indici degli artefici delle arti maggiori e minori. La piu parte ignoti o poco
noti si napoletani e siciliani si delle altre regioni d'italia o stranieri che operarono tra noi con
notizia delle loro opere e del tempo del loro esercizio. Da studii e nuovi documenti. Dalla Lettera
H alla Lettera Z, 6 vols., vol. VI (Naples: Tipografia dell'Accademia Reale delle Scienze, 1891),
86-7.
76
For a general survey of lettucci see Maddalena Trionfi Honorati, "A proposito del 'lettuccio',"
Antichità Viva 20, no. 3 (1981): 39-48. Thornton, Italian Renaissance Interior, 148-53.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 151
(Figures 14 and 15). The spalliera could be painted with a scene, like those
decorating cassoni, or elaborately carved with intarsia (Figure 16).
In June 1467 Filippo’s account books record a commission to Giuliano da
Maiano for a lettuccio for Diomede Carafa to be sent to Naples in July of that
year. 77 Diomede’s lettuccio was four and a half braccia (roughly 2.6 metres); it
cost twenty-five florins and was sent down to Naples via the galley of Piero
Vespucci. 78 As Diomede’s palazzo was known to be a location where business
was often conducted, the lettuccio was presumably viewed by many. As a piece of
furniture, it would have solicited a form of bodily engagement, as viewers either
sat on it, passed by it, or even bumped into it. The Venetian ambassador, Zaccaria
Barbaro, for instance, reported in March 1472 that he had gone to visit Diomede
who was sick with fever, and noted that all the sons and daughters of the king as
well as the ambassadors had been in to see him. 79 While there is no reference to
where Diomede was situated, one might assume that he was either in a daybed or
in bed, and suggests how such objects, although somewhat “private” or personal
may have actually had a more public function. Indeed, Figure 16 is a print from
77
There are a series of payments for the lettuccio, one recorded as ‘Uno lettuccio d[i] b[raz]a 4 ½
fatto fare p[er] lo s[ignore] comptte di matalone de dare ad xviij de luglio f xxv fatte bud/ a
guliano denardo legniauiolo p[er] fatura depso a ogni suo spexe [...] f[iorini] 25.’ ASF CS V-17,
77R, 85V, 86R. Also see de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 27; Santoro, "Un celebra
'lettuccio'," 42; Borsook, "Documenti relativi alle Capelle di Lecceto e delle Selve di Filippo
Strozzi," 14.
78
ASF CS V-17, 86R. Also see del Treppo, "Avventure," 497. The conversion from braccia to
metres varies slightly in the literature, and it also varied slightly between region. I use Zupko’s
conversion, which notes that in Florence 1 braccia was 0.584 metres, in Ferrara 0.634 metres and
0.699 metres in Naples. Presumably because the account books were in Florentine measures, I take
the braccia in Strozzi documents to refer to the Florentine braccia. Ronald Edward Zupko, Italian
Weights and Measures from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: American
Philosophical Society, 1981), 40-8.
79
“Io fui heri a visitor el c[o]nte di Matalone per haver habuto uno pocho de febre et a uno tempo
li era tuti soi figluoli et figluole del re a sua visitatione, poi li fu tuti li ambassadori sono qui, in
diversi tempi.” Letter 104 from March 31 1472, Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 225.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 152
Savonarola’s The Art of Dying Well, which shows a sick man reclining on his
lettuccio, while visitors come to attend to him. This provides interesting evidence
of one of the social components of these pieces of furniture. 80
Two years after Diomede’s commission, Filippo’s account books from
1469 record a lettuccio for his brother, Lorenzo Strozzi, who commissioned a
“maestro Domenicho depintore” to paint and manufacture the lettuccio. 81 This
commission included painting a figure and “other things” on the lettuccio and was
intended for Lorenzo’s room, presumably in the Strozzi residence in the quarter of
the Portanova in Naples. 82 Considering that the Strozzi were well acquainted with
the merchant and court community, Lorenzo’s lettuccio most likely was viewed
by a wide range of individuals. 83
In 1473 Filippo Strozzi travelled down to Naples and, as mentioned, he
recorded various gifts that he was sending or bringing down to Naples for his
friends: “choxe donare a napolj a amicj di casa.” 84 It is interesting to note that he
specifies these individuals as amici rather than clients, and suggests Filippo’s
close acquaintance with these individuals. The lettuccio for the king was among
the gifts and is described as follows:
80
Thornton, Italian Renaissance Interior, 148.
‘A dì detto [1.1.1469] per resto di uno chonto di m ˚ Domenicho dipintore, cioè per manifattura
del lettuccio della chamera di Lorenzo, cioè per chonciare una figura e altre cose, ebe ch. Portò
Matteo di Giorgio: tr.5’ del Treppo, "Avventure," 497; Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi, 734.
82
For the Strozzi residence in Naples, see del Treppo, "Re e banchiere," 233-4.
83
Leon Battista Alberti is recorded staying at the Strozzi palazzo in Naples between March and
June 1465. Although this date is earlier than the lettuccio commission, it demonstrates a wide
range of visitors to the residence. See de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza, 47, 71-2.
84
ASF, CS, V, 22, 95R-95V. The gifts are recorded as bought between 24 November 1472 and 3
June 1473. The list comprises various court individuals from the king to the king’s secretaries. For
a partial transcription see del Treppo, "Avventure," 510-13. Sale lists all the individuals but does
not include all of the gifts given. Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 514-6, Appendix A. IV.4.
81
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 153
J˚ lettuccio d[i] nocie d[i] b[racci]a 6
ch.ol chassone e spalliere e chordicie
molto bello ritravovi dentro d[i]
p[ros]pettiva da Napoli el chastello e loro
circhustanzie costo de p[rimo] chosto
f[iorini] 110 la[rghi] e tra ghabella e
portatura fino a napoli c[h]e ando p[er]
terra venne
la:.............................................f. 180.
1 wood lettuccio, 6 braccia with cassone
and spalliere and cornice, very beautiful,
in which is depicted a perspective of
Naples with castle and environs, initial
cost 110 fiorini larghi and with transport
all the way to Naples, travelling by land,
comes to:………………………..f. 180. 85
The lettuccio was thus six braccia or 3.5 metres, made with a chest, spalliere, and
a cornice. It also contained a perspective of Naples, with the castle, presumably
the Castel Nuovo and its surroundings, and it cost 180 florins including
transportation from Florence to Naples. 86
The lettuccio, or more specifically the perspective of Naples, has been a
source of scholarly debate in the last fifteen years. In 1994 del Treppo believed he
had discovered new evidence regarding the lettuccio and suggested the lettuccio
commissioned by Strozzi to be the Tavola Strozzi, now in the Museo di San
85
This is my transcription. Sale and I both transcribed ‘chordicie’ whereas del Treppo has written
‘chornicie’ although he notes that he has amended the original ‘chordicie.’ Regardless of the
spelling we can assume that ‘cornice’ is what is intended here, as the cornice was much
commented upon in letters. ASF CS V, 22, 95R. Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 514; del Treppo,
"Avventure," 511.
86
In addition to the lettuccio the king received a variety of foodstuff, a common gift between
individuals in this period, which came to 10 florins:
“II bacini di marzolini 24 d[i] lb. 6 copia
j˚ bacino d[i] finochio
j˚ bacino d[i] 12 salsiciuoli
2 schatole di fichi delle moaxe de San Ghagio.” ASF, CS V.22 95R. For the exchange of
foodstuff as gifts see Welch, Shopping, 70.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 154
Martino in Naples (Figure 3). 87 The Tavola Strozzi has been the subject of
scrutiny, ever since it was discovered by Corrado Ricci in 1904 in the house of
Prince Carlo Strozzi in Florence. 88 The painting depicts the triumphal flotilla of
the Aragonese returning from the Battle of Ischia in 1465. 89 The Tavola Strozzi’s
provenance, before its discovery in 1904, is unknown and its original function,
artist, date, and the reason for execution are all up for debate. 90 The painting
depicts many of the important buildings in Naples, including the main castles,
churches, and monasteries. The triumphant ships proudly fly flags from bow and
stern, depicting the insignia of the Aragonese, the Order of the Ermine, as well as
the insignia of other prominent families, including the three moons of the Strozzi
(not visible in most reproductions). 91 It is painted on wood, and this has led del
Treppo to conjecture that the painting is indeed part of the lettuccio commissioned
87
Del Treppo declared he had found an unpublished document in the Strozzi Archives—the
portion of the account book stating the purchases of Filippo Strozzi for his Neapolitan ‘amici,’ del
Treppo, "Avventure," 487. However, this document, quoted above, had already been noted and
transcribed by John Russell Sale in 1979 in his doctoral dissertation on the Strozzi Chapel in Santa
Maria Novella, Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 514, Appendix A.iv.4. The Tavola Strozzi is not in the
Capodimonte as stated in some of the literature, but rather in the Museo San Martino in Naples.
88
The first scholar to write on the subject was Croce who wrongly identified the scene as the
triumphal entry of Lorenzo de’ Medici into Naples. Benedetto Croce, "Veduta della città di Napoli
nel 1479 col trionfo per l'arrivo di Lorenzo de' Medici," Napoli Nobilissima XIII (1904): 56-7. It
has been consequently been a topic of debate, see Bologna, Napoli e le rotte, 195-9; D. Catalano,
"Indagine radiologica della Tavola Strozzi," Napoli Nobilissima XVIII (1979): 10-1; Guido
Donatone, "Il lettuccio donato da Filippo Strozzi a Ferrante d'Aragona: la Tavola Strozzi," in
Napoli, l'Europa. Ricerche di Storia dell'Arte in onore di Ferdinando Bologna (Rome: Meridiana
Libri, 1995), 107-11; Roberto Pane, "La Tavola Strozzi tra Firenze e Napoli," Napoli Nobilissima
XVIII, no. 1 (1979): 3-10; Cesare de Seta, "L'Immagine di Napoli dalla Tavola Strozzi a Jan
Bruegel," in Scritti di Storia dell'Arte in onore di Raffaello Causa, ed. Pierluigi Leone de Castris
(Naples: Electa Napoli, 1988), 105-17; del Treppo, "Avventure," 483-515.
89
The painting’s subject is verified by a letter from the Milanese ambassador in Naples describing
the event, see del Treppo, "Avventure," 483-4.
90
The painting has been attributed to both Neapolitan and Florentine artists such as Colantonio,
Francesco Pagano, and Francesco Rosselli. The historical accuracy of the triumphal entry and the
geographical specificity has led many to believe it was either done by a Neapolitan artist or was
executed by the Florentine Rosselli, who was a cartographer and miniaturist. De Seta argues it is a
work by Francesco Rosselli, de Seta, "Immagine di Napoli." For a summary of the literature and
artistic attributions see del Treppo, "Avventure," 484-5.
91
del Treppo, "Avventure," 492.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 155
by Filippo Strozzi, as lettucci often contained painted spalliere. 92 While Guido
Donatone supports del Treppo’s argument, Fiorella Sricchia Santoro has found
other evidence that the perspective of Naples was actually intarsia. 93 As the
Maiano brothers were known for their woodwork and intarsia, Santoro suggests it
would only make sense that the depiction of Naples on the lettuccio would have
been an inlaid perspective. 94 Indeed, intarsia typically plays on perspective,
depicting complicated images of still life or geographical views. 95 There is further
evidence which puts into question del Treppo’s argument. Both del Treppo and
Santoro have ignored a document mentioned by Sale, which notes that there were
92
Del Treppo underlines that many of the references to the lettuccio in the correspondence often
stress the importance of the ‘mezzo’, which he assumes to be in reference to the famous Tavola
Strozzi. del Treppo, "Avventure," 487.
93
Santoro notes that del Treppo does not reference the letter of 3 April 1473 written by the Strozzi
Company in Florence to Filippo Strozzi in Naples, quoted in part above. Santoro bases her
argument on evidence which appears later in the letter, suggesting that the term “prospettiva”
references intarsia work. The letter states: “Non piace a Benedetto da Maiano il modo avete preso
a richiedere Giuliano o lui del venire costi, perchè e sono d’achordo e ànno fatto proposito l’uno
el’altro di loro di non volere più attendere a prospettiva, e se fussi stato intaglio di rilievo vi si
sarebbe achordato.” Quoted in Santoro, "Un celebra 'lettuccio'," 45. and Sale, "Strozzi Chapel",
524 Appendix A.x.38. While this section of the letter does not make direct reference to the
lettuccio but rather the decision of the Maiano brothers to no longer work on intarsia
(“prospettiva”), it has led Santoro to believe that the use of the term “prospettiva” for intarsia
should also be an indication that the same term used in Strozzi’s account book for the lettuccio
(“prospettiva Napoli”) references intarsia work. Later in the letter it is revealed that Filippo Strozzi
wanted the Maiano brothers to work on some choir stalls in intarsia, and thus the statement implies
that Benedetto did not want to work on the project because he was giving up woodwork. This
affirms Vasari’s statement that Benedetto quit work on intarsia to take up sculpture instead and is
furthered by the letter of 12 April 1473 from Parenti to Strozzi which declared that Benedetto
“vuole atendere a lavorare di marmo.” Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 56-7, n. 25. Also see Borsook,
"Documenti relativi alle Capelle di Lecceto e delle Selve di Filippo Strozzi," 14, Appendix I.9;
Parenti, Lettere, 237.
94
Santoro, "Un celebra 'lettuccio'," 45.
95
These types of intarsia were often found on cabinets in the studiolo, such as the woodwork done
in Federigo da Montefeltro’s at Urbino, which has been attributed to the da Maiano brothers,
Thornton, The Scholar, 121. For the Urbino and Gubbio studioli see Cecil H. Clough, "Federigo
da Montefeltro's Private Study in his Ducal Palace of Gubbio," Apollo 86 (1967): 278-87; Olga
Raggio, The Gubbio Studiolo and Its Conservation, 2 vols., vol. 1. Federico da Montefeltro's
Palace at Gubbio and its Studiolo (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999); Luciano
Cheles, The Studiolo of Urbino: An Iconographic Investigation (University Park: Pennsylvania
State University Press, 1986). For the da Maino brothers’ work see Maria Grazia Ciardi Dupré dal
Poggetto, ed., La bottega di Giuliano e Benedetto da Maiano nel rinascimento fiorentino
(Florence: Octavo Franco Cantini Editore, 1994).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 156
two paintings depicting Naples belonging to Strozzi at his death, and suggests
there were a number of depictions of Naples, any of which could have been part
of the lettuccio. 96
What I do think is important here is the evidence that there were a series of
representations of Naples that have a relation to Filippo Strozzi, including the
view of Naples depicted on the lettuccio, and also that views of Naples can be
understood to have become a topos at this time. Filippo’s choice to include a view
of Naples on the lettuccio thus would have not only emphasised the king’s power
and dominion over the city, but also spoken to the other views of Naples which
were circulating. Furthermore, perspective views were often found in intellectual
spaces such as the studiolo. The art of perspective was seen as a science, which
was connected to the difficulty of execution and its visual conceit. 97 It should also
be noted that Eleonora d’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara and daughter of King
Ferrante, commissioned a series of representations of Naples. Eleonora had a
96
The paintings are mentioned in a list of items given to Alfonso di Filippo Strozzi upon Filippo’s
death: “uno Napoli di legnio in charta pechora in tavola di legnio” and later in the inventory “una
charta in su uno legnio dipitovi napoli.” Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 24-5 and 66, n. 85. These are
Sale’s transcriptions taken from ASF, CS V, 65, Fol.20 left. Since the Tavola Strozzi was found in
the Strozzi palace, we might also assume that it has a Strozzi provenance rather than an object
owned by the king. Filangieri has suggested that the Tavola Strozzi was probably painted by one
of Ferrante’s manuscript illuminators and that when he pawned many of his books during the war
with the Turks, he probably also pawned the Tavola Strozzi, which explains why it was found in
the merchant-banker’s house. Riccardo Filangieri, Castel Nuovo. Reggia Angioina ed Aragonese
di Napoli (Naples: E.P.S.A. Editrice Politecnica, 1934), 250. While paintings were not typically
objects pawned by the court and there is no documentary evidence to support this claim, Filangieri
does raise an interesting point, suggesting that the Tavola Strozzi could have been commissioned
by Ferrante, and we might assume that it was perhaps even a gift from Ferrante to Strozzi. The
depiction of the Strozzi moons as well as the Aragonese imprese on the flags, suggests that the
painting was commissioned with both the Aragonese and the Strozzi in mind. Filippo Strozzi
provided loans for the Battle of Ischia, and it may well have been a gift from Ferrante to Strozzi in
appreciation for Strozzi funds, and given to Filippo before he left for his repatriation to Florence in
1466. This would also suggest that the lettuccio’s perspective of Naples may have even been
modelled on the Tavola Strozzi. However, this is all conjecture until further evidence is found.
97
For a study on perspective, and the connection between intarsia and intellectual ideas, see James
Elkins, The Poetics of Perspective (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994), especially
133.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 157
view of Naples depicted on her balcony in the Castel Vecchio in Ferrara. 98
Eleonora also had a camerino in her garden apartments painted with a view of
Naples and she is recorded sending a painting of Naples to either Milan or
Mantua, two cities in which her daughters, Ferrante’s granddaughters, lived. 99
The gifts of representations of Naples and the movement of such objects between
courts signals a conscious reference to the Aragonese dynasty, not only for the
daughter of the King of Naples and his granddaughters, but also for those
involved in economic and social relations with the king, such as Filippo Strozzi.
The Strozzi lettuccio would have arrived in Naples at the beginning of May 1473,
just before Eleonora left on her bridal procession for Ferrara on 24 May 1473. 100
She would have thus viewed the depiction of Naples on the lettuccio at this time,
whether it was intarsia or the Tavola Strozzi, and thus may have influenced her
own commissions of representations of Naples.
98
The view was painted by the court artist Giovanni Trullo who was paid for the work on 31
December 1485. ASMO M&F 20. 155V
99
Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 113. There is some discrepancy between two documents, both
recording payments for the artist Ercole de’ Roberti to paint a view of Naples: on 2 October 1493
Ercole is paid for work already completed, including a painting of Naples to be sent to Milan; and
later in the same account book he is recorded being paid again on the same date for a painting to
be sent to Mantua. “[...]A retrare napuli per mandare a milano como al M[e]m[oria]le x (92 e
accredito a lei in psto” ASMO M&F 28. 37V. “m˚ Hercule depintore per lo amo[n]tare p[er]
ta[n]te opere lui a facto dare adepinzere la loza del zardino secreto da madama e aretrare napuli
per mandare a matoa como al Mle x (92 e a debito ala ast.” ASMO M&F 28.169R. Also published
in Joseph Manca, The Art of Ercole de' Roberti (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992),
216, documents 60 and 61. Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.II, 23. This is not the first time that
the Ferrarese accounts confused Isabella and Beatrice d’Este. Confusion also arises in the accounts
of marriage chests, which are first recorded for Beatrice, but then subsequently corrected in
another document in relation to Isabella. In this instance we know that they referred to Isabella
because the date of her marriage and execution of the wedding chests both coincide. See Manca,
Art of Ercole, 199-201, Docs. 19 and 20.. Either Milan or Mantua would have been suitable
destinations for the depiction as both of Eleonora’s daughters were living in these two cities—
Beatrice d’Este, the wife of Ludovico Sforza in Milan, and Isabella d’Este, the wife of Francesco
Gonzaga, in Mantua. Beatrice had spent part of her childhood in Naples, and may have been a
more suitable candidate.
100
L. Olivi, "Delle nozze di Ercole I con Eleonora d'Aragona," memorie della R. Accademia di
Scienze , Lettere ed Arti di Modena 2, no. 5 (1887): 36.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 158
The king’s lettuccio was much discussed in a series of letters between the
Florentine silk merchant Marco Parenti and his brother-in-law Filippo Strozzi. 101
Filippo left for Naples before the lettuccio was completed and Marco supervised
the final work on it and arranged for its shipment to Naples. 102 On 3 April 1473
the Strozzi Company in Florence wrote to Filippo Strozzi in Naples stating that
the lettuccio was finished but that Marco wanted to have the predella redone as
well as “other things” and that Marco was also having more gold applied. 103 On
12 April 1473 Marco wrote to Filippo updating him on the lettuccio’s progress,
which is the letter quoted at the start of this chapter. Marco’s letter raises some
interesting points in regards to the reception of the lettuccio. As stated in the
letter, the daybed had been admired by many Florentines who had come to see it
in the shop and its beauty caused viewers to return more than once to admire it.
This letter reveals that the lettuccio was a site of interest for Florentine citizens,
those well-versed in the arts as well as regular citizens, “piace molto a ognuno,
chosì dell’arte chome cittadini.” Marco writes that Benedetto da Maiano had left
the previous day for Rome, en route to Naples, and that the artist had already used
300 pieces of gold leaf on the lettuccio. Admirers were told that the lettuccio was
for the king, and Marco notes that many wondered whether it was commissioned
by the king or whether it was a gift from Strozzi. Marco also compares it to a
lettuccio by Benedetto da Maiano owned by Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, which cost
101
Marco Parenti’s letters have been published and edited, see Parenti, Lettere.
For the lettuccio see del Treppo, "Avventure."; Santoro, "Un celebra 'lettuccio'." and also Sale,
"Strozzi Chapel", 12-3.
103
‘El lettuccio is va fornendo sarebbe ora finito ma Marcho v’à fatto rifare la predella dintorno e
certe altre chose e vuole fare mettere d’oro alchuni luoghi e ce n’è anchora per parecchi di.’ Part of
the document is reproduced in Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 524, Appendix A.x.38. Also see Santoro,
"Un celebra 'lettuccio'," 45.
102
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 159
200 fiorini—considerably more than Strozzi’s commission. Marco states that the
cornice of the Medici lettuccio, may be more beautiful but the “mezo”
(presumably the spalliera and interior decoration of the king’s lettuccio, and most
probably the view of Naples), surpasses the Medici lettuccio. 104
Marco’s comments also reiterate the competitiveness in the commissioning
of such objects. Marco’s comparison of the two lettucci, one commissioned by the
Medici and the other by Filippo, suggests rivalry, but also references the
knowledge and taste that is part of the commissioning of such an object.
Appadurai has noted that the politics of knowledge is a crucial component in
defining luxury goods, whereby such objects require a specialised knowledge. 105
That is, knowledge is linked not only to connoisseurship, but also to the
knowledge of production and consumption of these objects. The commissioning
of luxury objects, such as lettucci, is thus not only about the amount that they
cost, but also about the knowledge around the object: how much one should pay,
what sort of materials one should use, what artist to commission, and how it is
valued within a culture. Marco suggests that Filippo, although spending less on
the lettuccio, has actually proved to be more astute, as his lettuccio rivals and
even exceeds the Medici lettuccio. By observing that viewers marvelled at the
lettuccio and pondered over whether it was commissioned by the king or by
Filippo, Marco equates Filippo’s taste and economic capabilities of
commissioning such a luxury object with those of the King of Naples. I am
104
Also see del Treppo, "Avventure," 489-90.
Appadurai signals out five characteristics of luxury goods: restriction to elites, complexity of
acquisitions, semiotic virtuosity, specialised knowledge, and a high linkage between consumption
to body/person/personality. Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 38. Also see his section on
knowledge and commodities, 41-56.
105
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 160
tempted to push this further, by stating that another crucial component of these
luxury goods at this time was linked to narratives around these objects. That is to
say, what also becomes important is not only knowing their histories, production,
or provenances, but also the genealogies and relationships of the lettucci, in
short—who owned what, where they were located, and how they were
appreciated. In this case, the knowledge that Pierfrancesco de’ Medici owned a
lettuccio, and that a new lettuccio was being commissioned for the King of
Naples, allowed viewers to compare the two, and to create relations between these
objects. This sort of interest in particular objects and the comparisons they give
rise to, creates a demand—in this case for the lettuccio—that turns “just a bed”
into a culturally resonant object, commissioned by a select group of individuals,
who become well versed in “lettuccio knowledge.” However, this knowledge or
familiarity with the lettuccio then gets disseminated into the larger cultural field
as it is shown on display in the bottega, viewed by many citizens both versed and
non-versed in the arts, and engaged with as furniture in the palazzo, by visitors
and servants.
After Marco’s letter we have further news about the lettuccio. A letter from
the Strozzi Company in Florence to the branch in Naples dated 30 April 1473, and
published by Eve Borsook, affirms the delivery of the lettuccio and the arrival of
Benedetto da Maiano in Naples to assemble it. 106 The letter also notes the
106
“Sarà a Dio piacendo arivato e’ letucio e voi vistolo, e saravi stato Benedetto da Maiano e fatto
il bisogno et aconc[i]olo insieme come à stare. Così s’atende e che sia piac[i]uto e chonosc[i]uto
chome è stato qui, che invero è stato tenuto una bella cosa, come è, e ancho il pregio ve lo può
mostrare, chè come visto arete, fiorini CX larghi al Maiano s’è avuto a paghare. Vedrassi le spese
apunto vi si sarano fatto a meterassi al conto, avisate e diravisi. E voi arete fatto cho’ veturali el
meglio arete potuto che, in vero, ci parse meglio rimeterne ala vostra discrezione...” From ASF,
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 161
reception of the lettuccio in Naples, stating that it was esteemed as a “bella cosa.”
On 15 May 1473 Marco wrote to Filippo in response to the latter’s letter,
confirming that the lettuccio had arrived in Naples, and that Benedetto was also
there. 107 On 20 July 1473, Strozzi’s account book records the payment to “Ristoro
di Iacopo da Lantella vetturale” (the carriage driver), for “the carriage from
Florence to here [Naples] of a decorated lettuccio, which was given to the Maestà
del Signor Re.” 108 There is no news about the lettuccio, until almost a year later,
when Filippo on 1 May 1474, now in Florence, writes to Lorenzo Strozzi in
Naples. Filippo states that he has sent some additions to the lettuccio, including
“la chorona e monte di diamante” (crown and the impresa of the mountain of
diamonds) along with cloth, noting that these “adornments” will make the already
beautiful lettuccio even more beautiful. 109 He instructs Lorenzo to make sure to
affix them well (“chonficare bene”), with the crown above the arms, and the
prettiest stone in front (“la chorona, sopra l’arme, e la più bella pietra sia il
dinanzi”). The crown presumably symbolised royalty and the mountain of
diamonds was a common impresa used by the Aragonese, often associated with
the Order of the Ermine, but the material of these objects is not mentioned, except
for the comment about the stone, and we cannot be certain whether these were
wood intarsia, painted wood, or perhaps inlaid wood with gems or precious
CS III, 133. 16, published in Borsook, "Documenti relativi alle Capelle di Lecceto e delle Selve di
Filippo Strozzi," 14, n.0. Also mentioned and published in del Treppo, "Avventure," 489.
107
Sale, "Strozzi Chapel", 525 Appendix A.x. 39.
108
Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi, 522.
109
“Ieri raviai la chorona e monte di diamante cho’ panni: i’ lettuccio fu bello, e questo
adornamento lo farà viepiù bello. Farà’la chonfichare bene, cioè la chorona, sopra l’arme, e la più
bella pietra sia il dinanzi. Non scrivo altrimenti al Re; fa’ le parole tu e aspetta al darlla il tenpo,
chè non c’importa 15 dì più o meno. Verrà tutto più di 40 fiorini larghi.” Transcribed in del
Treppo, "Avventure," 489. Also see Santoro, "Un celebra 'lettuccio'," 45.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 162
stones. It is unclear why Filippo, a year later, felt the need to send down more
embellishments for the lettuccio, but the addition of the imprese and cloth
demonstrate that the lettuccio was highly decorated.
While I have noted that a lettuccio was used as a daybed, visual imagery
also suggests that when used by royalty, it could also serve as a throne, when
giving audience. 110 Figure 13 depicts a lettuccio as a seat of honour, where King
Solomon gives audience from his lettuccio as a throne. 111 Here King Solomon
reclines with pillows and the cloth behind forms a sort of canopy. We might
assume that the cloth that Filippo added to the lettuccio may have served a similar
purpose. Regardless, the depiction suggests the ways in which the object would
have had an intimate relationship with the body of King Ferrante, as well as with
those who viewed it. Decorated with his imprese and a view of Naples, it would
have linked the king’s territory, his personal mottos and imprese with his physical
body. While we have no other accounts of the lettuccio, the letters suggest that the
object was a source of discussion, not only for those involved in the commission,
but also for the Florentine citizens who came to marvel at it, as well as for the
Neapolitan court who received it when it arrived in Naples. Furthermore, the
particular nature of the lettuccio—a piece of furniture on which one sits or
reclines—furthers the sociability of the object, as one gave audience from it or
received visitors.
110
Thornton, Italian Renaissance Interior, 148 and 53. Trionfi Honorati, "A proposito del
'lettuccio'," 40.
111
Thornton, Italian Renaissance Interior, 153, Figure 67. Thornton also provides another
example of a lettuccio used as a throne in the Judgement Scene in the Story of Susanna and the
Elders c. 1500 by the Master of Apollo and Daphne in the Art Institute of Chicago, 148, Figure
163.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 163
Filippo’s commissioning of the lettuccio also influenced Duke Alfonso
d’Aragona to have a similar one made three years later. This suggests that
Alfonso, the son of Ferrante, undoubtedly viewed the king’s lettuccio, and that he
sought to own one and participate in the commissioning of lettucci, which had
now become a sought after item at the court of Naples. Between 1476 and 1477
Giuliano da Maiano worked on a lettuccio for Alfonso. 112 Although Alfonso’s
lettuccio does not have a direct link with Filippo Strozzi, the commission was
made by Andrea Partini, a business associate of Filippo and probably an associate
of the Benedetto Salutati, the head of the company that shipped the piece of
furniture. 113 Alfonso’s choice to have his lettuccio made by the da Maiano
workshop followed the tastes of the previous three lettucci that had been sent
down to Naples from Florence. The documents for the commission were
discovered by Dario Covi in the archives of the Ospedale degli Innocenti in
Florence, in the account books of Benedetto Salutati and Company, Florentine
merchant-bankers who also had branches in Rome and Naples. The account books
record a number of payments to Giuliano from 24 July 1476 to 16 August 1477,
that came to 210 fiorini larghi, roughly comparable to the amount Pierfrancesco
de’ Medici paid for his lettuccio, but considerably more than Strozzi’s
commission. 114 Alfonso also had 2200 pieces of gold leaf and 150 pieces of silver
leaf applied to the lettuccio by the painters Lorenzo di Piero and partners, which
112
Dario A. Covi, "A documented 'lettuccio' for the duke of Calabria by Giuliano da Maiano," in
Essays Presented to Myron P. Gilmore, ed. S. Bertelli and G. Ramakus (Firenze: 1978), 121.
113
Covi, "Documented lettuccio," 121; del Treppo, "Avventure," 498.
114
Covi, "Documented lettuccio," 121.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 164
cost another 25 florins and 6 danari. 115 More expenses were incurred for packing
and shipment, which included the paper, rope and other materials to pack it,
customs taxes, and freight charges. These shipping accounts also reveal that other
lettucci were shipped with the larger one. 116 A document of 16 September 1477
from the Salutati books, records the shipment of three lettucci, claiming two of
them were for the accounts of the Salutati Company and the third lettuccio was
for the account of Simone Vespucci. 117 Nothing else is known about Alfonso’s
lettuccio, and Nicola Barone’s transcriptions of the court records for 1476 and
1477 are practically blank for this period. 118 The accounts of the Salutati
Company from 1475-9 reveal, as Covi has suggested, that the Salutati seem to
have had a standing account for lettucci during these years. 119 The accounts also
demonstrate that the commissioning of such items, and their shipment from one
city to another, involved a series of intermediaries: the makers, the artists, the
merchants, the shippers, the customs agents, the receivers, the consumers, and the
viewers. 120
115
Covi, "Documented lettuccio," 122.
Covi, "Documented lettuccio," 122.
117
“chonto di 3 lettucci mandamo a Napoli a nostri, che 2 per nostro chontto e l’atro di Simone
Vespucci, el qual chonto avemo la Pisa da Iacopo Neretti.” Transcribed in Covi, "Documented
lettuccio," 122 and 5, Doc 1.
118
It is unclear whether this is because there were no records for these years when Barone
transcribed them, or if they were not deemed important enough to transcribe and since they are
now destroyed, we will never know. There is only one entry for 1476 in Barone’s transcriptions,
which references a payment for the coronation of the new Queen of Naples; 1477 is completely
absent from his transcriptions. Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 401.
119
Covi, "Documented lettuccio," 121.
120
It should be noted that on 16 February 1476 Benedetto Salutati and the heads of his associated
companies, Lorenzo Strozzi, Francesco Nori, and Andrea Spannocchi, hosted a banquet for
Alfonso, Duke of Calabria and the other offspring of King Ferrante. Francesco Novati, ed.,
Epistolario di Coluccio Salutati, vol. IV Part 2, Fonti per la storia d'Italia (Rome: Tipografia del
Senato and Istituto Storico Italiano, 1911), 420. This suggests that Alfonso d’Aragona and
Benedetto Salutati sat down at a table together in mid February 1476, and six months later on 24
July 1476, Giuliano da Maiano was paid for some work already done on the lettuccio through
Salutati. “E dì detto [24 July 1476] f. 8 larghi, per lui a Giuliano da Maiano lengnauo[vo]llo, portò
116
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 165
In addition to the Neapolitan lettucci, it should be noted that Eleonora
d’Aragona, who had spent her childhood in Naples, also commissioned a lettuccio
for her apartments in Ferrara. On 28 August 1488, Eleonora paid a “Maestro Piero
de Paxa Intaiadore” in Modena for wood for a lettuccio. 121 On 30 December 1489,
a “Maestro Pollo Toto” was paid 75 lire marchesani for a large lettuccio,
presumably the same one she bought the wood for in August 1488. The large
lettuccio was manufactured in Modena, and placed in her garden apartments near
the Castel Vecchio. 122 We do not know anything about the decoration of the
lettuccio but an inventory was taken in 1489 of all her cloth and tapestry items
and lists a “tomarazo” for the lettuccio in Eleonora’s room. The inventory of 11
April states that it was a small tapestry, made of expensive material—“raso
alexandrine”—which was sewn in Ferrara by Biagio del Bailo, one of Eleonora’s
favourite cloth artisans. 123 While not of Florentine manufacture, Eleonora’s
lettuccio demonstrates that Eleonora’s taste for such an item may have been
Giovanni suo fratello, per parte d’1˚ lettuccio gli fa........f. 8” Covi, "Documented lettuccio," 126,
Doc. 2. Benedetto Salutati was also responsible for sending the gift of a tondo by Botticelli to
Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga in 1477, which cost just over 41 florins, demonstrating that Salutati
was in contact with a variety of individuals through the exchange of artistic objects, whether he
was serving in the capacity of a merchant in shipping the items, or whether he was participating in
the cultural practices of gifting or entertaining. Dario A. Covi, "A Documented Tondo by
Botticelli," in Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Ugo Procacci, ed. Maria Grazia Ciardi Dupré
dal Poggetto and Paolo dal Poggetto (Milan: Electa editrice, 1977), 270-2.
121
“Ill[ustrissi]ma madama n[ost]ra di dare ad xxviij di agosto [1488] L cento uno d 18 M tantj la
fiore di spina apagato in Modena alinfrascrite persone: M[aestro] Piero de paxa Intaiadore per oto
sentj di legno per lo letuzo....L2.8.0” ASMO AP 637. 49V.
122
“M Pollo toto di avere ad xxx d[i]x[em]bre L setante cinque M per lavalute di uno letuzo
grande luj a fato fare in modena alla Ill[ustrissi]ma M[adama] e sto asstinato per M[aestro] biaxio
Roseto ingegniero di Sua S[ignoria] dite L 25 lo q[u]ale fo posto nel zardino di sua Ex[ellen]tia e
posto suxo lo inventario (instario?) di M[aestro] batiste dala masa zardinoero...................L75”
ASMO AP 639. 153R.
123
“Tomarazo una picollo di raxo alesandrino lo quale talgio q[ui] di biaxio del baillo per lo letuzo
de camarino de la Ill[ustrissi]ma m[adam]a nos[t]ra come al˚ di Racord (178.......n.1” ASMO AP
640. 155v.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 166
fostered and influenced by the Florentine lettucci sent to Naples, where she was
raised.
The lettucci destined for the Neapolitan court all differ in price. While
Diomede’s lettuccio appears to be the cheapest, costing only twenty-five florins,
such a price could still purchase a decent amount of decoration. Lorenzo de’
Medici’s inventory, for instance, contained a lettiera decorated with walnut
mouldings and tarsie, which was appraised at four florins, and his lettuccio was
valued at forty-five florins, which was made out of cypress and had walnut panels
decorated with intarsia. 124 The cost of Diomede’s lettuccio would have placed his
decoration somewhere in the middle of these two, and may have contained no
gold leaf. Very few lettucci survive (Figures 15 and 17 are some of the only
extant examples), however there are depictions in paintings of the period that give
us an idea of how they might have been used (Figure 14). 125 The print from
Savonarola’s Predica dell’arte del Bene morire (Figure 16) shows a lettuccio with
what appears to be intarsia on the spalliera, divided into sections, similar to
surviving lettucci.
Filippo Strozzi’s commissioning of the da Maiano brothers for lettucci
appears to have introduced a Neapolitan sensibility for their work. We know that
Filippo Strozzi facilitated the trip of Benedetto da Maiano from Florence to
Naples when he commissioned the lettuccio for the king, and this sparked an
124
Thornton, Italian Renaissance Interior, 149.
The Palazzo Davanzati in Florence, for instance, contains a lettuccio. Many spalliere paintings
or works on panel that exist today in their fragmented form may have initially come from lettucci
as well as other furniture such as cassoni.
125
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 167
interest to have the brothers work in Naples. 126 Giuliano da Maiano travelled to
Naples in 1484 to execute work on the great arch at the Porta Capuana, erected
near the Castel Capuana which was the residence of Duke Alfonso d’Aragona and
Duchess Ippolita Sforza. 127 Interestingly enough, it was the Gondi Bank, and not
the Strozzi Bank, that was largely responsible for paying Giuliano da Maiano’s
work for Alfonso. Court records reveal that Giuliano da Maiano was paid twenty
florins via the Gondi Brothers on 2 March 1485 to make the trip down to Naples
as an architect for Alfonso d’Aragona. 128 On 27 April 1485 Alfonso paid twenty
ducati for the price of a mule he was giving to “Giuliano da Maiano architetto
fiorentino,” who had arrived only a few days before in Naples “per fare certi
disegno e certe fabbriche” (for some designs and some work/construction). 129 On
8 August 1487, the Gondi are recorded paying 232 ducati for unspecified designs
by Giuliano da Maiano done in July of that year. 130 Joampiero Leostello da
Volterra in his Effermeridi, a chronicle detailing the deeds of Alfonso II, notes
that on 17 February 1487, Alfonso had begun work on his various architectural
126
For Giuliano da Maiano in Naples see Ceci, "Nuovi documenti," 784-92.
Erasmo Percopo, "Nuovi documenti su gli scrittori e gli artisti dei tempi aragonesi," Archivio
storico per le province napoletane XIX (1894): 577.
128
“A Giuliano e Antonio Gondi, mercanti fiorentin: ventidui ducati, quarto tari, et sono per la
valuta di vinti fiorini di grossi che per hordinazione del ditto signore [duca di Calabria] pagorono
in Firenze a Juliano di Lionardo di Majano, architettore, quali venne qui in Napoli al servizio di
Sua Signoria; et per loro a Biliocozo Gondi: xxii duc, iv tari.” Percopo, "Nuovi documenti vol
xix," 578, Doc I.
129
“A Lupes, spagnuolo cozzone, si danno 20 duc correnti, prezzo di una mula baia pura, che il
signor duca ha donato graziosamente a Giuliano da Maiano architetto fiorentino, il quale nei di
passati venne in napoli al servizio del ditto signore, per fare certi disegno e certe fabbriche.”
Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 603-4.
130
“A Giuliano e ad altri eredi d’Antonio Gondi se danno 232 ducati valuta di 200 ducati d’oro
che il Duca fece pagare nel luglio in Firenze a Giuliano da Mayano per certi disegni.” Barone,
"Cedole ASPN IX," 623.
127
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 168
projects and had employed Giuliano da Maiano as his architect. 131 Indeed, some
scholars have labelled Giuliano “architetto ducale” from 1488 to 1490, during
which he not only provided designs but supervised various architectural projects.
These projects involved the building of the Palazzo di Poggioreale and work in
the Castel Capuana, which included renovations to Alfonso’s studiolo and
oratory. 132 In his Lives, Vasari states that Alfonso commissioned Giuliano to
execute the work on his scrittoio, presumably intarsia panelling similar to the
studiolo at Urbino (Figure 60). 133
It was the da Maiano brothers’ impressive skill in intarsia seen on lettucci
that sparked an interest in their work, and inevitably led Benedetto to work in
Naples. The lettucci sent down to Naples caused fascination with the object both
in Florence and in Naples. The king’s lettuccio, when displayed in the bottega,
caused viewers to admire it, to compare it with the Medici commission, and to
discuss its connections with the King of Naples. The various lettucci as they were
constructed in Florence and then shipped to Naples thus involved a number of
individuals, leading to a fascination not only with the lettuccio form, but also with
specific lettucci. Lettuccio knowledge was thus formulated through the discussion
of and comparison between particular lettucci owned by illustrious individuals.
131
“ILla Signoria comincio’ a dare ordine a fare fabrica et mando’ per Messer Juliano designatore
a Fiorenze.” Filangieri, Effemeridi (Leostello), LXXIV. First published in Gaetano Filangieri,
Documenti per la storia, le arte e industrie per le provincie napoletane raccolti e pubblicati.
Effemeridi, Delle cose fatte per il duca di Calabria (1484-91) di Joampiero Leostello da Volterra
da un codice della Biblioteca Nazionale di Parigi, 6 vols., vol. I (Naples: Tipografia
dell'Accademia Reale delle Scienze, 1883).
132
Giuliano employed many Florentine masons and builders to work on Poggioreale, as well as the
Palazzo Como in Naples. Ceci, "Nuovi documenti," 785-6. For Poggioreale also see Colombo,
"Poggioreale," 186-209, 309-42.
133
Santoro, "Un celebra 'lettuccio'," 53, n. 39.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 169
Gems, Medallions, and Books: Circulation, Replication, and
Transmission
The example of the lettuccio in Naples gives us an idea of how merchantbankers were integral to the formation of tastes in new objects, but in what ways
did they participate in the circulation and interest in antiquities and previously
owned objects? This section examines the ways in which objects, specifically
gems, circulated in a variety of forms, and how the commissioning of books in
Florence facilitated the dissemination of antique gems depicted in manuscript
illumination. Merchant-bankers often found themselves in ideal positions to
procure antiquities, and thus facilitated circulation through ownership. The Medici
courtyard medallions, and the gems they copy, are ideal examples of these two
forms of circulation: through ownership and through visual replication.
In 1452 the Medici paid for seven marble medallions, which copied motifs
of famous antique cameos and gems (Figure 21). These medallions have been
attributed to Donatello or his workshop and were placed in the spandrels of the
arches in the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici. 134 What is interesting is that the
cameos copied were not then in the Medici collections, but in the following forty
years would come into Medici possession. Three of the engraved gemstones that
were used as sources, Daedalus and Icarus, Athena and Poseidon, Dionysus and
the Satyr, entered the Medici collection in 1462; the Chariot with Dionysus Led
by Psychai and Diomedes and the Palladium were acquired by Lorenzo from
Pope Paul II’s collection in 1471; the centaur was acquired in 1492; and the
134
Mariarita Casarosa Guadagni, "The Medici Collection of Gems During the Fifteenth and
Sixteenth Centuries," in Treasures of Florence. The Medici Collection, 1400-1700, ed. Cristina
Acidini Luchinat (Munich and New York: Prestel, 1997), 74.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 170
Dionysus with Ariadne and Naxos is known to have belonged to the Gonzaga
family. 135 What I think is important here is twofold. On the one hand, these gems
were passed through a number of hands, and it is through these various owners
that narratives begin to be told, causing a variety of individuals to be interested in
their provenances and histories. On the other hand, it is through their display, their
engagement, and their copying by artists, that their fame and their stories are
circulated.
The gem of Diomedes and the Palladium (Figure 18) for instance, was
procured in 1465 by Pope Paul II (formerly Pietro Barbo before his election to
pope), when he oversaw the estate of Ludovico Trevisan, the Chamberlain of the
Apostolic Camera, who died in that year. 136 It was in September 1471, after Paul
II’s death and the coronation of Pope Sixtus IV, when Lorenzo de’ Medici
travelled to Rome as an ambassador, that he obtained the Diomedes and the
Palladium. Lorenzo writes in his ricordi:
In September of 1471 I was elected ambassador to Rome for the
coronation of Pope Sixtus IV, where I was very honored, and
from there I carried away two ancient marble heads with the
images of Augustus and Agrippa, which the said Pope gave me;
and, in addition I took away our dish of carved chalcedony [the
Tazza Farnese] along with many other cameos [i.e., gems] and
coins which were then bought, among them the chalcedony [the
Diomedes and the Palladium]. 137
135
Casarosa Guadagni, "Medici Collection of Gems," 74. Also see Nicola Dacos, "La fortuna delle
gemme medicee nel Rinascimento," in Il tesoro di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Le gemme. Catalogo
della Mostra Palazzo Medici Riccardi., ed. Nicole Dacos, Antonio Giuliano, and Ulrico Pannuti
(Florence: Sansoni Editore, 1973), 133-62. Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 124-8.
136
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 2.
137
Quotation and translation from Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 6 and 337, Doc. 204.
Fusco and Corti took the quotation from Ricordi del Magnifico Lorenzo di Piero di Cosimo de’
Medici. The original is located in Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, Ms. II. IV. 309, 1-2v.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 171
It should be noted that Lorenzo did not receive these in his role as
ambassador, but rather in his position as a member of the Medici bank. The
Medici bank in Rome cancelled the past papal debts accrued by Paul II, and made
Sixtus new loans, through which they acquired the gems. As Niccolò Valori states
in his biography on Lorenzo in the early sixteenth century, “many of the gems and
pearls which Pope Paul collected with single-minded zeal, he [Sixtus] conceded to
them [Lorenzo and Medici roman bank] either for nothing or for a very small
price.” 138 The Diomedes and the Palladium’s history was, however, even more
intriguing for Renaissance viewers. Both Lorenzo Ghiberti, in his Commentaries
(1450) and Vespasiano da Bisticci in his Vita di Niccolò Niccoli (after 1480)
narrated the strange tale on how the gem came into the possession of Niccolò
Niccoli, the owner of the gem before Ludovico Trevisan. Niccolò is said to have
seen a young boy in the street, sporting the chalcedony around his neck. Niccolò,
who was extremely taken by the gem, asked the boy how much he wanted for it,
and of course the boy, having no idea of how much such a thing was worth,
demanded five florins for it. 139 This anecdote underlines the different ways the
stories of these gems circulated through diverse forms of rhetoric. Filarete and da
Bisticci note that Niccolò sold it to Ludovico Trevisan for two hundred ducati,
and we know that it was then passed on to Paul II. 140 It should be noted that three
additional versions of Diomedes were in Paul II’s inventory in 1457, and yet he
138
Quoted in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 6.
The two texts by Ghiberti and Bisticci can be found in Nicole Dacos, Antonio Giuliano, and
Ulrico Pannuti, eds., Il tesoro di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Le gemme. Catalogo della Mostra Palazzo
Medici Riccardi., vol. I (Florence: Sansoni Editore, 1973), 86, Docs II and III. Also see Fusco and
Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 334-6, Docs 199-203.
140
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 335, Doc 201; Dacos, Giuliano, and Pannuti, eds., Tesoro
di Lorenzo, 86, Doc III.
139
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 172
still sought to obtain the Niccoli-Trevisan’s version, now probably quite famous
through the narratives that were circulating in collecting circles. 141 Lorenzo’s
ricordi above underline his fascination and pride in procuring the famous
Diomedes gem, and in 1495 it was mentioned as one of Lorenzo’s best three gems
by Caradosso Foppa in a letter written to Ludovico Sforza, after visiting the
Medici collections: “El melio non is trova, zoè el sugiello di Nerone [the Marsyas
gem], el caro di Fetonte [the Phaethon gem], el calzidonio [the Diomedes gem]”
(“better ones, one could not find, that is the Marsyas gem, the Phaethon gem, and
the Diomedes gem). 142 The gem was listed in an inventory of objects inherited by
Margarita of Austria from Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, as well as in her
testament of 1567. 143
Various copies were made of the gem. It was depicted in manuscript
illumination, such as in the decorations of a breviary of Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara
(Figures 19 and 20 ), replicated in the Medici courtyard medallions mentioned
above (Figure 21), reproduced on medals, mounted in rings, and used as seals. 144
The replications in a variety of media suggest that many would have come into
contact with this gem. While today we may view these jewels or gems in
manuscript illumination as merely anonymous or imagined objects, the histories
attached to these objects imply that contemporary viewers would have been far
more aware of the particular copies of gems they were viewing and would thus
have associated those representations with the various narratives told about the
141
For the provenance of the gem see Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 247, n. 47.
Quoted from a letter written 9 February 1495, found in ASMI, Autografi, Cesellatori 92, and
published in Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 325, Doc 171.
143
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 247, n. 47.
144
Dacos, "Fortuna delle gemme," 160.
142
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 173
original object’s provenance and owners. The posture of Diomedes was also
adapted and used by a number of artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and
Michelangelo. 145 The price of the gem also increased over a short span of time,
and I would suggest that its value was intrinsically linked to its growing fame,
which was promulgated through the various copies circulating across Italy. In
Lorenzo’s inventory of 1492, the Diomedes gem was listed at 1500 florins, 300
times the pilfered price of 5 florins that Niccolò paid, and close to eight times
more than Ludovico Trevisan paid for it. 146
Similarly, the Chariot of Dionysus Led by Psychai (Figure 22) was
procured by Lorenzo through the estate of Paul II and was also used as a model
for one of the Medici medallions, when it was still in Paul II’s possession. In Paul
II’s inventory of 1457, the gem was listed at 100 ducats, but by 1492, when
Lorenzo’s inventory was taken, it had increased ten times in value, to 1000
florins. 147 It was also copied in numerous forms, and was used many times in
manuscript illumination, including Filippo Strozzi’s copy of Pliny’s Natural
History (Figure 23).
In 1476 Filippo engaged in a business venture with the printer Nicolaus
Jenson in Venice, producing editions of Pliny’s Natural History translated into the
vernacular by Cristoforo Landino and dedicated to King Ferrante. 148 This edition
was distinctive because there were two sets of books printed: one that was printed
on regular paper, of which many were sent to London to Italian expatriates; and
145
For a list of the copies see Dacos, "Fortuna delle gemme," 160.
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 127.
147
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 124.
148
Jardine, Worldly Goods, 143-7; Jonathan J. G. Alexander, ed., The Painted Page: Italian
Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550 (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1994), 163-76.
146
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 174
the other, printed on parchment, a much more expensive material and
consequently, only a limited number of copies were made. The first set led to a
flourishing trade of books shipped between Venice and London for the Italian
community in England. 149 The more expensive parchment copies became highly
valued objects and constituted a hybrid: a printed book embellished with elaborate
manuscript illumination. Filippo made sure to obtain his own copy and adorned it
with expensive illumination, which was done by Monte di Giovanni di Miniato
and possibly his brother. 150 Filippo’s manuscript is now in the Bodleian Library in
Oxford and its frontispiece contains portraits of Ferrante, Filippo Strozzi, and his
young son (Figure 23) and is also illuminated throughout, containing portraits of
Ferrante along with the Aragonese arms, as well as Strozzi arms and imprese. 151
The frontispiece is embellished with mythological representations in cameo-like
shapes, which copy gems from the collection of Lorenzo de’ Medici, including
the famous Dionysus on a Chariot Led by Psychai. 152 The frontispiece thus spoke
to Filippo’s social, cultural, and political relations. The presence of Ferrante’s
portrait in the book alluded to Filippo’s acquaintance with the king through
mercantile and political networks. The copies of the gems also placed Filippo
within the socio-cultural spheres of collecting and humanist knowledge. The
artistic rendering of the gems would have provided Filippo with an example of the
famous gems in Lorenzo’s collection, but they could have also been the subject of
149
Jardine, Worldly Goods, 44.
Payments are recorded between April 1479 and March 1483 to the illuminator Monte di
Giovanni for work on Pliny’s Naturalis Historia, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Sale,
"Strozzi Chapel", 39; Borsook, "Documenti relativi alle Capelle di Lecceto e delle Selve di Filippo
Strozzi," 20, Appendix xii; Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 175.
151
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 175, Catalogue 85. The frontispiece appears on folio 5R.
152
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 174.
150
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 175
discussion, enabling Filippo to contemplate the different renderings of the subject
matter in sculptural gem form versus the painted illumination. As a merchantbanker, Filippo came into contact with a wide range of gems and jewels and thus
was most likely well-versed in the knowledge of their circulation. Here the
illuminator has altered the gem slightly, by placing the chariot on a deeper
ground, rather than a ledge-like plane, and he has added a barking dog in the
foreground.
A copy of the Dionysus Chariot appears depicted in the manuscript
illumination of Alfonso II d’Aragona’s copy of Livy’s Roman History (Figure
24). 153 The illuminations were done in Florence and are attributed to Gherardo di
Giovanni di Miniato, while the script has been attributed to Messer Piero di
Benedetto Strozzi. It has been suggested that the manuscript might be connected
with a payment to Vespasiano da Bisticci in Florence via the merchant Giuliano
Gondi listed in the royal accounts in 1479. 154 Here we have the Dionysus Chariot
at the top of the page, illuminated in gold. The illuminator has eliminated the dog,
and the chariot now appears on a ledge, resembling the actual gem. One of the
other medallions from the Medici courtyard is depicted, as well as Alfonso’s
various imprese. In the left and right borders there appears the Aragonese imprese
of the mountain of diamonds, the flaming throne, and the sprouting stock, all
emblems linked to the Order of the Ermine, of which Alfonso was a member. 155
Alfonso also collected gems, and we know that he had been in competition with
Lorenzo de’ Medici, among others, for procuring the gems belonging to Cardinal
153
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 160, Cat. 76.
