Tag Archives: Florence

Risk-taking, city-living, document-losing, Baroque-deploying: Italy then and probably also now

the_cardsharps-300x213Four research projects related wholly or partly to Italy have been funded for 2017 and beyond by the Australian Research Council. In an exploration of the cultural history of capitalism Nic Baker (Macquarie) will be analysing how merchants and gamblers took financial risks, rational and irrational, in Renaissance Italy. Nick Eckstein (Sydney) will use the health records of the door-to-door ‘Visitation’ of every poor household in plague-ridden Florence in 1630 to illuminate everyday urban life as experienced by the otherwise voiceless inhabitants. John Gagné (Sydney) will be mapping the social and cultural effects of paper’s introduction to Europe from 1200-1800, focusing on both intended  (censorship, document suppression, prohibitions) and unintended (fires, rot, vermin) loss of documents and its consequences for repression and reinvention. Jaynie Anderson, Shane Carmody and Max Vodola (Melbourne) will track the unstinting efforts of the first Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, James Goold (1812-1886), an Irishman educated in Italy, to use his collection of books and Italian Baroque paintings to convey the intensity of European religious experience to congregations at risk of distraction by the gold discovered in Victoria in 1851.

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A tale of two journeys: the composition and publication of the Codice Rustici

codice-rustici-facsimile-olschki-itinerario-di-fede-firenze-gerusalemmeIn 1450 or thereabouts a Florentine goldsmith, Matteo di Bartolomeo Rustici, began to write down the story of a perhaps imaginary journey to the Holy Land a decade earlier. He relied heavily on his favourite readings, copying and abridging them, illustrating his accounts of places and events with detailed watercolours, frequently digressing from his main storyline to include instructions on Christian doctrine for pilgrims, potted biographies of saints, tales associated with the places visited, recommendations of cures for tarantula bites …. the result, in the words of Kathleen Olive and Nerida Newbigin, editors of the critical edition of the Codice Rustici, recently published (Olschki 2016) with a facsimile of the original and collection of essays, ‘resembling the worst kind of research uncritically cobbled together from internet sources’. The beautifully illustrated story of the text’s survival and its own journey towards publication is told by the editors here.

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Words of Violence in Early Modern Italy

pordenone_detail-1-jpgA one-day international conference, Words of Violence in Early Modern Italy, will be held at Palazzo Rucellai, Florence, on 11 December 2015, 9.00am-6.00pm. It will focus on written injurious words: humanist invectives, religious and political smear, slanderous libels and pasquinades. Social historians have engaged with the meanings and practices of verbal slur, gossip, and physically violent acts such as homicide, suicide, and punch-ups. This conference explores instead the conventions of written texts and how hurling textual insults was an effective (and affective) way to establish identity and gain consensus across diverse social echelons. The conference will qualify the type of violence unleashed by these slanderous texts and examine the connection between page and social context, as suggested by Judith Butler. In order to comprehend which words wound, one needs to understand the ritualization of linguistic injury and a sphere of practice that goes beyond the moment of utterance or the written page.

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Site of Resistance: The Popular Piety of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato

 Shannon Gilmore   University of California, Santa Barbara

260px-Prato,_Santa_Maria_delle_CarceriThis summer I enjoyed a month-long sojourn in Florence to expand my dissertation project on Central Italian miraculous image cults established in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, specifically the cult of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato. My trip got off to a promising start: I had the good fortune to attend the special mass marking the anniversary of Santa Maria delle Carceri’s first miracle. I was immediately grateful that I had arrived early to snag a seat, as the interior of Giuliano da Sangallo’s church was bursting at the seams with the faithful whose eyes were fixed on the miraculous image of the Virgin and Child with Saints Leonard and Stephen (c. 1350) above the high altar. The cult’s continuing significance to the diocese of Prato was immediately evident as a television cameraman ducked in and out of the tightly packed crowd to capture a perfect shot of the bishop who proudly wore a vestment bearing a screen-printed copy of the Marian image.