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 160.
155
For the Order of the Ermine see chapter four.
154
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 176
Francesco Gonzaga in the 1480s. 156 Alfonso’s knowledge of gems and his
participation in the collecting of such gems is thus alluded to by the depiction of
such objects in his copy of Livy. If one could not own the particular gem itself,
one could still gain access to that gem within a system of value that placed
importance not only on ownership (which was still a crucial part), but also on the
replication, invention, and translation of artistic forms. The manuscript depicting
the gems also signals the ways in which these objects circulated not only through
written narratives and letters, but also through visual imagery and replication.
The Dionysus Chariot also appears in a Missal, which belonged to Thomas
James, Bishop of Dol in Brittany, and dates from 1483 (Figure 25). 157 What is
interesting is that the illumination is not by either of the Miniato brothers but by
Attavante degli Attavanti, who was known to have received commissions from
patrons outside of Florence such as King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary and King
Manuel of Portugal. 158 Various artists must have thus had access to these gems, or
at least their copies, a circumstance which alludes to the ways these small intimate
objects should be seen as having a larger public presence. Here the Dionysus
Chariot appears at the bottom right of the page, in black and white, resembling
the tonal differences of the original gem. Other Medici gems are also found in the
border illumination, and the central altar is a copy of the Della Valle-Medici
sarcophagus. Attavante also copied the Dionysus Chariot gem in his illuminations
of Ptolemy’s Geografia now in the Bibliothèque National de Paris. 159 This
156
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 14.
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 56, Cat 3a.
158
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 56.
159
Dacos, Giuliano, and Pannuti, eds., Tesoro di Lorenzo, figure 88.
157
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 177
suggests that not only were these gems disseminated through copies within Italy
but it was also through the international book trade and mercantile networks that
they were also viewed abroad.
The copying of Medici gems and medallions in a variety of media,
especially in manuscript illumination, indicates that these objects were
appreciated not as anonymous antique gems, valued for their appearance and
artistic skill alone, or their rarity, but also because they were specific gems, which
had illustrious owners, and whose histories were well known to those who
collected, exchanged, and copied them. It appears that these gems were
continually taken note of—by ambassadors, agents, artists, collectors, and
political figures—and that part of the interest in ownership was also interest in the
knowledge around the gems: who owned what, who bought what, and how one
might procure more. Lorenzo’s practice of engraving his gems with
“LAV.R.MED.” also alludes to the ways in which possession of these gems had
become something linked to one’s identity. 160 By engraving his name onto the
gems, Lorenzo was sure to make a mark on the biographies of those gems, if they
ever were to leave his possession, making certain his name would be associated
with the other illustrious individuals said to have owned such objects. What
becomes clear, then, is that collectors of these precious gems were not merely
keen on accumulating or amassing large quantities of any gems, but rather there
was a knowledge of particular gems, and that their histories were intrinsically
linked to the value of those objects. The depictions of gems in manuscripts
160
As Findlen notes “when Lorenzo de’ Medici had his initials carved into his antiquities in the
late fifteenth century, he combined a ruler’s right to possess with a humanist love of the past.”
Findlen, "Possessing the Past," 95.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 178
formed a connection across space to the objects themselves, between visual copies
and the actual gems, and signal the importance of intermediality. This
intermediality draws relationships between the books found in the studiolo, and
the objects collected, stored, and shown there. It was Florentine illuminators who
had access to these gems or their copies, which allowed for the visual
dissemination of those gems across Italy and abroad. The constant circulation of
these objects as currency was somehow pinned down when these gems were
depicted in illumination, allowing a visual record of something that repeatedly
moved. In some ways, allowing ownership of something one did not own. The
practices associated with the circulation of objects, and the complications between
individuals such circulations provoked, will now be elaborated upon further in my
discussion on pawning.
IV. The Practices of Pawning: Objects and Contenders
It is appropriate to join splendour and magnificence, because
they both consist of great expense and have a common
matter, that is money. But magnificence derives its name
from the concept of grandeur and concerns building,
spectacle and gifts, while splendour is primarily concerned
with the ornament of the household, the care of the person
and with furnishing.
–Giovanni Pontano 161
Money was the common denominator for splendour and magnificence; it
was what courts sought and bankers provided. But as Pontano notes, money was
not an end in itself, it was what provided the foundations for gifts and ornament,
buildings and furnishings, spectacle and fame, splendour and magnificence. The
ways in which the courts obtained money from bankers to finance their
magnificence constitutes a crucial component in the exchange of objects. The
161
Original in Latin; quotation and translation in Welch, "Public Magnificence," 214.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 179
loaning of money and the pawning of objects not only formed social and political
relationships, these activities also facilitated the circulation of objects, allowing
objects to change hands continually as a form of currency. It was also through
these exchanges that allowed mere “traders” to become merchant-bankers and
pursue similar courtly activities that gave them “splendour.”
While the companies of the Strozzi, the Gondi, and the Medici, among
others, can be seen as commercial agents and traders that facilitated the
circulation of goods through commodification, these companies should also be
examined in their capacity as pawnbrokers and bankers. As banks, they provided
loans, facilitated payments for individuals’ salaries, provisions, and purchases,
and provided bills of exchange for larger ventures. The loaning of money and the
pawning of objects also reveal the anxieties around money and its relationship to
cultural objects, as well as underlining the social tensions around one’s wealth in
relation to one’s status. While my focus is not on money, but rather on objects, in
examining the different loans and money exchanged between the Neapolitan
crown and Florentine bankers, I found that loans not only constituted political
dependencies but also facilitated the circulation of objects, through the practices
of credit and pawning.
Credit was a common custom in the early modern period, and many
transactions were conducted with a promise to pay, or with a credit secured with
one’s belongings, often an object of similar value used as a pledge. 162 Purchasing
objects, then, often involved the exchanging of one item for another, and
introduced different objects to different individuals on a regular basis. Pawning
162
Welch, Shopping, 90-3. Matchette, "Credit and Credibility," 225-41.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 180
was also another very common activity across all social scales, whether it was the
pawning of small personal items such as clothing or larger scale pawning of
jewels and court libraries. Much of the nobility across Italy pledged their jewels
as security for loans, sometimes only for a few days, while others for months or
even years on end. The institution of pawning had rules which varied from city to
city, but in general, the pawned object was used as a pledge for a sum, which was
to be repaid with interest. When the sum was repaid, the objects would then be
returned to the rightful owners. However, often enough, the money loaned could
not be repaid and the pawnbroker was required to give notice to the owner of the
object that his or her objects would soon be the lender’s possessions. There was
usually a grace period of a month or so that followed, and if the loan remained
unpaid, these objects were then the property of the pawnbroker, who was free to
do what he wanted with the goods. Individuals who could not repay their loans
lost a certain respectability and also often lost their ability to borrow, branded as
uncredit-worthy. 163 As Welch has noted, early modern objects should be seen as
stores of value, whereby most items—from handkerchiefs to jewels to books—
could be offered as pledges. 164 I would suggest, however, that the value of objects
was not only monetary, and many objects carried conflicting identities, because
they were seen both as containing economic value as well as cultural value, an
163
For pawning see Welch, Shopping, 196-203. Also see Lane and Mueller, Money and Banking,
75-8. For later pawning and the institution of the Monte de Pietà, see Vittorino Meneghin, I monti
di pietà in Italia: dal 1462 al 1562 (Vicenza: L.I.E.F. Edizione, 1986); Carol Bresnahan Menning,
Charity and State in Late Renaissance Italy: The Monte di Pietà of Florence (Ithaca and London:
Cornell University Press, 1993).
164
Welch, Shopping, 196. Also see Evelyn S. Welch, "From Retail to Resale: Artistic Value and
the Second-Hand Market in Italy (1400-1550)," in The Art Market In Italy. 15th-17th Centuries/ Il
mercato dell'arte in Italia secc. XV-XVII, ed. Marcello Fantoni, Louisa C. Matthew, and Sara F.
Matthews-Grieco (Ferrara: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2003).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 181
idea which will be elaborated below. Since magnificence, liberality, and
splendour were underlying themes of cultural display and consumption during this
time, individuals were more prone to invest any cash they might have in cultural
objects, which could then be pawned or put up for credit when needed. 165 Aside
from the social aspect, there was also a practical side to pawning and pledging,
since individuals did not have private bank accounts, they thus sought to put the
liquid cash they had in more cultural investments, such as clothing, jewels, and
the decoration of their houses.
Funding of military exercises, the running of the court, and court
expenditure, especially at times of weddings and other celebrations, required large
amounts of money that were frequently sought by the courts through loans. These
loans were not only obtained through merchant bankers but also other political
figures, and thus could create political dependencies. The Neapolitan crown was
notorious for its deficit and offers numerous examples on how loans and the
pawning of objects complicated relationships within and between courts. Ippolita
Sforza, Duchess of Calabria, who is well recorded in documents for her continual
pawning and loans, provides a good example of how these loans situated her in
complex political relations. Ippolita married Alfonso d’Aragona, Duke of Calabria
in 1465. 166 Raised at the court of Milan, Ippolita received a humanist education
165
For a useful study on the relationship between these concepts and economic and consumption
patterns in the Renaissance see Guerzoni, "Liberalitas." Also expanded in Guido Guerzoni, Apollo
e Vulcano. I mercati artistici in Italia (1400-1700) (Venice: Marsilio Editore, 2006).
166
For recent work on Ippolita Sforza see Welch, "Between Milan," 123-36; Judith Bryce,
"Between Friends? Two Letters of Ippolita Sforza to Lorenzo de' Medici," Renaissance Studies 21,
no. 3 (2007): 340-64; Judith Bryce, "'Fa finire uno bello studio et dice volere studiare.' Ippolita
Sforza and Her Books," Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance LXIV, no. 1 (2002): 55-69.
Diego Zancani, "Writing for Women Rulers in Quattrocento Italy: Antonio Cornazzano," in
Women in Italian Renaissance Culture and Society, ed. Letizia Panizza (Oxford: European
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 182
and was well known for her literary capabilities and interests in humanistic
pursuits. 167 Ippolita’s marriage to Alfonso d’Aragona was arranged to solidify an
alliance between Milan and Naples, although her relationship with the Aragonese
court, which was often unsteady, frequently led to hostilities and diplomatic
embarrassment between the two courts. 168
Before her move to Naples, Ippolita maintained her own retinue of servants
and she received an annual income, which provided her with an independence to
pursue cultural activities, which she sought to continue after her relocation to
Naples, building a studiolo and filling it with her collection of books and
Humanities Research Centre, 2000), 58-63; Eileen Southern, "A Prima Ballerina of the Fifteenth
Century," in Music and Context. Essays for John M Ward, ed. Anne Dhu Shapiro (Cambridge:
1985), 183-97. For earlier work see Alfredo Baccelli, "Ippolita Sforza, Duchessa di Calabria,"
Rassegna nazionale Serie III. Vol XI (1930); Alessandro Cutolo, "Vita familiare di Ippolita
Sforza," Nuova Antologia 1842 (1954): 225-30; Alessandro Cutolo, "La giovenezza di Ippolita
Maria Sforza, Duchessa di Calabria," Archivio storico per le province napoletane 34 (1955): 11934; Benedetto Croce, "Due letterine familiari di principesse italiane del Quattrocento," Humanisme
et Renaissance 6 (1939): 296-7. There is no complete biography on Ippolita Sforza. For early
modern sources see Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti, "De Hippolyta Sphorza, Duchessa di
Calabria," in Gynevra de le clare donne, ed. C. Ricci and A. Bacchi della Lega (Bologna: Presso
Romagnoli-dall'acqua, 1888), 332-52. Mauro de Nichilo, Fra Bartolomeo Sibilla, l'orazione in
morte di Ippolita Sforza, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studio (Monopoli: Monopoli atti del
convegno, 1988). Jacobus Philippus Bergomensis Foresti, De plurimis claris sceletisque
mulieribus BL 167.h.17; G 1448; 1B.25751 (Ferrara: L. de Rubeis de Valentia, 1497), 159-60.For
her wedding see C. Canetta, "Le sponsalie di casa Sforza con casa d'Aragona," Archivio storico
lombardo 9/10 (1882 and 1883); Alessandro Lisini, Le feste fatte in Napoli nel 1465 per il
matrimonio de Ippolita Sforza Visconti con Alfonso, Duca di Calabria. Da lettere del tempo
(Siena: Tip. e Lit. Sordo-Muti di L. Lazzeri, 1898); Dora Musto, "Alle origini dell'intesa NapoliMilano sotto Alfonso d'Aragona: I capitoli nuziali di Alfonso, principe di Capua, e d'Ippolita
Sforza," Archivio storico per le province napoletane xcviii (1980): 176-84; Rachele Magnani,
Relazione private tra la corte Sforzesca di Milano e casa Medici, 1450-1500 (Milan: Premiata
Tipografia S. Giuseppe, 1910). For her two orations to her mother, Bianca Maria Sforza and to
Pius II, see Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil, eds., Her Immaculate Hand. Selected Works by
the Women Humanists of Quattrocento Italy (Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and
Studies, 1983), 45-8. Some of her letters are also published in Ferdinando Gabotto, Lettere inedite
di Joviano Pontano in nome de reali di Napoli, ed. F. Gabotto, Scelta di curiosita letterarie inedite
o rare dal secolo xii al xix (Bologna: Presso Romagnoli-Dall'Acqua, 1893).
167
Ippolita, for instance, recited public orations to figures such as Pope Pius II and was well
versed in the vernacular, Latin, and Greek. For her literary career see King and Rabil, eds., Her
Immaculate Hand, 45-8.
168
This is evident in many letters from Milanese ambassadors in Naples back to Milan in ASMI
SPE (Napoli). For a summary of these letters see Welch, "Between Milan."
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 183
portraits. 169 Her salary, however, proved to be a problem. Soon after her arrival in
Naples, the Milanese ambassador Antonio de Trezzo, reported in October 1465 to
the Duke of Milan that he had negotiated with the king about the duchess’ annual
salary of 8000 ducati, which seemed too low, and that the king had added an extra
1000 ducati per year and stated that if Ippolita had any extra expenses, he would
be happy to provide funds when necessary. 170 Welch has noted that her monthly
provisions of 1,000 ducats were rarely paid and resulted in the “monotonous ritual
of pawn-broking and personal loans.” 171 The letter of October 1465 indicates that
her monthly income was actually 750 ducats, however Ippolita is recorded as
receiving varying amounts in the court records for her “provisione”: 1000 in
September 1465; 172 720 ducats in April and June 1473; 173 750 in April and May
1473; 174 and an unspecified amount in October 1485. 175 As the Neapolitan court
records no longer survive, transcriptions from the nineteenth century as well as
the account books of the Strozzi are the only records to base our study on,
169
Welch, "Between Milan," 125; Bryce, "Fa finire."
ASMI SPE 215. 232, from 25 October 1465 Antonio de Trezzo (also written de Tricio) to the
Duke of Milan.
171
Welch, "Between Milan," 132.
172
September 30 1465: “Sono somministrati 1000 duc a Madama Ippolita, Duchessa di Calabria, e
per essa a Baldo de Martorelli suo Segretario e tesoriere; questi 1000 ducati le is danno in conto
della sua provvisione.” Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 32.
173
27 April 1473: “a m. Piero Bernardo duc dccxx, per lui a m. Baldo de Martorelis; d˚ sono per
m.a la Duchessa di Chalavria a chonp˚ della provisione di questo mese.” 25 June 1473: “al detto
duc dccxx, per lui a m. Baldo de Martorelis; d˚ sono per m.a la Duchessa di Chalavria, a chonp˚
della provisione sua di giugnio.” Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi, 315, 465.
174
5 April 1474: “Si danno 1440 d. alla Illma Duchessa di Calabria a compimento di 1500, sua
provvissione pel mese di aprile e di magio p. v., che il Re le fa anticipare per l’andata, che ella
deve fare in Aquila alle perdonanze di S. Berardino.” Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 398.
175
The only surviving evidence for the Neapolitan accounts (tesoreriere) are fragments located in
the Archivio di Stato di Napoli. What does survive, however, are the inventories of the account
books and a list of individuals paid. Again, these offer an incomplete record, because they merely
indicate the banks and sometimes the individuals who were paid, but without the details of the
payment. Ippolita is listed as receiving her “provisione” for October 1485: “Conto ven Rationale
d’Io’anne de Saxi Tesoreria del Sig.le Re dal pm di luglio p/ tutto l’oxb/re 1485 […]All Illma
Madama Ippolita maria Sforza Duchessa di Cal.a p/ sua prov.e” ASF, Inventario cedola tesorarie
1/IV. The book is titled “Altro repertorio delle Cedole di Tesorie del 1437 al 1648.”
170
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 184
providing a certain amount of information regarding Ippolita’s salary, although
still very incomplete. They do, however, reveal that Ippolita at times was paid her
salary, whether on a regular basis, we cannot tell. The Neapolitan court’s
notorious deficit would support Welch’s claim, and later letters from the Milanese
ambassador do indicate that she had some financial difficulties in relation to her
salary. However, Ippolita was known as an individual who was keen to negotiate
and manipulate her situation, and it would not be surprising if she had
exaggerated her poverty imposed by the king if it meant she could seek further
financial advantage through Milanese and other networks. Regardless, the
documents indicate that Ippolita was constantly pawning her possessions and
using them as pledges for loans.
In July 1469, Alfonso d’Aragona wrote to Piero de’ Medici in
embarrassment for Ippolita’s unpaid loans with the Medici Bank. 176 Ippolita had
borrowed the sum of 1,800 ducati, and Alfonso apologises for his wife who has
been “negligent in regards to our honour and credit.” 177 Alfonso stresses again
that it was not “culpa nostra” but completely due to Ippolita’s negligence. It
should be noted that the Aragonese were in political negotiations with the Medici
at this time, and these unpaid loans would have been an added stress on already
176
Pontieri, "La dinastia Aragonese di Napoli e la casa de' Medici in Firenze," 290, n. 18.
“Essendove nui obligati et debitori de milleottocento ducati, de li quali vui per nostra parte
facestivo promessa et sicurtà al magnifico messer Ludovico de Campofragoso, dodemo ordine che
per la illma ducissa nostra consorte al tempo fossero pagati et remessi, per che dicti denari foreno
pigliati et servero per suo bisogno, et persuadendone fermamente ceh dicto pagamento per honore,
credito et fede nostra, che piu de la propria vita reputamo, fosse per essa ducissa facto, ne stavamo
con la mente quieta et reposata. Adesso, sentendo che dicto pagamento e stato oltra lo promesso
tempo dilatato, ne pigliamo acerbissimo dolore che la dicta ducissa sia stata negligente circa quello
tocca il honor et credito nostro. Per la qual cosa vi pregamo e astringemo caramente vogliate
haverene exusati et confortarlo patientemente, acteso non essere commesso per culpa nostra, ma
solum per negligentia de quella a la quale se po’ dare ogni defecto. Peró, essendo advisati de la
cosa, havemo statim providuto siano pagati.[...]” Quoted in Pontieri, "La dinastia Aragonese di
Napoli e la casa de' Medici in Firenze," 290, n. 18.
177
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 185
fraught relations. In February 1471, Ippolita received 4,000 ducati from her
brother Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, which she received for a pledge of
her jewels. Two letters written to Galeazzo record the arrival of the money: one
from Ippolita and one from Iacomo de Sereno, the Milanese “camariero” of the
duke, who was responsible for bringing down the money. 178 Ippolita states that
she is happy for the arrival of the 4,000 ducats because they were in dire straights,
and now she does not have to sell her jewels, thanking Galeazzo for the coins,
which bear the portrait of Galeazzo. Both Iacomo de Sereno and Ippolita note that
as soon as they received the money they alerted Ferrante, Alfonso II d’Aragona,
Diomede Carafa, as well as other gentlemen and courtiers.
178
ASMI SPE 220. 180 and 181. Letters of 19 February 1471: one from Ippolita Sforza to
Galeazzo Maria and the other from Iacomo de Seremo, the individual who brought the money
down to Naples. Letter 181 from Ippolita to Galeazzo reads: “Illustrissime[...] e gionto qui il
nobile Iacomo de Seremo Camariero de v[ostra] s[ignoria]. el quale ne ha visitat lietam[en]te da
sua p[resen]te et domatene iiij.m ducati doro da la testa de v[ostra] ex[celentia] con una gratiosa et
piacevole l[ette]ra de ditta sua Imagine prima macra et hora grassa invero s mio p[er] non trovarse
de vendere n[ost]re zoie noi eramo in gran[dissi]ma necessitate de dinarj et affanno et p[er] non
havere richiesto ne fatto richiedere alcuna cosa a v[ostra] s[ignoria] no[n] eravamo in pensero
alcuno de tal p[rese]nte. Et ben che noy siamo cert[issi]me del singulare et fraterno amore che
v[ostra s[ignoria] ne porto pure concorendo tante cose ad uno tratto de essere cosi lietam[en]te
visitare con cosi gratiosa l[ette]ra et degno p[rese]nte e chiara demostratione a tutto el mondo de lo
i’menso amore v[er]so di noy. Invero s[ignore] mio non sapiamo p[er]che no[n] siamo mancata da
legreza tanta e la contenteza havemo recevta et ne pare come e ver[issi]mo ne sia cresciuta vita
gioventute fama reputatione gloria et cosi havendone prest[issi]mo advisata la M[aes]ta del
S[ignor] Re. Lo ill[ustrissi]mo n[ost]ro consorte, il M[agnifi]co conte de Mattalone et alcunj
s[igno]ri et gentilhominj n[ost]ri ne sonno sta facte tante congratulatione con tanta festa et alegreza
che no[n] fe potria explicare. Ma con quanto honore digmitate et gloria de v[ostra] ex[celen]tia
p[er] lavano desideramo lo intenda piu tosto p[er] altrij l[ette]re che p[er] le n[ost]re. Regratiamo
adonca v[ostra] ex[celent]tia infinitam[en]te restandoli imp[er]petum obligate. Et cosi
p[er]mettemo p[er] li piaceri utile dignitate et stato de v[ostra s[ignoria] doverli sempre mettere
tutte le n[ost]re facultate tutto il n[ost]ro potere et la propria vita. Non scrivemo al p[rese]ntee de
n[ost]ra propria mano chel faremo p[er] il ditto Iacomo Iterim ne recomandiamo ala Magnannima
cleme[n]tia de v[ostra] s[ignoria] p[re]gandola ne recomanda ala n[ost]ra Illma et honoram. As
orella et abbbraccia li suoj ill[ustrissi]m[i] figlioli da n[ostr]ra p[ar]te ex castro capuano neapolis
die xviiij febrij 1471
e.d.ill.m d.
Cordialissima soror Hippolytamaria
de Aragona vicecomes ducissa
Calabrie etc.”
Welch also partially transcribes the letter from Ippolita to Galeazzo both in Italian and its English
translation, Welch, "Between Milan," 132.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 186
These letters reveal that while the monetary value of the coins was
essentially what was important, the fact that they depicted the portrait of
Galeazzo, turned them also into cultural things, and allowed Ippolita to see a
depiction of her brother, who she comments has gained weight. 179 Iacomo de
Seremo proceeds to comment that this money has elevated the Duke of Milan’s
reputation in Naples and in all of “Catalonia”, where such an act reflects his
“grand magnanimita.” 180 At a time when political tensions between Milan and
Naples were most unstable, Iacomo’s comment that King Ferrante was extremely
pleased to be allied with such a person, also underlines the ways in which such
loans constituted political relationships. Ippolita sought financial help again from
her brother in 1473. On 21 July 1473, Ippolita wrote to Galeazzo asking for 4,000
ducati, for which she would pledge 5,000 ducati worth of jewels. 181 This was her
second request, the first request not having received a reply. The desperate nature
of the situation is stressed by a third letter on 20 August 1473, requesting the loan
again, and there are no later documents to testify whether she did indeed receive
the money. 182 Ippolita’s dependence on Milan, while freeing the Neapolitan
179
See above letter, “sua Imagine prima macra et hora grassa.”
ASMI SPE 220. 180. “Gia sono quatro di chio gionsse a napoli et quanto vostra i[lustrissima]
s[ignoria] me haveva comesso exequi fece el p[rese]nte de li dinari a la Ill[ustrissi]ma d[on]na
Duchessa de Calabria vostra sorella ala p’ntia de tuti li suoy genitlhomini a li qualli parse esso
presente una degna e bella cossa et no[n] meno digna quanto la p[er]sona che’l ma[n]dava che
veramente no[n] mancho e la reputatione de v[ostra] i[lustrissima] s[ignoria] qui quanto ella se sia
et tanto piu ciesere quanto vedeno la grand magnanimita[...]questa novela solamente manifestata
ala M[aes]ta del S[ignor] Re et ali diti gentilhomini ma a tuto napoli in modo che credo ormay sia
in tuta catalonia assay se ne dice in laud de v[ost]ra i[lustrissima] S[ignoria].”
181
ASMI SPE 224. 115 Letter of 21 July 1473 Ippolita Maria to Duke of Milan, written by her
secretary Baldo Martorelli, “Noi volemo mandare a v[ostra] s[ignoria] gioie ch[e] siano bone p[er]
ducati 5000. et glie suplicamo glie piaccia de p[re]starne ducati quattromilia p[er] quello tempo
ch[e] alei piacera senza li quali tanto e el n[ost]ro bisogno ch[e] no possiamomuere.”
182
“Questi giorni passati per doi lettere havemo richeisto v[ostra] s[ignoria] sopra le n[ost]re zoie,
prestarne quattromilia ducati.” ASMI SPE 224. 168, Letter of 20 August 1473, from Ippolita
Sforza to the Duke of Milan. A letter from 28 July 1473 by the Milanese ambassador Francesco
180
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 187
crown of further deficit, also positioned her in a role to defend the Milanese cause
whenever possible. Ippolita’s letters to Milan clearly indicate that she was willing
to provide information on the Neapolitan court to serve Milanese ends, including
bribing Neapolitan officials, and solidifying a relationship with the king’s mistress
to receive more insider information. 183
Ippolita’s recurrent loans with the Medici bank had similar consequences.
The letter by the embarrassed Alfonso apologising for Ippolita’s defaulted loans
does not appear to have deterred the Medici from providing further loans to
Ippolita. It may have been her close relationship with Lorenzo de’ Medici, first
fostered on his visit to Milan for Ippolita’s wedding celebrations, and solidified
over the subsequent years, that allowed for some leniency. 184 On 10 July 1474
Ippolita wrote to Lorenzo requesting 2,000 ducati on her “honour as a woman.” 185
In 1480 Ippolita served as Lorenzo de’ Medici’s signatory on the peace treaty
between Florence and Naples, which was signed just after Lorenzo returned to
Florence from Naples. 186 Her willingness to help the Florentines and Lorenzo on
various occasions was probably due in part to her dependence on Lorenzo for
Maleta states that Ippolita and Alfonso had gone away for ten days, which reveals that Ippolita,
after returning and still having not received news of the loan, decided to send a third letter. “Questi
giorni passati per doi lettere havemo richeisto v[ostra] s[ignoria] sopra le n[ost]re zoie, prestarne
quattromilia ducati.” ASMI SPE 224. 168, Letter of 20 August 1473, from Ippolita Sforza to the
Duke of Milan.
183
For a summary of these letters see Welch, "Between Milan," 132-4. Primary sources can be
found in ASMI SPE 225 and 227.
184
For Ippolita’s relationship with Lorenzo see Bryce, "Between Friends." Some of the
correspondence between Ippolita and Lorenzo is published in various volumes of Lorenzo’s letters
edited by Riccardo Fubini, Nicolai Rubinstein and Michael Mallett, Lettere, Florence: Giunti,
1977.
185
Quoted in Welch, "Between Milan," 132. Also referenced in Magnani, Relazione, 62.
186
For a reproduction of the agreement, “Procura di Lorenzo de’ Medici per Ippolita Maria
d’Aragona Duchessa di Calabria e Niccolò Michelozzi” see Lorenzo de' Medici, Lettere, ed.
Nicolai Rubinstein, vol. IV (Florence: Giunti, 1977), 373-6, Appendix VII.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 188
money. 187 Lorenzo’s trip to Naples strengthened ties with Ippolita, which was
stressed by both the Milanese and Ferrarese ambassadors’ reports stating they
could not find Lorenzo in his lodgings because he was with Ippolita. 188 In 1481
when the king was seeking financial assistance across Italy for the war against the
Turks, who had invaded Otranto, he specifically asked the Florentines for help,
the Gondi having already anticipated loaning 18,000 ducati to the crown. 189
Lorenzo, although on supposedly peaceful terms with Naples, was somewhat
hesitant to provide funds, as the Sienese territories that had been under Neapolitan
control, had still not been ceded to Florence. 190 Ippolita leaked out confidential
information, which reached Milan and Florence, declaring that Ferrante was not
using all of his resources, and was therefore not in such a desperate state as he
made out to be. 191
However, rumours began circulating in the 1480s that the King of Naples
had little money and was truly in need of funds. Reports from the Milanese
ambassador in Naples confirm the deficit of the king, which caused him to pawn
the queen’s and duchess’ jewels, as well as the library, and the crosses from the
churches. 192 Having her own jewels pawned for a cause she may not have
supported, or at least did not instigate, may have also been impetus for Ippolita to
187
For correspondence detailing the relationship, such as a request by Lorenzo to Ippolita for help
in procuring gloves for his mistress, see Bryce, "Between Friends," 361-2.
188
ASMI SPE 229. 48. Letter of 23 December 1479 from Petrus de Gallarate and Giovanni
Angelus de Talentes to the Duke of Milan. “non essendo el M[agnifi]co Lorenzo nel suo
logiamento per essere andat a visitare al Ill[ustrissi]ma du[chessa] de Calabria.” On 23 December
1479 the Ferrarese ambassador wrote to Ercole d’Este also reporting that Lorenzo de’ Medici was
with the Duchessa di Calabria for ‘gran tempo.’ ASMO AMB NAP 1, Letter 13.12, from Nicolaus
Sadoletus in Naples to Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, 23 December 1473.
189
Medici, Lettere V, 224, n. 9, letter 497.
190
Butters, "Lorenzo and Naples," 147. Also see chapter one for these particular negotiations.
191
Medici, Lettere V, letter 497, specifically 229, n.15 and 56, n.9. Welch also discusses this,
Welch, "Between Milan," 132.
192
ASMI SPE 232 and 233.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 189
provide confidential information to her allies. On 3 August 1480 the Ferrarese
ambassador in Naples, Nicolo Saldoleto, also reported the money problems of the
king. 193 Nicolo informed Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara that he had heard
rumours for some time, which he at first was not prepared to believe, detailing
that “this king has no money.” Nicolo’s conversation with other ambassadors as
well as a Florentine merchant who had not been reimbursed for merchandise,
confirmed the truth that the king was indeed in arrears, amounting to a hundred
thousand ducati in debt. 194 Nicolo affirms that the king was looking for money
“p[er] ogni via” and was pawning cloth and other things. On 26 December 1480
the Milanese ambassador reported to the Duke of Milan that the king was in need
of funds, and would probably have to use the silver and jewels from the church
treasuries. 195 Although church treasuries were usually not allowed to be depleted
for courtly expenditure, the fact that the war with the Turks was seen as a
religious crusade against the infidels to defend the Christian faith, sanctioned such
measures. 196 On 15 June 1481 the Milanese ambassador wrote again from Naples,
stating that the Turks had invaded Otranto and that the king, in order to sustain the
costs of the campaign, was to pawn the “zoye et argenti” belonging to the royal
193
“ una cosa voglio scriver[e] a v[ostra] S[ignoria] ch[e] gia piu di ho alduta dire e mai no[n] lho
creduta ch[e] e ch[e] questo S[ignor] Re no[n] ha dinari[...] p[er]ch[e] lamb[ascia]tri de Luca ch[e]
fu qui m[isser] Zohe Giudozani me dixe ch[e]l era cosa certa...” ASMO AMB NAP 1. Letter
13.71, 3 August 1480, Nicolo Saldoleto to Ercole d’Este.
194
“Re stava suxo i[n]teresse de forsi cm. Due”
195
“tuti li arenti et zoie de le chiesie.” ASMI SPE 232. 2 from 26 December 1480. The letter does
not state the sender, but it is presumably Marco Trotti, the Milanese ambassador at this time, to the
Duke of Milan.
196
Corrado Catello and Elio Catello, L'Oreficeria a Napoli nel XV secolo (Napoli: Mauro Editore,
1975), 28.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 190
house, including the jewels of the Queen of Naples and the Duchess of Calabria,
as well as the contents of the royal library. 197
Indeed, books, similar to jewels, held cultural as well as monetary value.
Tommaro de Marinis has published documents pertaining to the pawning of books
from the Royal Library through the Florentine Bank of the Pandolfini. 198 On 19
January 1481, a contract was drawn between Battista Pandolfini and Ferrante
d’Aragona, stating that Pandolfini was to loan the king 38,000 ducati for the war
against the Turks, and in return the king would pawn his jewels and books as
security. 199 The contract stipulated that the money should be repaid by 15 May,
and if it was not repaid, Pandolfini had the right to sell all the pawned objects. If
the objects were sold and did not make 38,000 ducati the court would have to pay
the difference, but if the items were pawned and received more than 38,000 the
surplus should be returned to the court. 200 The document is interesting because it
197
“Ill[ustrissi]mo et ex[cellentissi]mo s[ignore] mio sing[ularissi]mio. Como per altre mie ho
scripto replico che li turchi sonno in otranto stanno durissimi et non fanno demonstratione alcuna
volerse revolere: inno ogni torno signi non solo volerse deffendere et fare ultima prova de la loro
fortuna ma de morire prima d[i] che lassare quella terra. Ita che me pare potere indicare sara dura
impresa et prolonga no se stima habita muntio mortis Turrcos domini et dibito assay che sara
necessario sostenere questo s[ignor] Re per la v[ostra] ex[cellenti]a & collgiati soy de novi subsidj
secondo gia ha rechiesto per tre volte q[ua]n[do] senza quelli manco potra infertur i[n] sostenere la
grande et intolerabile spesa: ha in mantenere exercito et armata ch[e] lha che habij possuto per lo
passato: perche como per altre mie v.s. havera inteso ha impegnate lintrate: zoye & argenti soy
della regina e della Duchessa de Calabria et de tuta casa soa fino alla libraria: havendo mo v.s.
sostento la spesa ha fino qui [...]” ASMI SPE 233. This letter is not numbered. 15 June 1481 from
Marco Trotti to the Duke of Milan. Again on 30 June 1481 Marco Trotti reports that the
Neapolitan crown has to pawn the tapestries and library.
198
Tommaro de Marinis, La biblioteca napoletana dei re d'Aragona, vol. 1 (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli
Editore, 1952), 41.
199
The original contract is located in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris (MS. Nouvelles
Acquisitions lat. 1986) and transcribed in Tommaro de Marinis, La biblioteca napoletana dei Re
d'Aragona, vol. II (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli Editore, 1947), 187-92, Inventario A.
200
The document is too long to transcribe here, but I will transcribe the relevant parts: “…Per
tenore del presente nostro albarano confessamo essere debitore ad vui Baptista Pandolfini,
mercatore florentino, habitante in la cita nostra de Napole, in ducati trenta octo milia, ad carlini
dece per ducato [...]et per majore vestra securita et cautela ve havemo facto consignare le
infrascripte joye et libri, li quail tenerite in loco di pigno[…] Et si per li quindice de mayo primo
futuro ad vui non serrano pagati li dicti ducati trenta octo milia in tucto o parte, simo contenti et ve
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 191
provides a detailed description of all the jewels pawned, listing the number of
individual pearls, the types of gems and gives us an idea of how elaborate these
jewels indeed were. 201 The document does not, however detail whose jewels these
were, and we are thus unable to differentiate the duchess’ jewels from the queen’s
and king’s.
The number of books totalled 266, and included works by Petrarch, Virgil,
Ovid, Seneca, Cicero, Facio, and even the Bible, among others. 202 Again, in
December 1494, we find the court pawning many items from church treasuries to
local goldsmiths, which comprised mostly church crosses, but also a tabernacle, a
chalice, and even an image of the Virgin. 203 Such pawning illuminates the ways in
which objects move beyond their intended paths during times of crisis, suggested
by Appadurai. 204 Such religious items were created for devotion, yet in the case of
war, they were taken out of their intended religious use to function as monetary
donamo plena faculta che possate vendere tanto de li dicti pigni ad vui ut supra donati, che del
retracto de quilli che venderite ad qualsevole persona, de qualsevola stato, grando et conditione
sia, habiate la integra satisfactione del dicto debito, o de quella parte che restassevo recuperare, et
possate le dicte joye et libri ad vui ut supra consignati pignorare et dare in pigno etiam cum
interesse, loquale interesse vada ad carreco de nostra Corte et del preczo he retraherete de la
vendita de dicti pigni, o de quella parte che venderite ve possate retenere et pigliare li dicti ducati
trenta octo milia, o quella parte che restassevo havere cum spes, damni et interesse, empero che
non possate vendere majore quantita de li dicti pigni, si non quanto bastara a la integra vestra
satifactione,e tnon siate tenuti ne astricti ad restituire li dicti pigni, o parte de quelli finche
integrazmente habeate havuta la satisfactione del dicot debito, spesi, damni et intersse. Et quando
lo preczo che se retrahera de li dicti pigni non bastasse a la integra vestra satisfactione de li dicti
ducati trenta octo milia, spess, damni et interesse de quella quantita che mancara, promictimo
satisfarve et pagareve integramente senza diminutione alcuna; et si havuta per vui la integra vestr
satisfactione, alcune parte de li dicti pigni e de lo proceduto de quelli restasse et superasse, quella
debiate resituire et tornare ad nostra corte.” de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol II, 187-92, Inventario A.
201
One entry, for instance, is as follows: “una corona de oro, in laquale sono sey balaxe, et sey
diamanti et cento et octo perle, che in tucto pesa cum le dicte joye tre libre, undice unce et due
quarte, quale corona ad vui e stata consignata in la nostra guardarobba et piu lo magnifico nostro
socto consiglieri et secretario ve havemo facto consignare ducento quaranta perle supra certe
fogliagi d’oro che sono vinti peczi, et omne peczo ha dui flori, et omne flore ha sey perle, che in
tucto sono de peso unce dudice et tarpesi dece.” de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol II, 187-88.
202
For the list of books see de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol II, 190.
203
Barone, "Cedole ASPN X," 26-7.
204
Appadurai, "Commodities and Politics," 26.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 192
objects, which in any other case would seem blasphemous. The commissioning of
such objects were probably politically mediated by the donor of the cross or the
priest of the church to begin with. This diversion reveals the contradictory nature
of such items in the first place, as their value is embedded not only in their
devotional aspects but also in their material qualities.
Documents pertaining to pawns are important not only for tracing the loans
and the economic situation of the court, but also the ways in which these objects
are described and seen as cultural and artistic things. In October 1497, the court
accounts record the pawning of a saltcellar encrusted with jewels worth 500
ducati to Giovanni Carlo Tramontao, Count of Matera, providing an extremely
detailed account of the object. 205 These accounts give us insight into objects that
are no longer extant and their artistic importance, and we are reminded, for
instance, of Cellini’s famous saltcellar made for King Francis I, dating from about
1540 and priced at 1000 scudi. 206 The pawned Aragonese saltcellar is described as
being made out of jasper with feet, with each foot decorated with jewels,
including a number of small diamonds and rubies set in gold. There were also
small “fenestrette” on the cellar, perhaps window-like openings or depictions,
which were encrusted with over sixty small pearls. On the body of the cellar there
was a white enamelled elephant accompanied by two figures, who were also
surrounded by a number of jewels, including diamonds and pearls as well as two
sapphires. The lid of the cellar was also elaborately decorated with jewels all set
in gold. The lid is described as depicting a gold figure in red enamel who held a
205
206
Barone, "Cedole ASPN X," 36-8.
For Cellini’s saltcellar see, Belozerskaya, Luxury Arts, 81-3.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 193
gold shield and arrow. The shield contained a small ruby, and the arrow’s point
held a small diamond, while the figure’s head was dressed with a pearl and a
small diamond. In all, the cellar contained 18 rubies, 18 diamonds, and 113
pearls. 207 The cellar most likely corresponds to court records that note that King
Alfonso I d’Aragona purchased three elaborate salt cellars in September 1455
from a French merchant, living in Naples by the name of Guglielmo le Mason
(“negoziante francese dimorante in Napoli, Guglielmo le Mason”). 208 On 14
September, King Alfonso I bought a gold saltcellar encrusted with diamonds,
rubies, and pearls for the price of 3190 ducati; on 22 September he purchased a
207
“una salera grande di diaspro con la invencione de li alefanti che a lo pede de ipsa sonno li ioye
infrascripte videlicet; in li sei grambuni che la tenino sospesa sonno tre diamante piczoli e tri
robini et per lo intorno sonno sei altri diamanti tutti piczoli et sei robini treczoni tucti ingastati in
oro et dudece perle de cunto grossecte de malo colore posti i certi provecti de oro et sonno per lo
intorno de dicto pede appiccate dintro certe fenestrette trentaquatro perle de cunto pichole tonde de
bello colore et due altre fenestre rocte che de mostra manchareno dui altri perle ad compto de xxxi,
et tene de sopra uno montecto smaltato verde in lo quale sta posto uno alifante smaltato biancho
che intorno de ipso sonno doe figure de vallecti smaltati che lo tenino con doe catinecte de oro et
tene uno pectorale doro jn lo quale sono x perle piczole et una groppera doro che de jncze sonno
octo perle pichole et le dicte dui figure tenino ciascuna de ipso uno cappello in lo quale stanno doe
perle et de sopra dicti alefanti et una jorlanda ad modo de revellino in la quale sonno sei figure de
relevo smaltati et per lo intorno sonno tre roboni piczoli buczoni et tre diamanti cioè lil dui quatri
tavola et laltro facto ad triangolo tucti piczoli jngastati jn oro et per lo jntorno sonno dudece perle
de cunto che le sei pendino et le altre sei poste in certe provecti doro trameczati con li dicti
diamanti et robini et sopra dicta Jorlanda et la coppa de dicta salera in la quale sono jntorno xx
perle de cunto piczole posti in certi provecti doro che pendino et la dicta coppa e sostenuta de sei
colonne doro et piu ju lo coperchio de dicta salera sonno tri robinecti briczoni jngastati jn oro et
dui diamanti tavola a quattro faczie jntorno et nze uno voyto che demostra mancate uno diamante
et nze sonno sei perle de cunto de piu faczone trameczati a li dicti diamant et robini et jn la
sommita de dicto coperchio sonno dui robini et dui diamanti piczoli cioe li robini breczoni et li
diamanti tavola jngastati in oro et neze sonno octo perle de cunto che quatro pendino et le altre
quatro stanno ferme trameczate a li dicti robini et diamanti tucti provati con pernecti de oro et de
sopra sta una fegura de oro smaltata rossa quale tene uno scuto et una frecza de oro che jn lo scuto
sta uno robinecto triczone jngastato et jn la ponta de la frecza uno diamante piczuolo et tene jn
testa una perla de cunto chiacta et uno diamanta facto ad triangulo jn fronte et in tucto sonno
rubini xviii diamanti xviii et perle cxiii pesa tucto insieme libre doe unce doe. Et piu uno jngasto
de oro ad octo granponi et octo mencze cum uno zaffiro piczolo quase tundo tavola de bello colore
ad octo facie, et piu un altro jngasto de oro ad octo grapponi et octo mecze lune con uno zaffiro ad
octo facie oisso quase tavola.” Barone, "Cedole ASPN X," 36-7.
208
Minieri Riccio’s study is based on the examination of the tesoreria account records of the
Neapolitan court, no longer extant. Camillo Minieri Riccio, "Alcuni fatti di Alfonso I di Aragona
dal 15 aprile 1437 al 31 maggio 1458," Archivio storico per le province napoletane VI (1881):
434.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 194
“gold decorated saltcellar with feet and eight angels […] decorated with diverse
figures of men and animals, and on the cover, a figure of a Queen with a ruby on
her hip, and on the right a diamond, and on her shoulder a band” for 8000 d’oro
veneziani; and on 27 September, Alfonso purchased for 880 ducati “another gold
saltcellar studded with diamonds, rubies and pearls with an elephant gilded in
white.” 209 These descriptions demonstrate how these objects were encrusted with
precious jewels, but also artfully rendered, and that saltcellars or similar items
served as artistic collectibles, useful tableware, and stores of economic value.
The pawning of jewels also allows us to understand the ways in which
jewellery was not merely something worn or exclusively a female prerogative.
Jewels, instead, were important social and cultural signifiers for both men and
women, appreciated for their monetary value as well as for their identities and
close association with the body. The jewels pawned by the king also had specific
names, underlining not only their importance, but also their individuality. Jewels
that were personified with names contributed to their social biographies and the
making of identities—both of the owner and the jewel. In 1486, the king pawned
a balassio (a type of ruby) named La Roccha for the enormous sum of one
209
“sett 14.[1455] Compra dal negoziante francese dimorante in Napoli, Guglielmo le Mason, una
piccola croce di oro ornata di diamanti, rubini e perle, che regala al duca di Calabria suo filgio;ed
una saliera di oro tempestata di diamante, di rubini e perle, pel prezzo di ducati 3300, de’ quail soli
ducati 110 per la croce ed I rimanenti ducati 3190 per la saliera. (ced 28.187). Sett 22. Alfonso
compra del predetto negoziante francese Le mason per ducati 8 mila di oro veneziano, che sono
ducati 8800 di moneta di gigliati, una saliera di oro lavorata col piede ad otto angoli, sostenuta da
otto ometti di oro ed il rimanente e’ lavorato in diverse figure di uomini e di aniimali sul coperchio
vi sta una figura di Regina che a’ un rubino nel fianco, nella destra una diamante, e nella mancina
una bandiera (ced 30. 565)
Set 27. Alfonso compra dal predetto negoziante Guglielmo le Mason per ducati 880 un’altra
saliera di oro tempestata di brillanti, rubini e perle con uno elefante smaltato in bianco.” Minieri
Riccio, "Fatti di Alfonso ASPN VI," 434.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 195
hundred thousand ducati d’oro to Carlo Borromei and Agneolo Serragli. 210 On 31
December 1484 the king pawned more jewels through Filippo Strozzi: a balassio
named il Foghato, a diamond named lo Specchietto, and a second balassio with
28 large pearls named il Davit. 211 The naming of jewels, then, served as a way to
keep track of these objects, but it also invested the jewels with individuality,
allowing them to become personalised through this naming process. The
movements of pawned jewels are also recorded. For instance on 26 September
1487, pawned jewels were sent from Florence with Francesco Valori, ambassador
of Florence, to Naples for the Strozzi Bank. The list of jewels included a large
ruby, an emerald, a brooch, among others. In the same delivery, it is recorded that
a separate small wooden box containing il Davit, described as a pendant
“balascio” set in gold with pearls and placed on a gold chain, was consigned back
to the court in December 1487. 212 Il Davit was thus in Filippo’s possession for
three years and one wonders who may have seen or had access to the jewel while
it was in Florence. Jewels belonging to different individuals were also sometimes
shipped together. On 24 March 1484, a box was shipped containing a collar
belonging to Signor Gran Siniscalco, while it also contained a “choregiuolo da
fondere”, probably a sort of dish or hardstone, belonging to Ippolita Sforza. 213
210
Filena Patroni Griffi, Banchieri e gioielli alla corte aragonese di Napoli (Naples: Francesco
Giannini & Figli, 1984), 13; Silvestri, "Attività bancaria," 83.
211
Griffi, Banchieri, 14.
212
“in una schatolina di legnio: uno balascio in tavola leghato in oro a uxo di pendente e con una
catena d’oro. E ssi chiama il Davit. Con una perla perata grossa pendente….consegniò ala Corte il
sudetto balascio nominato il Davit a’ dì di diciebre 1487” Quoted in Griffi, Banchieri, 20-1. From
ASF CS 47, 99.
213
Griffi, Banchieri, 20. I have not been able to find a direct translation for “choregiuolo”, but I
assume that it probably comes from the modern Italian word, “crogiolo”, which means crucible. In
addition to the “da fondere” one must assume that it is some sort of vessel used for melting
materials. The definition in Merriam-Webster for crucibles states that they were often made of a
refractory material, such as porcelain. The material composition of the object may have been the
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 196
Loans and pawning were also clearly linked to trade relations, and merchants
would often receive concessions on customs duties as payment. In 1475 the
Strozzi Company sold a balassio, which was set with three large pearls, two
diamonds and an emerald to the king for 700 ducati d’oro in exchange for
extracting an equivalent sum in salt out of Puglia. 214 Similarly in 1477 Ferrante
offered to waive the customs dues in the exportation of foodstuffs from his
kingdom, in order to meet the 964 ducats, 3 tari and 4 grana he owed to the
Medici bank in Naples. 215
Other records allow us to understand how common and frequent pawns and
loans were for the Neapolitan court. The Strozzi account books clearly show that
Ferrante d’Aragona, Alfonso II d’Aragona, and Ippolita Sforza were constantly
pawning items and taking loans from the Strozzi Bank. 216 In 1484, Filippo is
recorded as one of the individuals responsible for lending the king 164,982
ducati. 217 In 1484 Ippolita pawned a large balassio set in gold, as well as a
diamond with pendant pearls, and an emerald. 218 Particularly intriguing are the
ways these objects were pawned and then sometimes returned for a few days to
serve a purpose. For instance, Ippolita pawned a ruby (“uno rubino inchastato in
uno sole”) to Gabriello di Soldo Strozzi, but she had her tesoriere Luigi Gattola
ask for it back on 26 January 1488, with a promise that she would return it in five
reason for its pawn, as porcelain was often a material sought-after as collector’s items, and
therefore highly valued.
214
Jacoviello, "Affari," 180.
215
Abulafia, "Crown and Economy," 136.
216
One of the Strozzi books have been published, see Leone, ed., Giornale di Strozzi.
217
Jacoviello, "Affari," 182.
218
Griffi, Banchieri, 19.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 197
days, so that she could wear it for the “festa data del marchese di Pescara.” 219
Similarly, Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara pawned his most-treasured and famous
triangolare, an enormous diamond, to the Gondi, with a half-pawn also consigned
to the Medici, during Ferrara’s war with Venice. When he wanted the diamond
returned to him for a week so he could wear it to the wedding celebrations of his
daughter Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga, Ercole promised all the revenue
of the salt mines of Commachio for a period of ten years. 220 The diamond, while
obviously a symbol of wealth, also had a particular association with Ercole, who
used the diamante as his impresa, employing the image on architectural
keystones, in manuscript illumination, and most famously, on the façade of the
Palazzo Diamante, the exterior of which is studded with diamond-like
corrugations. Such an example shows the somewhat paradoxical nature of these
jewels. On the one hand, they were used as liquid capital for loans or credit, but
the investiture of these objects with names and histories, also invested these
objects with meaning and significance. Jewels could reflect family memory, if
they were closely associated with a family member and then passed down through
the generations. They could also serve more public forms of memory if they were
attached to a prominent family or political regime, such as those belonging to the
Medici. Such jewels were thus not only repositories of economic value, but also
repositories of meaning, memories, identity, and prestige.
The volatility of political regimes and the fall of influential families also
determined the selling and thus the circulation of goods. Many rulers across Italy
219
Griffi, Banchieri, 20.
Richard Brown, "Death of a Renaissance Record-Keeper: The Murder of Tomasso da Tortona
in Ferrara, 1385," Archivaria 44 (1997): 37, n.0.
220
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 198
eagerly sought to procure objects that were left behind by the deceased Pope Paul
II in the early 1470s, however, as noted, the majority of his collections was
obtained by Lorenzo de’ Medici. 221 The Medici’s expulsion from Florence in the
1490s resulted in a sale of their goods, which attracted the attention of individuals
like Ludovico Sforza who wrote to his ambassador to see what objects he could
acquire. 222 Such an auction not only reflected the public disgrace of a once
prominent family and the selling of their most precious and intimate objects on
the public market, it also caused contemporary observers to comment on the
transient nature of wealth and magnificence. 223
The value of objects was not only reflected in their material worth, but as
noted, also in their biographies and provenance. Objects that had been owned by
illustrious individuals were thus ever more valuable and sought after. Lorenzo de’
Medici’s famous tazza farnese valued at 10,000 florins was not only greatly
admired for its exquisite carving and the craftsman’s manipulation of the material,
but also because it had been first owned by Federick II in the early thirteenth
century, then a Persian Prince in Samarkand in the early fifteenth century,
followed by Alfonso I d’Aragona of Naples and Ludovico Trevisan in the midfifteenth century, and finally Paul II before being acquired by Lorenzo in 1471. 224
Rulers and diplomatic figures thus sought to purchase items that had had previous
221
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 6. Also see chapter one.
Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, "The Medici Sale of 1495 and the Second-Hand Market for
Domestic Goods in Late Fifteenth-Century Florence," in The Art Market In Italy. 15th-17th
Centuries/ Il mercato dell'arte in Italia secc. XV-XVII, ed. Marcello Fantoni, Louisa C. Matthew,
and Sara F. Matthews-Grieco (Ferrara: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2003), 313-23.
223
Luca Landucci for instance mentioned the sale three times in his zibaldone, noting it was a sign
of God’s punishment for excessive pride. Welch, Shopping, 195.
224
Fusco and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 128. For Alfonso I’s ownership, see Iasiello,
Collezionismo di antichità, 20-1.
222
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 199
illustrious owners, which would reflect the new owner’s status and would also add
his or her name to the list of famous owners. But such objects did not merely
reflect the owner’s status, rather they created memories around the circulation of
such objects, and indeed contributed, if not created, the beholder’s reputation.
Francesco Sforza asked to purchase jewels that had been pawned by Federigo da
Montefeltro for 4,000 gold ducats, because Federigo could not repay the loan and
Francesco wanted to avoid the jewels going on the open market. 225 These
purchases demonstrate the politics of acquisition and the tensions around the
purchasing of another’s possessions. While many courtly individuals claimed they
thought it better to purchase the items from an insolvent ruler, rather than
allowing the items go on sale in public auction, the knowledge that another ruler
owned one’s precious objects could provoke rivalry and political tensions.
V. Between Naples and Ferrara: The Bejewelled “Crocetta”
These political and social tensions are particularly telling in documents in
the Archivio di Stato di Modena that constitute correspondence between Eleonora
d’Aragona and the Ferrarese ambassador in Naples, Battista Bendedei, which to
my knowledge have never been published. 226 These letters discuss the pawning of
a cross by Ippolita Sforza through the Gondi brothers (and their associate
Giovanni Scolari) in the late 1480s, and its consequent purchase by Ercole d’Este,
Duke of Ferrara. This case is especially interesting because it demonstrates the
ways the pawning of objects involves a variety of different individuals. When
pawning goes wrong, important issues come to the forefront. Failing to redeem a
225
226
Welch, Shopping, 197-8.
The letters are found in ASMO AMB NAP 6.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 200
pawned object reflects on the one hand, the disgrace of the individual who has
pawned the object, the importance of the social value of the object, as well as the
loss of monetary value. On the other hand, the selling of pawned objects also
highlights the interest of individuals to procure items once belonging to others,
not only because of the monetary value, but because that object has a history and
social biography. While the correspondence is sparse in some instances, and is
generally one-sided, constituting mainly of copy letters of dispatches from
Eleonora d’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara to her ambassador in Naples, Battista
Bendedei, we are able to form a general picture of the situation. 227
On 28 May 1488, Ippolita Sforza wrote to Eleonora d’Aragona, stating that
a “cross of jewels” (“croseta de gioye”) that she had pawned through “Iohanni
Scolari mercente fiorentino” had been sold to Eleonora without Ippolita’s
consent. 228 Ippolita noted that she had discussed the situation with “lo Magnifico
misser Baptista ambasciatore,” the Ferrarese ambassador to Naples, and that she
would be willing to pay Eleonora the price that Eleonora had purchased the cross
for, if she would agree to send the cross back to Naples. Ippolita states that she
will pay 500 ducati d’oro through Giuliano Gondi and that Eleonora can return
the cross with the “cardinale de foyas”, who is coming to Naples with some of her
other jewels, which she is having returned for “quelle feste per ornamento
227
These copy dispatches are found in ASMO, AMB NAP 6—the letters are not numbered.
ASMO CPE 1247/3, Letter of 28 May 1488. I have not been able to find any references in the
account books to the purchase, but on 3 April 1487 Giuliano Gondi is recorded being paid 500
ducati doro by Eleonora d’Aragona for a cross with ruby. This seems a bit too early for Ippolita’s
cross since Ippolita wrote in May 1488; however the price is exactly the same. The record of the
purchase is in ASMO AP 633. 73V: “E ad dite (3 aprile[1487])...per sua s[ignoria] a bonaventura
di mosto gtp [(conto)] per alty tante gpt [(conto)] pago fino ad 25 di genaro per sua s[ignoria] a
zuliano gond[i] per Rp˚ [(resto)] d fp 500 d[ucati] d[oro] per lo prezio di una croxe di balas date a
sua s[ignoria].”
228
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 201
nostro.” Ippolita states that she wants the jewel returned because she had not
authorised the Scolari to sell it, but the letter also suggests how such jewels are
important for one’s “ornament.” In this particular case, it seems to me
“ornamento” can be read as both adornment but also linked to a sort of pride or
honour in the wearing of such jewels.
On 20 June 1488, Eleonora d’Aragona wrote from Ferrara to Battista
Bendedei in Naples in reference to the cross (“crocetta”), and stated she was
attaching a letter written to Ippolita directly, but unfortunately it seems this
particular letter to Ippolita is lost. 229 On 23 July 1488, Eleonora writes again to
Battista outlining the situation surrounding the said cross. 230 Eleonora claims that
Antonio Gondi had been in Ferrara and presented the cross to Eleonora to buy, but
because she knew its provenance and did not want to cause any problems, she did
not purchase it. Antonio then went to Venice to try to sell the cross to various
merchants; Antonio was unsuccessful and returned to Ferrara to see if Eleonora
would buy it, but she refused. Antonio consequently died, succeeded by Giuliano
Gondi who also urged Eleonora to purchase the cross. Eleonora claims in her
letter that she contemplated the fact that if she did not buy it, the cross would be
circulated by various merchants in all the cities across Italy (“per quante citade
sono in Italia”). 231 This, she argues, would be a fate that she was sure the Duchess
of Calabria would not want the cross to have, and it would be better that she had
it, rather than it being bought arbitrarily by “any merchant or gentleman who
229
ASMO AMB NAP 6.
ASMO AMB NAP 6, Letter of 23 July 1488 from Eleonora d’Aragona to Battista Bendedei,
1R.
231
Letter of 23 July 1488 from Eleonora d’Aragona to Battista Bendedei, 1R.
230
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 202
wants it.” 232 Eleonora’s husband, Ercole d’Este, then saw the jewel and was very
pleased with it, which led him to purchase it. Eleonora asserts that the jewel is
now with Ercole who is in Modena.
The beginning of the letter of 23 July reveals that Battista had talked to
Alfonso II d’Aragona, Eleonora’s brother, about the cross and that Alfonso was
infuriated with Eleonora and Ercole. Alfonso blamed Eleonora because he said
that these were “not things to do between siblings.” 233 It seems Alfonso had used
political motives, noting that Eleonora had an obligation to Alfonso because he
had come to their rescue and had protected their state, obviously referring to his
help during the War of Ferrara against Venice in the early 1480s. This underlines
the particular political nature of such transactions as well as their social etiquette.
Eleonora finishes the letter stating that she is not certain on what grounds Alfonso
has to ask for the cross back and that her reasons for buying the cross are justified
and should not cause Alfonso to remain angry with them. 234
On 22 August 1488 Eleonora wrote again to Battista Bendedei in response
to three letters he had sent on 4, 7, and 12 of August about the cross. 235 By this
point it had become a larger matter and caused King Ferrante, Eleonora and
Alfonso’s father, to become involved. Eleonora responds that she has accepted the
reprimands from the king, like an obedient daughter, but she continues to stress
that they had purchased the jewel because they did not want it to pass into the
232
Letter of 23 July 1488 from Eleonora d’Aragona to Battista Bendedei, 1R.
“no[n] sono cosse da fare tra fratelli.” Letter of 23 July 1488 from Eleonora d’Aragona to
Battista Bendedei, 1R.
234
“quanta iustifictione sia dal canto nostro…n[on] ha p[er] questo cagione de stare in colera
cu[m] noi.” Letter of 23 July 1488 from Eleonora d’Aragona to Battista Bendedei, 1V.
235
ASMO AMB NAP 6, Letter of 22 August 1488, Eleonora d’Aragona to Battista Bendedei, 1R.
233
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 203
“hands of other merchants.” 236 Eleonora states that she will return the jewel to the
Duchess of Calabria on the condition that she receives a testimony from Count
Guido di Guidoni and Francesco Galiotto, as well as an explanation from Ippolita,
clarifying why they should not have bought the jewel and why the Gondi should
not have sold it. It seems that there may have been a question about whether the
cross was sold legally, in reference to the procedures that one followed in regards
to pawning. I have been unable to find information on Guido di Guidoni, but
Francesco Galiotto served at the Neapolitan court in the capacity of soldier,
advisor, and diplomat and he also appears as humanist and a procurer of
antiquities for Lorenzo de’ Medici as well a Milanese informer. 237 Later in the
letter, Eleonora also refers to “Messer Galeotto”, presumably the above Francesco
Galiotto, who has been praised by ambassador Battista as showing affection
towards Eleonora as well as her son, who was resident in Naples. 238 It seems that
Eleonora, who evidently understood that Ferrante, Alfonso, and Ippolita were all
perfectly capable of stretching the truth when needed, felt inclined to get a clear
understanding of the situation of the cross from various viewpoints. 239 She had
also received information from Battista Bendedei on 10 January 1487 that noted
236
“ve respondemo che come obediente fiola havemo acceptato il recordo &
admonitione[...]comprassemo etia’ p[er]ch[e] la no[n] andassae a mane de altri mercadanti.”
ASMO AMB NAP 6, Letter of 22 August 1488, Eleonora d’Aragona to Battista Bendedei, 1R.
237
In 1490 Galiotto is recorded sending 6 Greek coins from Naples to Lorenzo. Fusco and Corti,
Lorenzo de' Medici, 16, 20, 148, and document 31 and Also see Ilardi, "Towards the Tragedia,"
112, n. 73.
238
“ mi piaciuto intendere qua[n]to ne scriveti in laude de M/ Galeotto p[er] la affectione el ni
porta ad nui & ad epso n[ost]ro figliolo, & come el solicita se li faciamo q[ue]lle cose ch[e] siano
de honore del s[ignor] Re & anche di comodo de n[ost]ro figliolo.” Letter of 22 August 1488,
Eleonora to Battista Bendedei, 1V.
239
Eleonora would have probably relied on her close relation and former tutor, Diomede Carafa to
obtain information, but he had already died in April 1487.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 204
Ippolita’s monetary problems and thus may have had some doubt about the
situation. 240
Eleonora’s letter to Battista of 22 August 1488 makes it clear that she was
not happy with the treatment she received. She states that Battista is to tell
Alfonso that the words he used not only against her, but also against her husband,
were unacceptable. Eleonora then proceeds to say that she will return the jewel
via Giuliano Gondi as she has been asked by the king, but she would have rather
been asked much more “lovingly” by Alfonso, as is customary between brother
and sister. 241 It also appears that the king had asked Eleonora to return it as “a
gift,” to which she replies that she has already spent 300 ducati on “vedri” for
Alfonso, and the general tone of the letter suggests that she is unwilling. 242
Furthermore, Eleonora clearly restates her case, asking Battista to tell Alfonso that
if he thinks that she is returning it because of fear or threat she would “sooner toss
it around a bit and break it in a hundred pieces.” 243 On 25 August 1488, Eleonora
writes to Battista Bendedei in response to four letters he had sent her on 13, 14,
18, and 19 August which detailed the severe illness of Ippolita, and subsequently
her death on 19 August, which suggests that Eleonora had thus written the
240
ASMO AMB NAP 5. 53
“rimetteremola ne le mane de Zuliano Gondi come anche ni e sta richiesto & faremolo
voluntiera p[er] obedire sua M[aes]ta et come e dicto se la mi fusse domandata p[er] altro modo
amorevole come si co[n]viene tra fradelo & sorella.” Letter of 22 August 1488, Eleonora to
Battista Bendedei, 1R.
242
“& ch[e] anchora la ni fusse sta domandata in dono [...] & anch[e] el dirati a Sua M[aes]ta ch[e]
gia spendessemo tresento ducati in vedri per dare al S.re duca.” Letter of 22 August 1488,
Eleonora to Battista Bendedei, 1R-V.
243
“& no[n] volemo p[er] niente che Sua Ex[celen]tia si persuada ni creda ch[e] la rediamo p[er]
paura ne p[er] minazo, che quando la se havesse a rendere p[er] tal modo piu presto la getaressemo
in po & la romperessemo in cento pezi.” Letter of 22 August 1488, Eleonora to Battista Bendedei,
1V.
241
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 205
previous letter of 22 August about the cross before the news of Ippolita’s death
had reached her. 244
Finally on 5 September 1488 we have a letter from Alfonso to Eleonora,
which states that Giuliano Gondi has arranged that Alfonso will pay Eleonora for
the cross, which belonged to “the good memory of the Quon Illustrissima
Duchessa my consort” and he urges her to send it as soon as she can. 245 Alfonso’s
letter uses Ippolita’s death as impetus for the restitution of the cross, but it can
also be seen in light of how such jewels represented individuals, and would have
been important as a memory of the deceased. There is another document that most
likely relates to the cross, demonstrating that Ippolita also urged Lorenzo to
become involved, three years previously. On 2 March 1485, Ippolita Sforza wrote
to Lorenzo de’ Medici asking him for some help in relation to some jewels she
had pawned—some pearls and a bejewelled cross—for 2,000 ducati to “Joanni et
Raneri Scolari.” 246 It was not uncommon for jewels to transfer from one firm to
another if debts needed to be paid, or funds transferred, and the exact connection
between the Gondi and the Scolari brothers is not particularly clear, but there was
obviously a transferral of the cross from the Scolari to the Gondi at one point.
While Ippolita could have owned a number of crosses, it is also not unreasonable
to propose that a cross that she had pawned to the Scolari brothers locatable in
Florence in 1485, may have been the same one to end up with the Gondi in 1488.
244
ASMO AMB NAP 6, Letter of 25 August 1488, Eleonora to Battista Bendedei, 1R-V.
“crocetta, ch[e] fo dela bona memoria dela Quón Ill[ustrissi]ma Duchessa n[ost]ra Consorte.”
ASMO CPE 1246/2, Letter of 5 September 1488, Alfonso II d’Aragona in Naples to Eleonora
d’Aragona in Ferrara.
246
“perle et una crocetta fornita de ioye.” Pontieri, "La dinastia Aragonese di Napoli e la casa de'
Medici in Firenze," 341, n 83. This letter is also now available online through the ASF website.
See ASF MAP, filza 45, 241R. (http://www.archiviodistato.firenze.it/rMap/index.html)
245
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 206
In Ippolita’s first letter to Eleonora, mentioned above, she had noted that it was
the Scolari that the cross had been pawned through, not the Gondi. Three years
was not an abnormally long period to have a jewel held in pawn, as is clear from
the king’s Il Davit already mentioned, which the Strozzi bank had in Florence also
for three years.
The example of the cross demonstrates the wide range of individuals
involved in the pawning of one item—Ippolita who pawned the cross to the
Scolari firm; the transferral of the cross from the Scolari to Antonio Gondi and
then upon Antonio’s death to Giuliano Gondi; the purchasing of the cross by
Eleonora and Ercole through the Gondi; the complications resulting in the pawn
and the consequent deliberations between the Ferrarese ambassador, Ferrante,
Alfonso, Ippolita, Eleonora, as well as possibly Guido di Guidoni, Francesco
Galiotto, and Lorenzo de’ Medici; and finally the individual, perhaps the
Cardinal, who was to bring the jewel down to Naples. There is no evidence that
the cross survives today, and its exact characteristics are not discernible from the
letters, but one might assume it looked similar to other bejewelled crosses from
the period (Figure 26). 247 Illuminated manuscripts belonging to the Aragonese
also depict jewels and may give us an idea of the appearance of these items
(Figure 27).
The incident of the crocetta was not the first instance in which
correspondence between the Gondi, Eleonora, and Alfonso was initiated through
the pawning of objects. On 15 January 1487 Eleonora wrote to Battista Bendedei
247
The term “crocetta” rather than just “croce” has led me to believe that the cross was indeed a
piece of jewellery, possibly a pendant, rather than a large cross intended for an altar. The cross is
also referenced as a jewel, and thus confirms this conclusion.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 207
in Naples about 2,300 ducati worth of silver she had pawned for Alfonso and
notes that the loan would have to be repaid by April of that year if the pawned
silver was to be returned. 248 There was also another incident in July 1488, just
before the issue of the cross, whereby the Queen of Naples, Giovanna d’Aragona,
had received jewels from an agent working in Modena, a certain “Massaro de
Modena.” The jewels were apparently contraband, and Eleonora was in charge of
smoothing over the situation. 249 These letters demonstrate that the circulation of
precious goods like jewels instigated a complex web of negotiations and how such
objects could function as sites of latent political tensions and hostilities.
VI. Conclusion
My analysis of lettucci, gems, and jewels in this chapter emphasises the
ways in which the movement and circulation of objects not only bring value to
those objects, but also illuminates what is at stake in them. That is, whether an
object is exchanged as a gift, as a commodity, or as a pawn, a series of
intermediaries are involved, all of whom may have different stakes in the things
themselves. Studying the biographies of objects and their movements is a way to
understand what those objects might mean and what work they perform for a
certain society. Like Pomian’s sémiophores, Kopytoff uses the term
“singularization” to denote those things that have been categorised by a culture as
248
“Zuliano Gondi e stato qui e per tuti li modi del mondo voleva o che gli daesseno li 2300 Duce
di lha ad haver’ d[i] li argenti n[ost]ri che forono impignati per lo Ill[ustrissi]mo S[igno]re
Duca...sino ala aprile pro[xim]o che viene e che no[n] havendo dicte dinari il possa far’ ogni suo
voler’ d[i] dicti argento.” ASMO AMB NAP 6, Letter of 15 January 1487 from Eleonora to
Battista Bendedei.
249
“el facto de le zoglie de la M[aes]ta de la regina recevute al suo messo per il n[ost]ro Massaro
de Modena come cossa de contrabando.” ASMO AMB NAP 6, Letter of 20 July 1488, Eleonora to
Battista Bendedei.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 208
symbolic, often outside commodity exchange. 250 The singularisation of goods
often leads to two different systems of value: that of the marketplace versus the
symbolic significance of an object. This is most apparent in items such as
heirlooms or other cultural artefacts that have specific symbolic and social
meaning, and these two systems of value often put pressure on the owner as well
as the object itself, as the individual tries to negotiate between these two sets of
values. Objects thus become sites of contention because they occupy a place
where these different sets of values battle it out. As we have seen, cultural objects
constantly moved in and out of the commodity phase in the late fifteenth century,
largely due to political and economic instabilities.
This constant oscillation between commoditisation and singularisation is
perhaps the defining factor of many early modern objects, and their value is
embedded in this paradox. This alerts us to the ways in which these objects
operated within differing systems of value. Some of these systems bear
resemblance to modern economic exchange, but alongside these, there existed
other forms of exchange which operated very differently. Singularisation is often
linked to time, that is, objects that are tied to the past and are therefore rare, such
as antiquities. However, I would stress that although antiquities had a lot to do
with “possessing the past” to use Paula Findlen’s term, and were linked to forms
of cultural memory embedded in antiquity, I would also stress that part of the
appeal of these objects was that their biographies were not completely made, but
were still in the making. 251 Part of this appeal was entrenched in the paradoxical
250
251
Kopytoff, "Cultural Biography of Things," 73-6.
Findlen, "Possessing the Past." Also see Findlen, Possessing Nature.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 209
notion that they were symbolic things (sémiophores), precluded from the
neutrality of commodity exchange, yet at the same time, their value was
interrelated with their ability to gain biographies by passing through hands of
illustrious owners, which happened during their commodity phase. Through the
purchasing, collecting, and viewing of these objects, individuals were able to
partake not only in the “making” of the histories of objects, but also in their own
biography-making.
We have also seen that many objects circulated outside commodity
exchange, sometimes as gifts and sometimes as pawns. As objects move, they
carry with them ideas, which give them agency and demonstrate that culture is not
only to be found in social relations or thought, but also in the material world. 252
The form and function of particular objects are also linked to the ways in which
they act symbolically and how they engage with viewers. A large piece of
furniture such as the lettuccio would take up a prominent place in a household,
and as a daybed, it was often used for individuals to lie on when they were sick
and receiving visitors, as is referenced in the woodcut of Savonarola’s Predica
dell’arte del bene morire (Figure 16). The function of the lettuccio, in such a case,
promoted conversation between the visitors and the sick individual. But as an
object embellished with artistic decoration, whether intarsia or painted spalliere, it
could also cause discussion about its artistic qualities. Smaller gems and jewels
solicit a more private or closer engagement as they are held in the hand and
252
Graves-Brown examines how material cultural shapes our lives, and that culture has for too
long been regarded as something merely in thought or in social relations. Paul Graves-Brown,
"Introduction," in Matter, Materiality, and Modern Culture, ed. Paul Graves-Brown (London:
Routledge, 2000), 1-9. Mukerji has also studied the ways objects are carriers of ideas in relation to
consumerism. Mukerji, Graven Images, 15.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 210
closely observed. Ownership of these gems was linked to temporality: they were
often only possessed for a limited amount of time. One way of fixing the
circulatory nature of these objects was to depict, copy, or imitate them in another
visual media. This translation in visual form opens up a new way of viewing these
objects; if one could not own the object itself, one could still participate in
knowledge of that gem by viewing its copies. This situation suggests that artistic
invention and inspiration were also crucial aspects of the circulation of such
objects, and that owning different copies of an object was also important.
Objects circulated frequently in the early modern period through a variety
of means as commodities, pawns, and gifts. Their identities were often formed or
transformed through these exchanges, and gave rise to various forms of cultural
translation. These objects—commissioned lettucci, pawned jewels, collected
antique gems—all generated further interests in similar objects, and initiated,
complicated, and solidified relationships across political, social, and geographical
boundaries.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 211
Chapter 3. “An altarpiece that closes like a book”: Collection and
Intertextuality at the Court of Ferrara
I. Introduction
[Giovanni d’Aragona] then went to see the room where Cosimo
[de’ Medici] lived […] where there were books and precious
gems […] Then he went into the sala, where the deeds of
Hercules could be seen […] He then was shown his [Piero’s]
cappella and then entered the studio, the chamber that had
belonged to Piero, and there he was first showed the said studio
with copious quantities of books, which was a stupendous thing,
all worthy, written with a pen. Then we returned to the little
loggia opening off the study. And there on a table, he [Lorenzo]
had brought his jewels […] vases, cups, hardstone coffers
mounted with gold, of various stones, jasper and others. There
was there a crystal beaker mounted with a lid and a silver foot,
which was studded with pearls, rubies, diamonds and other
stones. A dish carved inside with diverse figures, which was a
worthy thing, reputed to be worth four thousand ducats. Then he
brought two large bowls full of ancient medals one of gold
medals and the other full of silver medals, then a little case with
many jewels, rings and engraved stones […]
-Ferrarese Ambassador Antonio Montecatini in Florence
to Duke Ercole d’Este, 21 August 1480. 1
The Ferrarese ambassador’s report of his visit with Giovanni d’Aragona to
the Medici’s collections demonstrates that individuals involved in such visiting
circuits engaged with a wide range of objects in different, yet connecting spaces:
1
“Ando po[i] a vedere la camera dove stava cosmo conducta i[n] milgiore fo[r]ma dove erano libri
et piere preziosa molto solene. Ando poj nela sala vete qlle for[z]e d’ hercule tuti come[n]do poij
i[n]tro ne la camera fu di piero et gi la mostro et q[ue]llo cortile co[n] za[r]dino di sopra e solaro
co[m] q[ue]lla lozeta et d[i] q[ue]sta cam[er]a e mo[n]stroi la sua capella poi e[n]tro nel studio
pure d[e]la camera fu de piero et q mo[n]stro p[ri]ma el dicto studio cu[m] ta[n]te copie d[i] libri g
era una cossa stupe[n]da tute digni scripti cu[m] pena poi tornamo pire soto q[ue]lla lozeta li d[i]
dicta cam[er]a et i[n] su una tavola li fece venire le sue zoie ch[e] erano vasi bochali co[n]fetiere d
p[e]de fornite de ch[e] erano d[i] diese p[un]to masseri d altre. Eraci uno bichiero di cristallo
fo[r]nito co[m] el cop[er]to e uno piedee] arz[en]eto erali ligate p[er]le d[i] co[n]to rubini e
diama[n]ti e altre p[re]de. Una schudella scholpita de[n]tre d[i] ta[n]te varie figure ch[e] era una
cosa digrafu reputata d[i] valuta d[i] quatromilia ducati poi li fece po[r]tare dui bacile gra[n]de
pieri d[i] mediae a[n]tique de uno d medaie d[i] oro et laltro per d[i] medaie d[i] a[r]ze[n]to poi
una careta co[m] molte zoie anelle e latre prede i[n]taiato.” ASMO AMB FIR 2. 1480 21 August.
My translation varies slightly from the other published versions, partially quoted in Campbell,
Cabinet of Eros, 30; Syson and Thornton, Objects of Virtue: Art in Renaissance Italy, 81-2; Fusco
and Corti, Lorenzo de' Medici, 322-2, Doc 163.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 212
religious and devotional imagery in the cappella; tomes adorning the library’s
shelves; vases and beakers, and small, intimate gems and medals taken out of
cabinets. In a conversation from the mid-fifteenth century on the decoration of
libraries at the court of Ferrara, one commentator discusses “how seriously statues
and pictures were taken by the ancients, particularly in their libraries.” 2 More than
a century later, the Venetian Jacopo Contareno describes a cohabitation of the
objects in his collections:
By the study I mean not only the room in which the books are to
be found, but all those things contained in the four mezzanine
rooms in which I ordinarily live. There are in these rooms
exquisite things, beyond the belief of anyone who considers them
well, such as manuscript and printed books, mathematical
instruments, stones, secrets and other things, all of which have
been gathered together by me with the greatest studiousness and
care. 3
All three of these quotes demonstrate a co-existence of books, sculpture, vases,
medals, gems, and paintings within the spaces of collection and invite the
viewer—the visitor or the collector—to engage in a dialogue, drawing
relationships between the various objects.
Ercole de’ Roberti’s diptych (Figures 28a-b), once belonging to the
collections of Eleonora d’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara, depicts the Nativity of
Christ on the left panel, accompanied by Mary, Joseph, and a shepherd, with the
annunciation to the shepherds in the background. 4 The right panel depicts Christ
2
Michael Baxandall, "Angelo Decembrio's De Politia Litteraria Part LXVIII," in Words For
Pictures. Seven Papers on Renaissance Art and Criticism, ed. Michael Baxandall (New Haven
and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 66.
3
Quotation and translation from Thornton, The Scholar, 113.
4
Eleonora d’Aragona was the daughter of King Ferrante of Naples, and married Ercole d’Este,
Duke of Ferrara in 1473. For a general overview of her life see, Gundersheimer, "Women,
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 213
at the Sepulchre accompanied by two angels, with Saint Jerome to the left of
Christ, Saint Francis receiving the stigmata on the plane above Christ’s head, and
Calvary in the distant background. There were other devotional pieces in
Eleonora’s collections that also opened in two parts, including painted panels as
well as diptychs in precious materials, and it should be noted that her husband,
Duke Ercole d’Este also had a number of similar items which are described as
opening in two parts. 5 The Roberti diptych encourages a dialogical reading not
only through the panel-to-panel interchange, but it also referenced other texts and
objects in Eleonora’s collection: citing texts, quoting paintings, and motivating
copies. The diptych, now in the National Gallery in London, is described in
Eleonora’s 1493 inventory, taken after her death, as “a small altarpiece that closes
like a book, covered in morello velvet with gilded silver fasteners and clasps, on
one side a Nativity and on the other, a Christ at the sepulchre.” 6 Traces of velvet
on the diptych in the National Gallery correspond to the inventory description, and
Learning: Eleonora," 43-65; Luciano Chiappini, Eleonora d'Aragona, prima duchessa di Ferrara
(Rovigo, 1956).
5
Numerous entries in ASMO AP 30 and G117. Also see below for a description of individual
diptychs.
6
“una anchoneta che se assera a modo di libro coperta di veluto morello cum broche e azulli di
argento dorati da un lato il persepio e dal altro un christo nel sepolchro.” ASMO G114.133V. Also
published in Manca (below), Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.II, 37; Giuseppe Campori, Raccolta
di cataloghi ed inventarii inediti di quadri, statue, disegni, bronzi, dorerie, smalti, medaglie, avori,
ecc. dal secolo xv al secolo xix (Modena: Arnaldo Forni Editore, 1870), 2. The diptych has not
been studied in depth. Catalogue entries are included in Manca, Art of Ercole, 143-5, Cat.22;
Denise Allen et al., "Catalogue: Ercole de' Roberti: The Renaissance in Ferrara. Special
Supplement.," Burlington Magazine CXLI, no. 1153 (1999): xxxvi-xxxvii, cat IXa and IXb; M.
Molteni, Ercole de' Roberti (Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 1995), cat 29. For a technical analysis see
Lorne Campbell et al., "Two Panels by Ercole de' Roberti and the Identification of 'veluto
morello'," The National Gallery Technical Bulletin 22, no. 1 (2001): 29-42.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 214
Ercole de’ Roberti was paid for numerous work done in Eleonora’s apartments,
including her oratories and chapels. 7
The diptych’s unique format will first be examined in relation to the
history of the form in general. I will consider it in relation to its counterparts in
the northern tradition, which served largely devotional functions and had links to
Books of Hours, and were used in both public and personal worship. The multiple
uses and functions of diptychs demonstrate that they were used in both religious
and secular spheres, public and private spaces. The form, and one’s engagement
with it, will also be considered to demonstrate how its exterior/interior
interchange encouraged a form of self-reflexivity in the object itself. I will then
turn to a close examination of Roberti’s diptych. Scholars have noted that the
manuscript quality of the diptych would have enhanced the devotional aspect of it,
and underlined the symbolic unity of the composition. 8 I suggest, however, that
beyond the devotional aspect of its book form, the diptych may have spoken to
humanist debates at the court of Ferrara around the position of the artist, social
7
The traces of velvet are noted in Allen et al., "Catalogue," Catalogue IXa and IXb. The panels
have been dated between 1490-3 by Joseph Manca as well as by the curators at the National
Gallery. Manca, Art of Ercole, 144-6, Cat. 22; Allen et al., "Catalogue," xxxvi. This dating is
based on stylistic evidence and in relation to the later dates that Ercole was working on Eleonora’s
apartments. While this could be the case, there are also documents relating to 1486, when Ercole
was also active on projects for the duchess. The first document from 21 August 1486 registers a
payment to Ercole de’ Roberti for ultramarine blue for work on a “quadreto.” “E ad dite [xxj
agosto] [Lire] tre [...] per sua s[ignoria] a m[aest]r[o] Echule di Ruberte d[e]pintoro qtl per
comprare [onze] 1/4 di azuro oltramarino per de pinzere uno suo’ quadreto.......L.3” ASMO AP
633. 48V. Also published in Manca, Art of Ercole, 196, Doc 7. Two months later Ercole is
recorded receiving payment for “fornimenti d’argento” for a “quadreto”, which could relate to the
silver clasps for the diptych. “E ad dito [(20 oct)] L[ira] Cinque [soldi] ondxe [...] per sua s
am[aestro] ercule d[e]pintore [conto] per comprare fornimenti di argento per fornire uno quadreto
di Sua S[ignoria]........L.5.16.0” ASMO AP 633. 49V. Also published in Manca, Art of Ercole,
196, Doc 8. Manca suggests that these payments are regarding a Madonna and Child now in
Ferrara. For monographs on Ercole de’ Roberti, see Manca, Art of Ercole; Molteni, Ercole de'
Roberti. Recent technical analysis has confirmed the velvet covering of the diptych to the late
fifteenth century. This analysis also proved that there were originally clasps affixed to the velvet
which corresponds to the inventory entry. Campbell et al., "Two Panels by Roberti," 29-42.
8
Allen et al., "Catalogue," xxxvi-xxxvii.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 215
mobility, and the analogy between painting and scriptura. 9 Roberti’s diptych
makes claims for vision and the senses, and its physical form as a book will be
examined in connection with humanist texts and the penitential and ascetic
preoccupations of Ferrarese religious institutions such as the Corpus Domini
convent, that placed a special emphasis on the conflation of Word and Flesh. In
addition, the diptych motivated at least three copies by different artists, stressing
the interest in artistic invention around this particular form and subject matter. The
diptych’s painting-painting, painting-sculpture, and painting-text interchange is
examined as giving rise to intertextuality. This intertextuality has links with
contemporary notions of fabula, paragone, and imitation, and will be considered
in relation to the ways the diptych quotes other works, as well as how it serves as
a model for later works. Thus, while collections acted as forms of assembly of
objects and people, which incited conversation and had links to the production of
knowledge, the objects themselves were also capable of engaging in a form of
dialogue through intertextuality. The diptych form already had a particular
tendency toward intertextuality as it was a painting composed of two images or
more, which engaged with one another and asked the viewer to assemble the
disparate parts to form a whole. 10 Analysing this tendency in conjunction with
how such an object in the shape of a book may have engaged with humanist
9
I am indebted to Stephen Campbell’s work on the relationship between art production in Ferrara
and humanist debates. See Campbell, "Pictura." This is also elaborated throughout his book on
Tura, Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara.
10
While a diptych is the term used to refer to a work of art containing two panels or tablets, in the
case of many diptychs, there may be two images in the interior which face each other, but there
could also be exterior images, which would make the diptych composed of multiple images rather
than just two.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 216
debates at the court of Ferrara will illuminate how this devotional image could
also serve rhetorical purposes.
II. Folding Images: A Genealogy of the Diptych Form
The word ‘diptych’ was not the term used to describe a diptych in the early
modern period, rather, descriptions in archival sources refer to the physical
structure of the object, such as “a panel consisting of two pieces,” “a panel with
two leaves,” 11 “a small altarpiece that opens in two parts,” or in the instance of
the Roberti diptych, “a small altarpiece that closes like a book.” 12 The reference
made to a book is not surprising considering that in late antiquity the terms
“diptychum” and “diptycha” were employed to describe a piece of writing on
parchment or paper folded in two, as well as writing tablets joined together. 13
Furthermore, Laura Gelfand has studied the ways in which the devotional diptych
in the Netherlands had a strong correlation to Books of Hours, which were
extremely popular in the period. 14 Gelfand argues that the Netherlandish
devotional portrait diptych more likely developed from manuscript illumination,
11
For entries in inventories, which mention diptychs, especially in French collections, see Dagmar
Eichberger, "Devotional Objects in Book Format: Diptychs in the Collection of Margaret of
Austria and her Family," in The Art of the Book. Its Place in Medieval Worship, ed. Margaret M.
Manion and Bernard J. Muir (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998), 291.
12
The latter two are used often in Este inventories, see for example ASMO AP 30: “una anchoneta
doro che se apre in due p[ar]te cu[m] la pietad[e] di uno lato e dalatro n[ost]ra dona cu[m] il fiolo
in braza et s[an]ta catherina e dal lato d[i] fore dui altrj santi” and G 114: “una anchoneta che se
assera a modo di libro coperta di veluto morello cum broche e azulli di argento dorati da un lato il
presepio e da laltro un christo nel sepochro.”
13
Victor M. Schmidt, "Diptychs and Supplicants: Precedents and Contexts of Fifteenth-Century
Devotional Diptychs," in Essays in Context. Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, ed. John Oliver
Hand and Ron Spronk (Cambridge, New Haven and London: Harvard University Art Museums
and Yale University Press, 2006), 15-6.
14
Laura Gelfand, "The Devotional Portrait Diptych and the Manuscript Tradition," in Essays in
Context. Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, ed. John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk (Cambridge,
New Haven and London: Harvard University Art Museums and Yale University Press, 2006), 3345. This is also dealt with in her second chapter of her doctoral thesis, Laura Gelfand, "Fifteenth
Century Netherlandish Devotional Portrait Diptychs: Origins and Function" (PhD Thesis, Case
Western Reserve University, 1994), 12-37.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 217
rather than Byzantine or medieval precursors in ivory. 15 The diptych in its general
form, however, can be traced to its early developments found in late antique
consular portraits and Byzantine iconic diptychs. The form was extremely popular
in narrative French Gothic ivories and later gained currency in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, in both secular and religious spheres, north and south of the
Alps. 16 The diptych form was thus employed in a variety of media and in different
contexts; some of these contexts will be elaborated below in attempts to
understand how its form was important for its reception and indeed its meaning.
The diptych format will then be examined in relation to its Ferrarese context,
exploring how and why it might have held cultural resonance in the collections of
Eleonora d’Aragona in relation to humanistic and religious discourses at court.
While diptychs could serve as large altarpieces, I am particularly interested
in small diptychs that served as tools for personal devotion as well as the small
pendent portraits that were common in Italy. It is the size of these smaller
diptychs—generally the dimensions of a medium-sized book—that allowed
15
Gelfand, "Netherlandish Portrait Diptychs", 12. Also see Andrea G. Pearson, "Personal
Worship, Gender, and the Devotional Portrait Diptych," Sixteenth Century Journal 21, no. 1
(2000): 99.
16
Gelfand, "Netherlandish Portrait Diptychs", 5; Schmidt, "Diptychs and Supplicants," 15-7. For a
study on the Netherlandish diptych see two recent publications related to the exhibition Prayers
and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych in Washington and Antwerp in 2007, John
Oliver Hand, Catherine A. Metzger, and Ron Spronk, eds., Prayers and Portraits. Unfolding the
Netherlandish Diptych (Washington, New Haven and London: National Gallery of Art and Yale
University Press, 2006); John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk, eds., Essays in Context. Unfolding the
Netherlandish Diptych (Cambridge, New Haven and London: Harvard University Art Museums
and Yale University Press, 2006). Also see Laura Gelfand’s PhD Thesis with relevant
bibliography, Gelfand, "Netherlandish Portrait Diptychs". and Sixten Ringbom, Icon to Narrative:
The Rise of the Dramatic Close-up in Fifteenth-Century Devotional Painting (Doornspijk: Davaco
Publishers, 1984). For Italy, the diptych is often studied in relationship to portraiture, for examples
see David Alan Brown et al., Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci and Renaissance
Portraits of Women, ed. Susan Higman (Washington: The National Gallery of Art and Princeton
University Press, 2001); John Pope-Hennessy, The Portrait in the Renaissance (Princeton and
Washington: Princeton University Press and The National Gallery of Art, 1979), chapter 5; Lorne
Campbell, Renaissance Portraits. European Portrait-Painting in the 14th, 15th and 16th
Centuries (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1990), 53-67.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 218
viewers a close engagement with the object, similar to the reading of a
manuscript. 17 The small nature of diptychs and the ability to close them, which
provided protection from general wear and tear, lent to their very versatility in
use. Some diptychs were hung from the ceiling, suspended by a chain. Others
were stored in chests and were taken out and placed on an altar during mass on
special occasions, while others served as portable altarpieces. The form allowed
for diverse functions in use and often one diptych could serve several different
purposes in its social life. For instance, in the second half of the fifteenth century,
the composer Guillaume Dufay inherited a diptych from Simon le Breton
depicting the Virgin with an accompanying portrait of Simon. 18 In 1474, Dufay
bequeathed the diptych to Cambrai Cathedral where it was to be placed on the
altar in Saint Stephen’s chapel on the days of Dufay’s and le Breton’s deaths and
also on feast days, where it would complement Dufay’s sculpted epitaph in the
same chapel. 19 As Hugo van der Velden has noted, within the span of a few years
the diptych had not only changed hands three times, but also function and
location: originally it had served Simon as a devotional painting; it then provided
Dufay with a portrait and memento of a deceased friend; and finally it served as
an epitaph and a liturgical device in Cambrai cathedral. 20 There are other
examples of these multiples uses, such as the Diptych of Josse van der Burch in
the Fogg Art Museum. It was first used in personal devotion, and then later
17
While manuscripts varied greatly in size, I refer here to a general book size—from about 20 x 15
to 30 x 20 centimetres.
18
Hugo van der Velden, "Diptych Altarpieces and the Principle of Dextrality," in Essays in
Context. Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, ed. John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk (Cambridge,
New Haven and London: Harvard University Art Museums and Yale University Press, 2006), 125.
19
van der Velden, "Diptych Altarpieces," 125.
20
van der Velden, "Diptych Altarpieces," 125.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 219
installed over van der Burch’s tomb after his death, thus serving as devotional
object, tomb-marker, and memorial. 21
The multiple functions of diptychs highlight the portability and versatility
of such objects, demonstrated by textual and visual sources. Margaret of Austria’s
inventories reveal multiple locations for her diptychs, and suggest different uses
in different contexts. Margaret’s apartments included a chapel, various rooms, a
library, a study, and a separate room to house precious objects. Her inventories
reveal that eight of her eleven diptychs were to be found in a “seconde chambre a
chemynee”, probably Margaret’s bedroom, as well as in the adjoining “petit
cabinet”, which was most likely a study. 22 The remaining three diptychs are listed
without any references to their specific location, and this may indicate that they
were moved around, serving multiple functions in various locations. Margaret’s
diptychs display a variety of narrative scenes from the life of Christ, the Virgin,
and the saints, as well as donor images. 23 Margaret of Austria’s four devotional
portrait diptychs depicting portraits of herself have been identified as anomalies
among the surviving northern portrait diptychs. 24 Andrea Pearson has shown that
devotional portrait diptychs were clearly linked to male forms of worship and
underline the gendered division of devotion, noting that the majority of portrait
diptychs depict male supplicants. 25 Pearson demonstrates that diptychs were
employed not in secluded private spaces, but rather functioned as a means to
21
Pearson, "Personal Worship," 118-9.
Eichberger, "Devotional Objects," 300-1.
23
Eichberger, "Devotional Objects," 303.
24
Pearson, "Personal Worship," 101. Also see Andrea G. Pearson, "Margaret of Austria's
Devotional Portrait Diptychs," Woman's Art Journal 22, no. 2 (2001-2002): 19-26.
25
Pearson, "Personal Worship," 99.
22
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 220
assist male devotees in bringing their “personal worship into the public arena.” 26
As exemplified by the diptychs of Simon le Breton and Josse van der Burch,
diptychs could serve more personal forms of devotion, as well as later performing
more public roles as tomb-markers and liturgical devices, thus having a role in
different kinds of ritual. However, even when used as personal devotional objects,
diptychs could serve as bearers of social status in terms of ownership and
display. 27
The well-known manuscript illumination depicting Philip the Good at Mass
reveals the use of a diptych in a partially enclosed space, and yet visible to those
attending Mass (Figure 29). 28 The diptych placed above the Book of Hours in the
secluded space depicts a Madonna on the left and a kneeling figure on the right
wing, presumably Philip himself. 29 The image characterises what Pearson has
understood to be a less rigid divide between public and private in the period,
whereby “personal” devotion was not necessarily completely private, but rather
hinged on more “public” forms of worship where devotions took “place within
the visual range of others.” 30 The image of Philip the Good also underlines
Gelfand’s argument that Books of Hours and devotional diptychs were intended
26
Pearson, "Personal Worship," 99-122.
Maximiliaan P.J. Martens, "Some Reflections on the Social Function of Diptychs," in Essays in
Context. Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, ed. John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk (Cambridge,
New Haven and London: Harvard University Art Museums and Yale University Press, 2006), 8591; Marina Belozerskaya, "Early Netherlandish Diptychs as Surrogate Luxuries," in Essays in
Context. Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, ed. John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk (Cambridge,
New Haven and London: Harvard University Art Museums and Yale University Press, 2006), 6171.
28
This illumination is often referenced in the literature on diptychs, see Belozerskaya, "Early
Netherlandish Diptychs," 64; Pearson, "Personal Worship," 120; Schmidt, "Diptychs and
Supplicants," 24-5; Ringbom, Icon to Narrative, 31-2.
29
Ringbom, Icon to Narrative, 32.
30
Pearson, "Personal Worship," 104.
27
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 221
to complement one another and to function together. 31 With this in mind, we
might understand diptychs as carrying a similar social function to Books of
Hours, objects that served both a religious as well as cultural function, endowed
with images that spoke to piety, style, prestige, and artistic knowledge. Both
diptychs and Books of Hours could be transported at reasonable ease, and thus
were moveable social signifiers that could be shown in different spaces and also
used for devotion. For instance, when Borso d’Este travelled to Rome in 1470 to
be invested with the title of Duke of Ferrara by the pope, he brought along his
famous Bible illuminated by Taddeo Crivelli and Franco dei Russi. 32 The multiple
functions of diptychs and Books of Hours can be seen to be tied to their form,
which allowed for easy transport, and enabled owners to display prestige and
social status through the movement, transferral, and display of the objects. Such
an object, then, had a social function beyond the devotional aspect, and should be
seen as important not only for religious ritual but also social relations.
Engaging with the Diptych Form: Obverse, Reverse, Frames, and
Images
The very form of diptychs is an aspect worth pursuing further, as it not only
enables the viewer to engage with the object in a particular way, but it also
endows the object with a form of self-reflexivity. While I have focussed on
devotional diptychs thus far, secular portrait diptychs were also popular in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially in Italy. In many portrait diptychs,
another painting appears on the reverse, often depicting a motto, a device, coats of
31
Gelfand, "Devotional Portrait Diptych," 48.
Kurt Barstow, The Gualenghi-d'Este Hours. Art and Devotion in Renaissance Ferrara (Los
Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 8-9. Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 11.
32
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 222
arms, a map, an allegorical subject, or faux marble. 33 Piero della Francesca’s
famous double portrait of Duke Federigo da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza with
the reverse depicting allegorical triumphs is just one example (Figure 30a-d). 34
The interior panels depict the Duke and Duchess of Urbino in profile, with a
broad landscape in the background. The two exterior panels depict The Triumphs
of Federigo da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza, where Federigo and Battista sit on
triumphal carts accompanied by personifications of the virtues. In the background,
the panoramic landscape continues from the interior panels, and at the bottom
read two inscriptions praising the two individuals. The diptych as a whole, taking
the inscriptions and triumphs on the exterior, with the portraits on the interior, has
been interpreted in a number of ways, which are too varied to elaborate fully
here. 35 What is important is the way the four paintings function together to allow
the viewer to construct meaning, and to engage with the diptych on both sides.
These double-sided portraits can be compared to medals whereby a portrait of an
individual would be accompanied by an allegorical figure and motto on the
reverse. 36
Similarly, a single portrait with a painting depicted on its reverse can be
seen to function in a comparable manner to diptychs, as they have both a reverse
33
Campbell, Renaissance Portraits, 66-7; Pope-Hennessy, Portrait in the Renaissance, 205-9;
Lorne Campbell, "Diptychs With Portraits," in Essays in Context. Unfolding the Netherlandish
Diptych, ed. John Oliver Hand and Ron Spronk (Cambridge, New Haven and London: Harvard
University Art Museums and Yale University Press, 2006), 33-45; Schmidt, "Diptychs and
Supplicants," 17-8.
34
Pope-Hennessy, Portrait in the Renaissance, 209-11; Martin Warnke, "Individuality as
Argument: Piero della Francesca's Portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino," in The Image of
the Individual: Portraits in the Renaissance, ed. Nicholas Mann and Luke Syson (London: British
Museum Press, 1998), 81-90.
35
For a summary of the various interpretations see, Warnke, "Individuality as Argument: Piero
della Francesca's Portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino," 87.
36
Pope-Hennessy, Portrait in the Renaissance, 209.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 223
and an obverse, and constitute two images that are meant to function together.
Such paintings force us to ask what constitutes the frame. Where are the
boundaries between the fictional world of the painting and the world of the
viewer? 37 As Victor Stoichita has observed, the painting on the obverse cannot be
fully understood unless it is confronted with the image on the reverse. 38 In the
case of diptychs, when the panels are closed, it is often the exterior images that
one sees first before the interior images are revealed, and thus the reverse images
encourage the viewer to open and reveal the interior. A dialogue is thus formed
between the outside and the inside, the reverse and the obverse; the work forces
the viewer to engage with the two sides to comprehend the meaning of both
images combined. Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, for
instance, is only fully conceptualised when one looks at the reverse depiction of a
juniper and its accompanying Latin inscription “Beauty Adorns Virtue” (Figure
31a-b). 39 The juniper is a pun on the sitter’s name, and the inscription refers to the
praise Ginevra received in a series of Petrarchan poems written by individuals in
the Medici circle at the end of the fifteenth century, which celebrated her beauty
and virtue. 40 The identity of the sitter on the obverse is thus dependent on the
image and script on the reverse, compelling the viewer to look at both sides and
intimately engage with the object by piecing together the diverse components.
Other reverses had more psychological or moral tendencies, depicting skulls or
allegories, forcing the viewer to contemplate the transient nature of this life or to
37
I am indebted to Victor Stoichita’s work on the frame and the self-reflexivity of images. See
Victor I. Stoichita, The Self-Aware Image. An Insight Into Early Modern Meta-Painting, trans.
Anne-Marie Glasheen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), Chapter 2, 17-29.
38
Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 20.
39
Brown et al., Virtue and Beauty, 142, Cat. 16.
40
Brown et al., Virtue and Beauty, 142.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 224
consider the moral virtues alluded to, in contrast to the portrait on the other side. 41
These double-images have led Stoichita to remark that the reverse becomes
“another representation” or a form of anti-image; an image that posits itself
outside or against the work, yet also integral to it. 42 Such images function
similarly to marginalia; far from being unimportant, they make the viewer more
aware of the obverse image, and are central to the understanding of the portrait. 43
In the Roberti diptych (Figures 28a-b), we are not confronted with a
representation on the reverse, but rather, the exterior panels were covered with
velvet. I would argue that the velvet operated in a similar manner to a reverse
image. It constituted something that was always attached to the experience of
viewing the image and yet also belonged to the exterior world. In particular, when
the viewer opened up the diptych “like a book” and used it for personal worship,
he or she would have felt the velvet on the reverse, while viewing the interior
images. The velvet thus added another sensory component to the act of viewing.
The importance of the senses in viewing the diptych will be elaborated upon
further below. For now, it is sufficient to note that the senses played an integral
role in reading the images in the diptych, referencing the penitential forms of
devotion popular in Ferrara that placed an emphasis on the senses and the bodily
experiences of devotion. In addition, considering that the diptych was portable
and may have been carried to, and viewed in, different surroundings, the exterior
41
See for example the Allegory on the reverse of the portrait of Bernardo de’ Rossi by Lorenzo
Lotto. Pope-Hennessy, Portrait in the Renaissance, 214-6.
42
Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 20.
43
Stoichita sees these reversals or outside-the-work images as a form of parergon (para: against;
ergon: work), Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 23. For the parergon also see Jacques Derrida, The
Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1987).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 225
framing of the velvet was always part of the diptych; it served as the image’s
continual background, and was integral to its mobility, allowing it to close and
offering protection during travel. The velvet exterior thus constituted both its
enclosure and concealment from the outside world, while also serving as the
means to reveal the interior images and to establish the viewer’s first experience
with those images through the opening process. The velvet also marked the
diptych as a precious object, worthy of a protective covering similar to the
binding of a book. Indeed, many of the books listed in Eleonora’s library had
velvet as their material coverings, and often in the same colour of morello as the
diptych (a purple-mulberry shade). 44 The velvet may also be considered as a
curtain, something that protects a precious object, similar to the curtains placed
before a cult image, which both concealed and revealed the sacred. 45 The velvet
as curtain is also linked to representations of curtains within images, whereby the
curtain itself becomes represented as a way to denote that the artwork has a
certain status, and which plays with the various surfaces of reality in the image. 46
In a portrait diptych of the Bentivoglio, rulers of Bologna, attributed to
Roberti, the artist employs the use of the curtain as a form of background to the
two portraits (Figure 32a-b). 47 Here, the curtain reveals part of the landscape,
while simultaneously concealing it. It also plays a double function of acting as
‘background’ to the two portraits, highlighting their profiles in terms of negative
44
See the discussion below on Jerome’s text in Eleonora’s library, which detail the exterior
coverings of her books as being covered in velvet. For a technical analysis of the velvet and its
dating see Campbell et al., "Two Panels by Roberti."
45
For a discussion of the curtain in relation to cult images see Hans Belting, Likeness and
Presence. A History of the Image Before the Era of Art, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1994), 481.
46
For the importance of the curtain represented in images, see Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 60-3.
47
Brown et al., Virtue and Beauty, 103-5, Cat. 2 a-b. Also see Manca, Art of Ercole, 104-5, cat. 5.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 226
and positive space, in addition to occupying a middle-ground between the
individuals and the landscape. The velvet on the diptych also performed this role,
acting as a sort of veil, encompassing the diptych, and constituting a threshold
between profane and sacred space. Indeed, a technical analysis has suggested that
the diptych did not have hinges, but that the panels may have actually been joined
by the velvet binding. 48 This veil or enfolding aspect will be elaborated further
below in terms of the unveiling of truths in discussions of fabula, but it is
important here in terms of the viewer’s engagement with the diptych form, as
something that operates as our entry from the profane into the sacred.
Other Diptychs in Eleonora’s Collections
Eleonora’s collections contained other diptychs in a variety of materials,
and the diptych form also appears in the collections of her husband, Ercole d’Este.
An inventory taken after Eleonora’s death in 1493 lists at least four diptychs. The
first two diptychs were carved: one was listed as “an altarpiece that closes with
two doors made of bone and ivory, carved and gilded with many figures in relief”
and another: “an altarpiece in bas-relief that closes in two parts with a Christ and
a Nostra Donna and Saint John.” 49 The last two entries referencing the diptych
form are very similar to each other, the second references the Roberti diptych,
already quoted above, and the first describes something very similar, but without
reference to its book-like qualities: “a small altarpiece that closes with a Nativity
48
Campbell et al., "Two Panels by Roberti," 35.
ASMO G114. 133V; 134R “una anchona che le asserra cum doe porte di osso e avolio
intarsegliato e dorate cum figuri assai di mezo relevo” “una anchona di mezo relevo che se asserra
in due parte cum uno christo e una nostra dona e Sto Zohanne”
49
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 227
on one side and a Christ at the Sepulchre on the other side.” 50 In another
inventory of Eleonora’s collections, more diptychs are listed, one was a “small
gilded silver altarpiece with the whole Passion of Our Saviour on one side, and on
the other the Nativity of Our Saviour” encrusted with precious gems, with two
more relief images depicting a Nostra Donna carved in the form of a cameo and a
Christ, which together, presumably composed the outer doors of the diptych. 51
Other diptychs in Eleonora’s collection included: a “very tiny, small, small gold
altarpiece, with a Nostra Donna dressed in red with a Christ in her arms and on
the other side a cross;” “a small altarpiece in gold” that opened in two parts,
containing a Pietà on one side and on the other a Madonna with child and Saint
Catherine, and on the outside panels two other saints; 52 and finally a “small
altarpiece made out of silver that opens in two parts” depicting a Saint George on
one side with a Madonna and Child and two angels on the other. 53
Numerous diptychs appear in an inventory of Ercole d’Este as well, many
of which are similar to the ones in Eleonora’s collection, depicting Christ, the
50
“una anchoneta che se assera cum uno presepio da un lato e un christo nel sepolchro da la altro
lato” ASMO G114. 133V. Also published in Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.II, 37; Campori,
Cataloghi ed inventarii, 2.