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Renaissance credit/Mafia organisation

EUR55_02Full disclosure: there is no relation between the two topics in the title above except their appearance in the same recent issue of the Archives Européennes de Sociologie/European Journal of Sociology (2014, v.55, no.2). In ‘The circulation of interpersonal credit in Renaissance Florence’ Paul McLean and Neha Gondal analyze a large network of interpersonal credit ties among Renaissance Florentine élite households to determine how Florentine personal credit was organised. After examining participation by people from different categories (neighborhoods, factions, and guilds), they conclude that use of credit provided an important mechanism for confirming élite membership and solidarity. In ‘How Do Mafias Organise? Conflict and Violence in Three Mafia Organizations’ Maurizio Catino tracks the relationship between organisational structure and type of criminal behaviour in Cosa Nostra, Camorra, and ‘Ndrangheta. Using historical, judicial and statistical evidence, he shows how differences in the degree of organisational hierarchy produce differences in both levels and targets of violence.

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PLAGUE, PLACE AND FEAR IN EARLY MODERN FLORENCE

Nick Eckstein   University of Sydney

17thC plague coatIn the plague years of 1630-1631 the aristocratic confraternity of the Archangel Michael, nicknamed the ‘Stropiccioni’ (Zealots, or ‘Bible Thumpers’) sent pairs of its members into the streets and back-alleys of their own city in an unusual programme of ‘Visitations’.  The Visitations were recorded and constitute a remarkable resource for understanding the social and cultural role of plague in Renaissance Florence.

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Quaderno poetico #6: Going behind the scenes (II) – Archives

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

220px-Stipula_fountain_pen

This is the first of two posts about working in archives, where so many of us spend so much our time, in Italy and elsewhere. My work concentrates on the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari and I will have more to say about working on his archival materials later, as well as talking about the technical questions involved – transcribing handwriting, handling old paper and  so on. First, though, I have found myself reflecting on archival work in general, the fascination, frustrations, fun and fanaticism that surround it. I’m interested to hear other people’s archival stories and philosophies, particularly if they disagree with mine. Archival work often makes you feel that you’re the only one in the world doing what you’re doing (a chosen one, even!) but of course we’re never alone. The Renaissance scholar Gene Brucker has called himself an ‘archive junkie.’ There must be more out there. Be proud of it.  

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Tuscany meets Milan @ Datini office™ ☞ 1382

Josh Brown   University of Western Australia

220px-Francesco_di_Marco_DatiniWhen did Tuscan language forms reach Lombardy? The earliest time that Tuscanisation has been suggested for Milan is during the late Quattrocento when Tuscan became a model for the chancery, well before its codification by Bembo in the Cinquecento. But can evidence for an earlier presence be found? I believe it can. My key source for an earlier dating of Tuscanisation is the correspondence between merchants from Milan and the 14th century Tuscan merchant Francesco di Marco Datini (c.1335-1410), the famous ‘merchant of Prato’.

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Quaderno poetico #4: How the poetry works (II)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

What do you notice about these two samples of poetry?

“…se il vento rintocca nelle corti / come un rullo sordo e opaco di tamburo, / un ululo fedele accanto al muro / del padrone addormentato.”

“Le corti fiorentine / rintoccano a morto in una cupa vanità / come una pelle tesa di tamburo, / le ardesie soffocate di polvere quassù in alto…”

The quotations come from two separate poems, “La notte fiorentina,” written on the 27th of February 1946, and “Inverno arido,” written a few days later on the 3rd and 4th of March. But yes, the thing you notice is the repetition. Different poems, same material: the courtyards reverberating with a menacing, drumhead sound. The last post ended with the suggestion that Bigongiari’s writing unfolded through a process of elaboration, treating certain phrases, words or situations as motifs, to be taken up from previous poems and recoloured in new ones. What you see here is an example of elaboration in action.

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Quaderno poetico #3: How the poetry works (I)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

Once the historical labels are removed, the project of getting to know Piero Bigongiari arrives at the biggest question: if the idea of ermetismo is not the key to defining his work, then what is?Bigongiari photo Bigongiari’s poetry is often deeply abstract; it can be highly charged with emotion, but without a clear reason or point of reference; it sometimes plays odd games with internal rhymes and repetitions. Furthermore, the poems are presented in chronological order and their dates of composition are given in the table of contents. How do we discuss this coherently and sympathetically? And how do we draw philosophical conclusions from it?

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