51
ASMO AP 30. 45R. “Una anchoneta di arzento dorate e smaltata tuta cu[m] la passione del
n[ost]ro sig[no]re da uno lato, dalatro la nativitade de n[ost]ro Si[gno]re cu[m] quatro rosette de
rubinetj da rocha tristi per cadauno lato cu[m] una n[ost]ra dona di sotto intagliata in una predia a
modo camaino e dalatro lato uno cristo cu[m] el pede informa del pe de calixe [?] pexa in tuto
onze desesepte quartj uno”
52
“Una anchoneta doro che se apre in due p[ar]te cu’ la pietad[e] di uno lato e dalatro n[ost]ra
dona cu’ il fiolo in braza e sta catherina e dal lato d[i]fore dui altrj santi [...]Di smalto pexa onze
septe quartj uno” ASMO AP 30. 47R, 48V. This account is an inventory taken of both Ercole’s
and Eleonora’s possessions. The first part of the inventory lists Ercole’s while the latter half lists
Eleonora’s.
53
“Unaltra anchoneta di arze[n]to che se apre in due p[ar]te cu uno s[an]to zorzo da uno lato e
dalatro nra dona cu[m] il fiolo in braza cu[m] due anzoli, et sancto et smalto dorata e dalatro
difore.” ASMO AP 30. 48V. Saint George was the patron saint of Ferrara and would have carried
ecclesiastical, religious, and political importance. For Saint George imagery in Ferrara, see for
example, the organ shutters for the Cathedral by Cosmè Tura, which depict Saint George and the
princess. Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, Chapter 5, 131-61.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 228
Madonna, and various saints, all of which are made in expensive materials such as
gold or silver. 54 In addition, Ercole’s inventory lists a “panel that opens in two
parts with a gold cornice” depicting the “Duke of Milan and Madama Bianca.” 55
This is presumably a double portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Milan, and is
possibly the same double portrait that Borso D’Este, Ercole’s predecessor, had
commissioned from Baldassare d’Este in the early 1470s, which was originally
placed in the Palazzo Schifanoia. 56 Ercole also owned a “panel in the form of a
book” depicting Julius Caesar in a gold frame. 57
A predilection for diptychs in Ferrara may have been influenced by the
interest of the Este in emulating the princely magnificence of the Burgundian
Court, where the diptych form was popular. In addition, the Este’s interest in
Netherlandish artists, such as Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck, who
were both known for producing a number of diptychs, may have also influenced
the taste in the diptych form. Indeed, Leonello d’Este sent his illegitimate son,
Francesco, to be educated at the Burgundian court, and whilst there, Rogier
painted a portrait of Francesco, which contained a portrait on the obverse with a
coat of arms and an inscription on the reverse. 58
54
These are listed in the first section of the inventory of AP 30. An inventory taken in 1494 lists
many of the items that had once belonged to Eleonora, and now appear to be the property of
Ercole. See ASMO G117.
55
“Uno quadro che se apre in due parte cu[m] le cornise dorate in sulquale e il duca di milano e
m[adama] biancha” ASMO AP 30. 35V. Also listed in G117. 55V. Also published in Campori,
Cataloghi ed inventarii, 30.
56
Campbell, Renaissance Portraits, 54.
57
ASMO AP 30.35V
58
It is interesting to note that for many years the sitter was unknown. It took numerous scholars to
assemble the quotes and arms on the reverse in conjunction with the portrait, to identity it as
Francesco d’Este. This reveals how the obverse/reverse are equally important and that this
engagement is an integral part of understanding the painting as a whole. Ernst Kantorowicz, "The
Este Portrait by Roger Van Der Weyden," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 3
(1939-40). Nuttall, From Flanders, 3.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 229
The diptych was thus a popular art form in Ferrara encouraged by the
cultural interest in the Burgundian court and the taste for Netherlandish art. The
particular self-reflexive nature of the form forced viewers to engage with the
diptych in a distinct way. This engagement gave rise to a particular mode of
viewing, encouraging the viewer to make connections between the various images
depicted on the different panels to construct meaning. This dialogical reading
could also prove to be very interesting when the object referenced other texts and
images in the collection, in addition to speaking to humanist and religious debates
outside the work.
III. The Painting and Scriptura Debate: Paragone, Social Positioning,
and the Status of Art in Ferrara
While the general form of the diptych has been studied in a variety of ways
relating to devotional practices, portraiture, and the viewer’s engagement, we
might ask why it was popular in Ferrara and why it was taken up by one of the
leading artists at court. To answer these questions we must look to humanist
debates at the court of Ferrara to understand the cultural and intellectual milieu in
which these diptychs were produced and collected. The court of Ferrara provided
an erudite and fervent humanist centre, which drew in many artists, humanists,
and literary figures. 59 The fifteenth century in Ferrara also saw a restructuring of
the social organisation of the aristocracy, implemented by the Este in attempts to
secure political loyalty by constructing a circle of courtiers who were dependent
59
For a general history of Ferrara see Gundersheimer, Ferrara. For the rule of Ercole d’Este in
particular see Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara. For an outdated, and yet still reasonable overview, see
Gardner, Dukes and Poets. For the Este and art production in Ferrara see Bentini, ed., Gli Este a
Ferrara; Mottola, Natala, and Lorenzo, eds., Muse e il principe I; Mottola, Natala, and Lorenzo,
eds., Muse e il principe II; Iotti, ed., Gli Estensi. La Corte di Ferrara.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 230
on the court for privileges and entitlements. 60 This was particularly evident under
the rule of Borso d’Este, who created a new nobility, and these practices
continued under Duke Ercole; like Borso, Ercole’s legitimacy to rule was in
question, and Ercole facilitated social fluidity and political loyalty by allowing
civic and court offices to be bought every year. 61 Ferrarese humanistic culture
raised a number of issues in relation to the role of the artist, social mobility, and
prevailing conceptions of art and its interpretations, exemplified in texts such as
Angelo Decembrio’s De politia litteraria. 62
Many of the concerns of the humanists centred on knowledge and the
different forms that knowledge could take, through painting or script. Rather than
looking at this humanist interest as merely repeating the notion of paragone, it is
perhaps more useful to consider why it was taken up and what was at stake for
those who engaged in this debate. 63 Leon Battista Alberti’s treatise on painting
served as a model for many of the Ferrarese texts that follow it later in the
century, but as Stephen Campbell has noted, these literary works should be
considered less in the context of innovative statements about painting, and more
in terms of their “ideological framing of the question of art and its value.” 64
Furthermore, we often find that the paintings themselves contradict or negotiate
60
Richard Tristano’s thesis examines the rise of new nobility under Borso d’Este and underlines
how it was indeed Ercole’s rule that continued this mobility, see Tristano, "Ferrara and New
Nobility", especially Chapter 5, 194-205; Campbell, "Pictura," 270.
61
Brown, "Death of a Record-Keeper," 9 and 34-5, n.19. Also noted in Campbell, Cosmè Tura of
Ferrara, 11.
62
Baxandall, "Decembrio's De Politia," 39-67; Michael Baxandall, "A Dialogue on Art From the
Court of Leonello d'Este. Angelo Decembrio's De Politia Litteraria Pars LXVIII," Journal of the
Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 26, no. 3/4 (1963): 304-26; Jon Pearson Perry, "A FifteenthCentury Dialogue on Literary Taste: Angelo Decembrio's Account of Playwright Ugolino Pisani at
the Court of Leonello d'Este," Renaissance Quarterly 39, no. 4 (1986).
63
Campbell, "Pictura," 267-95.
64
Campbell, "Pictura," 267.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 231
many of the theories raised in the humanist treatises and demonstrate the ways
artists engaged with these debates through their work, often in ambiguous ways.
Writing in 1460, the humanist Ludovico Carbone commented on the
nobility of art, noting that painting was called mute poetry by the ancients, and
that works of art produced under a prince’s rule reflected the prince’s virtue.
Carbone states that the ingenium of the artists in service of the prince was a way
to judge the prince himself. 65 The text aligns painting with poetry, stressing its
liberal rather than manual practices, a theme that others such as Decembrio would
not be so quick to extol. Carbone’s text, which defended the notions of virtue
rather than lineage, had a particular social resonance, considering it was written
during the reign of Borso d’Este whose legitimacy to rule was in question, and
who consequently restructured the social organisation of the aristocracy. 66 This
social mobility inevitably formed contentious issues around new wealth, and
humanist treatises that spoke to the nobility of virtue rather than birth, dappled
with some of the anxieties around culture and social positioning. These debates
were to play out in the circles of authors and artists, whereby many took
advantage of this social fluidity, and through their humanist writings or painterly
expressions, rose to prominence. This was, however, not only a concern for the
65
Ludovico Carbone was a humanist at the Ferrarese court who was known for his orations, and
also wrote an oration for Eleonora and Ercole’s wedding celebrations in Rome, which he attended.
For partial translations of his text, see Campbell, "Pictura," 269.
66
Campbell, "Pictura," 270. For Borso d’Este’s policies on social mobility see, Tristano, "Ferrara
and New Nobility".
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 232
new nobility, but as Campbell has remarked, for Borso himself, whose mother
was of questionable noble status. 67
The particular emphasis on ingegno was neither new nor particular to
Ferrara; Leonardo da Vinci’s Treatise on Painting at the end of the fifteenth
century took up this debate, claiming that painting indeed should be considered a
science, and that the transmission of knowledge could be achieved through the
eyes. 68 However, the claim for painting’s status held particular cultural resonance
and social consequence in Ferrara. The emphasis on ingegno was an attempt to
differentiate between manual and liberal practices, stressing the creative and noble
faculties, and therefore aligning painting with poetry. The need for both Ferrarese
artists and writers to make claims for their work as liberal practice clearly reflects
the struggle to legitimate their social status. The humanists criticised certain
artistic practices as mere opulence and adornment, and condemned artists for
seeking to display ingenium through excessive gesture, although many artists did
not follow the advice of the humanists, and employed extreme theatrical poses
and unrealistic proportions. Ferrarese artists employed these devices, not because
they were ignorant of humanist treatises, but because they pointedly engaged with
those treatises, making claims for the position of the artist, drawing from cultural
and religious practices such as the theatre and religious spectacle, and choosing
different ways of rendering bodies because the subject matter called for it. Visual
imagery in Ferrara thus should be seen as dialogic; the works are analogous to
67
Borso was born of the illegitimate line of the Este, whereas Ercole was from the legitimate
branch, although they were brothers through their father. See the family trees in Appendix A. Also
see Campbell, "Pictura," 270.
68
Leatrice Mendelsohn, Paragoni. Benedetto Varchi's Due Lezzioni and Cinquecento Art Theory,
ed. Donald B. Kuspit, vol. 6, Studies in the Fine Arts: Art Theory (Ann Arbor: UMI Research
Press, 1982), 38.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 233
humanist texts, taking up debates, answering to them, and contributing to the
intellectual community, not merely as reflections of intellectual discourse, but as
agents that engage with that discourse.
The differentiation between liberal and manual practices, especially in
relation to writing, was thus a particularly charged debate, and was played out in
the discussion around the position of the scribe. Decembrio’s De politia litteraria
takes the form of conversations held at the court of Leonello d’Este, whereby
learned humanists discuss the relationship between painting and writing. 69
Although it was set at the court of Leonello, it was dedicated to Borso d’Este in
1465, and has been seen as an indirect criticism of Borso’s rule, by providing the
reader with examples of the “philological rigour” of Leonello’s court with the
now decadent and superficial display culture of Borso’s rule, where books were
praised for their adornment over their content. 70 Decembrio’s text juxtaposes a
circle of learned Ferrarese humanists with the comical and ignorant, yet nonfictional figure of Ugolino Pisani, who is presented as the quintessential
embodiment of an individual seeking ennoblement through writing, but who holds
none of the social or intellectual graces. 71 In Decembrio’s text, Pisani makes a
number of social and cultural blunders, but most importantly for our purposes, he
is ridiculed for confusing writer (scriptor) with copyist (librarius). 72 What was
criticised was his conflation of the manual scribe, who merely copied texts and
made them beautiful through adornment, with the figure of the author, who had
69
It should be noted that Decembrio was not only involved with the court of Ferrara but also that
of Naples, Eleonora’s natal court, both of which had flourishing humanistic communities.
70
Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, 18.
71
See Baxandall, "Dialogue on Art."; Baxandall, "Decembrio's De Politia." For the figure of
Ugolino Pisani see Perry, "Fifteenth-Century Dialogue."
72
Perry, "Fifteenth-Century Dialogue," 631.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 234
the intellectual capacity to compose and interpret texts. 73 Similarly, the text
criticises the clumsiness of painters “who make quite as many mistakes as scribes
and copyists do.” 74 Particularly, Decembrio singles out wall paintings and “those
tapestries from Transalpine Gaul you see hung on walls” noting that “there is
much skill in this kind of work, but the weavers and designers are far more
concerned with opulence of colour and a frivolous charm of the tapestry than with
the method or science of painting.” 75 What is at issue here is the lack of science or
application of intelligence and an unnecessary attachment to adornment and
opulence. Another speaker in the dialogue, the famous humanist Guarino,
however, stresses the importance of images, stating “both painting and writing
tend to one end: the encouragement of learning and the desire for knowledge. It
was for this reason that the Greeks and Romans often referred to both as
scriptura.” 76 Guarino thus argues that scriptura, a contentious and oft-returned to
issue, could also be applied to the visual arts if it was used in an intellectual way,
leading to knowledge and learning.
Artists at the Ferrarese court such as Cosmè Tura and Ercole de’ Roberti
were aware of these debates, and can be seen to play with notions of scriptura in
their works. 77 The contentions around scriptura and ingegno are made explicit in
Alberti who criticises artists who seek to display their ingenium through
impossible poses or extreme gestures. 78 As Campbell has demonstrated, Ferrarese
artists such as Tura often did not follow the advice of the humanists, employing
73
This is elaborated in Campbell, "Pictura."
Baxandall, "Decembrio's De Politia," 54.
75
Baxandall, "Decembrio's De Politia," 54.
76
Baxandall, "Decembrio's De Politia," 64.
77
For Cosmè Tura see Campbell, "Pictura."
78
Campbell, "Pictura," 275.
74
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 235
extreme theatrical poses, unrealistic proportions, and “decorative linear
elaboration,” which served as a means to achieve a particular mark, an artistic
identity, which drew parallels between the lines of painting/drawing with those of
script. 79 Tura, for instance, employs the use of what Campbell has called a
“calligraphic line” to signal a relationship to writing, as well as constituting a
form of signature particular to the artist. 80 Such references to writing undoubtedly
engage with debates around painting and scriptura, and were thus taken up both
in the literary as well as artistic fields.
In Roberti’s diptych, painting’s ability to play with notions of scriptura is
manifested in the book-like form, the presence of inscription, the figuration of
script, and claims for the importance of the senses. Many elements in the right
panel make reference to qualities in the left panel, creating a dialogue between the
two sides. The Christ child lies in a crib, near a manger-type structure, while
Joseph, Mary, and a shepherd look on in adoration. The Dead Christ supported by
angels on the edge of the tomb on the right panel takes the place of the baby
Christ in the crib in the left panel; the wicker crib has given way to the elaborate
marble tomb. In opposition to the man-made shelter of Christ’s Nativity, Saint
Jerome occupies an ascetic cave, out of which he sees the suffering Christ.
Jerome’s foreshortened lion near the tomb mimics the foreshortened cow inside
the manger. 81 Saint Francis receives the stigmata from a faint seraph/crucifix in
the sky, which mimics the angel appearing to the shepherds in the same quadrant
on the left panel. The sketchiness rendered in the painting of the three shepherds
79
Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara.
Campbell, "Pictura," 276-7.
81
Allen et al., "Catalogue," xxxvii.
80
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 236
in the left panel is signalled again in the sketch-like forms of the three crosses at
Calvary on the right panel. The white detailing of the cloth around Christ’s
cribsheet and Mary’s head scarf is taken up again on the white detailing of
Christ’s delicate loin cloth, emphasising that the quiet child in the manger will
soon face his fate of Saviour, through death and resurrection from the tomb. This
application of white, especially around the baby Jesus’ crib, as well as the sketchlike figures rendered in the distance, draw attention to the artist’s penmanship,
similar to the linear contours and calligraphic lines that Campbell has
characterised in Tura’s work. Such attention to linear qualities and script-like
forms provides an evocative parallel between the hand of the artist in his
brushstrokes with that of the formulations of letters, and suggests an analogy
between painting and writing. 82
The diptych speaks of visions: the vision of the angel to the shepherds, the
image of Christ appearing to Saint Jerome, and the vision of the angel in the
stigmatisation of Saint Francis. Roberti inscribes the importance of vision, and in
so doing, he also makes claims for vision thus stressing the importance of the
artist and the necessity of the visual arts, especially in relation to depicting the
mystical events of Christendom. The partly visible inscription on the tomb’s lid,
references the relationship of writing with painting. Roberti has rendered the
inscription as a relief on the tomb, as if the surface of the painting itself has been
punctured or carved away, re-asserting an attention to the hand of the artist,
82
Campbell has noted this particular tendency in Tura’s work, and quotes Filarete’s Trattato,
which notes that both painters and scribes are identified by their hand. The painter is recognized
by his ability to render forms, while the scribe can also be identified in his forming of letters.
Campbell, "Pictura," 279.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 237
similar to the marks of his penmanship visible on the white detailing around
Christ’s crib. The inscription’s position on the lower right of the panel, it has been
suggested, offers a connection for the viewer with the body of Christ. Denise
Allen notes that Eleonora’s thumb may have touched the name of Christ engraved
on the tomb, and through touching it, Eleonora (or any viewer) would have made
contact with the Word Incarnate, that is, a sacred relic of Christ. 83 This contact
between inscription and thumb, between painting’s representation and touch,
would have been highlighted during the opening of the book-like form, where the
viewer would have felt the velvet on the outside with his or her fingers, and found
their right thumb placed on the name of Christ on the tomb.
If the inscription and the physical act of touching assert the primacy of the
Word, they do so in ambiguous ways. That is, it is through the senses that the
viewer interacts with the Word, reinscribed by the idea of the relic, and the
material forms of devotion. The placement of the inscription also sets up a
paradox: while it is there in the painting, it is only half there, causing the viewer
unease in reading it, relegating the textual forms associated with writing and
script to the border of the painting. Roberti has placed the text in such a way that
it is cut off by the frame, remaining continually on the border of what is inside
and outside the painting, and causing the viewer’s awareness to shift between his
script-like tendencies of rendering detail and the more sensory aspects of the
painting which stress the physicality of the body, vision, and touch. Attention to
the body is emphasised in a number of ways. While the individuals in the left
panel all close their hands in a supplicating prayer position, they are juxtaposed
83
Allen et al., "Catalogue," xxxvii.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 238
by Jerome, Jesus, and Francis on the right panel, who expose their bodies by their
open-handed gestures, bearing their chest to the viewer. Furthermore the stigmata
visible on Christ, which is then received in material form through the marks of
blood on Saint Francis’ hands, emphasise the bodily transformations of devotion.
These bodily experiences of veneration were also well known to the citizens of
Ferrara who experienced the sights of saintly miracles in local spiritual figures, or
through the spectacle of processions of confraternities who flagellated
themselves. 84 The transfiguration of the body through devotion, in the ascetic
tradition, was seen as a direct link to the transformation of the body on the day of
Resurrection, and thus provided a correlation between Jerome’s and Francis’
somatic experiences with Christ’s Resurrection. 85 These material forms of
devotion were prevalent in Ferrara, specifically in relation to the disciplinati and
confraternal groups, which will be explored further below in relation to Roberti’s
Saint Jerome.
IV. Word and Flesh: Caterina Vegri and the Corpo di Christo
The emphasis on the body of Christ would also allude to Eleonora’s
involvement with the convent of Corpo di Christo, and the importance of the
Eucharist—the material form of Christ’s body—which was the central focus for
the convent. This association would have reminded viewers of one of the most
important annual processions and festivals in Ferrara—the Corpus Domini
procession—whereby Eleonora and other prominent figures would physically
84
For an overview of how the penitential and eschatological preoccupations in Ferrara are related
to Ferrarese art, see Timothy Verdon, "The Art of Guido Mazzoni" (PhD Thesis, Yale University,
1978), 16-9.
85
For a useful history of the body in Christianity, see Peter Brown, The Body and Society. Men,
Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press,
1988).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 239
walk through the streets carrying the sacred host under a baldachino. 86 Here the
diptych interplays with ritual, as religious practices are literally enfolded into the
diptych. Many of the objects in Eleonora’s collection took the body of Christ as
their subject matter, and must be examined within the religious traditions and
practices associated with the Corpus Christi. 87 The convent of Corpo di Christo
was an important convent of Clarissan nuns in Ferrara and it had ties with the
Corpus Christi convent in Bologna, and specifically with the figure of Caterina
Vegri. 88 A particular emphasis on the relationship between word and image and
the importance of the body of Christ are crucial aspects of the Corpo di Christo
convents of Ferrara and Bologna and will be explored here, as many of the issues
are taken up in Roberti’s diptych.
Caterina Vegri, later canonised as Saint Catherine of Bologna, was
educated at the Este court during Leonello d’Este’s rule. She entered the Corpo di
Christo convent in Ferrara in the 1420s before being appointed to head the
convent of Corpus Domini in Bologna in 1456, where she stayed until her death
86
Eleonora was very closely tied with a number of female religious groups, and most importantly
with the convent of Corpo di Christo, where she was buried. Eleonora had a wooden oratorio built
for herself in the choir of the church of Corpus Christi, as well as a cell, where she was noted to
spend the night. Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 373. Payments for the work are found in court
records, ASMO M&F 27.78. Eleonora also gave a painting depicting the scenes from the Life of
Christ that she had ordered from Bruges to the convent. See Barstow, Gualenghi-d'Este Hours,
113. Eleonora’s account books repeatedly make reference to numerous alms Eleonora provided for
the Corpo di Christo and other religious institutions, ASMO AP 633, AP 636, AP 640. Eleonora
was also heavily involved in the running and organising of the annual corpus christi procession,
which she describes in letters to Ercole, examined in Charles Rosenberg, "The Use of Celebrations
in Public and Semi-Public Affairs in Fifteenth Century Ferrara," in Il teatro italiano del
Rinascimento, ed. Maristella de Panizza Lorch (Milan: Edizione di Communità, 1980), 521-35.
The original letters are located in ASMO C&S 131 and C&S 131-2.
87
The variants “Corpus Domini”, “Corpo di Christo,” and “Corpus Christi” are all terms used in
the period. In the account books of Eleonora, Corpo di Christo is the most frequent term used for
the convent in Ferrara.
88
For the earlier history of the convent see, Mary Martin McLaughlin, "Creating and Recreating
Communities of Women: the Case of Corpus Domini, Ferrara," in Sisters and Workers in the
Middle Ages, ed. Judith M. Bennett (Chicago: 1989), 261-88.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 240
in 1463. 89 Saint Catherine was both an artist and writer, responsible for producing
many images and texts, and art historian Jeryldene Wood has examined how it
was through the process of writing and painting that Caterina evoked the
transcendence of God. 90 Wood has also noted that art and an attention to
luxurious materials were particularly significant for female spirituality in the
convent of Corpus Domini in Bologna. Saint Catherine wrote a spiritual text
entitled Le sette armi spirituali, which dealt with the spiritual weapons one could
use to combat Satan and sin. The text was copied at Caterina’s request and sent to
the convent in Ferrara, where the treatise had been written. 91 Saint Catherine
received many visions, and in one section of her text she describes how she had
doubts concerning the divine presence in the Eucharist, when she had been visited
by Christ who had explained the principles of transubstantiation, and from that
moment on she longed for the spiritual nourishment of communion and made the
Incarnation one of the centrepieces of her painting and writing. 92 Wood has also
noted how Caterina’s manuscript illuminations often conflate word and picture,
whereby the text often flows into the decorations on the page, providing a fusion
of text and image. 93 In her biography of Caterina written in 1469, Illuminata
Bembo noted that Caterina was educated at the Este court, and thus she may have
had some familiarity with the humanist debates regarding painting and scriptura.
Illuminata Bembo, a contemporary of Caterina, also describes Caterina’s
paintings in the convent in Ferrara, which are no longer extant, stating: “Gladly,
89
For Caterina Vegri see Jeryldene M. Wood, Women, Art, and Spirituality. The Poor Clares of
Early Modern Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Chapter 5, 121-44.
90
Wood, Women, Art, 124.
91
Wood, Women, Art, 128.
92
Wood, Women, Art, 130.
93
Wood, Women, Art, 130-2.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 241
in the books and in many places of the monastery of Ferrara she painted the
Divine Word in swaddling clothes, and in painting him she often said with great
tenderness: ‘I will take him by the band [of cloth] because he is the fire that
wounds me deeply.’” 94 It is interesting to note that Bembo directly references the
Christ Child as the Divine Word, even when she is commenting on Christ’s
portrayal in the Flesh, offering a direct conflation between Word and Flesh.
Eleonora, who had an oratory and a cell in the convent in Ferrara where she was
known to spend the night, would have surely seen these paintings and would have
been aware of this strong emphasis on the relationship between Christ’s body and
the Word. 95 While there are no specific references to Caterina’s text in
Eleonora’s library, there is a text listed as a tract by a sister of Corpo di Christo,
which may well have been Caterina’s, and as we know that there was a copy of
Caterina’s text at the convent in Ferrara, Eleonora would have presumably had
access to it. 96 We also know that Eleonora’s mother, Isabella Chiaramonte, Queen
of Naples, owned a copy of Catherine’s text and was also closely tied with
Ferrara’s religious institutions. 97 Roberti who worked both at the courts of Ferrara
94
Quoted in Wood, Women, Art, 134. Wood has taken the quote from Suor Bembo’s biography of
Caterina entitled Lo specchio di illuminazione from 1469.
95
Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 373. Payments for the oratory in the convent are found in court
records, ASMO M&F 27.78
96
“tractato de una sore del corpo di Xpo coperto cu[m] cartonj di tella coperto” ASMO AP 638.
138R.
97
It seems that Giovanni Tavelli, the famous Bishop of Ferrara and an influential character in the
history of Ferrarese spirituality, was acquainted with Isabella, for his translation of Bernard of
Clairvaux’s Sermons was dedicated to her. For a discussion of Isabella and Eleonora’s connections
to the religious life in Ferrara see Barstow, Gualenghi-d'Este Hours, 112-4. Eleonora also travelled
regularly to Bologna, as the illegitimate daughter of Ercole was married to Annibale Bentivoglio,
the son of the rulers of Bologna. The convent of Corpus Domini, and the body of Caterina was a
popular pilgrimage site across Italy. Ginevra Sforza Bentivoglio was known to bring illustrious
guests to visit the site when they were Bologna. For instance, in 1463, Ginevra requested
permission to have access to show the convent to three visitors. For the document see Archivio di
Stato di Ferrara, Archivio Bentivoglio, Repert Contratti Tom III Lib 7, n. 29. Ippolita Sforza made
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 242
and Bologna would have also been aware of the tradition, as the convents were
prominent religious institutions, and Caterina Vegri, in particular, had obtained
cult status.
Roberti’s diptych emphasises the connections between Word and Flesh and
text and image, issues with which Caterina and her followers were principally
concerned. Roberti evokes these connections by depicting the two images of
Christ, as a naked baby and as the wounded Saviour, in conjunction with an
attention to the Word in the inscription on the tomb. This emphasis re-asserts the
material vestiges of Christ’s life celebrated through the Eucharist, which was an
important aspect of the convent and the cult around Caterina. As an altarpiece, the
displaying of Christ’s body by the angels on the tomb would make reference to
the celebration of the Eucharist on the altar, and would have thus underlined the
Eucharistic dimension and notions of Transubstantiation. The right panel of the
diptych stresses Christ as the cause of vision as well as spiritual and physical
transformation. On the tomb, Christ serves as Saint Jerome’s vision in the desert.
Jerome is depicted with a rock used in penitential devotions, and the viewer is
reminded that Jerome’s vision of Christ is the therapeutic consolation for his
temptations in the desert. Saint Francis also reminds the viewer that it is through
his meditations that he is physically transformed into the likeness of Christ with
the stigmata. 98 Both saints, in addition to the depiction of Christ, assert the
a special visit to the convent of Corpus Domini in Bologna upon her wedding trip from Milan to
Naples. The wedding company arrived in Bologna on 25 April 1465, where Giovanni and Ginevra
Bentivoglio were their hosts, Southern, "A Prima Ballerina of the Fifteenth Century," 190. For the
document see Archivio di Stato di Ferrara, Archivio Bentivoglio, Repert Contratti Tom III Lib 7,
n. 29.
98
For a useful discussion on the importance of the Body of Christ in penitential practices in
Ferrara see Barstow, Gualenghi-d'Este Hours, 131-2.
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Leah R. Clark 243
transformative power of Christ’s body, carrying Eucharistic overtones. The
attention given to Christ’s body makes explicit the lines of John 1:14 where the
Word is made Flesh, and has specific resonance in the Ferrarese context, both in
relation to Caterina’s teachings and to the humanist debate between script and
painting. 99 The tradition of comparing Christ’s body to a manuscript or a text was
a popular and established tradition in Italy. The Franciscan Jacopone da Todi
writing in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century observed:
I run to the cross and read
Its blood-stained pages—
This is the book that makes me
A doctor of natural philosophy and theology.
A book inscribed with golden letters
And all abloom with Love. 100
Girolamo Savonarola who grew up and was educated in Ferrara stated “take
the crucifix for your book and read that.” 101 This tradition of understanding
Christ’s suffering body and the crucifix as a book to read, in addition to the
Biblical tradition of seeing Christ’s body as the Word, asserts a conflation or at
least an equal reverence for the Word and Image of Christ. Comparing the cross
to the pages of a book has relevance in a Ferrarese context where the debate
between painting and poetry, image and script, was prevalent. A devotional
diptych, that engages with these issues and is in the form of a book, underlines the
complex theological, Christological, and rhetorical implications of such an object.
The diptych thus takes up not only the devotional aspects of conflating
Word and Flesh, and its currency in the Eucharistic symbolism of the Corpus
99
Barstow discusses the important tradition of perceiving Christ’s body as a text, see Barstow,
Gualenghi-d'Este Hours, 160-1.
100
Quoted in Barstow, Gualenghi-d'Este Hours, 160.
101
Quoted in Barstow, Gualenghi-d'Este Hours, 161.
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Leah R. Clark 244
Domini tradition, but also the debate between painting and scriptura, which
figured so prominently in the erudite circles at the court of Ferrara. The panel
underlines the sensory aspects of devotion, through sight, vision, and touch. One
might even say that taste and sound play a role here, if one is reminded of the
taste of the Eucharist through the emphasis on Christ’s body, or through the
sounding of the campanile, by the presence of the bell suspended from the cave,
near Christ’s tomb. Indeed, bells have been examined to have had a special
prominence during the feast of the Eucharist, or Corpus Christi, when the pealing
of bells announced the moment of the elevation, when the bread was transformed
into Christ’s body, and thus consecrated. 102 Attention to the visual and material
aspects of the diptych has been highlighted to demonstrate how a viewer may
have engaged with the object. I will now turn to the spaces in which the diptych
was most probably viewed, to understand how it interacted with other objects in
Eleonora’s collections.
V. Eleonora’s Collections
The references to devotional practices in Ferrara are extremely important
for a diptych, which functioned as a small personal devotional object, but the
diptych’s engagement with literary debates as well as other objects and texts in
Eleonora’s collections demonstrate that such an object might have had a role
within artistic and humanistic circles at court. As I demonstrated in the
introduction to the diptych, the versatility of such an object allowed for multiple
functions, including both private and public uses. Eleonora, like Margaret of
102
Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi. The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991), 58.
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Leah R. Clark 245
Austria, had numerous rooms where her collections were kept, spread out across
two locations. Eleonora had living accommodations in the Castel Vecchio as well
as in her garden apartments, a project which was built under the initiative and
direction of the duchess. These spaces included two studioli, two chapels, and a
number of oratories, as well as various rooms, which served multiple functions,
from bedrooms to entertaining spaces. 103 Her collections were large and
substantial, encompassing a wide range of religious materials. Inventories and
account books reveal that Eleonora owned numerous objects, ranging from small
devotional items such as sculptures of saints, gold and silver pace, to numerous
small altarpieces (ancone) made out of a variety of materials, in bas-relief gold,
silver, and copper, as well as painted works and many tapestries and cloth altar
frontals. Her collections included many crosses, some very large made out of
crystal and gold, and engraved with biblical scenes, and others very small,
encrusted with jewels. She also had numerous agnus dei and a large collection of
paternostri or rosary beads, many made out of extremely expensive materials. She
also possessed many jewels, cameos, and rings, which were intricately carved
with figures. Among the paintings listed in her inventory are two paintings by
103
For a discussion of her renovating projects see Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 98-114. Sabadino
degli Arienti also describes Eleonora’s garden, see Arienti, triumphis religionis. There is often
some confusion in the literature between the garden of the Corte (Ercole’s) and the garden of the
Castello (Eleonora’s). Since the garden apartments no longer survive, it has led many scholars to
confuse the two, notably Gundersheimer and Manca. For an explanation and clarification of the
two, see Thomas Tuohy, "Rescuing Ferrara. Ercole de' Roberti and Art Historians," Apollo 137
(1993): 199-200. Eleonora’s account books survive and demonstrate that she was in charge of all
the commissions and payments for the renovations of both the Castel Vecchio and the building of
her garden apartments. See for example ASMO AP 633, 634, 637, 639, 640. Some of these
accounts are published by Adriano Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara in età umanistica e
rinascimentale. Testimonianze archivistiche., vol. II.I (Ferrara: Corbo Editore e Gabriele Corbo
Editore, 1995); Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.II; Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara. The accounts
relating to Ercole de’ Roberti’s work, notably wall painting and his job as overseer for various
projects, are also published in Manca, Art of Ercole.
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Leah R. Clark 246
Mantegna, a Christ by Bellini, Flemish paintings of the Madonna, three images of
the Maries, a large number of Madonnas, numerous Christs, a Saint Sebastian, a
Saint Jerome, a few images depicting Saint Francis, at least three depictions of the
Magi, a Last Supper, among others. 104 Her account books also list commissions
for paintings by artists such as Cosmè Tura and Gian Francesco Maineri. 105 Her
collection of sculpture consisted of a number of saints, including Saints James,
Jerome, Sebastian, Antonio of Padua, as well as a Nativity, and various Pietà, all
in white marble, as well as a Saint George with feet made out of diamonds. In
addition she had a number of objects that contained relics that would have
stressed the bodily and material associations of the saints. She had many tapestries
depicting Christ, the Crucifix, the Madonna, King Solomon and the Queen of
Sheba, and other religious imagery. Her inventories also list numerous mirrors,
vases, flasks, and other similar decorative items, many of which contain the arms
of political figures, such as Diomede Carafa, and the arms of the commune of
104
The inventory taken after Eleonora’s death in 1493 is partially published in Campori. Although
Campori does not identify it as Eleonora’s, it comes from the inventory located in ASMO G114
(previously AP 638), which belongs to Eleonora’s accounts. Campori, Cataloghi ed inventarii, 13. It is also partially transcribed in Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.II, 35, doc 17. Inventories of
her items also appear in AP 640, which does not seem to have been taken for any particular
reason, but rather as a way to track various goods in the guardaroba. Parts of this account book and
inventory are also transcribed in Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.I, 409, doc 597 bis. Another
inventory of Eleonora’s goods is located in Ercole’s account books, but which records both
Ercole’s and Eleonora’s possessions separately, AP 30.
105
In 1485 Girolamo Zuchola was paid for making a stretcher for a painting Tura was to execute
for the duchess. Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 410 Doc12, h ; Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.I,
339, doc 489aa . For the original see the entry for November 20 1485, M&F 20.134, which states:
“a fare uno telaro a m˚Goxema depointore per met[tere] susa una tela per la Ex[elenti]a di
M[adama Eleonora].” Maineri, often referred to as “Zoanne Francesco di Parma” in documents,
was paid for a number of different commissions. In 1489 he was paid for work done in the garden
apartments of Eleonora, AP 633.170V. In 1492, Maineri is recorded painting images of Saint
Augustine and Saint Francis for an oratory of the duchess, AP 637. 74V. In August of 1493 he was
paid for ‘quadreto dorato’ AP 634. 41V and 43R.
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Leah R. Clark 247
cities such as Siena, Florence, and Bologna, thus underlining her political role and
her diplomatic connections across Italy. 106
Eleonora’s library was composed mostly of religious texts, but also
included works dedicated to her, as well as important secular texts by Fazio degli
Uberti, Petrarch, Pliny, and Caesar, written in French, Latin, and Italian. The
spiritual books contained at least four works by Jerome, texts by later saints and
preachers, such as Saint Bernardino, Saint Francis, Fra Roberto, Don Michele,
and Saint Catherine of Siena as well as a few works on the lives of the Saints and
the Desert Fathers. There are also numerous texts on spirituality: on the
immortality of the soul, on sins and confession, on the Heavenly Ladder, on the
Christian soul, on the Passion of Christ, on the love of Christ, and on spiritual
discipline. There are also some texts written by “sisters,” one of which was, as
mentioned above, written by a sister of the Corpo di Christo, perhaps Caterina
Vegri. Furthermore there are a large number of texts specifically for devotion,
including a long list of messali, Books of Hours, breviaries, and Bibles. Many of
the books are described as illuminated and bound with expensive cloth, some of
which contain representations of the Madonna or similar images on the covers.
Her collection of books reveals a tendency toward the penitential and disciplinati
practices popular in Ferrara at the time, and alludes to a particular reverence for
these forms of spirituality and devotion, paralleling the works of art she
commissioned and collected.
106
Her accounts are also full of payments for various gifts to diplomatic individuals across Italy
and Europe. See for instance, AP 633, which lists a number of gifts to individuals such as Alfonso
d’Aragona in Naples, Beatrice d’Aragona in Hungary, the Pope in Rome, among others.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 248
Fabula and Forms of Assembly
In considering the wide range of devotional objects in her collection, I
would suggest that many of these objects functioned both as devotional tools as
well as art objects, appreciated for their different renderings which heightened
their spiritual qualities as well as aesthetic sensibilities. The Roberti diptych thus
needs to be examined, not as an entity on its own, but rather as an object that was
part of this larger collection. In this context, it participated in a dialogue with
other objects, a dialogue that can be understood as intertextual. While it served as
a devotional object, the diptych was also a painting which cited other paintings, as
well as texts. Dialogical relationships permeate the diptych: an intertext exists
between the two panels which encounter each other, constituting a dialogue
between the birth and death of Christ. A dialogue is created between the main
figure of the Biblical narrative—Christ—and his encounters with later saintly
individuals, Jerome and Francis. Connections are established between the painting
and other paintings in the collection and between the diptych and the texts in
Eleonora’s library. Furthermore, a spiritual dialogue is at play, between God and
the viewer, which constitutes the principle function of a devotional object—as an
aid to communicate with the Divine—giving rise to a specific form of
communion.
As a moveable object, that operated both as a devotional tool as well as an
object praised for its artistic qualities, the diptych’s function would be varied. The
symbolic in the Christian story depicted in the diptych, would have been read in a
similar manner to the symbolic in myth. That is not to say that Eleonora’s
religious paintings were interpreted as mythological paintings, but rather that the
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 249
viewer of such images would have brought to the objects many of the same kinds
of hermeneutic tools for interpretation that she or he would have used for
interpreting paintings with symbolic mythological matter, often located in studioli
and the spaces of collection. Indeed, the idea of fabula can be applied to this
painting, just as it is often applied to mythology. Literary paintings that play on
the notion of fabula, have been interpreted as works that solicit the viewer’s
participation, not only by matching the painting with a text or a textual program,
but also engaging with intertextuality and various forms of citation. 107
Fabula became a common topos in the early modern period, referring to
fiction as well as a story, most commonly but not always associated with pagan
mythology. 108 Rhetorical concepts such as integumentum (covering) and
involucrum (wrapping) also came to be seen as important fabulous modes in
arriving at truth. 109 Giovanni Boccaccio explored the notion of fabula in his
Genealogia, largely connecting it to pagan mythology and interpreting it as a
veil. 110 Boccaccio was arguing against previous thought that placed fabula as
mere ornament and which saw it as a superficial tale in opposition to historia.
Boccaccio draws from Biblical writings to demonstrate that fabula is also part of
the Holy Scriptures, he claims, “Christ who is God, used this sort of fiction again
and again in his parables!” and notes, “our Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
107
Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 11-2.
For a discussion of fabula see Peter Dronke, Fabula. Explorations Into the Uses of Myth in
Medieval Platonism (Leiden and Köln: E.J. Brill, 1974); Peter G. Bietenholz, Historia and Fabula.
Myths and Legends in Historical Thought from Antiquity to the Modern Age (Leiden and New
York: E.J. Brill, 1994). Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 8-10.
109
Dronke, Fabula, 2.
110
Charles G. Osgood, Boccaccio on Poetry. Being the Preface and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Books of Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum Gentilium in an English Version with Introductory
Essay and Commentary (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1956), 48.
108
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 250
often used [this form of fiction] when He was in the flesh, though Holy Writ does
not call it ‘poetry’ but ‘parable’ some call it ‘exemplum’ because it is used as
such.” 111 It was also taken up by Erasmus, who noted that fabula could be
connected to Christian narratives, such as the episode of Christ’s entry into
Jerusalem, whereby fabula was like a drama. 112 Myth and fable-like narratives are
thus seen as fictions, which require deciphering or an unveiling. For Boccaccio, it
is the poet who is equipped with the capacity to make intelligible complex truths,
through the “veiling of truth”, that is through the writing of poetry. As Campbell
has explained “the truth needs the veil precisely to be visible.” 113 This ornament,
which is necessary for visualising the truth, for Boccaccio, is left too ambiguous
and risks a false interpretation when it is extended into the works of artists. 114 We
have, once again, a conflict between painting and writing, and furthermore the
tension of embellishments or ornament, which was a common anxiety in the circle
of Ferrarese humanists.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Treatise on Painting attempted to counter such
accusations by aligning painting with scientific principles which were reflections
of higher values. Painting was thus capable of transmitting knowledge of truth,
carrying moral overtones. Leonardo claims that the notion of unveiling was an
important component of the philosopher’s quest for truth, and the contemplative
as well as active engagement with a work of art could be seen to achieve the same
111
Osgood, Boccaccio on Poetry, 49-50.
Bietenholz, Historia, 147-8. Theatricality in painting, which was a common feature of many
Ferrarese artists such as Tura and Roberti, can be seen as having links to the famous sacra
rappresentazione and theatrical displays held at the court of Ferrara. It can also be connected to
Erasmus’ idea of drama as fabula, in relation to the Christian story.
113
Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 10.
114
Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 10.
112
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 251
moral fulfilment as philosophical pursuits. 115 Leonardo’s emphasis on the eye’s
ability to transmit knowledge is suggested in Roberti’s diptych, with its emphasis
on vision. The aspect of unveiling in relation to fabula can be applied literally if
one considers the velvet covering as a curtain which uncovers the depictions of
Christ’s body and reveals the truths of the Biblical narrative. The panel makes
claims for the importance of painting as veiling and the concept of fabula is taken
up here, not in terms of pagan mythologies, but in terms of how painting can
reveal the Truth through the assemblage of various Christian narratives, carrying
biblical and moral connotations as Christ was the “the way, the truth, and the
life.” 116
Paragone and the Intertext
While the Christian narrative was not considered myth for medieval and
Renaissance Christians, it was a set of stories similar to fabula that were acted out
in theatrical representations, in painting and other forms of representations, in the
religious narratives of the saints, and in the Bible itself, most effectively through
parables. Furthermore, if the role of fabula-type paintings were to function as a
means to engage the viewer in assembling together different narratives or texts to
understand the composition and reach higher ‘truths’, then the Roberti diptych can
be seen as engaging with this fabula notion through its continual references to
texts and images outside of the work itself. The Roberti diptych not only
references the typology of the birth and death of Christ, enhanced by the book-
115
For the notion of unveiling in relation to the philosopher’s quest for truth see Dronke, Fabula,
63. For the active and contemplative engagement with a work of art as means to higher truth see
Mendelsohn, Paragoni, 38 and 55.
116
John 14:6
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 252
like qualities of dividing the two narratives, but also in its inclusion of Saints
Francis and Jerome. As noted, Eleonora’s library contained various books by
Saint Jerome and Saint Francis, in addition to instructional texts on spirituality
and the Bible itself, thus the painting would have set up a dialogue between the
texts in her library and the objects collected in her studiolo. Intertextuality here
works in a variety of ways, from painting-to-painting, painting-to-sculpture, and
painting-to-text relationships. 117 Specifically, Eleonora owned four books
connected to Jerome: a Prologue by Saint Jerome to the Prophet Daniel; another
text listed simply as a book by Saint Jerome written in the vernacular; the third
titled “Saint Jerome on Righteous Living”; and finally a “Life of Saint Jerome
with other things.” 118 The latter three were described as manuscripts and the text
on righteous living contained some illumination. What is interesting is that both
the Prologue to Daniel and the Righteous Living texts were covered in black
velvet; the latter had two fasteners made out of gilded silver, and the vernacular
text was covered with a more elaborate patterning in morello leather with gilding,
and could be closed with three bronze fasteners. Not only were the texts alluded
117
For the importance of intertextuality in the art historical field, see Wendy Steiner,
"Intertextuality in Painting," The American Journal of Semiotics 3, no. 4 (1985): 57-66. Stoichita,
Self-Aware Image. For a study on intertextuality in general see, Julia Kristeva, Desire in
Language. A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, ed. Leon S. Roudiez, trans. Thomas Gora,
Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980).
118
The books are listed in two inventories taken of Eleonora’s collections, one from ASMO AP
638, which has records dating from 1478-85, and one taken after her death from 1493, in ASMO
G114. The entries from AP 638.138R-39R are: “Prologo de Sto gironimo sopra Daniello propheta
coperta de veludo negro;” “Sancto Gironimo coperto de corame morello stampado alla
damaschina;” “Sancto Gironimo del dritto vivere coperto de veludo negro.” Entries from G114.
136R-37R are more specific: “Sancto hieronymo del drito vivere in charta di capreto miniato
coperto di veluto nigro cum dui azuli di argento dorati;” “Uno libro do Sto hieronymo in vulgare
in charta di capreto coperto di curamo morello camurato ala damaschina dorato cum tri azuli di
ottone;” “Uno libro di vita di sancto hieronymo e altre cose in charta buona scripto a penna
coperto di montanina rossa.” The inventory of 1493, (G114) was also published in 1903, see
Giulio Bertoni, La Biblioteca estense e la Coltura ferrarese ai tempi del duca Ercole I d'Este,
1471-1505 (Turin: Casa Editrice Ermanno Loescher, 1903), 229, Appendix II. The inventory of
AP 638, to my knowledge, has not been published.
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Leah R. Clark 253
to in the Roberti diptych, but the physical appearance of the diptych when it was
closed referenced the exterior of the books themselves, corresponding to both the
texture of velvet as well as the colour morello. Eleonora also owned a manuscript
entitled Fiorito di Santo Francesco (The Little Flowers of Saint Francis) covered
in white leather, which spoke to the narrative of Saint Francis in the image. 119
Aside from the textual references, viewers would have made visual
comparisons with the artworks in Eleonora’s collection that depicted the same
narratives. We know, for instance that among the numerous altarpieces in her
collection, Eleonora owned one in a northern style (“ala todesche”), depicting the
Passion with Saints Francis and Jerome. 120 She also owned other altarpieces
representing Saint Francis: one depicting the saint with Saint Peter Martyr; 121 a
large altarpiece in relief, presumably in a precious metal, depicting Saint
Francis; 122 and Gian Francesco di Maineri is recorded in a payment in court
documents for paintings of Saint Augustine and Saint Francis for an oratory
belonging to Eleonora. 123 There were also other images of Saint Francis, which
119
Listed again in both inventories: AP 638. 143V: “Fioretti de sto Francesco coperto di
montanina biancha” and G114. 137R “Fiorito di Sto Francesco scripti a penna in charta buona
coperto de curame biancho.”
120
“Anchona una i[n]casate como la pasione fatta alatodesche com santy franc[cesco] e santy
Ieronymo vechio” AP 640. 124V. Also published in Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.I, 409, doc
597bis. with a slight variance in transcription.
121
“Anchona una in casado come el volto santo e San Franc[esco] e san Pietro martoro” AP 640.
124V. Also published in Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara II.I, 409, doc 597bis.
122
“Una anchona grande cum Sto Franz[esco] di mezzo relevo cum la coltrinella denanti di
cendale cremesino dorata intorno” ASMO G114. 75v. Also published in Franceschini, Artisti a
Ferrara II.II, 36, doc 17. Franceschini, however lists it wrongly as a “Uno quadro dorato cum
Sancto Francesco de mezo relevo, cum la coltrinella denanti di cendale cremesino, dorata intorno”
confusing the entry above the anchona that lists a “Uno quadro dorato cum uno specchio grande”
with the entry below, leaving out the “specchio” or mirror entry and conflating the two.
123
“E ad dito [16 di setembre] ...a m[aestro] Zoanne franc[esco] da parma [(Mainieri)] fina ad xj
de aprile il q[ua]lle d[i]pinssa uno santo agustino [...] e san franc[esco] per lo oratorio di sua
s[ignoria]...” AP 637. 74V. Also noted in Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 113, who notes that Venturi
published the documents in 1888, in his article ‘”Gian Francesco Maineri, pittore” Archivio
storico dell’arte, I, : 88-9.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 254
are described as paintings rather than altarpieces, including a small painting
depicting “Christ and Saint Francis and other figures” as well as “a painted panel
of Saint Francis on wood” belonging to Eleonora but which Anna Sforza was
using in 1493 in her oratory. 124 Eleonora also had a small painting of Saint
Jerome, which I suggest is probably Roberti’s Saint Jerome now at the J. Paul
Getty Museum in Los Angeles, discussed below, as well as a statue of Saint
Jerome in marble. 125 Eleonora’s collections were also full of paintings
representing Nativities as well as depictions of Christ at the Sepulchre or similar
compositions, and thus the diptych would have provided the viewer a model with
which to compare the other renderings of similar compositions and incite
paragone.
Jerome’s texts, which recounted his experience in the desert and his vision
of Christ, are rendered on the panel depicting Jerome’s vision of Christ, not on the
Crucifix but at the tomb. The appearance of Saint Francis receiving the stigmata
in the diptych, while offering an example of devotion and piety, also referenced
the narrative of his stigmata, a story which was recounted in the text of Fioriti di
San Francesco. The depiction of Saint Francis, an event that occurred in the
thirteenth century, was depicted alongside the narrative of Saint Jerome’s vision
of Christ that occurred in the fourth century. These later two narratives are
connected to the Biblical narratives in the panel that constituted the beginning and
124
“ Uno quadreto depincto cum uno christo e Sto francesco e altre figure cornisato e dorato”;
“uno quadro depincto di uno sancto francesco di legno il quale há la p[refata] Ill[ustrissima]
Ma[dama] anna nel suo oratorio”, G114. 133R and V. Also published in Franceschini, Artisti a
Ferrara II.II, 37; Campori, Cataloghi ed inventarii, 2.
125
“Uno quadreto depincto cum uno Sto hieronymo cornisato e dorato”; “Uno sancto hieronymo
di marmoro biancho schieto”, G114. 133V, 75v. Also published in Franceschini, Artisti a Ferrara
II.II, 36.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 255
the end of the Christological cycle: the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the
Nativity of Christ, the Crucifixion, and Christ’s Entombment/Resurrection. The
diptych thus encouraged an intertextual reading by combining a series of
Christian narratives, including stories from the Bible and later texts, as well as
referencing other texts and artworks in Eleonora’s collection.
Stoichita, in his examination of seventeenth-century Flemish cabinet
paintings, uses theories of conversation or discussion to explain how the viewer
‘reads’ such paintings. Cabinet paintings depict numerous art works, serving as a
form of catalogue of a collection. Stoichita notes that cabinet paintings compel the
eye “to proceed in blocks, to go without stopping from one “fragment” to the
next, from one image to the next […] It is up to the spectator to construct, step by
step, a combinatory technique, to establish bridges and correlations […] Linear
reading is replaced by intertextual reading.” 126 Roberti’s diptych, although not as
complex as cabinet paintings, does ask the viewer to use a combinatory technique,
in establishing relations not only within the painting, but with the objects and
texts in the collection as a whole. The literary theoretician Chevalier de Méré,
writing two hundred years after Roberti’s diptych was painted, saw discussion as
a series of small paintings, which formed a single entity once the conversation
was over. 127 De Méré’s contemporary, Gabriel Guéret, also examined the multiple
ways of understanding conversation, by using this combinatory metaphor:
Just one discussion can be both literary through its
quotations—a collection of texts chosen for their inherent
quality—oral or philosophical through its theme—ruins and
the passing of time—, social through its address—a writer
126
127
Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 114.
Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 113.
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Leah R. Clark 256
paying tribute to a great person, and finally, historical through
its concluding allusion to contemporary issues. 128
One might say that Roberti’s diptych functions on a similar level as
Guéret’s conversation, being literary through its collection of texts; philosophical
through its theme of Christian asceticism, devotion, and redemption; social,
through its placement in a collection and its relationship with its patron; and
historical, through its allusion to contemporary devotional practices in Ferrara as
well as through its construction of a historical narrative from the birth of Christ to
the stigmatisation of Saint Francis. We may add another component—the
visual—as the diptych not only quotes historical texts, but also quotes other
paintings and is the source of quotation for later paintings.
To push these notions of intertextuality further, citation can also be
considered in relation to the ways artists “cite” other artists, and provide the
viewer with visual references to other works. Copying, emulating, or imitating,
both in literature and in art, was a common practice in this period and was the
subject of much commentary, but these practices take on further rhetorical
implications when considered in relation to collecting. A collection is already an
assembly of disparate objects, which come together through the ownership of an
individual or family. Merely assembling them forces the objects to interact with
one another, and asks the viewer to posit the objects against each other, finding
similarities or differences. 129 When an object in a collection solicits an
128
Quoted in Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 113. From Guéret’s Divers traités de morale et de
l’eloquence, Paris 1672.
129
This becomes a crucial component of collecting spaces in the sixteenth and is discussed
frequently. For instance, Giovanbattista Strozzi in his Dell’unità della favola, a lecture delivered
in 1599, notes “The mind is pleased [by unity]; when the mind sees different and dissimilar things,
it always seeks to find the similarity between them, and, if you will, it seeks to shape them with a
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 257
engagement with viewers and causes a new text or painting to be made in
response, an intertextual relationship is formed. If such an object is a painting that
cites another painting and both form part of the collection, we have a form of selfreflexivity and an intertextuality. 130 In the early modern period, collections and
their spaces had a particular intellectual and social function. Spaces of collecting
have been studied both as a place for private study, as well as a social space. 131
Visual imagery from the period often stresses the contemplative and religious
aspect, reflected in depictions of the evangelists and Saint Jerome, where the
study is seen as a means of retreating from the public and political aspects of life,
and a place for contemplation and religious devotion. Written records, however,
tend to stress the more public dimensions of the study, as a space for social and
intellectual exchange and as an extension of the self: a space in which one
displays intellectual capacities, artistic knowledge, and erudition. It is also often a
space, not only for the display of humanistic pursuits, but also one in which there
is a political dimension, exemplified through portraits representing political
acquaintances and networks, through the display of diplomatic gifts, or through
form that it produces; in the same way, when in some study or chamber there are paintings,
statues, minerals, petrified things, and other objects of this kind, if they are not organized among
themselves, the mind organizes and arranges them on its own, and if they are organized, it is
pleased by this, and however different they may be, the mind considers them as similar and
assembled to make the unity that it desires, and it includes them under the category decoration and
marvels.” Quoted in Bolzoni, Gallery of Memory, 211.
130
These points are raised in Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 104-5. For citation see Bernard
Beugnot, "Dialogue, entretien et citation à l'époque classique," Canadian Review of Comparative
Literature 3-4, no. 1976-7 (1976): 39-50.
131
For the history of the studiolo, see Thornton, The Scholar. Studies on collecting, the studiolo,
and the museum have also touched upon these notions, see Findlen, Possessing Nature; Pomian,
Collectionneurs; Pomian, Collectors. Also see Campbell’s discussion Campbell, Cabinet of Eros,
29-57 (Chapter 1).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 258
the accumulation of items once owned by famous individuals. 132 These forms of
assemblage—both of objects and people—solicit a comparative analysis. They
ask the viewer to assemble, combine, and compare the items on display. This
gathering or assembling is closely linked to the idea of imitation and emulation,
common tropes taken up by the humanists, but dating back to antique sources. 133
While there were diverse ideas on the subject, the notion of imitation was
linked to citing textual sources, either directly or indirectly, and it carried a wide
range of metaphors. Such metaphors frequently employed the idea of collecting,
often through the imagery of the bee, who through the collection of pollen makes
honey. 134 What is clear from many of the humanists’ texts is that there existed a
tension between the importance of quoting other authors to demonstrate erudition
on one side, and the risk of copying/aping, which was unproductive and lacked
intellect on the other. A need for rivalry and competition also constituted part of
the debate, demonstrating that many authors sought to surpass rather than merely
follow. 135 Quotation, citation, and assembly are connected to intertextual reading,
encouraged by collecting spaces through the gathering of texts by different
authors, but such forms of quotation can be equally applied to works of art. If the
132
For an analysis of diplomatic gifts in collections see Chapter one and for the purchasing of
previous owned items see Chapter two.
133
G.W. Pigman II, "Versions of Imitation in the Renaissance," Renaissance Quarterly 33, no. 1
(1980): 1-32.
134
Pigman II, "Versions of Imitation," 6. Also see Stoichita, Self-Aware Image, 131-3.
135
Pigman II, "Versions of Imitation," 20. This is also hinted at in Decembrio’s text, where
Leonello notes “In those noble ancient times painters and poets were praised and reward with
almost equal generosity. Artists would show their work to each other and then correct it, whereas
nowadays, as we know, they are consumed by rivalry with one another. You remember how
Pisanello and Bellini, the finest painters of our time, recently differed in various way is the
portrayal of my face. The one added to its handsomeness with a more emphatic spareness, while
the other represented it as paler, though no more slender; and scarcely were they reconciled by my
entreaties.” Quoted in Baxandall, "Decembrio's De Politia," 52.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 259
reading of various authors leads to their quotation and thus the production of a
new text, looking also could yield new visual fruit.
Quotation is particularly important for the Roberti diptych, not only
because it cites another painting, but also because it encouraged other works to
copy it and make references to it. Roberti’s painting ventured into dialogue with
other paintings; through citation, it quoted visual references from Mantegna’s
Adoration of the Shepherds, which has an Este provenance (Figure 33). 136
Specifically, it quoted Mantegna’s shepherd in ragged dress, ripped at the knees
on the right, and the wattle fence on the left. 137 Mantegna’s painting was copied in
a number of different ways: in manuscript illumination, in other paintings, as well
as in drawings, and must have been viewed by many. 138 While Roberti copies
these elements, he also changes them, and creates a completely new composition.
For instance, the shepherd in Mantegna’s Adoration is much more ragged than
Roberti’s, not only in his dress, but Mantegna has also depicted his features as
haggard, with wrinkles, and what looks like missing teeth. Roberti, in contrast,
has borrowed the general stance of the shepherd, but has given him softer
features, a supplicating pose with his hands in prayer, and he has made him more
erect, while still copying the shoes and the torn knees.
136
Luke Syson, "Ercole de' Roberti: The Making of a Court Artist," The Burlington Magazine 141,
no. 1153 (1999): xiii. The Adoration of the Magi was listed in the inventory of Pietro Aldobrandini
who inherited many of the Este paintings, and has been assumed to have belonged to Borso d’Este
due to circumstantial evidence. Jane Martineau, ed., Andrea Mantegna, Exhibition Catalogue, The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Royal Academy of Arts, London (New York: Harry
N. Abrams, 1992), 126 and 9,Cat 8, catalogue entry written by Keith Christiansen.
137
It should be noted that the wattle fence was one of Borso d’Este devices called the paradura,
which was used for water drainage, but also referenced land claims, and would have thus
associated Mantegna’s work with Borso, while the allusions to the paradura in Roberti’s work,
may have been simply a reference to the Este family in general.
138
Keith Christiansen, "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy," The Metropolitan Museum
of Art Bulletin, New Series 41, no. 2 (1983): 33-6. Martineau, ed., Mantegna, 126 and 9, Cat 8,
written by Keith Christiansen.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 260
To copy/imitate/emulate is an act which recognises the model as having
something worth drawing from. Although much of early modern literature on
imitation stresses the will to surpass the original, it also alludes to the fact that the
model has some sort of cultural resonance and distinction, in order for it to foster
the desire to copy it in the first place. In cases where textual sources no longer
exist, visual sources can function as traces, which the historian or art historian
may follow to locate associations. 139 Repetition of cultural forms, such as a
painting or a text, allows us to understand how a painting may have been received
in the period and demonstrates its cultural importance for its particular intellectual
and social milieu.
Roberti’s diptych encouraged a series of copies, and Eleonora’s inventory
of 1493 indicates a similar composition to the National Gallery diptych: “a small
altarpiece that closes with a Nativity on one side, and a Christ at the sepulchre on
the other side.” 140 Joseph Manca notes that Gian Francesco Maineri used
Roberti’s right panel, Christ at the Sepulchre in a panel formerly in the Cook
Collection in Richmond, and sold at Sotheby’s in 1978, and he connects this
painting to an entry in Eleonora’s inventory, that states a “small picture painted
with a Christ and an angel.” 141 I would argue, however, that the entry in the
inventory that describes a painting almost identical to the entry for the diptych in
the National Gallery, is actually a copy of the Roberti panel. I have found, as
detailed below, three copies of the Nativity (the left panel) and two, possibly
139
Looking for traces of association, whereby both objects and humans are seen as actors is
discussed in Latour, Reassembling the Social.
140
“una anchoneta che se assera cum uno presepio da un lato e un christo nel sepolchro da la altro
lato” ASMO AP G114, 133V.
141
Manca, Art of Ercole, 144.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 261
three, copies of the Christ at the Sepulchre (right panel), most of which are
attributed to Maineri. The problem that arises around these panels, however, is
that most have been sold to private collectors in the last century and obtaining
images or details on their location have proven difficult, a fate which has befallen
too many Ferrarese paintings. 142 Gian Francesco Maineri was from Parma, but is
said to have studied under Ercole de’ Roberti and he was also employed by
Eleonora for a number of projects. I do not have a documented chronological
order for the three copies, but I have made a suggestion below for their order of
execution. In viewing the reproductions that I was able to obtain of these
paintings, it seems that they may have not been executed by all the same artist, as
the style differs between them. Furthermore, they are not direct “copies” but
include innovations by the artists, and thus would fall within the idea of
quotation: not a direct translation of the Roberti diptych, but an emulation. For the
sake of clarity, I have provided a list of them below, listing them as “copies” in
relation to the “original,” but I am aware that they do more than merely “copy”:
142
The major dissemination of Ferrara artworks, notably those owned by the Este, took place in
1598 when Ferrara was overthrown by the Cardinal Legates sent by the Pope to govern. Many of
the works and archives were collected by the Este and moved to Modena. However many of the
paintings in the churches were left behind or pillaged by various individuals. Emanuele
Mattaliano, "A Story of Cultural Disaster: the Dispersion and Destruction of the Artistic Heritage
of Ferrara," in From Borso to Cesare d'Este. The School of Ferrara 1450-1628, An Exhibition in
aid of The Courtauld Institute of Art Trust Appeal (London and New York: Matthiesen Fine Art
Ltd., 1984). Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini inherited much of what was left of the Este patrimony
from Lucrezia d’Este, Duchess of Urbino. Many Ferrarese paintings were also hidden in the
Certosa by the Ferrarese populace who feared the worst for their cultural heritage. For the history
of the dispersion of Ferrarese paintings see Jaynie Anderson, "The Rediscovery of Ferrarese
Renaissance Painting in the Risorgimento," Burlington Magazine 135, no. 1085 (1993). For the
inventory of Lucrezia d’Este, which lists many paintings originally owned by the Este see Paola
della Pergola, "L'Inventario del 1592 di Lucrezia d'Este," L'Arte antica e moderna (1959): 342-51.
Also see Anderson, "Rediscovery," 539-49; Jadranka Bentini, "Da Ferrara a Roma e oltre. La
migrazione dei dipinti ferraresi dopo la devoluzione," in Il museo senza confini. Dipinti ferraresi
del Rinascimento nelle raccolte romane, ed. Jadranka Bentini and Sergio Guarino (Milan:
Federico Motta Editore, 2002).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 262
Original: Ercole de’ Roberti’s diptych in the National Gallery,
London. (Figure 28a-b)
Panel A: Nativity, 17.8 x 13.5 cm
Panel B: Christ at the Sepulchre, 17.8 x 13.5 cm
Copy 1A: Nativity, Attributed to Gian Francesco Maineri. Private
Collection. Sold at Christie’s December 1969, Lot 140. 30.5 x 24
cm. (Figure 34)
Copy 2A: Nativity, Attributed to Gian Francesco Mainieri.
Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam. 24 x 18.5cm.
(Figure 35)
Copy 3A: Nativity, Private Collection Milan, formerly in Lurati
Collection. Dimensions unknown.
Copy 1B: Christ Dead, Attributed to Gian Francesco Mainieri.
Sold at San Marco Casa d’Aste Spa, Venice 9 July 2006. 48.3 x
36.2cm
Copy 2B: Christ Dead, previously in Cook Collection.
Dimensions unknown. (Figure 36)
Copy 3B: Christ Dead, possibly the same as the above. Sold at
Sotheby’s 13 December 1978, Lot 19. Previously in Cook
Collection. Dimensions unknown.
The first, Copy 1A, as I have suggested, is the copy of Roberti’s Nativity
sold at Christie’s in London on 5 December 1969, Lot Number 140 (Figure
34). 143 The painting appears to be the first of the copies, because it most
resembles Roberti’s left side of the diptych, while the second copy (Copy 2A,
Figure 35) seems to be much more elaborated. The painting (Copy 1A) measures
30.5 by 24 centimetres on panel, which is much bigger than Roberti’s panels,
which measure 17.8 by 13.5 centimetres each. The manger structure is repeated,
although slightly altered, with two doves appearing in the opening above, and the
artist has rendered the attic story as if damaged by time. The shepherd has been
moved from the right to the left, yet still bears rips at the knees, and he now
143
I am extremely grateful to Michael Hardy of Christie’s who scanned the catalogue entry from
the 1969 catalogue and emailed it to me.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 263
carries a hat, inherited from Mantegna’s shepherd. Joseph has been moved to the
right and now no longer copies Ercole’s painting but makes allusion to the tired
Joseph from Mantegna’s Adoration. The Christ Child radiates light from his crib,
while rays of spiritual light filter down to Mary. It is not clear from the
reproduction whether these rays of light are coming directly from Heaven or by
the angel on the upper right corner. The angel also holds an inscription, which is
illegible in the reproduction. Mary now takes up the centre of the painting, while
Christ’s crib has been moved slightly off-centre, to the left of the central
composition. The foreground of the painting is demarcated by a ledge, which
positions the scene of Christ’s birth in elevation in relation to the viewer and
constructs almost a stage-like setting. The ledge might also be borrowed from
Mantegna’s Adoration, which forms an elevated plane on which the Madonna and
Child are placed.
The second copy (2A) of the Roberti original is a painting in Rotterdam
attributed to Maineri, measuring 24 by 18.5 centimetres on panel (Figure 35). 144
This is an elaborate reworking of the Roberti panel, which bursts at the frame
with detail and contains a confusing jumble of planes. The same main structure
occupies the central part of the panel, with two doves in the window, making
reference to Copy 1A. Below Christ has been moved out of the crib and onto the
ground, while an angel and a child carrying a banner (either a putto or perhaps
John the Baptist) have been added to the central composition, with the usual three
characters of Mary, the shepherd, and Joseph. The shepherd has the same hat in
144
Eva C. Kleeman, Italiaanse schilderijen, 1300-1500: eigen collectie / Italian paintings, 13001500: Own Collection (Rotterdam: Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, 1993), 73-4, cat. 19.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 264
hand from Copy 1A and Mantegna’s Adoration. Joseph also alludes to the
previous copy and Mantegna’s work, but now he is placed in a strange space,
almost lingering on the surface of the painting, above or on top of Mary’s mantle,
rather than occupying the perspectival space. An angel hovers above the
architectural structure, and a star on the right top corner sheds light down to the
baby Jesus. There are many more added details, such as the three Magi in the
right background who are now depicted in their full regalia, the elaborate
landscape, and the appearance of other shepherds and a man on a horse on the left
side in the background. The third copy (3A) of the Roberti panel is now in a
private collection in Milan, and was once in the Lurati Collection. 145 I have been
unable to obtain an image of it, but scholars have noted that it most resembles the
Rotterdam panel.
The copies of the right panel of the Roberti diptych have been harder to
trace. One sold in 2006 in the San Marco auction (Copy 1B), which is on panel
and measures 48.3 by 36.2 centimetres, depicts Christ with the Saint John the
Evangelist and Mary Magdalene and an angel. 146 The sales catalogue mentions
another image of Christ and an Angel (Copy 2B), formerly in the Cook Collection
in Richmond, and it provides an image of this copy (Figure 36), not the one sold
in San Marco. Manca has noted that an image of Christ and an Angel was
formerly in the Cook collection and was sold at Sotheby’s on 13 December 1978,
Lot 19 (Copy 3B). 147 It is unclear whether there were two paintings by Maineri in
145
Kleeman, Italiaanse, 74.
San Marco Casa D'Aste Spa, "Sales Catalogue, Venice 9 July 2006,"
www.sanmarcoaste.com/dipinti_web.pdf.
147
Manca, Art of Ercole, 144.
146
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 265
the Cook Collection or the literature is referencing the same one, and I have been
unable to access the Cook Collections Catalogue printed in 1913 to confirm
this. 148 Copy 2B is also a departure from Roberti’s. While it continues to use
Christ’s body as the focal point, and employs the tomb as his support, the
background has become a much more elaborate landscape. A cave-like structure
appears in the background, but is no longer occupied by Saint Jerome. Two saints
accompany the angel, while Saint Jerome and Saint Francis are both absent, and
the crosses of Calvary are faintly painted in the distance. Christ’s loincloth is
reminiscent of the Roberti diptych, as is his gesture and posture, although Christ
is no longer in the tomb, but sitting on the edge, with his feet outside. The bottom
of the painting employs a similar ledge to the copy of the Nativity (1A). This
suggests that there were at least two, and possibly three, copies of the original
right side of the Roberti diptych, and three copies of the left panel. The copies
bring forward the intertextual nature of the paintings Eleonora collected, and
suggests her collections were seen as a locus for artistic invention and citation;
similar to texts on art that were taken up and cited, artists would come to engage
intellectually with the works and create other works in response to those in the
collection.
VI. Other Forms of Citation in Eleonora’s Collections
Eleonora’s inventory of 1493 lists other paintings that were copied, one of
which was a panel depicting a “Madonna and Child with seraphim by the hand of
[Andrea] Mantegna” and below this entry is listed “another panel, copied from the
148
Sotheby’s was not able to answer my query on this painting, as they stated: “due to a large
number of inquiries that we receive, Sotheby’s is unable to answer personal research questions.”
Personal communication 5 March 2008.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 266
above, by the hand of a Modenese.” 149 Scholars generally assume the Mantegna
entry to be the panel in the Brera in Milan, which depicts the Virgin and Child
surrounded by singing cherubim, not seraphim. 150 No painting has been identified
as the copy of Mantegna’s Madonna with seraphim by a Modenese. 151 What is
clear is that Mantegna’s Madonna with seraphim that was in Eleonora’s collection
was seen by a Modenese artist and thus copied or emulated. Eleonora’s
collections containing similar artworks, but executed by different artists, would
have enabled viewers to contemplate the different ways of handling subject
matter, and it would have fostered artistic competition. Her collections, containing
objects which were almost all religious in subject matter, also spoke to the ways
in which religious imagery could serve as a space for critical thinking and
149
“Uno quadro di legno di pincto cum nostra dona e il figliolo cum serafini di mano del
sopradicto mantenga.
Uno altro quadro retracto dal sopradicto di mano di uno modenese.” ASMO G114, 133R.
150
Ronald Lightbown, Mantegna. With a Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings, and
Prints (Oxford: Phaidon and Christie's Ltd, 1986), 477-8; Paul Kristeller, Andrea Mantegna
(London and New York: Longmans, 1901), 306. The Brera Madonna has also been connected by
scholars to letters found in the Gonzaga archives in Mantua, which are written between Eleonora
and Francesco Gonzaga, as well as between Francesco Gonzaga and Mantegna. These letters date
from November and December 1485, beginning with Francesco Gonzaga to Eleonora, who states
that he will try to encourage Mantegna to finish a picture of the “Madonna and some other
figures”, which he is painting for her, and Francesco notes that he hopes to bring it with him or
will send it to her. A letter from Francesco Gonzaga to Mantegna indeed asks Mantegna to finish
his painting, as the duchess desires to “have a painting in your hand” and he suggests, to satisfy
the duchess, Mantegna is to use “every diligence to finish it” and that he should use his “ingegno.”
ASMA AG 1183. These are reproduced in Kristeller, Andrea Mantegna, 482-3, docs 41-5.
Gonzaga’s encouragement of Mantegna to use his ingegno suggests that he knew that Eleonora
was a discerning patron and would enjoy the intellectual application in the painting. At this time
Isabella d’Este was engaged to Francesco Gonzaga and since there are no payments involved in
the transaction, it can be assumed that the painting may have been a gift from Francesco to his
future mother-in-law, Eleonora.
151
There are however, a few paintings which have a similar theme. A painting in the Louvre,
which has been attributed to a follower of Mantegna, probably a Veronese from the late fifteenth
or early sixteenth century, is very similar to the Brera Madonna. A painting of the Virgin and
Child with Seraphim and Cherubim in New York, whose authorship has been contested, has been
attributed to be an early work by Mantegna, and follows a similar subject matter. The Louvre
Madonna has softer features and gentler handling of the subject and could possibly reflect works
by late fifteenth and early sixteenth century artists working in Emilia Romagna, such as Francia.
Martineau, ed., Mantegna, 139, cat 12.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 267
discussion, referencing other ways one engaged with religious material at the
court of Ferrara: through the varying interpretations of the Bible or religious
teachings, through the intellectual debates held on conceptions of the Virgin, and
through the ascetic and bodily transformations of worship. 152
Another painting by Ercole de’ Roberti at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los
Angeles (Figure 37), depicts Saint Jerome, and might correspond to a painting
listed in Eleonora’s inventory of a “small picture painted with Saint Jerome,
framed and gilded.” 153 Saint Jerome does not appear as the scholastic saint in the
study, but as the ascetic in the desert, depicted in an awkward pose, bordering on
impropriety, and placed within a rocky architectural setting. The reverse of the
painting has been painted to resemble porphyry, and thus would have functioned
similarly to a diptych, in the sense that it contains both an obverse and reverse,
and suggests that it may have been portable. 154 The small size of the painting,
along with the large application of gold and brilliant colours, likely alludes to
152
The Este encouraged staged doctrinal debates, which were sites of contention for diverse
religious groups. Theologians from the University of Ferrara were known to take part in public
debates, often organised by Ercole, on the Conception of the Virgin Mary. Two traditions existed,
the Duns Scotus view, that was largely supported by Franciscans, claiming that the Immaculate
Conception was not accompanied by original sin, and the view proposed by Thomas Aquinas,
largely supported by the Dominicans, declaring that original sin was involved in Mary’s
conception. David B. Ruderman, The World of a Renaissance Jew. The Life and Thought of
Abraham ben Mordecai Farissol (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1981), 59-60. These
debates were taken seriously and sometimes even ended in public brawls. In 1487, Ercole and
Eleonora organised and attended a public debate between a Dominican, Lorenzo Valenza, a
Franciscan, Petrus Malfetta, and a Jewish scholar, Abraham Farissol, on the merits of Judaism and
Christianity. Farissol published a book on the debate. Ruderman, Renaissance Jew. Also see
Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 167.
153
G114. 133R. The painting is assumed to have been painted in 1474 for the Este, when Roberti
is recorded receiving a payment from the Este. Scholars have generally dated the painting to the
early 1470s based on the stylistic affinities it shares with Roberti’s Griffoni predella. Allen et al.,
"Catalogue," xxviii. However, putting the stylistic dating aside, throughout the 1480s and 90s
Roberti was employed on numerous projects for Eleonora, any of which might be connected to
this painting.
154
Allen et al., "Catalogue," xxviii.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 268
manuscript illumination. 155 The painting raises many important issues in relation
to religious practices as well as humanistic debates. Jerome’s body is bony and
craggy, borrowing some elements from Tura’s emaciated bodies. Jerome’s face is
almost skeletal, his hand almost too weak to hold up the sceptre which bears the
vision of Christ, an emaciated depiction which makes reference to the importance
of asceticism and the body in Ferrarese religious practices. A text listed in
Eleonora’s inventory, Schalla del paradiso, which was derived from John
Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent, describes the benefits of bodily
transformation through asceticism, whereby the wasted and emaciated body is a
wondrous spectacle, made beautiful in its devotion to God. 156 In the ascetic
tradition, and in later literature, such as Climacus’ work, the body and soul are not
seen in a dualist mode, fostering hatred for the corporal, but rather the body was a
useful tool, something that was cultivated to join both body and soul. 157 As
Campbell has noted, depictions of emaciated saints by artists such as Tura,
created links between the divine artisanship of God, the creative practices of the
artist, and the fashioning of the body as means to the beautification of the soul. 158
155
The presence of the porphyry, thus encouraging the viewer to engage with both sides, has also
been seen as giving the painting the status of a precious object or gem. Allen et al., "Catalogue,"
xxviii.
156
For a discussion of the text see John Rupert Martin, The Illustration of the Heavenly Ladder of
John Climacus, ed. A.M. Friend, vol. 5, Studies in Manuscript Illumination (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1954). Also see Brown, Body and Society, 231, 7-9; Campbell, Cosmè Tura of
Ferrara, 86. A document in Eleonora account/inventory book records that the camerlinga of
Eleonora on 20 March 1488 took the book entitled “Schale del Paradixo” to be used by Eleonora.
This confirms that it was not only a book which sat on a shelf in her library, but one she had asked
someone to bring out for reading. “Fiore di spina, camerlinga della Ill[ustrissi]ma n[ost]ra
M[adam]a di dare ad xx di m[ar]zo [1488] la infrascrite quantitade de robe altri date ala
guardaroba: […] Libro uno chiamato schale del paradixo aparea lo inventoario cop[er]to di
braxilio come la tela.”
157
Brown, Body and Society, 235-7.
158
Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, 93 and 7.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 269
The body and its material transformations through ascetic practices or divine
intervention was a recurrent theme in Ferrara and in Ferrarese painting.
Throughout the Quattrocento there grew an increased interest in saintly
individuals, culminating in Ercole’s aggressive campaign to have the stigmatist
Lucia Broccadelli transferred to Ferrara in the 1490s. 159 Caterina Vegri had
caused a sensation when her body remained miraculously animate after her death
in 1463, exuding fragrant oil, and displaying radiant facial expressions in the
presence of the Eucharist. 160 There was a history of miraculous bodies in the Este
family itself; two saintly individuals, both named Beatrice d’Este, were famous in
Ferrara: the first Beate Beatrice having produced miraculous signs on her body,
which were celebrated by the annual ritual washing of her body and a procession
by the nuns of San Antonio in Polesine, while the later Beatrice intervened
miraculously in contemporary political events. 161 In addition, certain
confraternities, such as the Compagnia di Battuti Neri, participated in violent
public acts of self-mutilation, such as flagellation and the drawing of blood during
religious processions, causing the authorities to intervene when the blood was
collected and celebrated as relics. 162
Saint Jerome had a particular following in Ferrara, both in humanistic and
ecclesiastical circles. An oratory dedicated to Saint Jerome was located near the
159
Gabriella Zarri, "Pietà e profezia alle corti padane: le pie consigliere dei principi," in Il
rinascimento nelle corti padane. Società e cultura, ed. Paolo Rossi (Bari: De Donato Editore,
1977), 204-19.
160
Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, 77.
161
These two Beatrice d’Estes should not be confused with the daughter with the same name of
Ercole and Eleonora, who married Ludovico Sforza “Il Moro.” The body of the first Beatrice
d’Este is still a visited cult site in the monastery of San Antonio Polesine in Ferrara. Campbell,
Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, 77.
162
Campbell, Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, 84.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 270
church of San Francesco, which also served as the burial place of Giovanni
Tavelli, a famous Bishop of Ferrara. 163 The oratory became a cult site for votive
effigies, and Ercole d’Este’s interest with the cult of Tavelli has been seen as part
of his programmatic attempts to appropriate religious devotion for political ends.
Saint Jerome, well known as the early scholar, was an important erudite figure in
humanistic discourses and the culture of collecting.
Roberti’s painting of Saint Jerome should be seen as speaking directly in
dialogue with Decembrio’s text, which asserts that there is greater skill in
depicting nude figures, especially old men on small objects such as gems because
the artist has to concentrate on rendering the body, without the opulent covering
of ornament. In addition, the text encourages the use of images, such as depictions
of Saint Jerome, in places of learning, such as the library. 164 This correlation
between the image of Saint Jerome and the study emphasises the relationship
between texts in a library and the objects in a collection, and encourages the
paragone tradition. Such an image also reveals its paradox: while stressing the
need to re-fashion the body through asceticism—by removing all sensual
desires—the jewel-like preciousness of such small devotional objects embody
what one must deny. They make explicit the tensions in the act of collecting itself,
and in the different ways artists dealt with those tensions in their formulations.
Roberti’s Saint Jerome, while speaking to ascetic practices, also worked to align
the aesthetic capabilities of the artist in rendering flesh with the fashioning of the
163
For a study on the images of Saint Jerome see Bernhard Ridderbos, Saint and Symbol. Images
of Saint Jerome in Early Italian Art, trans. P. de Waard-Dekking (Groningen: Bouma's Boekhuis,
1984). For a summary of Saint Jerome’s life, see Brown, Body and Society, 366-82.
164
Baxandall, "Decembrio's De Politia," 66.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 271
body through asceticism. Its reference to devotional practices thus could also
serve a rhetorical function for the artist and the object’s claims for painting.
The image also speaks to the ways artists could engage with such a
painting through citation. It has been suggested that the figure of Jerome may
have been originally copied from a gem, 165 and it is also noted that the image was
taken up by a painter in the circle of Maineri, in the background of a Madonna
and Child (Figure 38). 166 Here, Jerome appears in a more cave-like structure,
resembling Jerome’s cave in Roberti’s diptych, and he is depicted beating his
breast with the rock in his hand. Another quotation of Roberti’s Jerome appears,
slightly altered, in the background of an anonymous Ferrarese painting, now in
Dresden, depicting a Pietà (Figure 39). 167 He continues to beat his breast, and the
cave-like structure is now placed within a larger mountain-like outcropping.
Jerome has now been removed from his perch, appearing with one knee on the
ground, a combinatory stance borrowed from both Roberti’s Jerome at the Getty
and the Jerome in Roberti’s diptych in the National Gallery. He beats his breast
and envisions a large crucifix, which is no longer in his hand, but planted in the
ground. A drawing of Orpheus (Figure 40), assumed to be by a North Italian artist
now in the Uffizi, follows a similar pose to Roberti’s Saint Jerome. 168 Orpheus’
sitting posture with his splayed legs, mimics Jerome’s position in its opposite;
Jerome looks right, while Orpheus looks left, and it is Orpheus’ left knee that is
bent with his foot on a ledge, rather than Jerome’s right. The lion from Roberti’s
165
H.D. Gronau, "Ercole Roberti's Saint Jerome," The Burlington Magazine XCI, no. 558 (1949):
243-4.
166
The painting is suggested to be in the circle of Giovan Francesco Maineri and was sold at
Sotheby’s London on 30 November 1984, Lot 6. Manca, Art of Ercole, 104.
167
For a brief discussion of the image, see Barstow, Gualenghi-d'Este Hours, 185.
168
For the image see, Manca, Art of Ercole, Figure 89.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 272
Jerome is also copied on the left of the drawing, among the many other animals. If
Roberti’s Jerome was copied from an antique gem as H.D. Gronau has suggested,
then both the Orpheus and the Jerome may have been copied from the same
model; however the presence of the lion suggests that the drawing may have a
direct correlation with Roberti’s Jerome. Roberti’s Saint Jerome served as a
prototype for artistic invention, through citation, and created an intertextual
relationship with other paintings in Ferrara. The figure of Saint Jerome had a
particular resonance in the humanist, religious, and political spheres at the court
of Ferrara, but the repetition of this particular pose underlines its importance in
the circles of artists at court.
Roberti’s representation of the body of the aged saint in a difficult pose
asked the viewer to compare the ways that the practices of asceticism through the
fashioning of the body may have had parallels with the artist’s ability to fashion
the body in a painting. Furthermore, the complex pose of Saint Jerome and the
elaborate rendering of his tunic ventured into dialogue with humanist treatises,
that spoke to the rendering of complex gestures, and in turn, the painting
encouraged other artists to emulate such a pose.
VII. Conclusion
As is evident from the Ferrarese ambassador’s account after his visit to
Lorenzo de’ Medici’s collections, which began this chapter, an assembly of
objects in a collection formed a gathering of individuals who came to look at
those objects. These objects could only be engaged with when they were removed
from their protective coverings, transported out of their boxes, taken off of their
shelves, and touched, perused, viewed, and held up near other objects in the
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 273
collection. The diptych format, in itself, encouraged this form of engagement, as it
required the viewer to open it up, and assemble all the various images on its
panels. Such an object, as I have attempted to show, encouraged a range of
dialogues. The diptych could be seen as facilitating a dialogue between the viewer
and the divine, as it functioned as a devotional item. Following notions of fabula,
the diptych asked the viewer to construct a dialogue by assembling the various
texts and narratives it quoted. It was Boccaccio who noted that the etymology of
“the word “fable” (fabula) has an honourable origin in the verb for, faris, hence
“conversation” (confabulatio) which means […] “talking together”
(collocutio).” 169 This “talking together” or confabulatio has links to notions of
conversation evoked by Chevalier de Méré, who, if we recall, described
discussion as a succession of small paintings. An intertextual reading of the
diptych, dependent on notions of fabula, leads the viewer to construct meaning
through its various quotations, both textual and visual, thus creating a form of
“conversation.”
This idea of “conversation” may be linked to the assembly of objects, such
as the collections formed by men and women of state, that allowed for a gathering
of people, which in turn, could give rise to discussion. Such assemblies should be
seen as sites that bring about debates, concerns, and disagreements. 170 The objects
in Eleonora’s collections asked viewers to assemble the various sculptures,
paintings, and texts that cited each other. These objects also engaged with
169
Osgood, Boccaccio on Poetry, 47.
Things, as Martin Heidegger has noted, have the ability to gather, designating a form of
assembly, where individuals come to discuss. Heidegger, "The Thing." Also see Latour, "From
Realpolitik," 22-3.
170
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 274
humanist and religious debates at the court of Ferrara. The various
copies/imitations which many of the objects in Eleonora’s collections encouraged
also speak to the ways value was placed on artistic invention, and the importance
of works of art in giving rise to other works of art. There is an interplay in
Roberti’s diptych with the religious rituals and ascetic practices of ecclesiastical
institutions in Ferrara, establishments which were under great stress and sources
of contention, fought over by the Este and the papacy, as both sought political
dominance over Ferrarese territories. 171 Such a “religious” object, which
referenced contemporary religious practices thus could also be seen to have ties
with larger political issues. The diptych spoke to debates of painting and
scriptura, which were connected to controversies of social mobility and the
legitimacy of Este rule. Roberti’s diptych, through its intertextual dialogues, its
employment of penitential and ascetic devotional practices, and its attention to
Word/Flesh, painting/scriptura debates, can be seen to actively engage with the
viewer in a number of ways. It functioned rhetorically, asking the viewer to
consider its theoretical, theological, and political implications, by paying attention
to its particular form as a diptych, the artistic rendering of figures, its attention to
171
The Este were made papal vicars in the fourteenth century, which placed the Este as rulers
under papal jurisdiction, but it was not until Borso d’Este’s rule, the predecessor to Ercole, that the
Pope invested Borso with the title of Duke. The papacy’s ancient rights as overlords of Ferrara
granted the resident secular clergy guardianship over this right. In addition, the Archbishop of
Ravenna’s ancient claims to feudalship of Ferrarese territories gave him a prominent role within
the political hierarchies in Ferrara. This relationship between the Este, the papacy, and religious
institutions gave rise to fraught relationships between ecclesiastical authorities and the Este,
leading Ercole to try to seek larger control over the election of ecclesiastical offices. See
Gundersheimer, Ferrara, 13-65; Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 1-52; Adriano Prosperi, "Le
istituzioni ecclesiastiche e le idee religiose," in Il rinascimento nelle corti padane. Società e
cultura, ed. Paolo Rossi (Bari: De Donato Editore, 1977), 125-64. The politics of the Roverella
family, who held high ecclesiastical offices and maintained complicated relations with the Este,
are particularly well drawn out in Campbell’s discussion of their art patronage. See Campbell,
Cosmè Tura of Ferrara, 99-129.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 275
the body and the senses, and its intertextual relationship with other art works and
texts.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 276
Chapter 4. The Order of the Ermine: Collars, Clothing, and Representation
I. Introduction
The famous dual portrait of Federigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, with
his son Guidobaldo in the Urbino studiolo, depicts Federigo wearing both the gold
collar and the crimson mantle of the Order of the Ermine (Figure 41). 1 The gold
collar is composed of various imprese or emblems belonging to the Order, and the
pendant gold ermine dangles from the collar onto his chest. His crimson mantle is
lined at the neck with ermine fur, an animal recognised for its white purity and its
black tipped tail. Other prestigious attributes complement the portrait such as the
Order of the Garter below his knee, his armour, his sword, and, of course, his
male heir. Federigo reads a book, which signifies his honour and status, but also
references humanist activities linked to the studiolo. 2
Federigo da Montefeltro was a member of the Order of the Ermine and the
Order of the Garter, both of which he received in 1474. 3 The Order of the Ermine
was inaugurated by King Ferrante of Naples in 1465 after his successful victory
over the rebellious Neapolitan barons, and it was thus closely associated with his
rule and Aragonese hegemony. Federigo had supported King Ferrante during the
Baron’s revolt in the early 1460s and was later to die defending Ferrante’s
daughter, Eleonora d’Aragona, and her husband, Ercole d’Este, during Ferrara’s
1
Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 620; Raggio, The Gubbio Studiolo, 45.
All of these attributes might make up the performative aspect of portraiture in the early modern
period, what Berger has coined ‘the fiction of the pose.’ See Harry Berger, "Fictions of the Pose:
Facing the Gaze of Early Modern Portraiture," Representations 46 (1994): 87-120.
3
D'arcy Jonathan Dacre Boulton, The Knights of the Crown. The Monarchical Orders of
Knighthood in Later Medieval Europe 1325-1520 (Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1987), 415;
Jonathan J. G. Alexander, Italian Renaissance Illuminations (New York: George Braziller, 1977),
84; Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 620.
2
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 277
war with Venice in the early 1480s. 4 As Olga Raggio has commented, the portrait
stands not only as a dynastic portrait, but also speaks to Federigo’s ambitions, that
the prestigious orders he was granted emblematise. 5 But the portrait also asks
viewers to link together these various attributes to read the portrait a certain way,
making connections between the objects and associating them with the sitter. The
Order’s collar functions similarly; composed of various smaller imprese, it asks
the viewer to link together quite literally the chain’s components to understand the
symbolic meaning. Chapter nine of the statutes of the Order of the Ermine detail
the material and visual forms of the gold collar, employing adjectives and
descriptive language, and providing the reader with a very visual record:
The collar we wish to be made in this way, that is that it be composed
(colligato) of stocks (stipiti), that is trunks of trees, into the top of
which are inserted shoots (ramicelli), which are beginning to sprout
leaves, and similarly of chairs (sedie), from which burst flames, in
such a way that they are joined (collocate) together, that is, one stock,
and then one chair. And in this way the whole collar will be made,
from which will be suspended, onto the chest, an image of the white
ermine, in white enamelled gold, at the feet on which shall be a scroll
with this word: DECORUM; and it should be understood to everyone
our intention, that with these images of the sprouting stock, that
which is converted into a better and more worthy seed, and by the
purest (mundissimo) animal, we signify to our confratri only that
which we must do, which is to be decent, just, and honest, and this is
according to nature and the condition of each, which should be
perpetual. 6
4
Raggio, The Gubbio Studiolo, 29-31. Federigo’s role in Italian politics is examined by Clough,
although he perhaps over-emphasises Federigo’s influence. Clough, "Federico and Naples," 11372.
5
Raggio, The Gubbio Studiolo, 45.
6
“El collare volimo sia facto in questo modo, cioè chi tucto sia colligato de stipiti, cio`e tronconi
de arbori in la cima de li quali siano inserte dui ramicelli, li quali incomençano ad buctare fronde
et similmente de sedie de le quale escano fiamme <...>,per modo che siano collocate inseme, cioè
uno stipite et pi una sedia. Et in questo modo sia composto tucto el collare, del quale collare
pender`a avanti el pecto una imagine di arminio biancho, de oro smaltato in bianco, a li pedi de’l
quale sia uno breve con questa parola: DECORUM; et intenda ciaschuno qual mente sia la nostra,
che con la ymagine de ‘l stipite insertato, el quale è convertuto in meglio et più digno seme, et de
l’animale mundissimo, singnificamo a li nostri confratri quello solo deverse fare, lo quale sia
decente, iusto et honesto, et questo secundo la natura et condicione de ciaschuno sia perpetuo.”
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 278
This remarkably visual account of the collar’s parts—stocks, trunks, shoots,
leaves, chairs, flames—and their movements—insert, burst, suspend, and
sprout—ask the reader to contemplate the ways in which the collar and its
representations were understood in the period. Federigo’s portrait similarly
encourages the viewer to piece together the portrait’s various attributes—to read
it, and thus to compose the sitter’s identity. The portrait thereby underlines the
ways in which such representations use emblematic modes of reading.
Federigo’s portrait is rarely studied in connection to the Order of the
Ermine; the gold collar and mantle are sometimes mentioned as belonging to the
Order, but they are only noted as some of the many attributes of the painting and
sitter. In addition, the association with Naples has not been stressed, except in
Cecil Clough’s larger study of Federigo’s political relations with Naples. 7 Yet it is
precisely his Orders and his connections with Naples that are being flaunted in the
painting.
This chapter examines symbols associated with the Order of the Ermine—
the mantle, the gold collar, the ermine, and the imprese of the Order—
demonstrating how these signs link individuals, representations, and spaces into a
web of associations. In Federigo’s portrait we have an embodiment of the Order.
The mantle and the collar inscribe the sitter as a member of a larger collective
group, not through the actual wearing of the objects, but through the portrayal—
the staging of those objects through a representation. These objects are not simply
From Giuliana Vitale, Araldica e Politica. Statuti di Ordini cavallereschi 'curiali' nella Napoli
aragonese (Salerno: Carlon editore, 1999), 141-2. My translation. An English translation is also
published by Boulton’s with slight variations, see Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 424.
7
Clough, "Federico and Naples."
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 279
political or prestigious markers. Rather, the representation of Federigo sporting
the collar and mantle asks us to think about how the space of the studiolo and the
portrait are linked to other spaces and representations across Italy, harnessing
Federigo’s body to a confraternal brotherhood and the forms of performativity
enacted in its rituals and events.
Representations of the ermine had specific connotations with the Order of
the Ermine, and its inauguration that was itself linked to historical narratives
about the Order’s founder (King Ferrante) and his kingdom. These narratives
were circulated in a variety of forms, through the statutes of the Order, through
print, visual imagery, letters, word of mouth, and in public rituals like
processions. Samuel Daniel in his Worthy Tract of Paulus Jovius printed in
London from 1585, restates the narrative of the Order of the Ermine as follows:
Ferrante…[did] bare a worthie Impresa, which began vpon the
rebellion of Marino di Marciano, Duke of Sessa, and Prince of
Rossana, who although he were Cosin to the King,
notwithstanding did confederate with Duke Iohn of Augio, to
procure the death of his Lord and King being at Parliament: but
by meane of his hardinesse and noble courage, the treacherous
purpose could take no effect…And after a time Marino being
taken & cast into prison, he resolued with himself not to put
him to death: saying, that he would not embrue his handes in
the blood of his own kindred, (albeit he were vngrateful)
contrary to the expectation & will of many his freends, and
Counsailers: and in token of this his noble mynd and
clemencie, he figured an Armelui [ermine] compassed about
with a bancke of dung, with his mot, Malo mori quam feodari:
being the proper nature of the Armelui rather to perishe by
hunger and thirst, then by escaping through the mire to defile
her self, and spot the polished white of her precious skin. 8
8
Quoted in Joseph Kau, "Daniel's Delia and the Imprese of Bishop Paolo Giovio: Some
Iconological Influences," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 33 (1970): 325.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 280
The close association between the ermine, purity, fidelity, and the clemency of
King Ferrante of Naples was well known in the sixteenth century, printed in
popular emblem books not only in Italy but in translations abroad, as is evident
from Daniel’s passage. The fact that these associations were discussed and
circulated throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, demonstrates how
meaning can be produced through the repetition and replication of certain signs.
Ermine is the species of weasel designated as ermine only when the animal is
sporting its white winter coat; otherwise it is known as a stoat. 9 The “pure” nature
of the ermine, linked to its immaculate white fur, has been discussed since
antiquity. However, its connection to Ferrante and its ability to signal political
messages began with the institution and the inscription of the statutes of the Order
of the Ermine in 1465.
The statutes of the Order of the Ermine constituted an initial hand-written
text, which was copied and transcribed every time a new member was invested.
The Order consisted of twenty-seven knights and this text, along with the gold
collar and mantle, was given to each newly inaugurated member. The text was to
be kept in the member’s library, and is considered not only as statutes to be read
and followed, but also a material object constituting an important part of
9
For the ermine and other types of furs see Robert Delort, Le commerce des fourrures en occident
à la fin du Moyen Age (vers 1300-vers 1450), vol. I (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1978); R.
Turner Wilcox, The Mode in Furs. The History of Furred Costume of the World from the Earliest
Times to the Present (New York and London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951), 5 and 16-7; Valerie
Cumming, ""Great Vanity and Excesse in Apparell." Some Clothing and Furs of Tudor and Stuart
Royalty," in The Late King's Goods. Collections, Possessions, and Patronage of Charles I in the
Light of the Commonwealth Sale Inventories, ed. Arthur MacGregor (London and Oxford: Alistair
McAlpine in association with Oxford University Press, 1989), 328. Musacchio’s study also
provides a useful overview of the weasel species in Renaissance dress, although she claims that
martens, ermines, sables, and skunks were all interchangeable in the period, which is clearly not
the case in their price nor their symbolism. Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, "Weasels and Pregnancy
in Renaissance Italy," Renaissance Studies 15, no. 2 (2001): 172.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 281
investiture. The inscription of the statutes is also linked to the ways in which the
wearing of the Order’s mantle and collar invested the body with meaning. The
various imprese attached to the Order—the mountain of diamonds, the flaming
throne, the sprouting stock and, of course, the ermine—were made meaningful
through their constant employment across media. The continual repetition of these
different forms of inscription—textual, physical, and visual—allowed for the
transmission of the sign of the ermine, and opened up discursive possibilities. No
longer merely an emblem or a metaphor for purity, the representation of the
ermine and the material components of the Order—the mantle and the collar—
became something more, that spoke to association, prestige, and honour.
The adornment of the body with jewels and clothing in the early modern
period has often been studied in relation to sumptuary laws and women. 10 Adrian
Randolph has examined the communicative aspect of the bridal body, examining
how the bride’s “physical and legal transition [was] unambiguously inscribed
upon her body” through clothing and jewellery. 11 This chapter examines how
similar adornments—the mantle and the collar of the Order—were bestowed and
worn by members of the Order of the Ermine, all of whom were men. The
emblem of the ermine, not only as a representation on the gold collar, but also its
replication across media, became crucial in publicising the Order, with its
associated obligations and membership. The rituals of the Order required the
10
See for instance Adrian Randolph’s intuitive study, Adrian Randolph, "Performing the Bridal
Body in Fifteenth-Century Florence," Art History 21, no. 2 (1998): 182-200. For sumptuary laws,
see Diane Owen Hughes, "Sumptuary Law and Social Relations in Renaissance Italy," in Disputes
and Settlements: Law and Human Relations in the West, ed. John Bossy (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1983). For the relationship between exchanges of gifts and women, see
Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Women Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy, trans. Lydia Cochrane
(Chicago London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985).
11
Randolph, "Performing the Bridal Body," 189.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 282
material forms of the Order (the collar and the mantle) to create a unity between a
large body of members, and the unchanging sign of the ermine (the emblem)
provided a constant repeatable statement both in ritual and everyday practices.
I begin this chapter with a brief introduction to the two orders of the
Aragonese—the Order of the Jar and the Order of the Ermine. I then examine the
statutes of the Order of the Ermine, which detail the rules, obligations, and
requirements of members of the Order. The bestowal of the Order of the Ermine
was not restricted to the Neapolitan kingdom, and the granting of orders is
considered within the larger diplomatic and political networks within Italy and
Europe. I then turn to the various representations of the Order of the Ermine,
underlining the ways in which these images connected a wide range of objects in
diverse places. These representations are found in a variety of media, from
architectural embellishments and garden sculpture, to depictions in manuscript
illumination and representations of the gold collar itself. The ceremonial activities
of the Order are then studied, outlining the rituals of bestowal and expulsion.
These rituals are particularly important because they reveal how the Order was
publicised visually through the mantle and the collar. It was through these
material objects that a member was made and unmade, creating memories,
obligations, and associations. I conclude this chapter with an examination of three
panels painted by Ercole de’ Roberti which speak allegorically to the mottoes of
the Order of the Ermine. My aim here is two-fold: on the one hand, I examine
various representations of the ermine in a variety of media, which are all
connected to the Order. This emblem appears on objects that are owned or
associated with members of the Order, and it is through this repetition and
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 283
dissemination of the sign—the different processes in which these signs are read
and the ways they connect a body of images—that the Order of the Ermine
entered into the visual vocabulary of members and non-members. On the other
hand, I examine the statutes, the mantle, and gold collar of the Order, to signal
how the inscription of the statutes establishes not only the symbolism of the Order
(and thus the ermine) at large, but also determines other forms of inscription, such
as the wearing of the mantle and the collar. That is, the writing of the statutes in
1465 creates laws that are binding, and determines the social relations of members
connected to the Order for the next thirty years. These statutes detail the
ceremonial procedures as well as rules pertaining to the wearing of the mantle and
the collar, and thus set in place the ritual, social, and symbolic aspects of the
Order. The significance of the ermine, then, becomes no longer merely an animal
representing purity; its representation operates instead as an active, engaging
symbol, which generates a discourse around the Order of the Ermine, Aragonese
hegemony, and international associations and obligations. 12 It is these discursive
practices that I am particularly concerned with, and how the material forms not
only symbolise, but also activate and constitute the Order of the Ermine.
II. Della Giarreta e dell’Armellino: The History of the Order of the Jar
and the Order of the Ermine
The Order of the Ermine was inaugurated in 1465 by King Ferrante
d’Aragona of Naples, following a turbulent political period including
contestations regarding Ferrante’s succession to the throne. The Order of the
12
I take the term “engaging symbol” here from Adrian Randolph, Engaging Symbols. Gender,
Politics, and Public Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence (New Haven and London: Yale University
Press, 2002).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 284
Ermine was not the first order for the Aragonese; the Order of the Jar, instituted
by Don Fernando of Antequera, King of Aragon in 1403, served earlier as their
dynastic symbol, and was inherited by Fernando’s eldest son Alfonso I
d’Aragona, King of Naples and later Alfonso’s son, Ferrante. 13 Knightly orders
were not particular to the Aragonese, and were used throughout the fourteenth to
sixteenth centuries as ways to create international communities, fostering political
alliances and fidelity. The Aragonese were members of other orders, such as the
Order of the Garter (England), and the Order of the Golden Fleece (Burgundy and
the Netherlands), 14 but it should be noted that it was not only political rulers who
received such orders, but also highly ranked individuals and ambassadors, thus
binding an exclusive body of individuals across vast geographical areas.
While I will be going into further detail, describing the ceremonial,
material, and political aspects of the Order of the Ermine, I will provide a brief
history and general overview of the two Aragonese orders here. The Order of the
Jar, also called the Device of the Jar of the Salutation, or the Order of the Stole
and Jar, was in use from 1403-1516. It originated in Aragonese Spain and was
transferred to the Neapolitan Kingdom when Alfonso I d’Aragona succeeded
Giovanna II of Naples. 15 The Order of the Jar was organised around the Salutation
of the Angel Gabriel to Mary and was symbolised by the Jar of Lilies, which so
often appears in the iconography of Annunciation scenes in the period. Members
invested with the Order were given a gold collar (Figure 42), with the links in the
13
Details of the Order of the Jar can be found in Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 330-8. Vitale,
Araldica, 35-54.
14
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 134-5 and 379.
15
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 330.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 285
form of Salutation Jars accompanied by a pendant griffon, as well as a white stole
with a brooch of the Salutation Jar. 16 In contemporary documents its title varies
and is recorded as the impresa, devisa, or ordine della giarra, Giarrettiera,
giarriglie, and Nostra Donna. 17 The Order became specifically connected with
Aragonese rule in Naples when Alfonso founded a church dedicated to the Virgin
on the spot where he had first set up camp during his successful siege at Naples. 18
A procession was held yearly on 2 June to commemorate the day and Ferrante is
recorded as maintaining this tradition, walking on foot with troops to the site
every year. Joampiero Leostello noted in the fifteenth century that the church
erected there was called the Church of Santa Maria Armellino, offering further
connections for the Aragonese with the ermine and perhaps influencing the choice
of this animal for the later impresa of the ermine. 19
According to sixteenth-century sources, the Order of the Ermine was
instituted following the rebellion of Marino di Marciano (or Marzano), Duke of
Sessa and Prince of Rossano. 20 Ferrante was Alfonso’s bastard son and his right to
rule was contested numerous times. In August 1458, Ferrante was finally
16
Vitale, Araldica, 40. Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 330, 5. For representations see 4, 6-7.
Another representation of the collar of the Jar appears on the effigy of Gomez Manrique originally
from the Monastery of Fresdeval, now in the Museo de Burgos, Spain. see Ronald Lightbown,
Mediaeval European Jewellery (London: The Victoria & Alberto Museum, 1992), 261, Fig. 135.
17
See for instance the court account books, Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 26, 629.
18
Alfonso was said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary at Campo Vecchio, and she
inspired him to enter Naples through an ancient aqueduct. An altarpiece was consequently painted
by Jacomar, a Spanish painter, which depicted the Virgin’s apparition to Alfonso, and this
altarpiece was said to have been carried in the annual processions to the site. The altarpiece was
destroyed in the sixteenth century, along with the chapel at the Campo Vecchio. Cole, Virtue and
Magnificence, 49.
19
Leostello reports that Ferrante went in procession to the location on 2 June 1488: “andare a
santa Maria armellino locho doue lo S. Re Alfonso havea posto lo campo: et lo jorno predicto
prese napoli: et a d commemoratione de cio lo prefato S. Re quello di ogni anno ce sole andare a
pede con gente de arme et fanti: et in quella ecclesia aude missa cantata.” Filangieri, 'Effemeridi' in
Documenti Vol I, 150.
20
Paolo Giovio, Dialogo dell'imprese militari e amorose (1551), ed. Maria Luisa Doglio, vol. 4,
Centro studi 'Europa delle Corti' (Rome: Bulzoni Editore, 1978), 55.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 286
recognised as legitimate ruler both by Pius II and the majority of the Neapolitan
barons. However, just over a year later, in October 1459, Ferrante’ s brother-inlaw, Marzano plotted against him, entering into negotiations with Jean, Duke of
Calabria, and René of Anjou, which resulted in five years of warfare. Most of the
barons took the side of Marzano, and Ferrante was left only with the political
support from his allies outside the kingdom: the Pope, Alessandro Sforza, Cosimo
de’ Medici, and Federigo da Montefeltro. 21 In July 1465, the Battle of Ischia
resulted in Ferrante’s triumph over the Angevins, and just over two months later
Ferrante instituted the Order of the Ermine. The triumphant flotilla entering
Naples after the Battle at Ischia is depicted on the Tavola Strozzi (Figure 3),
where ermines are present on the flags of the ships, underlining this correlation. 22
The successful victory over Marzano was an important political moment for the
Aragonese, underlined by its various depictions in architectural projects—basrelief narratives on the bronze doors of the Castel Nuovo (Figure 50) and a fresco
cycle at the villa La Duchesca.
The Order of the Ermine had a religious dynamic, and was dedicated to
Saint Michael the Archangel. The principal feast day of the Archangel, September
29, was honoured by members of the Order, as was the feast of his apparition in
Monte Gargano on May 8. 23 Saint Michael was not only appropriate as the model
of knighthood, but the saint also had a particular resonance in the Kingdom of
21
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 403. For a general overview of the political climate in Italy
during these years, see Vincent Ilardi, "The Italian League, Francesco Sforza, and Charles VII
(1454-1461)," in Studies in Italian Renaissance Diplomatic History, Collected Studies Series
(London: Variorum Reprints, 1986).
22
Pane, "Tavola Strozzi." The ermine emblems are not discernable in most reproductions of the
painting.
23
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 410.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 287
Naples, as Monte Gargano, the famous pilgrimage destination and site of Saint
Michael’s apparition, was located in Apulia, within the kingdom’s confines. 24 The
Order took the ermine rather than the archangel as its symbol. Individuals
belonging to the order were invested both with the gold collar and a crimson
mantle lined with skins of ermine and decorated with ermine fur around the neck,
with a slit on the right side. 25 These formed part of the material accoutrements of
the Order—fur, gold, cloth—which became symbolically charged through the
ritual activities and representations of the Order, which will be discussed below. It
should be noted that there was an Order of Saint Michael the Archangel in France
from 1469-1790, which employed the archangel as its symbol, as well as an Order
of the Ermine in Brittany, active between 1381-1532, which also took Saint
Michael the Archangel as its patron saint, but neither of these seems to have been
connected to the Neapolitan order. 26
Early sources also speak about the Order and its symbolism. Paolo Giovio
explains that Ferrante’s clemency in not executing Marzano for his treachery
relates to the Order of the Ermine and its motto “Malo mori quam feodari” (I
prefer to die rather than be defiled, or death over dishonour). 27 The text is
accompanied by an engraving of an ermine in the middle of a circle of dung
24
For Monte Gargano see John Charles Arnold, "Arcadia Becomes Jerusalem: Angelic Caverns
and Shrine Conversion at Monte Gargano," Speculum 75, no. 3 (2000): 567-88. Michele
D'Arienzo, "Il pellergrinaggio al Gargano tra xi e xvi secolo," in Culte et pèlerinages à Saint
Michel en Occident : les trois monts dédiés à l’archange ed. Pierre Bouet, Giorgio Otranto, and
André Vauchez (Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 2003), 220-43.
25
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 426.
26
For the Order of the Ermine in Brittany and the Order of Saint Michael, see Boulton, Knights of
the Crown, 274-8 and 427-47, respectively. Capaccio notes in his Il forastiero that there existed an
order in England, which took the ermine also as its motto, but was called the “Ordine della Spiga”,
(Order of the Spike) accompanied by the motto “A.ma.vic.” which Capaccio notes the French
translate as “Plustost mourir.” Capaccio, Forastiero, 223.
27
Giovio, Dialogo, 56.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 288
(Figure 43); the ermine was recorded in contemporary literature as an animal who
would rather die than soil itself, letting itself be captured by hunters rather than
taking refuge in a dirty lair. 28 The ermine is represented in profile, similar to other
stamp-like portrayals of the ermine, and yet, with some attempt to make the
animal appear three-dimensional, while the dung heaps are neatly piled
schematically to form a circle, in almost garland-like form, around the ermine.
The image here emphasises the contrast between the purity of the animal and
faecal matter, drawing a difference between the symbolic and physical aspects of
the Order.
Scipione Mazzella’s sixteenth-century history of the Neapolitan kings,
which contains the printed portrait of Ferrante sporting the gold collar (Figure 59),
refers to the impresa of the ermine. Mazella notes that the Order was born out of
the rebellion and treachery of Marino Marzano, remarking that the clemency
represented by the ermine, a creature who would rather die than be defiled, was
taken up by Ferrante who did not dare to stain his hands with his brother-in-law’s
blood. 29 In Giulio Cesare Capaccio’s Il forastiero, dating from 1634, the Order of
28
The ermine for instance is noted by Leonardo da Vinci in his Manuscript H, see James Beck,
"The Dream of Leonardo da Vinci," Artibus et Historiae 14, no. 27 (1993): 188-9.
29
“...Portò Re Ferdinando una bellissima impresa, laquale nacque dal tradimento, e ribellione di
Marino Marzano Duca di Sessa, e Principe di Rossano, il quale ancorche gli fusse cognato,
nondimento (come di sopra s’è racco’to) s’accostò al Duca Giouanni d’Angiò, e macinò
d’ammazar a` parlamento il Re suo signore, ma per l’ardire, e franchezza del Re l’effetto non
puote seguire d’vcciderlo, e doppo alcun tempo essendosi rappacificato con il Re, e di nuovo
secretam’ete tramado insidie, fu per ordine del Re fatto porre prigione con risolutione di no’ farlo
morire per mano del boia, dicendo non volersi imbrattare le mani nel sangued’vn suo cognato,
ancorche traditore, & ingrato, contra il parere di molti suoi amici partigiani, e co’siglieri, e per
dechiarare questo suo generoso pensiero di clemenza figura` vn’Armellino circondato da un riparo
di letame, con vn motto di sopra. Malo mori quam foedari. Essendo lo propria natura
dell’Armellino di patire prima la morte, che fuggendo passar per luoghi brutti, oue potesse
macchiare il candore, e la politezza dellla sua pretiosa pelle. Edesi l’effigie di Re Ferdina’do
scolpita di marmo in molti luoghi di Napoli, ma più che altroue elegatissimamente fatto di rileuo
dal petto in su` di bronzo nella Chiesa di Monte Oliueto di detta città, nella cappella della Passione
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 289
the Ermine is discussed as an impresa of fidelity. 30 He notes that the Duke of
Urbino, “Gran FrancescoMaria Secondo della Rovere” has a Spanish copy of the
statutes in his library, and Capaccio includes a quote from the statutes, which
describes the appearance of the mantle and the collar. The collar can be found, he
observes, on the bronze bust of Ferrante in the monastery of Monteoliveto in
Naples. Capaccio also recounts the history of the Order as having links to
Marzano’s treachery and Ferrante’s unwillingness to soil his hands with the blood
of family, noting the use of the motto “Nunquam” and “malo mori quam
feodari.” 31 Capaccio thus draws links between the different texts, images, and
places he had come into contact with, from the textual description of the collar
and mantle in the statutes located in Urbino, to the representation of the collar on
the bronze bust in Monteoliveto in Naples. Giovanni Antonio Summonte, in his
history of Naples, recounts Ferrante’s particular devotion to the Archangel Saint
Michael and he cites Giovio’s belief that the institution of the Order of the Ermine
di N.S. Giesu Christo, e leggiardissmiamente depinta in Poggio Reale un miglio fuor di Napoli, &
in habito particolarmente armato a cauallo di rileuo tutto di bronzo, nel palazzo del Duca di
Mataluni, nel mezo del cortile, quale sta su` un’alta colonna di marmo.” Mazzella, Vite, 396-7.
30
“ perche se ben so’ che quell’animale ha’ seruito per Impresa di fedeltà; non hò però mai saputo
che fusse stato Ordine di Caualleria.” Capaccio, Forastiero, 222.
31
“ne io il seppi mai, eccetto che vn giorno ragionandone con quel Gran Francesco Maria
Secondo della Rouere, Duca d’Vrbino, prontuario di tutto’l sapere, in quella sua famosa libraria di
Castel durant; ne sapend’io che dirgli di questo Armellino, me fé legere un’autore Spagnolo, che
ne scriue con queste parole ch’io volse pormi a memoria: Trahe en çima de aquella ropa vn manto
abierto por el lado derecho de raxa carmesi, afforado en Armignios es roçagante como ropa de
Estado que dizen llamarse el manto de la Empresa. Trahe mas en cima del dicho manto, vn collar
de oro fecho Ibecio, todo de esclauones à manera de Castillos cada vno con vnas llamas de
ruchiller que toman todo el esclauon. Tambien vno Armignio de esmalte blanco el qual cuelga de
el dicho collar con vna pequeña cadenica. El dicho Armignio esta sobre vna letera de oro que
dizen DECORVM; che poi con molto mio gusto viddi nel Monistero di Monte Oliueto nella
Cappella Del S. Sepolcro fatto dagli Aragonesi, nel petto di Re Ferdinando. Et intesi poi che D.
Ferdinando Primo essendo sollecitato alla morte di Martino Marzano Duca di Sessa, e Principe di
Rossano perche hauea seguito le parti di giouanni Duca d’Angiù, hauea anco trattato di vccider
l’estesso Re, non volse mai farlo, dicendo che non conueniua ad vn Re macchiarsi le mani nel
sangue d’vn parente [...]Gli Aragonesi poi gli diedero il motto, Nunquam. egli altri Malo mori
quàm foedari. ” Capaccio, Forastiero, 222-3.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 290
was linked to Marzano’s treachery, noting that the nature of the ermine is to
choose death over ruining its white fur, and references the Malo mori, quam
feodari motto. 32 Summonte also notes that Ferrante used both the image of Saint
Michael as well as the ermine on his coins; Saint Michael was accompanied by
the inscription “Iusta tuenda” to signal Ferrante’s just rule, and the coin depicting
the ermine was called “Armellina,” to remind all, he declares, of the
“ungraciousness of Marino and the generosity of Ferrante’s soul” (Figure 47). 33 In
a letter from September 1465, Angilberto del Balzo, the son of the Duke of
Andria and nephew of Queen Isabella and King Ferrante, reported to the Duke of
Milan about the wedding celebrations held in Naples in honour of Ippolita Sforza
and Alfonso d’Aragona. Angilberto notes that King Ferrante had just made the
impresa and the collar of the ermine public, with its accompanying chapters of
observation. 34 While the institution of the Order was thus timed to correspond
32
“Del fine di Marino Marzana duca di Sessa, e Princpe di Rossano ragionando Michel Riccio
dice, che in progresso di tempo il Re lo fe’ morire di violenta morte[...]Il Giouio vuole che il Re
risoluto di non far con violenza morir il Marzao suo cognato, hauesse figurato l’imprese
dell’Armellino circondato di sangho (fangho?) col motto Malo mori, quam foedari,
perciò che la propria natura dell’Armellino e’ di patir prima la morte per fame, e sete,
ch’imbrattarsi cercando fuggire per non macchiare il candore, e la politeza della sua pelle, che
rercio’ dicono i Naturali, ch’il cacciatore, che vuol prender l’Armellino, sapendo la sua natura, fa’
vn lungo riparo di fangho attorno la sua tana, & offerua che vscendo l’animal egli ottura l’entra a
in tante, che non potendo egli vscire dal riparo per non restar imbrattato, ne potendo entrar nella
tanta otturata, si lascia prendere.” Giovanni Antonio Summonte, Dell'Historia della città , e regno
di Napoli. Tomo Terzo, ove si descrivono le vite, e fatti de' suoi Rè Aragonesi dall'anno 1442, fino
all'anno 1500. BNN: B.BRANC. 117 K (29 (Naples: Antonio Bulifon and Novello de Bonis,
1675), 337-9, 449-50.
33
“Questa impresa [dell’ ermine], dunque ciascuno dell’età nosta si puo’ racordare, hauerla veduta
scolpita nella moneta d’argento di questo Re nominata Armellina di valuta di grana quattro, e
questo acciò fusse not a’ ciascheduno l’ingratitudine del Principe di Rossano, e la generosità
dell’animo suo.” Summonte, Historia Tom. III, 337,450.
34
“Suso dicta festa [f]ece soa M[aest]à uno redarmes per esso poy fece bandire la imp[r]esa et l
colaro del armedino con certi cap[e]lli da far observat[ione].” BNP ITAL 1591 MF 13322. 165R.
Letter of 29? September 1465, Angilberto to the Duke of Milan. For information on Angilberto see
Franca Petrucci Nardelli, "Del Balzo, Angilberto," in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, ed.
Alberto Maria Ghisalberti (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1976), 297.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 291
with the feast day of the Archangel Michael, it also coincided with the marriage,
which was to solidify a Milan-Naples alliance.
The timing of the institution of the Order then, should be seen as being
integral to the political scene and contemporary negotiations, when an alliance
with Milan was being fostered through marriage, and winning the fidelity of the
local baronage was crucially important for Ferrante’s success. The Order was
effectively political, promoting Aragonese hegemony and creating connections
between members across Italy and Europe. An examination of the statutes will
reveal how the Order sought to bind members into fidelity through precise
regulations.
III. The Statutes of the Order of the Ermine
Two manuscript copies of the statutes of the Order of the Ermine exist
today: a Latin copy in the British Library, and the other, in Italian, in the Abbey of
Santissima Trinità di Cava dei Tirreni. 35 The Latin copy in the British Library
dates from 15 April 1486 and contains the arms of the Aragonese and the Orsini
together with an ermine dangling below (Figure 44). 36 We know that Virgino
Ursino (or Orsini) received the impresa of the Ermine in 1487 and was sent a
standard depicting various devices pertaining to the Order, such as the flaming
throne and the mountain of diamonds in February 1487, and this manuscript
35
Unfortunately I have been unable to see either of these manuscripts. The Latin text was held at
the Abbey in Cava, Codex Cavensis 64 and was published in 1845 by Giuseppe Maria Fusco. It is
now apparently lost according to Clough, "Federico and Naples," 132, n. 81.The Italian version in
the British Library is catalogued under MS. Add. 28,628. Vitale, Araldica, 109 and 31; Boulton,
Knights of the Crown, 407.
36
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 406.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 292
presumably was his. 37 There exist no printed copies of the statutes, and one may
assume that each manuscript was transcribed when a new member of the order
was invested. We have thus a text—a list of rules—that was reinscribed with each
new member, which should be seen as an integral part of the rituals of investiture,
and which provided a link between text and event. Furthermore, because the
statutes were written rather than printed, they stress the processes associated with
becoming a member—the physical transcribing of the rules—and they also
authenticate the notion of an “original,” something authorised by the King/Capo
himself. The text in both existing manuscripts, although in different languages, is
virtually identical, and must have been based on the same original, thus
underlining regularity and consistency. 38
The statutes consist of 137 ordinances which are organised into thirty-three
chapters, detailing the observances of the two annual feasts, the spiritual and
fraternal obligations of the members, the ritual of induction, the Order’s habit and
collar, the election of new members, the Order’s chapel and clergy, and
qualifications for admission. The Order was to be comprised of twenty-seven
37
It should be noted that throughout the 1480s Ferrante sought to procure the leading Roman
barons into his service. His first choice was to gain the support of Virginio Orsini, who indeed in
1485 had been paid as governor-general of the Lega during the Barons’ War. This condotta had
been renewed in 1487 but dissolved in 1489, and thus was not completely secure. Ferrante
obviously sought Orsini as a member of the Order of the Ermine to insure his loyalty to Naples.
Orsini’s investiture was noted in an anonymous chronicle “Eodem anno [1487], il Signor Virginio
Ursino pigliò la impresa del Signor Re l’Armellino, e quello de casa de Aragona.” Quoted in
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 404, n. 20. On 11 February 1487 payments are made for a standard
with various devices to be sent to Rome to Virginio Orsini. Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 629. “Si
consegna al tesoriere Giov. Antonio Poderico uno stendardi di tafeta circondato di un friso d’oro a
modo d’interlaccio massiccio, con le armi del Re poste in mezzo e piu su con le sue divise cioe tre
segie de foco, quattro manti di diamanti, quattro lacci di Salamone, tre gerbe di miglio, e li libri, e
col resto del campo seminato de fiamma de foeo tucto facto de bactaria di fuoco e cinto di frangia
d’oro. Questo stendardo deve inviarsi a Roma a Virginio Orsini.” Italics are part of Barone’s
transcription, indicating the original dialect.
38
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 408.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 293
knights, in addition to a college of canons attached to the Order’s chapel, and
three corporate officers. 39 There was to be one Capo or Superiore who was the
overseer of the Order (Ferrante and consequently his successors) and the other
twenty-six members were called confratri et compagni. 40
While the first companions were most likely appointed by Ferrante, all
successors were to be elected by the surviving confratri. 41 Those elected were to
receive investiture of the Order in the chapel, following strict protocol, which will
be elaborated below when we examine the collar and the mantle, but companions
were also allowed to receive the investiture in absentia, if they could not travel to
Naples. 42 Membership in the Order was to be for life, although Ferrante made
sure that expulsion from the Order was also detailed in the statutes, if a
companion was to partake in a shameful act. 43 Unlike other orders, which did not
detail expulsion, close attention to the rites of expulsion seem to have been an
explicit attempt by Ferrante to discourage treason, thus underlining the Order as a
symbol of fidelity. 44 Furthermore, any confratri who committed an act that
resulted in public infamy, or that caused a mark against those associated with the
Order, was required to send an excuse to the Capo, and to inform his confratri at
the next meeting how he intended to rid himself of this infamy. 45 Membership in
the Order was thus never completely secure, and it was always about becoming
39
These numbers were symbolic in relation to nine orders of angels related to the Order. Boulton,
Knights of the Crown, 411.
40
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 411-2.
41
If any confratre died, all members as well as the canons had to have a mass in his or her honour,
amounting to 477 purgatorial masses. Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 419.
42
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 413.
43
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 416.
44
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 417.
45
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 420.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 294
and maintaining one’s reputation, according to the exemplum set forth by the
statutes. Employment of the sign of the ermine in various media by Federigo da
Montefeltro, especially in portraiture, was a way of re-iterating one’s membership
and one’s loyalty to the Order. To underline further the exclusive nature of the
Order, entry could only be granted—not requested—thus stressing the honour of
bestowal. 46
The statutes also contained stipulations on political allegiances and warfare.
All members were required to assist the Capo (Ferrante and then his successors) if
he were to go to war against the enemies of the Christian faith. 47 Giuliana Vitale
has underlined the ethico-religious component of the Aragonese orders, noting
that anti-Turkish sentiment was an underlying theme of knighthood. 48 The
Aragonese were in constant negotiations with the Turk throughout the fifteenth
century, resulting in the Turkish invasion of Otranto in the 1480s and such a
stipulation was thus an overt way to foster crucial support—monetary and
military—during these unstable times. Members were also required to inform
other confratri if they found out anything that might prove harmful to them and
they were required to assist those members who through war or travel, found
46
While the nobility of the confratri was stressed, the Order’s statutes were unusual in comparison
to other contemporary orders in the fact that they explained that this nobility was not only the
prerogative of those born into it, but also could be earned: “[a] And considering that the nobility of
blood is of great value to perfect virtue and glory and the opinion of men, although he who is
virtuous may be noble in himself (da per se), we ordain that this Order must be given to famous
and noble men, not to the ignoble and vile; [b] either to such men as are noble from their
antecedents (da li suoi antiqui), [c] or to such men as have earned nobility to their toil and
industry, [d] provided that this earned nobility is of such a nature that it can be assimilated to noble
lineages.” Boulton’s translation, Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 412 and 8.
47
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 418.
48
Vitale, Araldica, 2-35.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 295
themselves in the hands of the Infidel. 49 Disputes between confratri were highly
discouraged, and if any disputes were to arise between members, they were to be
presented to the Capo before going to war; the Capo was then responsible for
issuing judgement. 50 As many of the members of the Order were principal barons
of the kingdom and ruling political figures across Italy and Europe, the statutes
can be seen as attempts to create fidelity and alliances among various conflicting
political contenders. It was also a way for Ferrante to surround himself with a
group of individuals dependent on him for overseeing peace.
The rules in relation to religious observations were quite detailed and
extensive. Confratri were required to celebrate both feast days of Saint Michael
and to take a Lenten fast on the eve of the principal feast, and to confess their sins
and to take communion on the feast day. 51 Furthermore, during the interval
between the vespers of the vigil of the principal feast to the vespers of the feast
day itself, they had to refrain from “all mundane work and exercises” and from
“all secular business not related to the feast, games, plays, jousts, or other
exercises of arms, save in case of necessity.” 52 All confratri who were subjects of
the Sovereign were required to partake in the court celebration of the principal
feast, unless they had a reasonable excuse, and any who were not able to partake
had to participate in a similar service. 53
49
Members were also obliged to help any companion who had fallen into poverty. Boulton,
Knights of the Crown, 419.
50
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 421.
51
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 419-20.
52
Translated by Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 419-20.
53
If a confratri did not celebrate the principal feast accordingly, they were to provide thirty masses
for the souls of any departed members, and anyone who did not celebrate the feast of the
Apparition had to feed nine paupers. Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 420.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 296
Specificities of the Order’s Chapel are also mentioned in the statutes. There
was to be an Ecclesia de San Michaele, complete with twenty-seven stalls each
affixed with a shield belonging to each member. 54 The fact that no known church
dedicated to that saint existed in Naples at the end of the fifteenth century poses a
bit of a problem for defining a precise location. Some scholars have suggested
that the ceremonies may have taken place in a chapel at the Church of
Monteoliveto, where Guido Mazzoni’s Lamentation was erected, containing a
portrait of Alfonso II d’Aragona in the guise of Joseph of Arimathea, as well as
the portrait bust of Ferrante (or possibly Alfonso II) wearing the collar of the
Order (Figure 58). 55 Contemporary documents such as ambassador reports or
chronicles do not necessarily clarify the issue. Leostello’s Effermidi, recounting
the deeds of Alfonso II d’Aragona, Duke of Calabria, notes several times that
Alfonso celebrated the festa of Saint Michael in relation to the Order of the
Ermine. On 28 September 1487, for instance, Leostello records that Alfonso
stayed in the Castel Nuovo (rather than in his residence at the Castel Capuano)
because it was the day of the Ermine, and in the morning he listened to mass with
the king, but does not detail where they heard this mass. 56 There was a Sala
dell’Ermellino in the Castel Nuovo, decorated with ermines which may have been
a suitable spot, but one would assume that it would be designated as cappella or
chiesa if this indeed was the space where mass was to be held, although Filangieri
54
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 421.
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 422. For Guido Mazzoni’s work in this chapel see Roberto Pane,
"Guido Mazzoni e la Pietà di Monteoliveto," Napoli Nobilissima XI (1972); Hersey, Artistic
Renewal of Naples, 109-10.
56
“Die xxviij. Eiusdem lo S. duca anno a dormire al castel nouo per che la matina era lo erminio:
et la matina audi messa sollenne con lo S. RE et poi torno in castel capuano che fu Sancto Michele
archangelo lo quale tene per suo aduocato et sua I.S. lo fa guardare da tucti de sua casa.”Filangieri,
'Effemeridi' in Documenti Vol I, 138.
55
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 297
notes that there was an oratory beside it. 57 There was also a large chapel in the
Castel Nuovo, which was often used for public masses and may have served the
purpose. Leostello also notes that on 8 May 1488, the day of the Apparition of
Saint Michael, Alfonso went to hear mass with the “arminio” at “Santa Maria de
Monte Oliveto” for the festa of Saint Michael. 58 Alfonso had a particular
attachment to the Church and monastery of Monteoliveto, and because this was
the day of the Apparition and not the principal feast, it may have been celebrated
here. This reference to the Church of Monteoliveto is the only reference we have
to an exact location, and it may well have served the purposes for the Order. It
should also be noted that San Domenico Maggiore was once the monastery and
Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo until the thirteenth century, and its history
under that saint may have stuck well into the fifteenth century. 59 San Domenico
Maggiore was an important church for the Aragonese, housing many of the
family’s tombs, including Ferrante’s, and also the site of Diomede Carafa’s
chapel and tomb. 60 It is also possible that the church of Santa Maria Armellino,
which was outside Naples, and as mentioned, was recorded as the church where
the Aragonese travelled to on foot to celebrate Alfonso’s successful siege of
57
For a description see de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol I, 134; Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 238.
“Surexit bona hora et expeditis quibusdam negocijs caualco et ando ad audire la messa cantata
con lo arminio a sancta maria de monte oliueto proprter festum sancti Michaelis” Filangieri,
'Effemeridi' in Documenti Vol I, 216. The church of Monte Oliveto also goes by the name of
Sant’Anne de’ Lombardi, see Vittorio Gleijeses, Chiese e palazzi della città di Napoli (Naples: La
Botteguccia, 1991), 144-8.
59
Gaetano Filangieri, Documenti per la storia, le arte e industrie per le provincie napoletane
raccolti e pubblicati. Estratti di Schede Notarili, 6 vols., vol. III (Naples: Tipografia
dell'Accademia Reale delle Scienze, 1885), 5.
60
For Diomede Carafa’s tomb and the Cappella Carafa see de Divitiis, Architettura e committenza,
137-69. Thomas Aquinas was also a monk at this monastery. Filangieri, Documenti Vol III, 5.
58
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 298
Naples in relation to the Order of the Jar, may also have been used for the Order
of the Ermine.
The statutes were thus very specific in detailing the responsibilities of
members. They outlined the required movements and actions of members and
specified the rites, elaborating on the festivals and feast days to ensure all
members across geographical space were connected through repeated ritual.
Although the location of the Order’s chapel is unknown today, its description in
the statutes reveals that it served as a central location of ritual and investiture,
complete with a seat for each member. This chapel thus served both as a
geographical location as well as a symbolic space, operating as the sacred
headquarters for the Order for members across Italy and Europe.
IV. Members and International Association
Ferrante not only bestowed the Order of the Ermine on individuals but he
was also the recipient of other illustrious orders and such bestowals were part of
international diplomatic networks. The objects of each order played a crucial role
in investiture so that bestowal was intrinsically linked to the receiving and
granting of specific objects. Therefore, we might view the bestowal of orders as
similar to the rubric of gift-giving in the period. In 1475, Antonio di Borgogna
came to Naples and was lodged at the Carafa Palace, and with him he brought his
brother’s Order of Saint George. 61 Alfonso I d’Aragona and Ferrante were both
invested with the English Order of the Garter in 1450 and 1460 respectively as
61
Pontieri, Storia di Ferrante I, 105.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 299
well as the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece. 62 In April 1473, the
Burgundian ambassador to Naples mentioned that Pierre of Luxembourg, nephew
of the Duke of Burgundy and son of Louis, Count of San Polo, was to come in
May of that year with the “impresa of the said signor” to bestow upon King
Ferrante. 63 Other political figures across Italy were invested with these orders as
well: Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and son-in-law of Ferrante was invested
with the Order of the Garter in 1480. Ercole was also possibly invested with the
Order of the Golden Fleece in 1475 when the local chronicler noted that Zoanne
Antonio, son of Diomede Carafa and ambassador of King Ferrante, invested
Ercole in the cathedral with the mantle and gold necklace of the order of
Burgundy, presumably that of the Golden Fleece. 64 Ercole is also mentioned as a
member of the Order of the Ermine. Duke Federigo da Montefeltro of Urbino was
invested both with the Order of the Garter and the Ermine in 1474. 65 These
individuals were thus not only connected through more obvious political court
relations, but also as members of these orders.
62
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 135 and 379. Ferrante ordered the statutes of the Order of the
Golden Fleece or “Ordine del Toson d’oro” to be translated from Flemish into Italian, see Angela
Pinto, "'Coverti di seda et d'oro...' Legature per la corte aragonese," in Libri a corte. Testi e
immagini nella Napoli aragonese, ed. Emilia Ambra (Naples: Paparo Edizioni, 1997), 110.
63
The ambassador of the Duke of Borgogna was there to celebrate the wedding festivities of
Eleonora d’Aragona and her marriage to Ercole d’Este. This was reported by Zaccaria Barbaro.
Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 569-70, Letter 264, 15 April 1473.
64
Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 394-5. The chronicler may have made a mistake in the Order, as
Ercole is known to have received membership into the Order of the Ermine in November 1475,
and considering that Zoanne Antonio was the ambassador of Ferrante, this may have been the
mantle and collar of the Ermine and not that of Burgundy. Ercole is recorded receiving the Order
of the Ermine in his letters to Galeazzo Sforza from November 1475, see ASMI SPE 323. 110 and
162. Ercole d’Este was depicted wearing the Order of the Garter in a fresco cycle in Belriguardo,
described by Sabadino degli Arienti. Arienti, triumphis religionis, 61-2. Manca has translated the
excerpt into English, Joseph Manca, "The Presentation of a Renaissance Lord: Portraiture of
Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara (1471-1505)," Zeitschrift Für Kunstgeschichte 52 (1989): 538.
65
Alexander, Italian Renaissance Illuminations, 84. Clough, "Federico and Naples," 160.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 300
The list of members invested with the Order of the Ermine is long, but
examining some of the confratri is important in understanding what it meant to be
part of the Order, and how Ferrante used the Order to create a circle of individuals
dependent on him, not as subjects in his realm, but as an international brotherhood
of fidelity devoted to the king. 66 The investiture of an Order, along with its token
clothing and collar or jewellery, was a form of obligation, which necessitated a
response. When such a bestowal was given from one ruler to another, or from one
Head of an order to another, it was often reciprocated by the return of investiture.
Such acts bestowed not only honour, but also obligation, which is of course
characteristic of the practices of gift-giving. For instance, King Alfonso I sent the
stola and collar with his ambassadors to Philippe the Good in 1446, after he had
been granted membership in the Order of the Golden Fleece by Philippe in
December 1445. 67 Then in 1455, court records show that Alfonso paid for a gold
collar to be given to Isabella di Portogallo, Duchess of Burgundy and the wife of
Philippe the Good. 68 The record does not detail whether or not it was a collar of
the Jar, but the price of the collar was roughly the same as the cost of the Order’s
collars, and the orefice responsible for the work, Guido d’Antonio, had been paid
throughout the 1450s for “collari d’oro dell’ordine della giara.” 69 The Order of
66
For a list of those invested with the Order, see Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 414-5.
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 332 and 79.
68
“Luglio 28 [1455]. Alfonso fa lavorare del suo orefice Guido d’Antonio un collare di oro del
peso di tre libbre, 3 once ed un quarto, del prezzo di ducati 348 e tari 2 per regalarlo a donna
Isabella di Portogallo.” Minieri Riccio, "Fatti di Alfonso ASPN VI," 431.
69
Gaetano Filangieri, Documenti per la storia, le arte e industrie per le provincie napoletane
raccolti e pubblicati. Indici degli artefici delle arti maggiori e minori. La piu parte ignoti o poco
noti si napoletani e siciliani si delle altre regioni d'italia o stranieri che operarono tra noi con
notizia delle loro opere e del tempo del loro esercizio. Da studii e nuovi documenti. Dalla Lettera
A alla Lettera G, 6 vols., vol. V (Naples: Tipografia dell'Accademia Reale delle Scienze, 1891),
25.
67
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 301
the Jar was one of the very few orders that accepted women into it, so it may well
have been the Order’s collar. Nevertheless, whether the collar was a collar of the
Order or not, the gift underlines the obligations of reciprocity and the formation of
diplomatic relations instituted by these orders.
It is interesting that Ferrante, after founding the Order of the Ermine in
1465, also continued to bestow the Order of the Jar on individuals after this date.
The Order of the Jar had less restrictive statutes than the Order of the Ermine, and
Ferrante may have bestowed the Order of the Jar on those individuals he wanted
to honour, but not necessarily invest in a more formal and binding type of
allegiance. The statutes of the Order of the Jar specified certain rituals such as
vespers on Saturdays and feast days, and the wearing of the mantle and the
device, but did not have any formal obligations regarding commitments between
members or allegiances to the Capo. 70 I found reports from Milanese ambassadors
to Naples that record Ferrante bestowing the Order of the Jar on various
ambassadors. On 6 September 1473 Ferrante bestowed the white stole and gold
collar of the Order of the Jar to Misser Galeoto, Milanese ambassador to Naples. 71
On 22 April 1474, the Milanese ambassador in Naples, Francesco Maleta reported
that the Conte de Meiya, ambassador of the King of Datia, was knighted by King
Ferrante, and given the stola. Maleta also notes that afterwards the said
ambassador mounted on his horse, wearing the “gold collar at his neck, valued at
300 ducati, that the king had given him and rode around all of Naples: as is
70
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 331.
“La M[aes]ta sua gli [Galeoto] ha donata la stolla biancha i[n]signa d[el] la militia de n[ost]ra
dona cum una collana doro extimata ccc ducati doro.” ASMI SPE 224. 195. Letter from Milanese
ambassador in Naples Francesco Maleta to the Duke of Milan.
71
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 302
custom when one is made a knight, accompanied always by the Duke of Calabria
[Alfonso II d’Aragona] and all the barons, and he was taken to see all the
memorable things of Naples,” thus publicising the Order. 72 In March 1482, the
Milanese ambassador, Branda de Castiliono, reported that the king had invested
two Spanish men, relations of the queen, with knighthood and had given them the
“gold collar with the white band”, presumably the collar and the white stole. 73
Court accounts also suggest that Ferrante continued to invest individuals with the
Order of the Jar and Stole, as there are entries for the purchasing of gold collars di
giarriglie in the 1480s. In 1492 payments were made for a “libro della impresa
della stola” for Ambrosio, ambassador of King of Polonia, who Ferrante had
recently knighted. 74 The fact that the majority of individuals invested with the
72
“La martedi sequente el Re gli [conte de Meiya ambassatore de la M[aes]ta del Re de Datia]
dede mangiare cu[m] cerminonia regale: essendo ad la tavola soli ambiduy: & fecello cavalero
quella matina medesma ad la messa cantatan. V3 cavalero darme & degli la stola de la militia de
n[ost]ra dona. La quale militie quanunq dicto ambass[ado]re recussasse molto. Dicendo farsi li
cavaleri del paese suo o al sepolcro o ‘i Bataglia: no[n] dimeno lo interpetre lo vinse & fecello
restare paceinte. Mangiat ch’ hebeno dicto ambassatore montoe ad cavallo cum linsigne d[e] la
Milita & cu[m] uno colaro doro al collo d[i] valore d[i] ccc ducati ch[e] gli havea donato el Re &
cavalcoe p[er] tuto napoli: como se costume d[i] qua ad simile creatione d[i] cavlaero
accomapg[na]to sempre dal Duca d Calabria & da li dicti Baroni & gli fu facto vedere tute el cose
memeorabile d[i] la cita.” ASMI SPE 225. 124.
73
“Questa matina al M[aest]a del s[ignor] Re per la celebratione de la messa in capella sua in
p[rese]ntia de la S.na Regina et molti baroni fece duy spagnoli cavalleri, parenti de la p[refa]ta
S.na Regina et gli dona una colana doro per uno con la banda biancha.” ASMI SPE 238. 2, Letter
of March 26 1482.
74
“[giugno] 20 [1492]. al pittore Marco Cinico si danno 2 d per altrettanti che ne ha spesi nel
prezzo di un libro della impresa della stola, il quale e stato consegnato per ordine del Re a M.
Ambrosio ambasciatore del Re di Polonia, che sua M.a ha fatto cavaliere.” Barone, "Cedole ASPN
X," 16. Payments for the Order of the Jar’s collar date from either 1487 or 1488: “[Feb] 15
[1487?] Alfonso Perez consegna alla r. Corte un collare d’oro di 22 carati, nel quale sono 32 pezzi
fatti a modo di giarriglie, ed avanti il petto e un catenella d’oro pendente che sostiene un grifo
d’oro con le ali di argento bianche, ed intorno ai piedi un cartello che porta scritto in lettere nere
antiche per suo amore. Questo collare pesa una libbra, computata per 90 d d’oro in oro di 23
carati.” Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 629. Filangieri transcribes the same entry from the same page
of the cedole but dates the payment to 1488. As these documents were destructed in World War II
there is no way to know the exact date, Filangieri, Documenti Vol VI, 262. Clough, incorrectly
states that the Order of the Jar was not inherited by King Ferrante, Clough, "Federico and Naples,"
159. These various documents detailing Ferrante’s investing the Order to individuals, suggests that
he did inherit the rights, or at least maintained the rights to grant membership.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 303
Order of the Jar throughout this time period were ambassadors, rather than ruling
figures, suggests that Ferrante used the Order of the Jar to place honour on those
of lesser ranks, not rulers, yet diplomatic figures belonging to other regimes, and
thus created loyalties outside his own kingdom. It would seem then, that Ferrante
reserved the Order of the Ermine for individuals who maintained some sort of
political authority, such as counts, princes, kings, and dukes, and bestowed the
Order of the Jar on those who he knew might carry political weight, but not
political power. This bestowal of the orders on a wide range of individuals across
Italy suggest the ways the orders were publicised outside of Naples, connecting
individuals in bonds that although closely associated with the Aragonese, were
not limited to the Neapolitan court.
Diplomatic relations between Burgundy and Naples in the 1470s were
linked to the bestowal of the Orders of the Ermine and Golden Fleece. While
Ferrante was seeking a political alliance with Burgundy, he was also keen on
solidifying these diplomatic relations by marrying his son, Federico, to the Duke
of Burgundy’s daughter, Mary. 75 On 5 December 1471, Zaccaria Barbaro
reported that the Burgundian ambassador was to leave Burgundy for Naples, and
was to bring a jewel worth 10, 000 ducati for the king from the Duke of
Burgundy. 76 In 1472, on the arrival of the Burgundian ambassador, the court put
75
For diplomatic relations between Naples and Burgundy see Pontieri, Storia di Ferrante I, “Sulle
mancante nozze tra Federico d’Aragona e Maria di Borgogna (1474-76), 69-105; Monique
Sommé, Isabelle de Portugal. Une femme au pouvoir au XVe siècle (Villeneuve d'Ascq: Presses
Universitaires du Septentrion, 1998), 442-4.
76
“Per lettere de’ xxviii octubrio dal’ambassador regio è in Borgogna sentesse al partire d’i
ambassador del ducha per Italia, i quali portano a la Maestà regia uno fornimento d’oro da una
tavola de valuta de ducati x mile per parte del signor ducha.” Corazzol, ed., Barbaro Dispacci, 93,
Letter 42, 5 December 1471.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 304
on a feast in honour of him, at great expense. 77 I found a letter dated 10 February
1472 from ambassador Francesco Maleta reporting to the Duke of Milan the
details of a giostra held in Naples. Maleta notes that the king watched from a
tribunale, accompanied by the Burgundian ambassadors on his right, noting that
the king wore a coat lined with ermine and black shoes with the devices of the
livery of the King of England. It was Don Federico who won the prize for the
giostra, a diamond worth 100 ducati, and upon receiving the diamond, he
immediately presented it to the first Burgundian ambassador. 78 What is interesting
from this report is not only the favouritism given to the Burgundian ambassadors,
but the attention given in the description to the clothing, and specifically the
wearing of the English impresa on the king’s shoes. Such close examination by
Maleta relates not only a need to define the pomp and magnificence of the king,
but also as a means to describe the loyalties, alliances, and behaviour of Ferrante
for the Duke of Milan. Such a description demonstrates that the wearing of
impresa and the privileges of placement in approximation to the king could signal
larger political dependencies. In 1474 Ferrante was granted membership into the
Order of the Golden Fleece by the Duke of Burgundy and later that year, Ferrante
was to return the favour by granting the duke with his own Order. 79 On 3 October
77
Pontieri, Storia di Ferrante I, 78-9.
“Heri he fu domenicha fe fece la giostra i[n] una piazza [...]La m[aes]ta del Re no[n] giostra’.
Stete sopra uno Tribunale a vedere dicta giostra e appresso quella da mano drito erano li
ambassatori B[er]gognoni. Da mano sinestra la illma Ma Duchessa de Calabria: & Ma Leonora
cu[m] altre Damiselle assay de le piu nobile e piu belle de la cita. La prefata M[aes]ta haveva i[n]
dosse uno zacho de zetonino negro cum perfilli de hermelino e le calze negre cu[m] la divisa sive
liurea del Re de Ingleterra[...] il pretio fu delib[er]ato a Don Federico quale p[er] dio fece bene:
che funo diamante extimato ducati cento e esso don federico i[m]mediate ne fece uno p[rese]nte al
comspecto del pre’ al primo ambassate B[er]gognono.” ASMI SPE 221. 36. Letter of 10 February
1472 from Francesco Maleta to the Duke of Milan.
79
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 404.
78
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 305
1474, Galeotto Carafa, the Mantuan ambassador to the court of Naples reported
on Federico d’Aragona’s upcoming trip to Burgundy:
The said Illustrious Lord will bear the enpresa de lo Armellino, of
which the Majesty of the Lord King was the founder, and which he
will bear to the Duke of Burgundy, because the duke sent his own,
that is, of the Fleece, to his aforesaid Majesty by one of his bastard
brothers. 80
On 25 October 1474, Francesco Maleta also reported that Don Federico was
bringing the “ermellina imprehesa del S[ignore] Re” to the Duke of Burgundy. 81
On 26 October 1474, the local chronicler told a similar tale, but elaborating on the
dynastic and political motives, noting that Federico might marry the Duke of
Burgundy’s daughter. 82 The marriage, as well as the bestowal of the Order was
thus publicised not only in Naples, but also across Italy through ambassador
reports, stressing the international publicity the Order was achieving, and how it
was disseminated through a variety of sources. Neapolitan historian Ernesto
80
The letter is from ASMA, esteri, xxiv, 3. English translation from Boulton, Knights of the
Crown, 404. “Lo dicto Illustrissimo Signor se portarà la enpresa de lo Armellino, de quale è stato
inventore la Maestà del Signor Re, e quella portarà al Duca di Borgogna, perho che’l Duca manda
la suoa che è del tosone e la predicta Maestà per uno suo frate bastardo, quale se aspetta qua per la
fine del presente e la intrata de la loro...” Original Italian published in Ernesto Pontieri, ed., Fonti
Aragonesi. I Registri della Cancelleria Vicereale di Calabria (1422-1453), vol. II serie II, Testi e
documenti di storia napoletana pubblicati dall'Accademia Pontaniana (Naples: Presso
L'accademia, 1961), 69-70.
81
“el prefato Don Federico portoe la ermellina imprehesa del S. Re suo p[a]tre al prelibato duca de
Bergogna & i’ quelli di medesimi sua M[aes]ta la mandoe per la ambassatori suoy al Re de
Ungaria cum duy conferi molto bellli & ap[aramen]ti & imbardati singularm[en]te secondo el
costume de qua [Naples].” ASMI SPE 226. 60.
82
“Lo illustre Signore Don federico de Aragonia figliolo legitimo et naturale de re ferrando se
parti da napoli per andare inburgugna et portaua la impresa de Armellina allo illustre ciarlles Duca
de burgugna. Et con lui andaro multi Signori dell Regno homini valentissimi et experti in le arme
et tra li altri nce fo lo Conte Cola decampo brascio Lo Signore Camillo pandone. Et altri: loquale
signore don federico se acaso et piglio la figlia del duca de borbo dellaquale ne o procreata vna
figliola femina nomine...” (The Illustrious Signore Don Federico de Aragonia, legitimate and
natural son of King Ferrando leaves Naples to go to Burgundy and brings the impresa de
Armellino to the Illustrious Charles, Duke of Burgundy. And with him will go many Signori of the
reign, very valiant men and experts in arms[…] The signore don Federico, might marry the
daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, who has only produced one daughter…) Notar Giacomo,
Cronica di Napoli, ed. Paolo Garzilli (Naples: Stamperia Reale, 1845), 128.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 306
Pontieri has noted that Federico’s trip to Burgundy was twofold: to invest the
duke with the impresa of the Ermine, and to solidify marriage negotiations. 83
Relations between the two states seemed to have become quite complicated,
involving various alliances and counter-alliances within the Italian peninsula and
Europe at large. 84 In the end, marriage negotiations were called off, and Mary of
Burgundy was married to Maximilian in 1476. 85 Pontieri has suggested that
Antonio of Burgundy’s visit to Naples in 1475, bringing the Order of San Giorgio
to Ferrante, should be seen as a “cavallersco ricambio”, that is in the spirit of the
counter-gift, a sort of counter-order or “knightly reciprocation.” 86
The political aspects of bestowal are also telling in relations between the
courts of Naples and Milan. On 5 October 1456, the Milanese ambassador
reported that Alfonso I d’Aragona was to give Galeazzo Sforza the collar of the
Aragonese device, in response to the relinquishing of some lands belonging to
Alfonso. On 19 March 1457 Francesco Cusani returned from Naples with the gold
collar for Galeazzo. The report detailed that the bestowal of Galeazzo with this
collar, enabled Galeazzo to bestow (‘decorare’) another twenty nobles as he saw
fit, as is custom with the patent of the king. 87 The bestowal of the collar was given
just a year after the signing of the marriage contracts in October 1455 between
83
Pontieri, Storia di Ferrante I, 84.
Pontieri, Storia di Ferrante I, 99-100. Also see chapter one for an overview of the Lega and
diplomatic negotiations between Milan, Florence, and Naples.
85
Pontieri, Storia di Ferrante I, 102.
86
Pontieri, Storia di Ferrante I, 105.
87
“Ritorna alla excellentia vostra Francesco da cusano, dal quale essa serà informata de la
condictione de qua, al quale la maiestà del re ha dato de mano sua el collare che essa dona ad lo
inclito conte Galeaz vostro figliolo, et commette al magnifico messer Albrico Malleta che nomine
et vice eiusdem maiestatis debbia decorare el prefato conte Galeaz del dicto collare et che poi esso
conte Galeazz possa decorarne altri vinti nobili come ad luy parerà, secundo la forma da le patente
d’essa maistà, quale la celsitudine vostra vederà.” Francesco Senatore, ed., Dispacci sforzeschi da
Napoli. I. (1444-2 luglio 1458), Fonti per la storia di Napoli aragonese (Salerno: Carlone Editore,
1997), 495, Letter 191.
84
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 307
Ippolita Sforza and Alfonso d’Aragona and Sforza Maria and Eleonora d’Aragona
and thus acted as a confirmation of the alliances made through marriage. 88
Galeazzo Sforza was also a member of the Order of the Ermine, thus underlining
the importance for Ferrante to bestow his own Order on him, in addition to his
father’s Order of the Jar. This is not surprising considering that the marriage
negotiations between the Sforzas and Aragonese were only partially followed
through and the fraught political scene in the 1470s would have induced Ferrante
to reiterate the Sforza-Aragonese alliance.
Similar to diplomatic gifts, orders were often bestowed when negotiations
were being deliberated; rather than merely signifying these relations, they often
constitute an integral part of such relations, revealing the complexities of the
rituals of diplomatic negotiations. The importance of the objects of each order—
the Jar of Lillies, the Golden Fleece, or the Ermine—became crucial signs in
promoting the orders, branding members and solidifying diplomatic relations. The
employment of the ermine emblem across media and across space was a way to
concretise these relations, forging connections that will be elaborated now by
examining these diverse representations.
V. Representations of the Ermine: Architecture, Manuscripts, and
Painting
The representation of the ermine and its repetition in diverse media attests
to the discursive character of the emblem, and thus its political potential. The
same depiction of the ermine—profile view, one paw lifted, and usually
accompanied by a scroll—is repeatedly used, therefore acting as a sort of stamp,
88
Senatore, ed., Dispacci sforzeschi I, 277-8, Letter 105.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 308
print, or seal. In this flat stamp-like form the ermine can be seen as corresponding
to what Harry Berger has called the “decorative mode,” whereby an image has a
symbolic function and is closely related to ritual. A decorative image often
favours artificial or flat representation to support its symbolic purpose, thus
serving an iconic or ritual function. 89 As a repeated form, it acts as an imprint that
resonates with how the collar and mantle inscribed the body of each new member
of the Order. The sign is registered, printed, inscribed, cast, and carved onto
objects that include doors, coins, medals, books, walls, and furniture. To
understand how the emblem does this, we must look at these different forms of
representation more closely, but first we will turn to how the ermine is to be read
as an emblematic signifier and an impresa.
The ermine as impresa, that is, as a device or emblem, will be examined
briefly here in terms of the emblematic tradition. Emblem books gained
popularity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, of which Paolo Giovio’s
Dialogo dell’ imprese is probably the most famous (Figure 43). 90 The ermine
device functioned differently to the tradition of emblem books, which became
popular in the following century, however it should be considered within some of
the similar frames of reference. Emblems in general consisted of three parts: a
89
Harry Berger, "The System of Early Modern Painting," Representations 62 (1998): 33-4.
A large body of literature has recently emerged on emblems. See John Manning, The Emblem
(London: Reaktion Books, 2002); John Manning, Karel Porteman, and Marc van Vaeck, eds., The
Emblem Tradition and the Low Countries: Selected Papers of the Leuven International Emblem
Conference 18-23 August 1996, vol. 1b, Imago Figurata (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 1999);
Peter M. Daly and John Manning, eds., Aspects of Renaissance and Baroque Symbol Theory,
1500-1700, vol. 14, AMS Studies in the Emblem (New York: AMS Press, Inc, 1999); Peter M.
Daly, ed., Emblem Scholarship: Directions and Developments. A Tribute to Gabriel Hornstein,
vol. 5, Imago Figurata (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2005); Daniel S. Russell, "Illustration,
Hieroglyph, Icon. The Status of the Emblem Picture," Mikrokosmos. Beiträge
Literaturnissenschaft und Bedeutungschung 65 (2002); Jan C. Westerhoff, "A World of Signs:
Baroque Pansemioticism, the Polyhistor and the Early Modern Wunderkammer," Journal of the
History of Ideas 62, no. 4 (2001).
90
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 309
motto, a picture, and an explanatory text, which asked the viewer to assemble the
three parts in order to produce meaning. 91 Such forms of reading engage the
viewer into dialogical relationships with the image and the text, and as Daniel
Russell has shown, emblems encouraged paradigmatic relationships, prompting
viewers to string together disparate objects to produce meaning. 92 For the
sixteenth-century humanist Joannes Sambucus, this mosaic-like composition of
emblems was indebted to the etymology of the word “emballesthia,” which in
Greek means “to insert” or “to present” something obscure requiring explanation
and reflection. These disparate parts, for Sambucus, can thus be seen as
functioning like tessarae of a mosaic or operating similarly to something inserted
in a rhetorical context. 93 Emblems and hieroglyphs could serve rhetorical
purposes and were often employed to formulate a message in veiled allegorical
terms for the purpose of refreshing a familiar text. 94 The attention given to the
piecing together of the various parts, as well as to the act of decipherment through
a veil, both have strong correlations to the notion of fabula discussed in the
previous chapter. These forms of reading, as exemplified in chapter three, were
employed to interpret diptychs, double-sided portraits, medals, and other objects
in the spaces of collections in the fifteenth century. The sign of the ermine, then,
91
Manning, The Emblem, 18.
Daniel S. Russell, "Perceiving, Seeing and Meaning: Emblems and Some Approaches to
Reading Early Modern Culture," in Aspects of Renaissance and Baroque Symbol Theory, 15001700, ed. Peter M. Daly and Peter Manning, AMS Studies in the Emblem (New York: AMS Press,
Inc, 1999), 83.
93
A.S.Q. Visser, Joannes Sambucus and the Learned Image. The Use of the Emblem in LateRenaissance Humanism (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 89.
94
John Manning, "Introduction," in Aspects of Renaissance and Baroque Symbol Theory, 15001700, ed. Peter M. Daly and John Manning, AMS Studies in the Emblem (New York: AMS Press,
Inc, 1999), xvii; Rudolf Wittkower, "Hieroglyphics I. The Conceptual Impact of Egypt from the
Fifteenth Century Onward," in Selected Lectures of Rudolf Wittkower. The Impact of NonEuropean Civilizations on the Art of the West, ed. Donald Martin Reynolds (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1989), 95.
92
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 310
should be viewed within these forms of dialogical readings that were then
developed further in emblem books a century later. Similar to mottoes or personal
devices, the ermine had symbolic meanings that required a decipherment. But
unlike personal devices, the employment of the ermine was not restricted to the
use of one individual, but was something that linked the individual with an
exclusive body of members who employed the emblem. While there are no
specific laws outlining the use of the device of the ermine, it can be assumed that
in general, the employment of the device was restricted to those who had received
membership in the Order. Through the allegorical association of the ermine with
fidelity, this symbolic association acted as a veiled political message. Rather than
overt political propaganda, it was veiled within the representations of the Order
and the ideals of brotherhood, to signal allegiance to the king.
There were a number of texts that dealt with the ermine, dating from
antiquity, such as Pliny’s Natural History, as well as contemporary works
including the moralising Tuscan text of animal stories entitled Flowers of Virtue
and Leonardo da Vinci’s Manuscript H. Leonardo discusses the ermine twice,
both times in relation to moderation, where the creature is noted as eating only
once a day and is said to prefer death rather than stain its purity. 95 The weasel,
closely associated with the ermine, was discussed in a variety of bestiaries that
cited Ovid, Pliny, and other ancient authors, and was believed to conceive through
the ear and to give birth through the mouth. This underlined the purity of the
95
“[Moderation]. The ermine out of moderation never eats but once a day, and it would rather let
itself be captured by hunters than take refuge in a dirty lair, in order not to stain its purity” and
“Moderation curbs all the vices: the ermine prefers to die rather than soil itself.” From Manuscript
H, folio 12R and 48V, quoted in Beck, "Dream of Leonardo," 188-9.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 311
animal, but also stressed that their conception and birth was miraculous and
involved divine intervention. 96 The institution of the Order of the Ermine in 1465
would have linked these existing notions of the ermine with the king’s adaptation
of these concepts. The majority of authors who discuss the ermine in the sixteenth
century, as discussed above, correlated the ermine with King Ferrante of Naples,
thus stressing not only the natural characteristics of the animal, as representing
purity and moderation, but also noting the un-natural or arbitrary aspects of its
sign as a representation of fidelity, which alluded to the clemency of the prince in
relation to Marzano and the Order’s mottoes.
For instance, a medal by Pisanello of Belloto Cumano from 1447 depicts an
ermine on the reverse, probably in reference to purity, but also as a pun on the
word bellotula alluding to Belloto’s name and the word weasel (Figure 45). 97 The
accompanying script only alludes to Pisanello as the artist of the medal, and
makes no reference to Ferrante or the Order, as the Order was not yet instituted,
and the use of the ermine was thus employed as a personal device, as a pun on the
sitter’s name and probably alluding to purity. With the institution of the Order,
medallic representations of ermines soon came to be closely associated with
members of the Order. Federigo da Montefeltro is depicted on the obverse of a
medal with the reverse depicting an ermine on a platform, accompanied by a
scroll with the script “NON MAI”, a translation of one of the mottoes associated
96
Musascchio uses the term weasel interchangeable throughout the text for all small beasts, such
as the ermine, sable, marten and skunk. Musacchio, "Weasels and Pregnancy," 181-2. These
associations with purity and conception would have also provided correlations with the Order of
the Jar, which was connected to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
97
Wittkower, "Hieroglyphics," 102; Hill, A Corpus of Italian Medals of the Renaissance Before
Cellini, 11, Medal 39.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 312
with the Order, nunquam (Figure 46). 98 As a medal that circulated and was shown
to a variety of individuals, the representation of the ermine and its motto would
have made visible the sitter and the Order. While George Hill has suggested that
the medal is a sixteenth-century copy, it demonstrates how the ermine became
clearly associated with the Order and signalled political and social networks
connected to the Aragonese. Indeed, Federigo was to employ the device
throughout his artistic projects, in his palace, in portraiture, and in manuscript
illumination, which signalled the prestige of being granted membership into the
Order, as well as a form of authentication, which will be discussed below.
Ferrante employed the use of the ermine, not on a medal, but on a series of
his coins. 99 One set of coins depicts the Aragonese arms on the obverse with the
ermine on the reverse bearing the scroll with the script DECORVM (Figure 47),
and another coin contained a depiction of the ermine on the obverse with the
flaming throne on the reverse. Ferrante’s successors, Alfonso II and Ferdinando II
(Ferrandino) also used the ermine on their coins (Figure 48), and similar to the
“cavalli” coins which allowed for a direct correlation between the equine and
money, the presence of the ermine on the Aragonese coins furthered a connection
of the ermine with the Aragonese and correlated the ermine with the idea of
money, and thus wealth. 100 The use of the ermine on medals and coins allowed for
a circulation of the sign, and enabled a variety of individuals across different
spaces to come into contact with the representation. The employment of the
98
Hill, A Corpus of Italian Medals of the Renaissance Before Cellini, 79, medal 317.
Museo Gaetano Filangieri, ed., Un secolo di grande arte nella monetazione di Napoli (14421556), vol. I (Naples: Museo Filangieri, 1973), 78, 9, cat. 67, 8 and 70.
100
Filangieri, ed., Secolo di monetazione, 96-7 and 102.
99
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 313
symbol of the ermine thus became representative of Aragonese hegemony as well
as the family’s political and social networks.
Significantly, the ermine is represented on one of fourteen medallions
carved on the bronze doors of the Castel Nuovo in Naples dated by most scholars
between 1474-7 (Figure 49 and 50). 101 The bronze doors depict six scenes, which
form a narrative of Marino Marzano’s treachery, leading to Ferrante’s final
victory over the rebellious barons at Troia, in Apulia on 18 August 1462 (Figure
50). 102 The top medallions once represented King Ferrante and his first wife,
Queen Isabella di Chiaramonte. The bottom medallions portray the artist,
Guglielmo Monaco, and an unknown portrait of a man, suggested by George
Hersey to be the humanist Bartolomeo Fazio, who he proposes may have been the
designer of the program. 103 The eight medallions, which frame the two central
panels, depict the various devices of the Aragonese, many of which are associated
with the Order of the Ermine. These devices, starting from the top left and moving
clockwise are: the mountain of diamonds, the Aragonese arms, Ferrante’s
personal device of jousting headgear with dragon, the flaming throne, the
sprouting stock, the ermine with the motto PROBANDA, the open book, and
finally the impresa del nodo or knot, the latter two being favourite devices of
101
Hersey references Filangieri who dated the doors between this time, noting that the cedole are
missing between mid-1474 through the end of 1475, and because they are not referenced in other
court records, he assumes this a suitable date. Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 42 and 95, n. 46. The
reliefs currently located on the doors in the Castel Nuovo are actually copies. The originals are
housed inside on display in the museum (Museo Civico).
102
For a discussion of the bronze doors, see Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 42-4, Figures 57-63;
Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 209; Filangieri, Documenti Vol VI, 179.
103
Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 42-3.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 314
Alfonso I d’Aragona, Ferrante’s father. 104 The narrative scenes are not read in a
consecutive manner, but rather, jump from top to bottom and then to the middle,
and are accompanied by Latin text. The narrative begins at the top left, which
depicts Ferrante’s meeting with Marzano at Calvi, accompanied by the Latin text:
“The prince with Jacopo and the deceitful Deifobo; they simulate a conference so
that the king may be slain.” 105 The next panel in the cycle, the upper right, depicts
Marzano’s attack on Ferrante’s life as he defends himself with his sword, with
Deifobo and the king’s attendant also in combat, accompanied by the text: “The
Mars-mighty king, more spirited than famous Hector, probed with his shining
blade, that the plot might perish.” 106 The next two scenes are on the two bottom
panels, reading left to right, and depict the retreat of the Angevins and the
Aragonese entry into Accadia. The central panels thus compose the climax and
the end of the story. The central right panel depicts the Battle of Troia, with the
Aragonese chasing the Angevins out, accompanied by the quote “The Trojan
Ferrante conquered the enemy in the field as Caesar conquered Pompey at
Oechalia” (Figure 51) 107 The final scene, the left central panel, depicts the siege
and surrender of Troia, where the Aragonese enter the triumphal gate, and the
104
Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 209. For a description of the various devices used by the Aragonese,
see Tommaro de Marinis, La biblioteca napoletana dei re d'Aragona. Supplemento, vol. Tomo I.
Testo (Verona: Stamperia Valdonega, 1969), 129-35.
105
PRINCEPS CUM JACOBO CUM DIOFEBO QUE DOLOSO/ UT REGEM PER[I]MANT
COLLOQUIUM SIMULANT. Hersey’s translation, Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 42.
106
HOS REX MARTI POTENS ANIMOSIOR HECTORE CLARO/ SENSIT UT INSIDIAS
ENSE MICANTE FUGAT. Translation from Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 42.
107
HOSTEM TROJANUS FERDINANDUS VICIT IN ARVIS SICUT POMPEIUM CESAR IN
AHACTIS [OECHALIIS], translated in Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 43.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 315
final inscription reads: “Troia gave rest to our side, and an end to the labor, in
which place the enemy shed much blood and was routed.” 108
The way the viewer is asked to read the narrative scenes is particularly
interesting. Not only does it give a spiralling effect to the narrative sequence,
creating a motion of bodies and horsemen, as Hersey has noted, but the
combination of text, device, and image asks the viewer to piece together the
various components, encouraging an emblematic or fabulesque reading. 109 The
text is also important as it constructs the narrative, not merely narrating by the
scenes, but by making the viewer compare the contemporary scenes depicted with
the stories of antiquity. The entire cycle stresses the theme of Ferrante’s strength
against his plotting rival, the traitor Marzano. The narrative begins with the
murderous attempt on Ferrante’s life by Marzano depicted with very few figures,
adding an emphasis on the two protagonists. It concludes with the victorious entry
of Ferrante’s troops into Accadia. The placement of the ermine medallion is
noteworthy, as it is situated closest to the viewer, at handle-level, and joins the
other two devices on the same panel—the flaming throne and the sprouting
stock—which make up the gold collar (Figure 51). Furthermore, the ermine is the
only device that has an accompanying motto, PROBANDA. Probanda comes
from the Latin probatus, that is tried, tested, approved, or most worthy. 110 This
motto was regularly attached to other representations of the ermine and thus
stressed Ferrante’s right to rule, executing justice and laying claim to the throne
108
TROIA DEDIT NOSTRO REQUIEM FINEMQUE LABORI/ IN QUA HOSTEM EUDI
[FUDI] FORTITER AC PEPULI. Translation from Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 43.
109
Hersey notes that the spiral like-reading acts as a sort of widening and swaying of a “funnel of
men plunging into the depths of the scene.” Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 43.
110
Charlton T. Lewis, An Elementary Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 316
through his victory over Marzano. The ermine’s location between the narratives
of the Aragonese victory also stresses this correlation. It is also noteworthy that
the other device at handle-level, which culminates the narrative of successful
victory over treachery—the flaming open book—was instigated by Alfonso I
d’Aragona, and is said to represent Alfonso’s act of burning the record books after
the rebellious revolt of Sanseverino, as a sign of Alfonso’s clemency in forgetting
Sanseverino’s treason. 111
The location of the doors must also be considered, as they are situated at the
main portal of the Castel Nuovo, below the great marble arch which depicts the
triumphal entry of Alfonso I d’Aragona into Naples (Figure 2, 52 and 53). The
bronze doors are visible in Sarnelli’s print depicting the triumphal arch, the façade
of the Castel Nuovo, with the doors shown below (Figure 52). Viewers would
thus first observe the marble representation of Alfonso I d’Aragona on his
triumphal cart, notably wearing his collar of the Jar. Visitors would then pass
through the inner arch, a project commissioned by Ferrante in 1465, which
depicted the procession and coronation of Ferrante, with the inscription:
“SUCCESSI REGNO PATRIO CUNCTISQUE PROBATUS/ ET TRABEAM
ET REGNI SACRUM DIADEMA RECEPI” (I succeeded to my father’s
kingdom having been thoroughly tested/ and received the robe and holy crown of
the realm.) 112 Here again, we confront the word probatus, which would have
provided a connection between Ferrante’s succession to the throne through being
tried and tested, explored visually through the progression from the triumphal
111
112
Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 247.
Translation by Hersey. For the inner arch, see Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 41.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 317
arch depicting Alfonso’s entry into Naples, through the inner arch representation
of Ferrante’s coronation, and culminating in the doors, with Ferrante’s successful
victory over the treacherous Marzano. Considering that the triumphal arch was
topped by a figure of the Archangel Michael, the patron saint of the Order, in
conjunction with the portal doors which depicted the treachery of Marzano, the
effect would have provided strong associations to the Order of the Ermine.
The portal was not the only location where the ermine made its appearance
in the Castel Nuovo. There was a large room entitled “dell’Ermellino”, which had
a ceiling made of 428 coffers decorated with the imprese of the ermine and the
mountain of diamonds. Scholars have suggested this decoration probably
resembled the ceiling of the Urbino studiolo, which also has coffers depicting
various imprese including the ermine (Figure 54). 113 In the “stanze nuove” there
was also a table with stools painted with the impresa of the ermine. 114 An ermine
appeared in a terracotta group which formed part of a fountain found at
Poggioreale, the villa built by Alfonso II d’Aragona. 115 It was noted by Capaccio
in the early seventeenth century, who described the sculpture as an ermine being
captured by hunters, thus alluding to the particular nature of the ermine, but no
doubt, also symbolically referencing the Order and the clemency of the Aragonese
in face of their traitors. 116 Indeed, the whole villa is known to have had been
covered with frescoes depicting the Barons’ Revolt, thus stressing the Order’s
113
de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol I, 144, n. 53. Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 237-8.
Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 246-7.
115
Colombo, "Poggioreale," 201; Hersey, Artistic Renewal of Naples, 64.
116
“Ex creta etiam integrum Sirenis symbolum extat…Armellimun scilicet animal quod ne coeno
fedatur libenter se capiendum venatoribus tradit.” Giulio Cesare Capaccio, Neapolitanae
Historiae. BNN RAC VILL B 742 (Naples: Apud. Io. Iacobum Carlinum, 1607), 435.
114
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 318
theme of the tried, tested, and just prince. 117 Other Aragonese devices were also
employed throughout the Castel Nuovo, such as the keystones in the main entry
vault and as architectural embellishments in the interior courtyard. 118 We also
know that Filippo Strozzi decorated the lettuccio he gave to the king with the
mountain of diamonds and Gaetano Filangieri has noted that Ferrante also had a
bed with the impresa of the burning book accompanied by the motto Recedant
vetera. 119
An ermine with the motto PROBANDA appears in the border illumination
along with the other devices of the open book, the sprouting stock, the mountain
of diamonds, the knot, and the flaming throne in Andrea Contrario’s Reprehensio
sive objurgatio in calumniatorem divini Platonis, illuminated by Cola Rapicano
(Figure 55). 120 The border decoration also contains copies of coins or cameos
depicting busts of Hannibal, Antoninus Pius, Galba, and Nero. In addition there is
a copy of the reverse of Alfonso I’s medal by Pisanello, depicting an eagle and
other birds perched above a dead hare, and a portrait of Alfonso d’Aragona. The
original Pisanello medal was accompanied by the motto LIBERALITAS
AUGUSTA. Liberalitas was often associated with the eagle, who shares its prey
with other birds, and stood for the virtues of a good prince who rewarded those in
his service. 121 The initial C contains a portrait of King Ferrante, the dedicatee and
117
Hersey, Artistic Renewal of Naples, 65.
Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 95-6.
119
For the lettuccio see chapter two. The letter describing the devices on the lettuccio is
reproduced in del Treppo, "Avventure," 489. For the other bed with the book device, see
Filangieri, Castel Nuovo, 247.
120
The manuscript is located at the BNP, Latin 12947. Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 66, cat. 10;
François Avril et al., Dix siècles d'enluminure italienne (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1984),
174-5.
121
Hersey, Aragonese Arch, 28.
118
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 319
owner of the work, wearing a gold collar, which is too small to make out, and
although the links do not mimic the devices of the ermine, the small pendant with
the scroll could very well be the pendant ermine associated with the Order. The
combination of emperors, the use of Alfonso’s medal stressing liberalitas, and the
presence of many of the devices connected with the Order of the Ermine stress a
continuation of the Aragonese dynasty, and the just rule of Ferrante.
Another text illuminated by Cola Rapicano dates from c.1480-5 and also
contains an ermine in the border decoration, accompanied by the other devices of
the flaming open book, the jar, the stock, the knot, and the flaming throne. 122 Here
the ermine is accompanied by the motto DECORVM on a scroll (Figure 56). The
text is Book IV of Duns Scotus’ Quaestiones on the Sentences of Peter Lombard,
and the scribe, Pietro Ippolito da Luni, notes he is writing on the order of King
Ferrante “while turbulent warfare grips Italy”, probably referencing the invasion
of Otranto by the Turks in the early 1480s. 123 The presence of the ermine here,
then, with the word decorum, perhaps references Ferrante’s propriety in face of
war with the infidel, and alludes to the anti-Turkish sentiment in the statutes. The
ermine appears often in other manuscripts belonging to the Aragonese, and these
two examples should only be indicative of how often it was used. 124
122
9.
123
The manuscript is located in BL, Additional MS. 15273. Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 66, cat.
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 66.
For example, Ferrante’s copy of Livy’s Roman History also contains an ermine on folio 7r,
accompanied below by another motto of Ferrante’s “Amor min[c]iende e struggie.” The ermine
takes its place in the border illumination among copies of cameos, representations of jewels,
animals, and portraits of emperors. Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 118, cat. 49. For numerous
examples of the ermine in illumination, see Tommaro de Marinis, La biblioteca napoletana dei Re
d'Aragona, vol. IV (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli Editore, 1947).
124
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 320
An ermine also appears in the frontispiece of Diomede Carafa’s De
istitutione vivendi, dedicated to Beatrice d’Aragona, the future Queen of Hungary
and daughter of Ferrante (Figure 57). 125 Here, Beatrice receives the book from
Diomede, who is kneeling on his knees, with the inscription DIOMEDES
PERPETVO FIDELIS, and above them is an ermine with a scroll with the word
DECORVM. The border also contains the imprese of the mountain of diamonds,
the flaming throne, and the flaming book, as well as representations of the four
virtues. Below, the arms of the Aragonese are supported by the arms of Diomede
Carafa with the inscription FIDELITAS. Tommaro de Marinis has also described
a similar frontispiece in Carafa’s De regimine principis dedicated to Eleonora
d’Aragona in the Hermitage. 126 Carafa is one of the knights listed as a member of
the Order of the Ermine, but the representation here of the ermine, I would
suggest, not only symbolises his membership, but also stresses the symbolic
capabilities of such a sign. That is, the presence of the ermine, hovering at the top
of the page above the dedication portraits, in conjunction with the inscriptions of
decorum and fidelitas, underlines Diomede’s allegiance to the king and the king’s
daughters, who are the dedicatees of his texts. These representations stress the
ways the immaterial notion of fidelity soon takes material form through the
repetition and re-inscription of its sign—the ermine—and stresses its discursive
possibilities by the constant confrontation of the sign in an array of media.
Eleonora moved to Ferrara and Beatrice to Hungary for their respective
marriages, and this relocation underlines the ways in which these books would
125
The manuscript is located in Parma, at the Biblioteca Palatina, cod. 1654. de Divitiis,
Architettura e committenza, 12-3, Fig. 4.
126
de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol I Supplemento, 31.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 321
have been viewed in the libraries or studioli of these two women located across
Europe. Furthermore, as discussed in chapter two, images in manuscript
illumination representing gems, medallions, and other precious objects,
constituted ways that objects and their stories could circulate in the late
Quattrocento. The presence of the ermine in many manuscripts belonging to
various owners underlines the ways the image and its significance were
disseminated. The emblematic reading of such manuscripts, that is the piecing
together of word, image, and sign, also allows for the viewer to engage with the
representations in a dialogical and fabulesque manner. Moreover, the ubiquitous
representations of the ermine on a variety of objects—in books in the library, on
medals in the studiolo, on architectural decoration throughout the palace—
establishes a circuitry of images that depend upon each other by prompting
viewers to draw connections to similar images in other locations. This larger
frame of reference—beyond the specific image being viewed—forges connections
outside the image itself. It is thus the idea that circulates, the constellation of
references that are condensed into the emblem and which activate discussions.
In addition to the representations of the ermine alone, we also find
representations of the gold collar itself. These representations stress the material
aspects of wearing the gold collar, and underline what the gold collar could
symbolise for contemporary viewers. In contrast to a sign, the gold collar is a
material possession and a worn object; representations of the gold collar substitute
for an actual object, one that claims exclusive membership in the Order. The
bronze bust attributed to Guido Mazzoni now in the Museo di Capodimonte in
Naples, sports the collar of the Order, with the devices of the open book, the
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 322
mountain of diamonds, the sprouting stock, and the flaming throne, composing
the links of the chain with the ermine as the pendant (Figure 58). As a bronze
bust, the relief of the collar on the three-dimensional sculpture provides the
viewer with a solid form similar to the actual gold collar, and we are reminded of
the artist’s modelling of the bronze, similar to the goldsmith’s facture of the actual
necklace. As the gold collar is made through the process of the artist’s
manipulation of the material, so the body is also made through a process as it is
invested with the gold collar. As D’arcy Dacre Boulton has remarked, the collar
represented here is not the same collar described in the statutes, as the devices of
the mountain of diamonds and the book do not appear in the statutes’ description
of the collar. Boulton has also noted that the devices appear to be applied here in
random order, and these differences may be the result of artistic licence. 127 The
sitter also wears a pinned brooch on his cap, representing the Archangel Michael,
thus also referencing the patron saint of the Order of the Ermine.
There is some debate around the identity of the sitter. It has long been
assumed to be the bust of Ferrante, but Hersey and Roberto Pane have suggested
that it is a portrait of Alfonso II. 128 Hersey believes it to be Alfonso II because of
the similarities shared between the bust and other portrait representations of
Alfonso and because the sculpture was noted by Mazella as originally placed in
the chapel in Monteoliveto, a monastery which Alfonso had close ties with.
However, Mazzella’s reference to the bronze portrait in his Le vite dei re di
127
Boulton notes the order from his right shoulder to his left: mount, book, stock, chair, mount,
book, mount, stock, chair, mount, book. Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 424, n. 99. However, as
the pendant ermine was detachable, the ermine may have been attached to another collar.
128
Hersey, Artistic Renewal of Naples, 29; Pane, "Guido Mazzoni," 55.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 323
Napoli, dating from the sixteenth century, is located in his section on Ferrante.
Right after discussing the Order of the Ermine, he notes that a bust of Ferrante can
be found in bronze in the chapel of the “Passione di N.S. Giesu Christo” in
Monteoliveto. 129 Similarly, Capaccio also states that the bronze portrait is that of
Ferrante. 130 The placement of the bronze statue in the chapel underscores the
ways the collar and the Order would have been viewed by many, making the
Order public through its visual representations. While Mazzella’s text was
published a century after the bust’s execution, and may or may not be accurate,
Mazzella does provide us with portraits to accompany his histories of the kings of
Naples.
The printed portrait that begins Mazzella’s section on Ferrante depicts the
king in a very similar pose to the bronze statue, wearing a similar brocaded gown,
with the pendant ermine, although the links of the chain are not those of the
Order’s collar, but resemble closely those of the Golden Fleece, and Ferrante is
sporting a crown rather than the beret (Figure 59). 131 Mazzella comments that
there are a series of portrait busts in Naples of Ferrante, which suggests that any
of these could have provided the model for the print; however the printed portrait
could also be an innovation on the part of the artist, printer, or publisher. 132 The
portrait in the media of print would have circulated and thus disseminated the sign
129
Mazzella, Vite, 397.
Capaccio, Forastiero, 222-3.
131
Mazzella, Vite, 318.
132
For the printed portrait in frontispieces and biographical portrait books, see Ruth Mortimer,
"The Author's Image: Italian Sixteenth-Century Printed Portraits," Harvard Library Bulletin 7, no.
2 (1996). Bronwen Wilson, The World in Venice. Print, the City, and Early Modern Identity
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), Chapter 4. Also see my MA thesis for relevant
bibliography, Leah R. Clark, "Libri e Donne: Learned Women and Their Portraits" (MA Thesis,
Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, 2005).
130
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 324
of the ermine, underlining the diverse ways the Order and the representation of
the ermine may have come into contact with a wide range of individuals, well into
the sixteenth century. Here the medium of print also reminds us of the process of
engraving, whereby the collar is engraved on to the plate, inscribing that portrait
with the valorous sign of the ermine, similar to the ways the collar invested and
inscribed the body with signification. Whether Ferrante or Alfonso, Mazzoni’s
bronze bust demonstrates the way the collar was an important component of
creating an identity for the sitter, marking him as a member or Capo of the Order
and then publicising the Order through the bronze’s placement in the chapel and
its copies in print.
As mentioned, Federigo da Montefeltro was depicted with the gold collar
and the mantle in the portrait of him and his son (Figure 41). In considering the
genre of portraiture, we might ask in what ways did the mantle and the collar
construct and constitute the identity of the sitter? The collar and clothing branded
him as part of the confraternal brotherhood of the Order and linked him to other
illustrious members. The dual portrait is generally assumed to have been placed in
the Urbino studiolo, keeping company among the other famous men depicted
there. 133 As Luciano Cheles has noted, “the status, interests, and other
biographical details of the famous men are expressed through four main “codes”:
garments, attributes, gestures and inscriptions.” 134 If we view the dual portrait in a
similar manner, the garments and collar play a crucial role in defining Federigo’s
identity and status. The ermine and the gold collar appears in the coffers of the
133
Clough, "Art as Power," 23. For a discussion of the various debates on the organisation of the
studiolo and the portrait, see Cheles, Studiolo, 15-8.
134
Cheles, Studiolo, 39.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 325
blue and gold ceiling in Urbino (Figures 54 and 60) and Federigo is represented
again in the studiolo at Urbino sporting the collar of the Ermine, with the ermine
pendant dangling, this time in intarsia, possibly by the da Maiano brothers (Figure
61). 135 Thus Federigo was depicted twice with the gold collar in different media:
one that was a painted realistic portrait playing on mimesis, and the other, an
intarsia portrait in wood, that was part of the wall decoration of the studiolo and
exemplified the artist’s skill in his manipulation of wood. In both the Gubbio and
Urbino studioli the ermine is a repeated motif throughout the intarsia decoration
(Figure 62). In the Urbino studiolo, the ermine, according to Cheles’
reconstruction, appears below the personifications of Hope and Charity, which he
suggests was an appropriate placement considering the ermine symbolised
purity. 136 The collar is also reproduced in both the Gubbio and Urbino studioli,
although the Gubbio representation is lacking the pendant ermine (Figures 60 and
63). 137 The collar thus appears numerous times in the Urbino studiolo, twice on
Federigo, once in intarsia hanging from a cloth on the west wall (Figure 60), and
repeatedly in the coffered ceiling encircling the letters FED DUX. 138 The
iconographic program of the Urbino studiolo was one in which symbols, texts,
images, and portraits, worked together to allow the educated viewer to construct
meaning. In this manner, the presence of the repeated ermine not only functioned
as an attribute for Federigo in constructing his identity as a prestigious member of
the Order, but it also aided in this emblematic reading of the entire room.
135
Raggio, The Gubbio Studiolo, 44, 119-21. Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 620;
Thornton, Italian Renaissance Interior, 33, fig. 4.
136
Cheles, Studiolo, 78.
137
Raggio, The Gubbio Studiolo, 120-1, Figure 5076.
138
Cheles, Studiolo, 84.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 326
Federigo employed the gold collar of the Order of the Ermine in its entirety
in the illumination of his manuscripts, thus drawing further relationships between
the variety of objects representing the sign of the ermine. 139 Represented in his
studiolo portrait, Federigo bears the gold collar, but the books used in that space
also contained depictions of the ermine and the gold collar, therefore creating
dialogues between the different representations and objects. Federigo’s copy of
Dante’s Divina Commedia (Figure 64a), for instance, contains a representation of
the gold collar at the bottom of folio 97. 140 Here the collar is illuminated in gold,
depicting the links of the chain with the flaming throne, and a sprouting stock,
with the pendant ermine. 141 The ermine stands on a platform of dirt with a scroll,
which descends into the border, forming one of the border medallions (Figure
64b). The collar encircles the coat of arms of Federigo, accompanied by the letters
FE DVX. The same folio also contains a representation of the Order of the Garter,
appearing at the top of the page, encircling reclining putti. Furthermore, in the left
border, a gold ermine appears in a medallion, and representations of the ermine
appear throughout the manuscript. 142 Federigo’s copy of Leonardo Bruni’s
Historia florentini populi also contains a representation of the gold collar in the
border illumination, this time the collar is in full colour, the chain’s links
representing the flaming throne and sprouting stock, now more similar to the
spouting stock of the Aragonese device, and the ermine suspended below is white
139
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 406.
Alexander, Italian Renaissance Illuminations, 88, Plate 25.
141
The sprouting stock appears here more like a trunk. One wonders if the illumination was done
following the description in the statutes rather than the actual collar, which might explain the odd
portrayal here.
142
For example, an ermine appears in the upper border decoration of folio 1r. Alexander, ed.,
Painted Page, 133, cat 58.
140
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 327
with a black scroll (Figure 65a-b). 143 Below this representation an ermine alone is
depicted on a grassy plain bearing a scroll. The representations of the ermine and
the gold collar would thus be viewed every time the books were read and would
have created connections to other representations of the ermine and collar across
space: in the architecture of the Urbino palace, with Federigo’s portrait in the
studiolo, and the other representations across Italy, featuring on coins, medals,
and in architecture and sculpture.
The importance of the Order of the Ermine for the dukes of Urbino is also
expressed in a portrait generally assumed to be Duke Francesco Maria della
Rovere (1490-1538) by Carpaccio. The portrait is accompanied by an ermine in
the undergrowth, with the motto, MALO MORI QVAM FEODARI, written on a
cartouche (Figure 66). 144 Francesco is not known to have been bestowed with the
Order, but as he was the nephew and successor of Federigo, the presence of the
ermine may have been a means to speak to the dynastic and political aspirations
of the family. 145
Federigo’s use of the ermine underlines the political as well as prestigious
connotations that the ermine could project, but it also underlines the ways in
which representations of a sign, and its repetitions through a variety of media,
allow for the transmission of its semiotic capabilities, and indeed demonstrates
the way a material object and its representations constitute political and social
143
Alexander, ed., Painted Page, 141, cat. 64.
Vittorio Sgarbi, Carpaccio, trans. Jay Hyams (New York and London: Abbeville Press, 1994),
154-5.
145
While he is not mentioned in the list of members published by most scholars, Capaccio notes
that a Spanish copy of the statutes can be found in his library. This may have been the statutes
inherited by Duke Federigo, or Duke Francesco may have been indeed invested with the Order.
Capaccio, Forastiero, 223.
144
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 328
relationships. Other representations of collars, such as those of the Jar and Golden
Fleece are represented on Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I’s triumphal arch,
acting as decorative embellishments. 146 Maximillian’s attention to genealogy and
heraldry is explicit throughout the arch, and Albrecht Dürer’s representation of
the collars of the Order of the Jar (Figure 42) and the Golden Fleece underline the
international networks of such orders, as well as the ability of their depictions to
signal social and political prestige.
Besides the employment of the ermine device in Urbino, Ludovico il Moro
(Duke of Bari 1479 and Duke of Milan, 1494-1500), who was invested with the
Order, also employed the device in diverse ways. A drawing in the Fitzwilliam
Museum in Cambridge by Leonardo da Vinci, usually dated to the mid-1490s,
depicts the ermine being captured by a hunter, and has been suggested to be the
disegno for a medal or fresco for Ludovico (Figure 67). 147 The representation is
especially interesting because Leonardo has not depicted any ermine, but
specifically that of the Order. The stance of the ermine is the same pose that we
see depicted on the collar and in manuscript illumination, and furthermore, it is
accompanied by a scroll, presumably intended to have the inscription of one of
the mottoes belonging to the Order. We also find the ermine—in its more natural
146
Eduard Chmelarz, Maximilian's Triumphal Arch. Woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer and Others
(New York: Dover Publications, 1972). Depictions of the collar of the Order of the Jar appear on
two columns, see Plates 14 and 20. For depictions of the Collar of the Golden Fleece see Plates 17
and 23. A depiction of the collar of the Order of the Jar also appears in another woodcut by Dürer
in a text made for the Knight Waldauf von Waldenstein. The arms of the Knight are accompanied
by three collars, one of which is the Order of the Jar. Willy Kurth, The Complete Woodcuts of
Albrecht Dürer (New York: Crown Publishers, 1946), 23-4, Plate 130.
147
Carlo Pedretti, "La dama dell'ermellino come allegoria politica," in Studi politici in onore di
Luigi Firpo, ed. Silvia Rota Ghibandi and Franco Barcia (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1990), 167.
Janice Shell and Grazioso Sironi, "Cecilia Gallerani: Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine," Artibus et
Historiae 13, no. 25 (1992): 53.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 329
form—being employed in Leonardo’s famous portrait of Cecilia Galerani, this
time as a play on the sitter’s name, but no doubt also in connection to Ludovico
and his membership in the Order, as she was his mistress (Figure 68). 148 Here
Leonardo has played with the sign through mimesis, thus employing the ermine in
an allegorical sense, complicating the correlation between signifier and signified,
and asking the viewer to work harder at deciphering the meaning of the presence
of the ermine.
The representation of the ermine, then, from the collar to architectural
decoration to manuscript illumination repeats the symbol of the ermine as a
stamp, similar to printing. It imprints the body and the objects within a network of
associations, that is, a set of privileged associations only few were granted. Like a
“stamp” or seal, it both authenticates the objects as well as creates links between
loci, forming a circuitry of imagery across media and space. These diverse
representations thus worked to reinscribe the original ritual and promulgate the
Order. In contrast to the flat sign, the gold collar and the mantle of the Order
inscribed the bodies of members, making the rituals of the Order memorialised
through the materiality of these objects, which will now be elaborated upon.
VI. Ceremonial: Mantles, Collars, and Bodily Inscription
The activities of the Order of the Ermine will be examined here, through the
material objects—the mantle and the collar—that provided participants with a
148
Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Lady with an Ermine has been interpreted a number of different
ways, but what is generally agreed upon is that the presence of the ermine is a play on the sitter’s
surname, Cecilia Gallerani, the Greek galé meaning ermine. The portrayal of a beast, which
signalled purity and chastity, has also been seen as a suitable symbol for a mistress, who would
have wanted to stress her chastity in the face of court gossip. Much has been written on the
portrait, for bibliography see Shell and Sironi, "Cecilia Gallerani."; Pedretti, "La dama
dell'ermellino."
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 330
form of bodily engagement, and thus transformed the material objects into richly
symbolic things. That is, the mantle and the collar reiterated the bodily practice of
investiture, and acted as material memories of the ritual of investiture. Moreover
the repeated wearing of those items on specific days stressed further the
transformation of individual bodies into a collective body. 149
Let us start with the statutes detailing the regulations of investiture and the
wearing of the mantle. The mantle is described in chapter eight of the statutes as
follows:
The mantle of the Order which the companions shall wear shall be
split and open on the right side, of crimson satin, falling to the
heels, and shall be lined with skins of ermine and around the neck.
The gown (veste) underneath the mantle shall be of white silk,
falling to the heels. 150
The gown was thus composed of a variety of expensive cloth materials and
colours: crimson satin, white fur, and white silk, all of which are meticulously
rendered in the portrait of Federigo da Montefeltro (Figure 41). Not only would
the expensive material have signalled opulence for contemporary viewers, but the
fact that the mantle was that of the Order of the Ermine would have created
associations between the identity of the sitter with the King of Naples and other
illustrious individuals bestowed with the Order. Chapter seven of the statutes
explains in extreme detail how the companion-elect, who was not a sovereign
149
I am greatly indebted in my use of “material memories” to the work of Jones and Stallybrass,
Renaissance Clothing.
150
“El mantello de l’ordine el quale portaranno li confratri serrà spaccato et aperto da’l lato dextro,
de setino raso carmosino long fine alle calcagna et serrà foderato de pelle de arminio et inserrato
a’l collo. La veste de sopto el manto serrà de seta bianca et fine a li taloni sive calcagna longa.”
Vitale, Araldica, 141. My translation, with slight variation, is based primarily on the English
translation published in Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 426.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 331
prince, should be invested with the Order of the Ermine. I include a transcription
here of this rite:
Firstly, we, dressed in the vestments and collar of the said order,
with all the confratri of the order, all of who are present, will go
together to the ecclesia in which we celebrate the officio. He who
is taking the Order will go to the palacio and casa reale with the
most solemn compagnia possible, and we will accompany him all
the way to the said ecclesia. The insigni which will be bestowed on
the said new knight will be placed in the sacrestia of the said
ecclesia by the regio camerlino and guardaroba of the King and
taken care of by the Herald or Official of Arms of the Order, and
he will guard [the insigni]. The insigni will be brought on his arm
when the officio commences and is celebrated, and will be placed
on the right side of the altar, and the Chancellor will take [the
insigni] and place the mantle and collar on the altar. The Herald
will keep in his arm the white gown, and the officio and a solemn
Mass of Sancto Michele archangelo will be celebrated. Between
the Epistle and the Gospel, the most principal and distinguished of
the companions, that is two or three confratri which the King has
chosen, will stand up and accompany the knight to the middle of
the sacristy, following the King of Arms, who will dress the knight
in the white gown of the Order. Then they are to lead him back to
the altar, where he is to kneel adoring God […] At the Offertory,
[…] the candidate is to be presented with the chapters of the Order
and to listen to the instructions, and he is to swear with his hands
placed in those of the Sovereign that he will diligently observe the
chapters and instructions of this Order. When this is done, the
Sovereign will place the collar on the said knight, which will have
been taken from the altar by the Chancellor or Secretary, and given
to the King, and the King will say these words: “Our Order for
your great virtues, we have chosen you for a confratre and to
signify this I give you these insigni, to render certain that by your
virtue our amicable Compagnia will be ennobled, to the service
and glory of the Omnipotent God, and in exaltation of the Holy
Roman Church, augmenting this Order and your fame in this good
moment. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
And the knight who has received the collar, is to kiss the Sovereign
in sign of his faith. 151
The companion-elect was therefore to first walk to the chapel with all the
members of the Order, who were collectively dressed in the vestments of the
151
The Italian transcription of the rites is published in Vitale, Araldica, 135-40. For an English
description of the rite, see Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 415-6.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 332
Order, his body made distinct from the collective body by his lack of the Order’s
robes. This procession would have made visible the Order and its members to the
citizens of Naples. The new member was then to receive the Order by swearing to
obey the statutes, and being dressed and adorned in the mantle and the collar of
the Order. Like the popular story of Griselda so often recounted in the
Renaissance, the new confratre is made and unmade, stripped and invested,
through the unclothing and clothing of the body. 152 It is through these rituals of
investment that the clothes and materials become invested with meaning, turning
the ‘real’ of fur, cloth, and gold, into symbolic things. At the same time, it is these
material components that make the ritual effective. Exiting the church, the new
confratre would not be the same individual he was when he entered the church,
adorned now in the vestments of the Order, he is no longer distinct from his
fellow confratri but made and dressed in their image. 153
The investiture of Federigo da Montefeltro in 1474 and Ludovico il Moro
in 1486 allows us to see the statutes in practice: the first constituting a visual
record, the latter a textual one. A manuscript in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice
depicts Federigo da Montefeltro receiving the Order from Ferrante (Figure
152
For the story of Griselda see Tenth Day, Tenth Story, in Italian, Giovanni Boccaccio,
Decameron, ed. Vittore Branca (Milano: Oscar Mondadori, 1989). In English, Giovanni
Boccaccio, The Decameron (London: Penguin Books, 1995). For the Griselda story in relation to
the exchange of women and clothing in the early modern period, see Jones and Stallybrass,
Renaissance Clothing, Chapter 9, “(In)alienable Possessions: Griselda, Clothing, and the
Exchange of Women”; Klapisch-Zuber, Women Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy, Chapter
10, “The Griselda Complex: Dowry and Marriage Gifts in the Quattrocento”.
153
The importance of procession and its semiotic capacities for ritual is dealt with in Louis Marin,
"Notes on a Semiotic Approach to Parade, Cortege, and Procession," in Time Out of Time, ed.
Alessandro Falassi (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987), 226. Marin, for
instance notes “parade, cortege, and procession create through their narrative aspect a system of
values from which any parade, cortege, procession, or demonstration derives its legitimacy. The
process of legitimization or actualization may, in turn, serve to formalize relationships between
participants, such as the political relationship between a sovereign and a city.”
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 333
69a). 154 The manuscript contains an anonymous oration delivered on the occasion
of Federigo’s investiture and is dated from 1474. The script, written in golden
lettering, is signed by Joan Marco Cinico, a cartolaio, printer, and court scribe
(Figure 69b), and the illumination is attributed to a Neapolitan miniaturist. 155 De
Marinis has suggested there might be a correlation between this manuscript and a
text listed in an old inventory of the library at Urbino. 156 While the only
reproduction that I have been able to find is very poor, de Marinis notes that the
names of the three individuals represented are written on the outside scrolls
around the cornice: ALFONSUS DUX; FERANTUS REX; FREDERICUS FEL
CO V. 157 There are, however, many more individuals represented, spilling in from
the two exterior doors on either side of the throne. It appears that the majority of
the individuals wear the Order’s robes, except for the two gentlemen who frame
the left and right of the throne. We might assume that these two non-members are
high ranking officials at court, who are accompanying the king for the ceremony,
or perhaps the corporate officers of the Order; thus the man to the left of Ferrante,
in the Order’s robes, is likely Alfonso II. Ferrante sits on his throne, while
154
I have been unable to view this manuscript. De Marinis lists it under codice lat xi, 53 (or 4009)
de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol I, 48. Tommaro de Marinis and Alessandro Perosa, eds., Nuovi
documenti per la storia del rinascimento (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1970), 171.
155
Cinico is noted in various court records as a printer, artist, copyist, bookseller, and scribe. See
various entries in Barone, "Cedole ASPN X." It should be noted that he is also recorded as
transcribing the statutes of the Order of the Jar in 1492, de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol I, 134. Cinico
also was the scribe for Beatrice’s copy of Diomede Carafa’s De regimine principis, now in
Leningrad, which depicts the ermine in its illumination (Figure 57). The two frontispieces are
rather similar, and as Cinico is recorded as an artist in court records, he may well have done the
illumination. Alternatively, Cinico also seemed to have been involved in the book trade and
production closely associated with the Aragonese, and may have employed the same artist for both
manuscripts.
156
The inventory reads: “Narcisi theologi Melitensis Episcopi lucubrantiuncula in honorem
Herminiani ordinis ab rege Ferando instituti cum laudibus excellentissimi Principis Federici
Urbinatium Ducis. Ornatissima inserico rubro.” Quoted in de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol I, 46.
157
de Marinis, Bib. Nap. Vol I, 46.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 334
Federigo kneels at his feet, and it appears that the illuminator has captured the
moment when Ferrante has just finished placing the gold collar on Federigo’s
neck. According to the statutes, this constitutes the final stages of investiture,
when the king announces the companion’s entry into the Order, right before the
member is to kiss the king in sign of his fidelity. While the image is not too clear,
what is evident is the importance placed on the collar, as well as the unity of the
members through the wearing of the vestments.
Ludovico’s investiture provides us with a textual account of the
proceedings. In October 1486, Ferrante sent instructions to Philippo de Galerati
and Simonotto de Belloprato, two individuals in the service of King Ferrante, to
invest Ludovico Sforza with the Order of the Ermine in Milan. 158 The Order was
invested upon Ludovico, as is explained in a letter from Ferrante to Pirro d’Azzia,
the Bishop of Pozzuoli, in recompense for Ludovico’s help during the Baron’s
Revolt and war with Innocent VIII, stressing the political elements of bestowing
such orders. 159 Ferrante’s instructions given to Philippo and Simonetto for
Ludovico’s investiture follow the statutes closely, and suggest that even twenty
years after the initial founding of the Order, the statutes were still strictly
158
For the correspondence discussing the investiture see Rona Agata, "L'investitura di Lodovico il
Moro dell'ordine dell'Armellino," Archivio storico lombardo CIII (1979): 346-58. Instructions
were given to Philippo de Galerati and Simonetto de Belloprato, and were copied in a book of
instructions kept in the Archivio in Naples, that were transcribed by Luigi Volpicella in 1916,
Luigi Volpicella, ed., Regis Ferdinandi Primi, Instructionum Liber (10 maggio 1486-10 maggio
1488), Società Napoletana di Storia Patria. Monumenti Storici, Serie II. Documenti (Naples:
Stab. Tip. Luigi Pierro & Figlio, 1916), 44-9. Capaccio notes in his Il forastiero that he had read
these instructions. Presumably this was the same book that Volpicella transcribed, which Capaccio
had access to in the seventeenth century in Naples: “Ho letto poi l’instruttioni che dona Re
Ferdinando d’Aragona a Simonotto di Belprato, e Filippo di Galerati, quello Consigliero, e questo
suo creato, i quali doueano conferire detto ordine di milita al Duca di Bari, doue si notano molti
particolari del modo, & osseruanza di conferirlo, che potrò mostrarloui scritto per vostra
sodisfattione.” Capaccio, Forastiero, 223.
159
Agata, "L'investitura," 349-50.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 335
followed. Both Philippo and Simonetto were to bring the “capitoli di dicto
Ordine” along with the “other necessary things to be given with this said
impresa.” 160 The instructions detail the rite, following the excerpt of the ritual,
quoted above, very closely, noting that Ludovico was to be dressed in the “manto
de lo Arminio” when taking the vow, kneeling upon his knees. 161 In a letter from
November 1486, Ludovico writes to Branda da Castiglioni, Vescovo di Como,
noting that he had “solemnemente acceptato et vestito la Impresa de S. Michele
che ne ha per sua gratia mandata la M[aes]ta de S[igno]re Re Ferdinando” (“I
solemnly accepted and [was] invested/vested [with] the Impresa of San Michele
[the Order of the Ermine] that by His graciousness King Ferrante had sent [to
me]”). 162 Here Ludovico notes that he not only accepted the Order, but uses the
word vestito, which in Italian serves both as a noun—that of clothing or cloth—as
well as a verb—to be dressed, or to get dressed.
In English, the words vestments or vest reference types of clothing, and
resemble closely the word investiture, appointing someone in a position, that is, to
invest that person with a title. The Italian investitura also draws a correlation
between, investitura, vestito, and veste. The etymology of the word reveals the
close relations between investiture and clothing. The clothing and unclothing of
the body through vestito or investitura, that is, through the wearing of the mantle
of the Order and the investiture of the Order, are crucial to the rite of initiating an
individual body into a collective body. As Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter
160
“…de li capitoli di dicto Ordine, quali portate vui, Philippo, con le altre cose necessarie al dare
di decta impresa.” Agata, "L'investitura," 358.
161
Agata, "L'investitura," 358.
162
Agata, "L'investitura," 346.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 336
Stallybrass have noted, “investiture, the putting on of clothes, […] quite literally
constituted a person as a monarch or a freeman of a guild or a household servant.
Investiture was, in other words, the means by which a person was given a form, a
shape, a social function, a ‘depth.’” 163 As Jones and Stallybrass have shown,
clothes in the early modern period were not merely things that people wore, but
were heavily invested with meaning and memories; material was “richly
absorbent of symbolic meaning.” 164 Livery was one of the ways in which “the
social system marked bodies”, associating them with certain institutions and
subordinating them within a social hierarchy. 165 Dress and costume, as Bronwen
Wilson has noted in her study on Venice, could serve as the location of identity
and alterity. 166 It was the things worn over the body that became sites to locate
difference as well resemblance. Clothing could also act as a “material
mnemonic,” incorporating the wearer—the bearer of the ermine mantle in this
case—into a communal brotherhood, investing the clothes with reminders of the
rules, and binding the confratri into a network of memories, obligations, and
commitments. 167
The collar and the mantle were thus crucial components of the rite, and we
can also see that they held symbolic importance, when we turn to the statutes
regarding expulsion, detailed in the last thirteen ordinances of chapter fourteen.
As Boulton has remarked, no previous founder of an order had contained any
detail about the rite of expulsion, and Ferrante’s emphasis on this can be seen as
163
Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 2.
Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 8 and 20.
165
Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 5.
166
Wilson, World in Venice, especially Chapter 2.
167
Jones and Stallybrass discuss the material mnemonics of clothing throughout their book, but for
the emphasis on obligation and incorporation see Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 20.
164
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 337
his attempt to discourage any acts of treason, thus underlining the overarching
theme of fidelity. 168 It also demonstrates that even when invested with the Order,
one’s membership was never completely secure, therefore requiring members to
always perform their duties and allegiance. The ritual of expulsion is interesting
because it demonstrates the ways in which the material objects made and unmade
the subject, that is, the ways the adornment of the body—through clothing and
jewellery—could name and unname the confratre. If the votes from the Sovereign
and companions led to the expulsion of the member, an expulsion ceremony was
to take place where all confratri were to dress in full-length vestments of black
cloth, announcing the sentence solemnly where the convicted confratre was to
have the insignia of the Order taken from him. 169 First the mantle was to be taken
from the expelled member, and the King of Arms was to cry out “This man is no
longer worthy of anything through which he might be numbered among the
knights of this Order.” If the convicted confratre could not be present, then he
was to return his collar and vestments, and the procurator who had presented him
at his trial was to take his collar and vestments in place of the expelled member at
the ritual expulsion. While the expulsion ritual is in some ways a reversal of the
initiation ritual, the emphasis that the confratri of the Order should all wear black
alludes to the mourning at the loss and defilement of a companion, but also
reiterates the importance of dress. If the initiation ritual was to make all bodies
one—a collective body in the wearing of the same clothing and collar—then the
expulsion ritual unnamed the perpetrator as a member of the group by taking his
168
169
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 417.
The rites of expulsion are detailed in Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 417.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 338
vestments. The solemn wearing of black by the remaining members created a
unity, not by the bearing of the Order’s vestments, but by unifying them all in
black, underlining the crime and furthermore accentuating the tarnishing of the
Order by the expelled member’s disreputable behaviour. The act of expulsion can
be linked to Victor Turner and Louis Marin’s notion of communitas, whereby the
ritual “symbolically rehearses a confrontation with an enemy external to the
group.” 170 This ritual of expulsion, enacted through the confrontation with the
expelled member, makes visible the representation of the body—through the
visual material signs of the mantle and the collar—and unifies and reinscribes the
confraternal brotherhood of the Order.
The statutes detailed that the habit of the Order was to be worn when the
members were engaged in the Order’s business, on feast days, and during
ceremonies and meetings. The confratri were to process in their collars and
vestments to the services on the eve, morning, and evening of the feast. 171 This
stresses not only the uniformity of the group as they moved through the streets of
the city to the chapel, but also publicises the Order, through the performative
representation of clothes and procession. This collective wearing by members
across Italy and Europe would have unified a disparate body of individuals across
geographic space on specific days. Jones and Stallybrass have examined how the
metaphor of clothing as printing appeared frequently in literary references, often
in negative terms of excessive wickedness and sin. 172 Clothes had the ability to
170
Marin, "Semiotic Approach to Parade," 228; Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and
Anti-Structure (New York: Cornell University Press, 1969), 96-7.
171
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 423.
172
Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 3-4.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 339
leave a “print or character” upon both the observer and wearer, that is, clothes
were seen as “printing, charactering, haunting.” 173 Similar to the stamp of the
ermine found across media, and like the inscription of the statutes, which were
transcribed every time a new member was elected, the member’s body was first
imprinted with the vestments of the Order on the day of inauguration, and then
repetitively remade, reprinted, and reinscribed, every time the bearer put on his
robes and collar to celebrate the feast days or rites as a confratre. The collar and
the robe thus not only reinscribed the body through the ritual dressing on
particular occasions, but they also worked as material mnemonics, speaking to
memories of subordination and collegiality. 174
To understand further what the mantle may have meant for confratri and
observers alike, we will turn briefly to the significance of the ermine fur for
fifteenth-century viewers and how the cloaks were described by contemporary
commentators. The ermine had dual symbolic meaning: as an emblem, the animal
could stand for fidelity, purity, and moderation; as something worn, the fur
signalled opulence and wealth, and was often featured in sumptuary laws as
restricted for royalty or nobles. The tip of the creature’s tail is always black no
matter what the season and it was the black tip that was often used in dress. The
fact that the animal was small and that many tails were required to adorn the
exquisite robes meant that many ermines were used per item of clothing (see for
example Federigo’s portrait, Figure 41). The fur itself was not only expensive, but
173
Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 4.
Jones and Stallybrass have discussed the power of material memories: “memories of
subordination” in terms of livery/servant; “memories of collegiality” in terms of a livery company
or guild; “memories of identity itself.” Jones and Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing, 2. For Jones
and Stallybrass, the “repeated wearing acts as an inscription upon the body that can work with or
against alternative forms of inscription.” Jones and Stallybrass, "Fetishizing the Glove," 117.
174
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 340
the sheer number of animals needed to line robes also signalled opulence. It has
been noted that ermine fur is always described in the plural in the period, thus
underlining the fact that many skins are used to cover an area of clothing. 175
The importance of dress, and the attention paid to different types of
clothing and fur at this time can be detected in the precise descriptions I have
found in ambassadorial reports. Attention given to describing the type of fur
shows a knowledge in the period of various furs and their expense. For instance,
in February 1459, the two Milanese ambassadors to Naples, Antonio di Trezzo
and Francesco de Cusano, noted that King Ferrante, at his coronation, wore “a
gown in green satin and on top, a mantle of crimson damask and gold, lined with
ermines all the way to the ground.” 176 This coronation robe may have influenced
the actual mantle of the Order, which Ferrante was to institute six years later. In
March 1483 a celebration was held for Ferrante’s son, Don Federico who received
some lands in Calabria. The Milanese ambassador commented that Don Federico
was dressed in a “mantle of crimson satin, lined with ermines, all the way to the
ground,” which seems very similar to the mantle of the Order of the Ermine. 177
The chronicler Giacomo noted that on 16 May 1494 Virgilio Ursino entered
Naples, wearing a “scarlet gown lined with ermines, with a red hat with ermines
175
Jacqueline Herald, Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500, ed. Aileen Ribeiro, The History of
Dress Series (London and New Jersey: Bell & Hyman and Humanities Press, 1981), 215-6.
176
Italics mine. “el S.re Re per seguire li ordeni de la dicta incoronatione usci di castello vestito de
una gona de zetanino raxo verde e de sopra uno mantello de damaschino cremsi in pano doro
fordrato darmelini longo fin a terra.” ASMI SPE 92. Letter of 10 February 1459. For a useful
source on the various types of fabric used in the Renaissance including a dictionary of commonly
used terms, see Herald, Renaissance Dress.
177
“vestito de uno mongillo de damascho biancho et disopra uno mantello de zetonino raso
cremsile fodrato de hermelini infin a terra.” ASMI SPE 241. 199. Letter of 1483 9 March, Branda
da Castiliono to Duke of Milan.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 341
lining the interior.” 178 As a member of the Order of the Ermine, Virgilio’s gown
may well have been the Order’s mantle. The specific reference to the type of fur
in these accounts gives emphasis to the fact that the particular fur of the ermine
was noteworthy, and something that was discernible to most viewers.
We will now turn to the collar of the Order of the Ermine. As specified
above in the statutes regarding the ritual of investiture, the Capo was to place the
collar on the new confratre after he had sworn allegiance to the statutes and had
put on the mantle, and the king was then to announce the companion’s entry into
the Order, followed by a kiss. While the mantle cloaked the entire body of the
wearer, branding him as a companion, the collar was a smaller, yet more intimate
accessory. To attach the collar to the new companion’s neck, the king would have
had to get close to the companion, inciting an intimate connection at the moment
of bestowal. Jewels and jewellery were extremely important social markers in the
early modern period, as discussed in chapter two. Not only symbols of wealth,
they had names, were invested with histories, and exchanged hands numerous
times. Their movements and their exchanges gave them their value—both
economic and symbolic—and were crucial in initiating, solidifying, and
complicating social relations. 179
As detailed at the beginning of this chapter, the collar was composed of
various Aragonese devices as well as the ermine pendant, which dangled below,
178
“lo Signore virgilio vrsino caualo per la Cita de napoli. Gran Connestabele del regno desicilia.
Doue ad mano diricta andaua lo prencepe de altamura ad mano sinistra lo prencepe desquillace
figliolo depapa alexando. Lo quale portaua vna veste de scarllato infoderata de armellini la
barrecta rossa conla reuersa delli armellini etportaua innmano lo scepto de argento.” Giacomo,
Cronica, 182.
179
See chapter two, which deals with many of these issues through the institution of pawning. For
an insightful study on the social aspect of jewels see Randolph, "Performing the Bridal Body,"
182-200.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 342
visible on Federigo’s portrait (Figure 41) and in the representations in his
manuscripts (Figures 64b and 65b). The close attention to the individual
components of the collar in the description suggests that contemporary viewers
would have been aware of each component of the collar—the imprese and the
ermine, and would have valued the collar both for its material worth as well as its
symbolic status. Composed of symbols, which constituted the links of the chain,
and acted as the signifiers (decency, justice, and honesty) of the Order as well as
the confratri, the collar had the ability to colligere, that is to link or to gather, the
various symbolic meanings together (“that it be composed (colligato) of stocks
(stipiti)…and…of chairs (sedie)…in such a way that they are joined (collocate)
together.”) Similarly, its gathering ability (collocate) could symbolise its larger
ability to gather its various members into unification.
The statutes also detail the regulations of its use in chapter ten,
demonstrating the collar was to be worn regularly, and thus publicising the Order
through its visibility in wearing it. Confratri were to wear the collar for the feast
of Saint Michael Archangel, from the first vespers until the second vespers
inclusive. 180 They were also required to wear the collar once a week, on the same
day of the week on which the Feast of Saint Michael (September 29) fell that
year. The wearing of the collar on specific days by members in different
geographical spaces would have provided a means to link individuals through
space and time, creating a symbolic unity and further publicising the Order. If a
confratre did not or could not wear the collar on the said days, he was to give an
offering to a pauper. Knights of the order were also required to wear the collar in
180
Vitale, Araldica, 142; Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 425.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 343
battle, and if the whole collar was too inconvenient to wear, they were permitted
to wear only the ermine. Presumably the pendant was detachable. 181 Chapter
twelve of the statutes deals with the loss of the collar, noting that if the collar was
lost during battle, the confratre was not allowed to replace the collar without the
permission from the king. 182 In chapter fifteen the statutes instruct the
companions that after their death the collar and the “other insigni” were to be
returned by their heirs within four months to the “ecclesia de Sancto Michaele” or
to another appropriate location. Failing to do so would result in a penalty imposed
by the king and the Chapter. 183 Considering that the collar was highly valuable,
such a rule would ensure that the king would have the collar returned to him,
perhaps to be used on the next companion elected, but it also ensured that only
knights bestowed with the Order could bear the designated collars. Boulton has
suggested that the financial obligations of the Capo of the Order of the Ermine
were probably similar to those of the Orders of the Golden Fleece and Garter,
which required him to provide the physical facilities for the Order’s activities, to
pay for its festivities, and to provide the collars and vestments. 184 This would
have also provided a further obligation and indebtedness for the bearer of the
mantle and collar, sporting jewellery and expensive clothing bestowed upon him,
and yet always belonging to the king.
The gold collar, when studied as a piece of jewellery and gift, reveals itself
as something that has a communicative aspect, an object that has value within the
181
Vitale, Araldica, 142.
Vitale, Araldica, 143.
183
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 425-6.
184
Boulton, Knights of the Crown, 411.
182
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 344
political intrigues of courtly relations to signal social messages. 185 In examining
contemporary documents, it becomes apparent that the gold collar in general,
apart from its association with an order, was a symbolic political object, rich in
meaning and integral to the formation and maintaining of political relationships in
the late Quattrocento. Gold collars were common diplomatic gifts in the late
fifteenth century. My archival research has shown that King Ferrante often gave
gold collars to foreign ambassadors upon departure from his realm. While the
gifting of these collars is usually referenced in relation to the investiture of
knighthood, such bestowal underlines the forms of indebtedness and obligation,
as well as honour and prestige associated with the gold collar. For instance, on 10
June 1472, the Milanese ambassador reported that an individual, whose identity is
unclear, referred to as the “moschetto,” was knighted and received two gold
collars, each worth 300 ducati, as well as a horse and some expensive cloth. 186 On
27 October 1473, Francesco Maleta also reported to the Duke of Milan that a
certain “Signor Costanzo” was about to depart from Naples and that the king had
already given him five horses and a set of trappings and that the king was
intending to give him a gold collar worth 300 ducati. 187 In March 1475, King
Ferrante gave a gold collar worth 300 ducati and a horse to the ambassador of
185
Gold collars or chains were also often commented in ambassadorial reports as being signs of
wealth and reflections of the splendour of court, and letters often detail the approximate worth of
collars just by merely looking at them. See Martines, Power and Imagination, 233.
186
“et gli ha mandati a donare per questo moschetto che stato qua questi giorni passati: al quale
anchora come scripsi altre volte ha facto grande honore: et in questa sua p[resen]tita lha facto
cavalero: et gli ha donate due colane doro de valore tutte due de circah ccc duch[ati] et certo
brochato doro veluto et cavalli, et dinari secondo me, referto et con questo lha mandato a casa.”
ASMI SPE 220. 6, Letter of Andrea Giovanni to Duke of Milan.
187
“La M[aes]ta del Re ha facta p[rese]ntare hogi al s. Constanzo cinqui cavalli e una para d’
Barde: & intendo certamente chel fa fare uno colaro de valor’ d/ ccc duc.ti ch[e] gli vole donare.”
ASMI SPE 224. 50
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 345
France upon his departure from Naples. 188 On 29 August 1485 the jeweller
Tommaso di Marino was paid in court records for the price of a gold collar that
the king was giving to the ambassador of Hungary, “Gregorio Becchi.” 189 Gold
collars could also be given as wedding presents. Alfonso II d’Aragona gave a gold
collar to the daughter of the Prince of Bisgnano in 1485 for her marriage to the
nephew of Diomede Carafa. 190 In October 1472 Francesco Maleta also reported to
the Duke of Milan that the king had ordered that gifts be given to Eleonora
d’Aragona for her nuptials to Ercole d’Este. He noted that Alfonso II gave his
sister Eleonora a piece of gold brocade, a gold collar, and some silver that had
been given to him in Florence. 191
The political dimension of the gold collar is perhaps most telling in an
exchange of letters between Ippolita Sforza, Duchess of Calabria and her brother,
Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, that I came across in the archives in Milan. On 1
January 1474 Ippolita wrote to Galeazzo, informing him that she had seen the
gold collar that he had sent to the “Mag[nifi]ca Contessa Camerlenga,”
presumably Antonella d’Aquino, who was married to Innico d’Avalos, Count of
188
“lo ambas[sado]re de christianissimo s[ignor] Re de Franza quale era qui parti heri per
tornarsene i[n] Franza: donato da la M[aes]ta del Re de uno collaro doro de pretio de ducati
trecento & de uno corsero.” ASMI SPE 227. 198, Letter from Francesco Maleta to Duke of Milan
from 25 March 1475.
189
Filangieri, Documenti Vol VI, 126.
190
“Si paga con 36 duc correnti a Mro Bernardino di S. Croce, di Napoli, il prezzo di una catena
d’oro di 22 carati lavorata a modo di morsi di cavallo smaltati in 56 pezzi, del peso di once 3 e
trappesi 18, che il signor Duca di Calabria dono’ alla figlia del principe di Bisignano, sposa del
nipote del Conte di Maddaloni.” Barone, "Cedole ASPN IX," 604.
191
“la M[aes]ta del Re ha ordinato ch[e] tuti li Baroni del reame p[rese]ntamo La ILlma ma
Eleonora: e era el duca de Calabria ha comenzato: hagli donato una peza de borcato doro, uno
colaro doro e quello dargento ch[e] fu donato ad esso in fiorenza.” ASMI SPE 223. This letter is
unnumbered but is dated from 6 October 1472.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 346
Monteoderisio. 192 Ippolita writes that the Contessa was extremely surprised by the
gift, and informed Galeazzo that she had ensured that the Contessa knew that
Galeazzo had given the gift in reflection of the great love that he felt towards the
Contessa and her husband. 193 Francesco Maleta also wrote to the duke on 5
January 1474 assuring him that the collar had arrived and that it had been
presented to the Contessa as well as shown to Ippolita, and Alfonso d’Aragona,
among others. Maleta comments that Ippolita had expressed her belief that such a
gift would make the Contessa obligated to the Duke of Milan. 194 Ippolita Sforza
who was constantly caught in conflicting loyalties between her natal family, the
Sforzas of Milan and her marital family, the Aragonese, was very astute at
understanding the political intrigues and how to best manipulate individuals into
192
Innico d’Avalos had been given the position of Grancamerlengo in 1449 by Alfonso I
d’Aragona, and presumably still held the post as he held a number of court offices throughout
Ferrante’s reign. For Inigo (Innico) d’Avalos see, G. de Caro, "Avalos, Inigo," in Dizionario
Biografico degli Italiani, ed. Alberto Maria Ghisalberti (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana,
1976), 635-6.
193
“...Havemo visto lo collaro doro ha ma[n]dato adonare v[ostra] ex.tia ala mag[nifi]ca contessa
camerlenga, la quale e stata sola conte[n]teza et co[n]solacione ch[e] havemo havuta in questo
capo danno et meritam[en]te ne havemo recevuta alegreza gran[dissi]ma per molti rispecti prima
ch[e] qua no[n] se ragiona ne resona alt[ro] laude ch[e] la liberalita et magnificente de v[ostra]
s[ignoria] dela quale cosa n[on] poteriamo exprimere qua[n]to piacer[e] ne pigliamo p[er] la gloria
dele virtu de v[ostra] CeLne la quale e anocra n[ost]ra. Appresso p[er] el sign[o]re amore portamo
al s[ignor] conte et ala contessa per li quali ne piazuto piu tal p[rese]nte ch[e] fe decemilia volte lo
havessemo recevuto noi et se alamore et servitu ch[e] portiamo a v[ostra] ex[cellen]tia se po
agionger[e] qualch[e] cosa questa volta per certo ne ha comp[r]ata p[er] sua schiana [schiava?]. ne
recoma[n]diamo sempre a v[ostra] s[ignoria] la quale avisamo p[er] sua consolatione como noi et
li ill[ustrissi]mi figlioli stiamo bon.mo et lo ill[ustrissi]mo n[ost]ro consorto attende al suo
guarir[e]. Ex castro capuano neap[olis] primo Januarj mcccclxxiiij: havemo visto ancora de sua
co’messione la resposta ch[e] fala prefata contessa, la qual[e] ne parsa no[n] essere’ a liena dal suo
grand ingeng[no] ne dala grand’ affectione et revere[n]tia et servitia porta a v[ostra]
Ill[ustrissi]ma...” ASMI SPE 226. 202. This letter is referenced very briefly in Welch, "Between
Milan," 133.
194
“Ill[ustrissi]mo signore mio. Florio cavalaro de v[ostra] ex[cellen]tia andoe ad Cayrano terra
del conte camerlengo ad presentare lo colaro doro ala contessa: la quale quanto lhabi haivuto caro,
la s[ignore] v[ostra] potera vedere per la l[ette]ra chessa scrive ad quella. Io feci vedere dicto
colaro ala Ill[ustrissi]ma Ma[dama] Madona v[ost]ra sorella [Ippolita Sforza]: & ce erano el duca
suo [Alfonso d’Aragona]: madama Beatrice & don Zohanne. Tuti predicano la gloria &
splendideza v[ost]ra’. Ma essa M[adam]a v[ost]ra sorella dice che piu se rende obligata a la
v[ostra] subl[imi]ta de tale dono facto ala predicta contessa...” SPE 226. 215. This letter is
referenced very briefly in Welch, "Between Milan," 133.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 347
her service. 195 On 1 March 1474, Francesco Maleta wrote to the Duke of Milan,
reporting that a certain “Z˚” would continue to be very useful in Naples, and
necessary for Galeazzo. 196 This mysterious “Z˚” appears repeatedly throughout
Maleta’s correspondence in his reports to the Duke of Milan in the 1470s as a
code name for an individual who is constantly providing Maleta with useful
confidential information. 197 The letter of 1 March 1474 informs Galeazzo that to
ensure that Z˚ continues to supply them with restricted and important information
and maintain their secret contract, Maleta encourages Galeazzo to give Z˚ a gold
collar to “la donna sua”, as Z˚ has shown a wish to have a gold collar for “his
woman.” Furthermore, Maleta informs the duke that Ippolita believes that such a
gift will show the duke’s love for Z˚ and the said collar will bear much fruit. 198
195
For Ippolita’s position at the court of Naples and her complicated and fraught relations with the
Sforza, see Welch, "Between Milan."
196
ASMI SPE 227. 181.
197
For instance, the mysterious Z˚ appears providing information during negotiations for the
Sforza-Aragonese divorce, and Eleonora d’Aragona’s betrothal to Ercole d’Este, see ASMI SPE
221. 82 and 125, letters from 25 February 1472, and 20 March 1472, ASMI SPE 222. 108-9,
Letter of 15 June 1472. Z˚ is also recorded repeatedly meeting with Ippolita and spending much
time with her in 1471, see ASMI SPE 220. 169 and 172. Letters of 19 and 24 December 1471. Z ˚
also supplied information regarding the Turk in 1473, ASMI SPE 224. 206, Letter of 13
September 1473.
198
“La v[ostra] ex[cellen]tia ha possuto vedere per molte experientie qual el Z. ˚ glie utile qua & se
p[er] el passato ello ve e stato utile & necessario molto piu credo ch[e] serra per lavenire andar[e]
le cose como vede andare v[ostra] ex[cellen]tia. Unde a Madonna vra’ sor.la pare debeati tenere
dicto z˚: piu edificato sia po.le perch/[e] essendose firmato luy qua como e & haven[do] modo de
piscare al fondo no[n] se tractara cosa tanto secreta & importante chesso no[n] lintenda & no[n] la
significhi a v[ostra] s[ignoria] o per via mia o daltri ch[e] serra qui per quella. Como altre volte fu
dicto a v[ostra] ex[celen]tia el dicto z˚ havea gran desiderio ch[e] la v. cel. Donasse uno collaro
doro a la donna sua & sopra decio ne scrissi io ad essa ad suasione d[e] la P[refa]ta Madonna la
quale de novo mha imposto debea replicare & confortare & pregare la subl[imi]ta v[ostra] ch[e]
no[n] glia sia grave fare questa spexa d. CC o CCC Duc[a]ti perch[e] quelli 200 overo 300 duc[a]ti
ch[e] spendesse v[ostra] s[ignore] ogne anno nel z˚, e renderiano grossissima usura & no[n]
solamente faria el Parere suo ch[e] v[ostra] cel. usasse al p[rese]nte verso d[i] Luy questa
demonstratione de amarlo & haverlo caro per cavare il predicto fructo da esso cioe del collaro ma
quando gli statuisti ogne anno una Provisione secreta d[i] cc o ccc duc[a]ti non] ve saria sen[z]o
utilissima spexa. S[igno]re la v[ostra[ Ex[cellen]tia e Prudent[issi]ma & son certo i[n] questa cosa
mira piu alto ch[e] Madonna ne io saperessemo exprimere. Ma certo conorro bene cu[]m essa
Madonna ch[e] a v[ostra] ex[cellen]tia no[n] debea esser grave donare d[e] P[rese]nti uno collaro
d[i] cc ducati ad essa done del z˚: p[er] le rasone suprallegate & perche havendo io visto lo
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 348
Whoever this mysterious Z˚ is, this letter demonstrates the ways in which a gold
collar could be seen as a sign of political allegiance, and such a gift not only
symbolised relations, but constituted those alliances in the form of a bribe.
VII. Allegorical Representations of the Order of the Ermine: Roberti’s
Three Famous Women Panels
Three last representations will be considered here, but rather than a printlike symbol of the ermine, these three paintings function together to symbolise the
Order of the Ermine through allegorical representation. The panels were painted
by Ercole de’ Roberti probably in the 1480s or early 90s when Roberti was
working in Duchess Eleonora d’Aragona’s apartments in Ferrara. The panels
depict the three stories of Portia, Lucrezia, and the wife of Hasdrubal, who were
antique heroines (Figures 70a-c). Ruth Wilkins Sullivan has interpreted the three
paintings as following the Ermine’s theme of “death rather than dishonour.” This
motto in its original Latin, malo mori quam feodari, was a recurrent theme,
accompanying representations of the ermine impresa, most commonly in
reference to Marzano’s traitorous rebellion. 199 In analysing the panels we will see
that they do indeed reference this motto, but I suggest that the interpretation of
these three paintings should not be restricted to this single motto, but rather, they
desiderio i[m] menso ch[e] de cio tene il dicto z˚: de servitore velo faresti schiano &
vigilan[issi]mo & solect[issi]mo i[n] tutte le cose v[ost]rr S[igno]re se io vedesse ch[e] questa
spexa no[n] havesse ad esser a v[ostra] cel. fructuosa & come se dice renderve il centuplo no[n] la
recordaria, perche] semp[re] me voglio trovare ad fare crescere il Thexauro v[ost]ro e n[on]
desescere. In gra’ de quella reocmandome [con]tinuam[en]te Quando v.s. gli donasse questo
collaro restaria contento d[i] tracta & de ogne altra cose p[er] parechi di p[er]chi intendo havea
scritto de ceco d[i]certa tracta d[e] Brada. Ex neap p˚ Martij 1475.” ASMI SPE 227. 181.
199
The connection between the Order of the Ermine theme and the three panels was made recently
in Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels." For the three panels see Allen et al., "Catalogue,"
xxxiii, Cat. VI-VIII. Manca, Art of Ercole, 133-40; Joseph Manca, "Constantia et Forteza:
Eleonora d'Aragona's Famous Matrons," Source: Notes in the History of Art 19, no. 2 (2000): 1320; Margaret Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines. Power and Virtue in Renaissance Society
(Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2006), 115-48.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 349
make reference to the other mottoes of decorum, probanda, and those associated
with the collar outlined in the statutes: justice, decency, and honour. Like many of
the paintings that Roberti painted for the duchess, there is no exact record in the
account books, but the theme of the paintings as well as their Este provenance,
have led most scholars to conclude that they were probably spalliere intended for
one of Eleonora’s rooms, maybe one of her studioli. 200 While most of the objects
in Eleonora’s collections were religious in nature, these three panels follow the
stories of famous antique female heroines, a theme closely connected to Eleonora,
as she was the dedicatee of Bartolommeo Goggio’s De laudibus mulierum, and
she was included as a famous woman in Jacopo Filippo Foresti’s work De
plurimis claris sceletisque mulieribus, which was published after her death in
1497 and dedicated to Eleonora’s sister, Beatrice d’Aragona. 201 The attention to
the body and the fact that each heroine inflicts pain on herself would also have
had correlations to the religious paintings in Eleonora’s collections, which spoke
200
The panels were originally suggested to have formed part of the decoration of cassoni made for
Isabella d’Este’s marriage, for which Ercole de’ Roberti received payments. The Este provenance
of the Lucretia panel, recorded in the inventory of Cardinal Alessandro d’Este, however, suggests
that they were created and used in Ferrara rather than outside. The inventory of Cardinal
Alessandro d’Este was taken in 1624, and mentions “un quadro di Lucretia Romana dipinto su
l’assa suttile ma schiappata in due parti con cornice di noce.” The Lucretia panel is indeed warped
and split vertically, thus corresponding to the inventory entry. Manca, Art of Ercole, 59-60, 138;
Campori, Cataloghi ed inventarii, 72.
201
Foresti, De claris mulieribus (BL), folio CLXIv. Goggio’s Laudibus mulierum was in
Eleonora’s library as the inventory taken after her death records a copy of it. ASMO G114.137R:
“Libro composto per me[sser] Bart[olomeo] Gogio di Laudib[us] Mulieru[m].” Also published in
Bertoni, Biblioteca estense. For Goggio, see Werner Gundersheimer, "Bartolommeo Goggio: A
Feminist in Renaissance Ferrara," Renaissance Quarterly xxxii, no. 2 (1980). Conor Fahy, "Three
Early Renaissance Treatises on Women: 'De Laudibus Mulierum' by Bartolomeo Gogio; 'De
Mulieribus' by Mario Equicola; 'Defensio Mulierum' by Agostino Strozzi," Italian Studies 11
(1956).There is a manuscript of this text in the British Library, Bartholamei Goggio, De laudibus
mulierum. British Library Additional Manuscript 17415 (Ferrara?: XVTH century).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 350
to the ascetic and bodily transformations prevalent in Ferrarese religious
culture. 202
The theme and the literary sources for the paintings have been debated.
Wilkins Sullivan suggests Valerius Maximus’ Memorable Acts and Sayings of the
Ancient Romans as the source for Ercole’s three women. 203 Although many
scholars have accepted Wilkins Sullivan’s contention that the three panels are
connected to the Order’s motto, Margaret Franklin and Joseph Manca do not find
it convincing. 204 Franklin has suggested that the panels’ narratives follow
Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris and signal the evaluation of women in the
courts at the end of the Quattrocento, while Manca claims the panels are indebted
to Bartolommeo Goggio’s text, which stresses the themes of constancy and
fortitude. In consideration of Eleonora’s collections, which incited intertextual
relationships between paintings, texts, and objects, as well as the notion of fabula,
as discussed in chapter three, I would suggest that the three panels may have
drawn on a series of texts and narratives about the famous women from antiquity,
rather than restricting themselves to one source. Furthermore, the texts that Manca
and Franklin argue for, which they contend compromise Wilkins Sullivan’s
interpretation, I suggest, still support a connection to the Order of the Ermine.
Within the particular humanistic milieu that the panels were produced, this
202
For the importance of asceticism and the body in Ferrarese religious practices, see chapter
three.
203
Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 610.
204
The Catalogue from the Roberti Exhibition claims Wilkins Sullivan’s argument as convincing
and Dora Thornton, Luke Syson and Stephen Campbell have all referenced the three panels as
enacting the motto of the Order of the Ermine, see Allen et al., "Catalogue," xxxiii; Syson and
Thornton, Objects of Virtue: Art in Renaissance Italy, 19-20; Campbell, Cabinet of Eros, 68.
Manca and Franklin refute the connection, see Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 135-6; Manca,
"Constantia et Forteza," 17.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 351
“collection” or assembly of texts would have provided an intellectual stimulus for
viewers, allowing them to piece together their knowledge of antiquity depicted in
each panel, and to decipher the motto of the Order of the Ermine in an emblematic
fashion.
The panel of Portia and Brutus in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth
depicts the story of Portia recounted by Maximus, Plutarch, and Boccaccio
(Figure 70a). As the story goes, Portia took a razor and pretending to trim her
nails, she gave herself a wound, which Brutus thought she had obtained through
neglect. However she explains that she inflicted the wound to show her loyalty to
him, and that she would be capable of killing herself if his plot to kill Caesar
failed. Roberti has represented this particular moment, with Brutus looking down
at Portia’s foot where a wound has been inflicted, and her hands are gestured in a
manner as if she is explaining her loyalty. This part of the story is found in
Maximus’ chapter On Fortitude, and Portia appears again in his chapter Of
Conjugal Love, where she swallows burning coals to end her life. This she does
after she has heard that her husband Brutus has been slain, and would rather die
than end up in the hands of the enemy. 205 Boccaccio’s biography of Portia stresses
her inheritance of her father’s “bravery and perseverance” and Franklin has seen
this as particularly stressing the father-daughter bond, which was applicable for
both Eleonora and Portia. 206 Furthermore, Franklin believes the Roberti panel to
be influenced by the woodcut that accompanied Boccaccio’s printed version in
1473, both which she claims, refute Wilkins Sullivan’s argument. Manca has
205
206
Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 610-1.
Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 132-6.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 352
interpreted all three panels in reference to a passage found in Goggio’s text where
he lists “Lucretia, Sofonisba, Portia, Vetruaria and others” as matrone who are
laudable for their constancy and fortitude. 207 Thus he believes constancy and
fortitude to be the overarching theme, instead of “Death rather than Dishonour,”
and that Roberti chose to substitute Sofonisba with Hasdrubal’s wife.
The panel depicting The Wife of Hasdrubal and Her Children (Figure 70b)
housed in the National Gallery in Washington, is an unusual subject and has no
precedent in fifteenth-century iconography. There are no known medieval or
Renaissance references to the story but it is described in Appian’s Punic Wars as
well as Maximus, 208 and thus the panel was most probably a compilation of
antique sources. The story appears in Appian’s description of the defeat of
Hasdrubal’s Carthaginians by the Romans under Scipio Aemilianus, where
Hasdrubal’s wife (unnamed) is witness to her husband pleading for his life. 209
Hasdrubal’s wife, upon seeing her husband beg, decided she was not to suffer a
similar fate, and immolated her two children and herself in the burning Temple of
Asclepius. 210 Maximus’ description varies slightly, noting in his chapter Of
Fortitude that the wife chided Hasdrubal for “begging his own life at Scipio’s
hands, taking her Children…in her right and left hand, willing to die, she flung
herself into the flaming Ruines of her Country.” 211 Roberti depicts Hasdrubal’s
207
Manca suggests that “ Eleonora read this passage in Goggio, was intrigued by the possibilities,
and decided to have heroic matrons depicted by her court painter, Roberti.” While the passage may
have been an influence on the three panels, I would hesitate in claiming that this small passage
was the sole source for the cycle. See, Manca, "Constantia et Forteza," 17.
208
Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 145.
209
Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 145.
210
Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 145.
211
The quotation is taken from a seventeenth-century English translation quoted in Wilkins
Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 613.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 353
wife among the rubble of the collapsing temple, with her two naked boys, as the
flames rise up out of the floor. Manca has suggested that this particular subject
was chosen, because Eleonora, like Hasdrubal, refused to surrender to her
enemies, during the attempted coup by Niccolò d’Este in 1476, and during the
Venetian invasion in 1482. 212 Wilkins Sullivan has noted that while an exemplar
of Fortitude, contemporary viewers may have been preoccupied with the “moral
ambiguities” of her act. 213 Franklin has also noted that the subject posits
Hasdrubal as neither an admirable ruler, husband, or father, none of which Ercole
d’Este, the husband of Eleonora, would have been eager to identify with. 214
Franklin proposes that rather than supporting the “death over dishonour” theme,
the inclusion of this tale stresses that Hasdrubal’s wife was an agent of her own
death.
The Death of Lucrezia panel depicts Lucrezia in the act of stabbing herself
in the presence of her husband, Collatinus and his companion, Junius Brutus
(Figure 70c). The artist of this painting has been deliberated upon and it is has
been suggested that there is some workshop help, most probably the hand of Gian
Francesco Maineri; the Galleria Estense in Modena, where the work is located,
lists the panel to be by Maineri. 215 Lucrezia appears in Maximus’ Chapter Of
Chastity, where she stabs herself after being raped by Sextus Tarquinius. 216 The
story was well known in the Renaissance, and Boccaccio recounts the tale, closely
212
Manca, "Constantia et Forteza," 17. For the coup led by Niccolò see, Gundersheimer, Ferrara,
180-1. The local chronicler provides details on the war with Venice, see Giuseppe Pardi, "Diario
ferrarese dell'anno 1409 sino al 1502 di autori incerti," Rerum italicarum scriptores 24.7, no. vi
(1928): 98-118.
213
Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 612.
214
Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 145.
215
For attributions see, Manca, Art of Ercole, 138, cat. 17c.
216
Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 612-3.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 354
following Livy’s account. Tarquinius was the son of the tyrant Sextus Superbus,
who while staying as a guest in Collatinus’ home, became enamoured of Lucrezia
and one night entered her bedroom. Finding Lucrezia resistant, he threatened that
if she did not comply, he would kill both her and her servant, and would lie that
he had killed them upon finding them together in bed. She submitted to the rape,
but the next morning Lucrezia called together her father, her husband, and her
husband’s relative Junius Brutus (a relative of Portia’s husband), telling them the
details of the crime, and then committed suicide in front of them all. In the end,
Junius Brutus overturns Sextus Superbus, and as Maximus claims, Lucrezia’s
death “gave the Roman people reason to change the authority of kings for that of
consuls.” 217 The scene depicts Lucrezia before she kills herself, and Junius and
Colatinus are both portrayed in elaborately rendered armour. Franklin has noted
that there is also a correlation between this depiction and the accompanying
woodcut of Boccaccio’s printed version, which also only depicts the two men. 218
While Lucrezia’s story has often been promulgated as a justification for
republicanism, the stories of Lucrezia and Portia seem a paradoxical choice for a
duchess and a daughter of a king. Franklin has noted that marital chastity, the
women’s courage, and political loyalty are emphasised rather than republican
motifs. 219 Indeed, I would stress that all three stories discuss the theme of justice
and loyalty to political alliances, often made through familial bonds.
Republicanism might be touted, if it is in contrast to tyranny, and thus what is
217
Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 138.
Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 142.
219
Franklin outlines the republican overtones, see Franklin, Boccaccio's Heroines, 143.
218
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 355
underlined here is clemency as well as fidelity to one’s moral and political
convictions.
While most of the scholarship on these panels, and indeed on Eleonora, has
stressed a didactic inclination, such a reading limits the ways with which these
objects were viewed. 220 By analysing the different narratives rendered in each
panel—a compilation of antique and contemporary sources—the series invites the
viewer to engage with the images in a fabulesque mode, that is, by piecing
together the various texts and images. The viewer, in the end, comes up with an
emblematic reading of the panels, referencing the impresa of the Order of the
Ermine. The overarching themes of justice, fortitude, and honour, should be seen
as referencing the mottoes of the Order of the Ermine. We might be reminded
here that the motto “death rather than dishonour” is only one of the many
symbolic interpretations associated with the ermine and that the mottoes of
probanda and decorum were also closely associated with the Order. Rather than
restricting the theme to malo mori quam feodari, it is perhaps more useful to see
the three donne illustri fitting within the larger overarching themes of the Order
which stressed fidelity, propriety, as well as the tried, tested, and just ruler.
Fidelity, propriety, and decorum were also suitable themes that could be easily
adapted to promote acceptable female behaviour, exemplified here by the three
220
Wilkins Sullivan notes “Eleonora’s cultural interests always leaned toward the moral and the
didactic.” Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 624. The catalogue from the Roberti
exhibition, in reference to these panels states: “The didactic and exhortatory purpose of the
paintings is apparent in the way the subjects are presented.” Allen et al., "Catalogue," xxxiii.
Gundersheimer claims “to the extent that Eleonora was at all receptive to humanist culture, it was
the moral and didactic aspect of the classical revival that she favored.” Gundersheimer, "Women,
Learning: Eleonora," 54. Manca notes that “Eleonora was what we might call a Christian stoic,
believing that the performance of virtuous duty was higher than any other activity and that pain
was to be not only not avoided, but even welcomed if virtue was at stake…Goggio’s text and the
paintings by Roberti mirror her own life and actions.” Manca, "Constantia et Forteza," 19.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 356
heroines. Furthermore, the theme of decorum while closely associated with the
Order was also a commonly discussed topic in connection to painting and the
visual arts, relating to propriety and the need for deference, as well as “that
proportion, correspondence or conformity that style has with the subject.” 221
These themes of the Order also had a particular resonance for both Eleonora
and Ercole d’Este. Due to political turmoil and succession in Ferrara during
Ercole’s childhood, Ercole was sent to Naples to be educated, and acted as a
companion to Ferrante, his future father-in-law, yet contemporaries, both being
born in 1431. 222 Ercole received many privileges under Alfonso I d’Aragona, but
once Ferrante seized power, Ercole was slighted by the new king and sided with
the Angevins, rising up against Ferrante in the rebellion instituted by Marzano. 223
Following the defeat of the Angevins at Troia, Ercole returned to Ferrara where
he subsequently became the successor to Borso d’Este. Ercole’s marriage to
Ferrante’s daughter, Eleonora in 1473, repaired diplomatic relations between him
and Ferrante, and Ercole was to receive the Order of the Ermine two years later.
The famous women panels thus had not only links to the city in which Eleonora
and Ercole were raised, but also signalled the political tensions and reconciliation
between Ferrante and Ercole, highlighting the clemency of Ferrante, a theme
often emphasised in relation to the Order.
Roberti’s three famous women panels depicting antique subject matter
require the viewer to assemble the three distinct stories to decipher the
221
This comment was made by Andrea Gilio in the sixteenth century and quoted in John
Shearman, Mannerism (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1967), 166.
222
Gundersheimer, Ferrara, 176-7; Wilkins Sullivan, "Three Ferrarese Panels," 617.
223
Tuohy, Herculean Ferrara, 9-11.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 357
overarching themes of the Order of the Ermine. Seen as fabula, the three panels
not only represent the antique stories of three women, but also act as a device to
understand a higher meaning that is both political and moral. The mottoes of the
Order used in the three Famous Women panels demonstrate how far the
significance of the ermine had disseminated since the inscription of its statutes.
The symbolism of the Order of the Ermine, here, is interpreted through an
emblematic reading of textual and visual references, without the need for its most
obvious sign, the ermine.
VIII. Conclusion
The statutes of the Order of the Ermine can be seen as a material
manuscript that inaugurated the Order, and was bestowed on individuals upon
entry into the Order, a material object placed on a bookshelf in one’s library or
studiolo, and taken out, referred to, and strictly followed. But it can also be seen
as an integral part of the Order itself, something that gave rise to other forms of
inscription, as it detailed the rituals and acts that ought to be followed, which
inevitably led to the inscription of the body through the wearing of the mantle and
the collar. Roger Chartier has examined “the manifold shifting and unstable
relations between the text and its materialities, between the work and its
inscriptions.” 224 The statutes thus constituted both the symbolic and material
aspects of the Order, through their inscription, circulation, and appropriation,
giving rise to associations and representation. It was through the diverse modes
224
Roger Chartier, Inscription and Erasure. Literature and Written Culture from the Eleventh to
the Eighteenth Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2005), viii, ix. Chartier has examined this topic in a number of his works, see Chartier,
Inscription; Roger Chartier, Forms and Meanings. Texts, Performances, and Audiences from
Codex to Computer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 358
of the Order—the diamonds, fur, dung, and gold, the performance of the rituals
associated with the Order, the mantle and the collar which constituted those
rituals, the semiotics of the ermine and the representation of the ermine across
media—that the Order linked a series of spaces, events, and people.
The Order of the Ermine was instituted in 1465 and bestowed throughout
the late Quattrocento, a turbulent political period in Italy and abroad. The various
objects associated with the Order—the statutes, the mantle, the gold collar, and
the ermine impresa—were ways to transform the immaterial notion of fidelity
associated with the Order, into material form, thereby creating memories and
obligations. Rather than viewing these material components as only signifying
relations between individuals, it is much more fruitful to see these material
objects as comprising those relations, and indeed constituting ritual. As was
evident with the horse’s head discussed in chapter one, the bronze sculpture as a
gift was integral to relations between Diomede Carafa and Lorenzo de’ Medici,
engaging both men in a system of obligation and reciprocation. Obligation was a
crucial component of the Order, as is expressed by Galeazzo Sforza in letters
discussing the bestowal of the Order on Ercole d’Este. 225 As I have attempted to
demonstrate, it was the statutes which declared the obligation required of
members; it was the material objects—the mantle and the gold collar—and the
significance of these objects, which solidified those forms of obligation and
association. In an Order whose membership consisted of rebellious barons,
225
Three letters between Ercole and Galeazzo discussing the Order can be found in ASMI SPE
323. 110, 161 and 162. The letters are numbered not in chronological order, but are all dated from
November 1475.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 359
political contenders, and shifting allies, the mantle and the gold collar unified the
collective body.
The representation of the ermine in various media, transformed a highly
exclusive impresa belonging to only twenty-seven members into a symbol that
could have meaning and signification in social practice, not only in Naples but
across Italy and even Europe. The repetition of the ermine sign acted similarly to
citation, where part of a text quoted could reference a whole text or a body of
literature. The ermine as representation stood not as a marker with one meaning,
but opened up a web of associations and meanings. Its depictions on architecture,
in manuscript illumination, and in portraiture, allowed for a variety of viewers to
engage with its meaning, harnessing a constellation of symbolic associations and
claims into one repeatable stamp-like form.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 360
Conclusion
In the Archivio di Stato di Modena, there exists a series of
account/inventory books belonging to Duchess Eleonora d’Aragona. One of these
accounts details many items in Eleonora’s ownership, and is less an inventory
than an ongoing record of the movement of objects in her possession, labelled
“Libro della guardaroba della Ex[cellen]tia de Madama”, now listed as
Amministrazione dei Principi (Eleonora d’Aragona) 638. 1 This book can be seen
as a general account for the guardaroba for the years 1478-85, keeping tabs on
items, from silverware to mirrors, and from tapestries to books. What is
particularly interesting about this account book is that it often lists where the
objects have come from, detailing the item as being received as a gift and from
whom. It records when and if an item was pawned and specifies if an object has
been borrowed or lent. In the case of items such as cloth and silver, the book notes
if the cloth has been cut up and re-sewn, or if the silver has been melted down and
remade into something else. It does not, therefore, fall into the category of a
regular account book which keeps track of money and prices, but rather takes note
of the movement of objects, thereby contributing to our understanding of the
social lives of things therein. This account book does not, on the other hand, fit
into the category we would normally associate with the inventory, as it does not
list the items to record monetary worth, usually in the case of a death or will, but
rather maintains a particular interest in the objects, their movements, and
circulation. Under most items there are entries in different hands, from different
years, that announce the particular object’s movements (Figure 71).
1
ASMO AP 638
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 361
A few examples taken from AP 638 written and overseen by Gironimo
Zigliolo will suffice to give an idea of the social nature and movements of such
objects:
-Saucers two and ewers two, large, made of silver and
worked alla venetiana with the arms of Signore Re [Ferrante],
which were given by the ‘prefecto’ of Rome to Madama
[Eleonora], weight: one of the saucers 58 onze and one of the
ewers 58 onze.
Consigned to Antonio to give to Misser Andrea di
Zenaro, servant of the Duke of Calabria [Alfonso II
d’Aragona] 2 on the 7 of June 1484—which, instead, were
given to Misser Piedro da lino [of Linen] in Modena.
Note that the two saucers, which are in the guardaroba,
as they appear in the said inventory [inventory written by
Gironimo Zigliolo] at 15 and one of the ewers were pawned
in Venice as it appears in the book of records of Zironimo at
9.
The other ewer is in the guardaroba as it appears in the
inventory of the said Zironimo, at 15. 3
-Elephant teeth small, length, around two thirds of a
brazzo................................................................................two
Note that Madama Her Excellency sent to Bologna half
of one of the said teeth to Misser Egano di Lambertinj
Item, other half of the said tooth Her Excellency gave
on 10 January 1488 to her Illustrious children Don Alfonso
and Madama Isabella [d’Este]
Item another tooth, and posted and noted in the
inventory of the said Gironimo at 127 4
2
Alfonso d’Aragona came to the relief of Ferrara during the Venetian War at this time.
Bacili duj et bochalj duj grande di arzento lavorada alla venetiana cu[m] le arme del Sig[no]re Re
[Ferrante Aragona] li q[ua]li dono il p[re]fecto de Roma a Madama pesa luno di bacali on[ze] 58
et luno di bronzinj on[ze] 58
Fino [con]segnati ad Antonio di dare al miss[er] Andrea di Zenaro homo del duca di calabria
[Alfonso d’Aragona] adi 7 de zugno 1484—li q[u]ali inanzi erano stati dati al ditt mis[ser] predro
da lino in modena
Nota che li duj bazili (sono in guardaroba como apare al ditto inventario asp 15) et uno d[e]lli
bronzinj e i[m]pegno a venestia como apare al libro di recordi di zironimo asp 9
E laltro bronzino e in guardaroba como apare alinventario de ditto zironimo asp 15. ASMO AP
638. 7R. There is a sign which looks like ‘asp’, which is often used to refer to some sort of
numbering system in another inventory. I have transcribed it in the Italian as it appears and
translated it to mean ‘at.’
4
Denti di Aliphanti picoli longhi circa dui terzi de brazo...Duj
Nota che la Extia de Madama mando a bologna mezo de uno di ditti denti a miss/ egano di
lambertinj che fu dal mezo i[n]drete
3
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 362
-Garment, one, long made of crimson silk, unlined
Note that the above garment was made into coverings for
carriage horses, the said coverings are being sent by Her
Excellency Madama [Eleonora] to Florence to Lorenzo de
Cosimo. 5
There is a particular interest in the movement of these objects and their
provenances, in addition to marking the social and political nature of the items as
gifts. While these lists were ways to keep track of the plethora of luxury court
objects, we should also consider how they may have made the compilers of the
lists pay attention to the details of each object. The parchment covers of these
account books were often used for brief notes and we find quick sums of numbers
being added as if the cover was a notepad. One of the writers of AP 638, perhaps
Gironimo, has scribbled “pensi la morte tua” on the front (Figure 72), creating a
provocative statement regarding the transient nature of this life and contentious
issues around the wealth of goods. The writing of such an inventory may have led
those compiling to think of the issues at stake in collecting, reflecting
magnificence, and yet also contemplating what it meant to acquire goods.
Another account book (AP 639) dating from 1487-89 pays attention to
similar things; it records goods not because of a death, but to locate objects in
certain rooms. In particular, it notes objects that are taken out for use in
Eleonora’s cappella by her chapelain, Don Iacomo, as well as in her oratory and
some of the rooms in the Castello Vecchio. The book, however, soon turns into an
Item altro mezo de ditto dente Sua Signoria il dono adi 10 zenaro 1488 alli illustri soi filgioli Dono
Alphonse et Ma Isabella
Item altro dente e posto et notado allo inventario di ditto gironimo asp 127. ASMO AP 638. 101R
5
This is presumably Lorenzo de’ Medici. Vestido uno longo de raso carmesino deffodrato
Nota che del soprascripto vestido ne fu facto fornimenti da cavagli da carretta li qali fornime[n]ti
mando la Ex[cellen]tia de Ma[da]ma a fiorenza a Lorenzo de Cosmo. ASMO AP 638 . 31R
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 363
account book, recording payments and purchases, from about folio 24 verso
onwards. The next book (AP 640) again records many of the items in Eleonora’s
possession, often listing where they are, where they have come from, and dates
from 1487-93. This inventory is of interest because it lists many of her paintings,
altarpieces, and includes an inventory of the books in her library that lists sixtyseven texts. There are other account books and inventories but these few, in
particular, offer interesting examples to understand the movement of objects and
the various individuals involved. While in some instances an object’s movement
may have only required restricted circulation—a painting of religious subject
matter, for instance, might be moved from one room to another to be used in
devotion, such as the diptych examined in chapter three—the accounts also record
larger circulation such as those items exchanged as gifts between Ferrara and
other courts.
The close attention in the accounts to the type of materials is similar to the
description of pawned jewels discussed in chapter two. In writing the accounts,
compilers were asked to pay very close attention to the styles of the objects (we
find for instance “alla venetiana” or “alla turchesca”). We also find detailed
descriptions of the amount of jewels or precious stones on the objects, the
different materials of those objects, as well as their provenances. When we
consider the individuals who had close contact with these objects we need to think
not only of the owner—the duke or duchess for instance—or the visitors who
would view the objects—ambassadors, diplomats, and other ruling figures—but
also those who dealt with the objects regularly. This close engagement with
diverse objects, I would contend, encouraged individuals—whether ambassadors,
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 364
princes, administrators, or humanists—to compare objects and forge connections
between them. These forms of engagement with diverse objects and visual
imagery led to particular modes of decipherment, causing viewers to draw
relationships between diverse materials and forms.
Gironimo Zigliolo (also spelled Zironimo), the compiler of many of
Eleonora’s account books, was not merely a servant who tracked goods or
recorded accounts, but rather, he was an important figure at the court of Ferrara.
In 1489, Eleonora had Gironimo scout out precious objects for her when he
travelled to France. He returned to Ferrara with a number of treasures from Lyons,
including a variety of ancone (small altarpieces), amber pater nostri, and
sculptures made out of precious materials such as ivory and gold. 6 Evelyn Welch
has noted that in April 1491, Isabella d’Este wrote from Mantua to Gironimo
requesting him to buy “anything that is new and elegant” in France for her, such
6
“Girolimo Ziliollo contraste di avere xxv di luio ....le quale gia comp[r]atj in franze [he has been
paid on the previous pages of the accounts to go to Lione and purchase goods]
...e di avere dp tri L doe b tri d 4 M[archesani] per la valute de doe ancone doro le q[ua]le portare
da lione e cosignate a fiore di spina in una sono sante barbara laltra sono vnj xpto [(christo)]
.....(180....dp 3 L 2.3.4
...E di dare dp uno d˚e L una b quat) di quat) d 4 M per la valute di uno fiasco de olio da spigot lo
q[ua]lle comp[ra]atj a Lione…………dp 1 L1.4.4
...E di dare dp duj ½ doro per lavalute di una ancona davolio dove la nostra done in mezo e ly 12
apostoly date a fiore di spina .....................dp 2 L 1.11.0
E di avere dp uno doro per lavalute di uno ce lamaro et uno casitina davolio date a fiore di spina
..............................dp 1 LE di avere L doe b scripte M per lavalute di uno armelino doro dapertura nel boneto che fiore di
spina alo˚ de la zora..............L2.2.0
E di adare L una b cinque M per lavalute di duj santj Iacomj daraxintj date a fiore di spina ....alo
gla zolgie.................(180.......L.1.5.0
E di avere L una b duj d 8 M per lavalute di sei sidarne di radrxe como lo manigo lavorato di
curame........L.1.2.8
Girlimo Ziliolo de avere ad xxv luio dp uno doro L M per lavalute di paltrj nostrj 450 dambro di
piu e d[i]verse sorte ly q[ua]ly dite a fiore di spina ..........L.1
Ed dare d quat) d 2 M per lavalute da una scatolla di corr da tegnere zoia..........L.0.4.2” ASMO AP
639. 131R-132R
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 365
as “engraved amethysts, rosaries of black, amber and gold.” 7 I have also found a
series of letters from 1491 from Isabella d’Aragona, Duchess of Milan (daughter
of Ippolita Sforza and Alfonso d’Aragona, and wife of Giangaleazzo Maria
Sforza), asking Gironimo for expensive cloth. 8 In addition, Beatrice d’Este
(daughter of Eleonora d’Aragona and Ercole d’Este, and wife of Ludovico il
Moro) also wrote to Gironimo in 1491, requesting he procure a variety of
different items. 9
A guardarobiere such as Gironimo, then, not only received, consigned, and
recorded goods; he also had access to mercantile networks, and even travelled to
acquire items. He not only did this for the court of Ferrara, for which he worked,
but also for other ruling houses in Italy, especially those that had marital and
political ties with Ferrara—Mantua and Milan. Similarly, an individual like
Diomede Carafa served the Aragonese in capacity as secretary and counsellor, but
he also had the title of guardarobiere at one point in his career. His own interest
in procuring luxury goods would have been enhanced by having access to
merchant networks operating within the Neapolitan kingdom, which gave rise to
his contact with individuals like Filippo Strozzi and Lorenzo de’ Medici.
The surviving textual evidence from the period, such as ambassador reports,
personal and official correspondence, inventories, account books (including those
of the court, merchant-bankers, and pawn-brokers), popular narratives, printed
histories, and even knightly statutes, all reveal a precision in describing the
7
Welch, Shopping, 250. He is also recorded buying velvet for Anna Sforza, Alfonso d’Este’s wife
in 1496, Welch, Shopping, 353, n.19.
8
ASMO CPE 1219.9. Letters are dated from November and December 1491.
9
ASMO CPE 1219.9 Letters are dated from August and November 1491.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 366
materials, forms, histories, representations, and value of precious objects. The
textual evidence suggests not only that viewers of these jewels, gems, clothing,
and antiquities had a particular mode of seeing and interpreting these objects, but
that these objects also played a critical role in social and political life, worthy of
record, notation, and description.
This thesis has argued, in support of studies such as Arjun Appadurai and
Igor Kopytoff, that objects have social lives and biographies, characteristics
which are significant in this period. However, I have also attempted to
demonstrate why this is important and how it might allow us to understand social
or political relations from a different angle. That is to say, rather than merely
repeating the histories of an object, like the horse’s head, we might ask why there
are so many narratives in the first place. What is it in the thing itself that gives rise
to these narratives? How can representation be linked to social or political
ideologies? How can a gift—a material object—be a critical reminder of political
dependencies, obligations, and relations? It is by studying the very particularities
of an object—its form, function, use, value, representation, iconography,
material—that we can begin to understand the diverse and complex ways that
objects partake in social life.
A colossal horse’s head, given as a gift from one diplomat to another,
operates very differently to the gems and cameos constantly circulating between
the collecting elite. These gems, used as currency, gain social and cultural value
as they circulate, but they are also tied to representation through their
dissemination in media. This process is different from the intertextual reading
encouraged by the diptych form with its various textual and visual citations. The
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 367
function of the diptych in religious ritual, may be tied to the importance of the
gold collar, the mantle, and the ermine emblem in the rites of the Order of the
Ermine, although in a different way. The ermine emblem operates as a repeatable
sign, linking the members of the Order together across space, and through time,
specifically on ritual feast days.
These diverse forms of engagement demonstrate that different objects do
different things. Subject-object relations are not always predictable, and indeed,
sometimes bring about unexpected results, such as the contentions formed
between the Este and Aragonese around the purchasing of the bejewelled
crocetta. Examining the circulation of objects within and between courts has
brought to the fore latent political or social tensions, as in the case of the horse’s
head in the complicated negotiations between Florence and Naples. Social,
humanist, and religious concerns in Ferrara were also brought forward by
studying the Roberti diptych and its engagement with a wide range of objects and
visual images. Objects also reveal the formation of new networks or associations
and the importance of groups not usually studied as associated with the court,
exemplified by the individuals connected across Europe through the Order of the
Ermine as well as the relationships formed through the practices of Florentine
merchant-bankers. By examining court relations through the objects themselves, I
suggest that at this particular moment, the court was not centred solely around the
prince, but rather it was composed as a complex and shifting system of relations,
with a variety of actors and interests. These actors were often objects, that
constituted an integral part of court relations, engaging viewers in political or
social dialogues, and comprising an essential part of every court ritual.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 368
Primary Archival Sources
Archives Consulted and Abbreviations
I have provided a list of the archives consulted, and in cases where it is
useful, I have included the specific busta numbers with headings to facilitate
further research. All busta numbers as well as page numbers or letter numbers,
when available, are cited in the text.
ASF: Archivio di Stato di Firenze
CS: Carteggio Strozziane
ASFE: Archivio di Stato di Ferrara
Archivio Bentivoglio
ASMA: Archivio di Stato di Mantova
AG: Archivio Gonzaga
ASMO: Archivio di Stato di Modena:
AE: Archivio Estense
AMB: Ambasciatori
AMB FIR: Ambasciatori Firenze
AMB MIL: Ambasciatori Milano
AMB NAP: Ambasciatori Napoli
AP: Amministrazione dei Principi (AE)
Buste 631-640 include all of Eleonora d’Aragona’s inventories and
account books
AT: Arrazi e Tapezaria(AE)
CG: Conto Generale(AE)
C&S: Casa e Stato(AE)
C&P: Castaldarie e Possessione(AE)
CPE: Carteggio Principi Esteri
1245/1
Ferrante I 1451-1493
1246/2
Alfonso II duca di Calabria 1468-94
1247/3
Ippolita Sforza 1478-1488
1248/4
lettere di altri principi minori (including Matalona
(Madaloni) (i.e. Diomede Carafa) 1472-1686)
CR: Carteggio di Referendari (Cancelleria)
G: Guardaroba (AE)
114: Inventory of 1493 of Eleonora d’Aragona, taken after her
death. (previously AP 640bis)
I&S: Intrata e Spesa(AE)
LCD: Libri Camerali Diversi(AE)
M: Mandati(AE)
Mem: Memoriale(AE)
M&F: Munitione e Fabbriche(AE)
Tex: Texoreria(AE)
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 369
ASMI: Archivio di Stato di Milano
SPE: Sforzesco Potenze Estere
(buste 200-250: Napoli, from the years 1459-1492)
(buste 323-334: Ferrara, from the years 1471-1494)
SPS: Sforzesco Potenze Sovrane
ASNA: Archivio di Stato di Napoli (Most of the court records were destroyed in
World War II, although there exist some fragments. Also see Barone’s various
transcriptions from the nineteenth century)
TGA: Tesoreria Generale Antica
TA: Tesoreria Antica (Cedole) (TGA)
F: Frammenti (TGA)
Arch. Carafa: Archivio Carafa di Maddaloni e di Colubrano
Libraries Abbreviations
BA: Biblioteca Ariostea, Ferrara
BE: Biblioteca Estense, Modena
BL: British Library, London
BNN: Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli
BNP: Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris
(Manuscripts Ital 1583-91 contain fifteenth-century court letters from
Milan)
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 370
Illustrations and Appendix withheld due to copyright.
Value and Symbolic Practices
Leah R. Clark 434
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