Lucrezia’s Family: The Renaissance Borgia Dynasty

Much maligned for their misuse of power, the Borgias are being reassessed in our age of more secular power politics. Were Alfons (Pope Callixtus III), Rodrigo (Pope Alexander VI), Cesare and Lucrezia dastardly characters or stereotyped as Machiavellian? Were the Borgia popes abjectly sinful or merely worldlier than was good for their reputations? Was Lucrezia one of history’s great vixens or her powerful family’s pawn? Were the Borgias simply victims of early biographers intent on character assassination due to gender politics or a poor understanding of how political power must always be used? Our program reexamines the Borgias in the context of their considerable contributions to the Italian Renaissance. This program is offered with the support of the College of Letters and Science, UC Santa Barbara.

Friday May 4, 2018 | 7:30 – 9:30 pm

The Borgia and the Renaissance of Empire in Italy / Thomas Dandelet (History, UC Berkeley)Few, if any, “foreign” families shaped the cultural, religious and political life of Renaissance Italy in the dramatic and controversial fashion that distinguished the Borgia (Borja) family of Valencia, Spain. Often maligned by contemporary opponents and later critics alike as politically ruthless, morally depraved, and religiously corrupt, Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), can also be viewed as an important patron of art and architecture, a shrewd political operator who strengthened the Papal States, and an important player in the revival of imperial ambitions in Italy and abroad. These were characteristics that made Alexander VI a classic example of Machiavelli’s respected (and feared) Renaissance prince who gained honor, glory and fame for himself and his family. At the same time, his rule can be credited with expanding the foundations of the Renaissance in Rome that following popes would build upon. This presentation focuses on this often forgotten role of Alexander VI as one of the most influential princes in a period of dramatic European and global transformation.

Performance: Music in the House of Borgia / GALLIMAUFRY CHAMBER CHORUS, directed by SHIRA KAMMEN (violin) and featuring JULIE JEFFREY (viola da gamba); introduced by KIP CRANNA (Dramaturg, SF Opera) and presented with the support of the Italian Cultural Institute.

Saturday, May 5, 2018 | 10 am – noon and 1:30 – 4:00 pm

Giulia “La Bella” Farnese: Papal Concubines and Families in Renaissance Rome  Carol Lansing (History, UCSB). Rodrigo Borgia’s reputation for debauchery is based in part on his open arrangements with his concubines and their children, notably Vanozza dei Cattanei and Giulia Farnese.  There is a long history of scandalous Roman gossip about popes and women, notably Pope Joan.  However, recent studies have shown that it was very common for priests in the Renaissance to have concubines and even to provide for their illegitimate offspring.  This talk will view papal scandals through the eyes of the women and families.   The brilliant and ambitious Giulia Farnese after all was able to use her role to advance members of the Farnese family.

Confidence Games: The Ends of Power in Machiavelli’s The Prince Jon Snyder (Italian Studies, UCSB). On diplomatic missions for the Florentine Republic in the turbulent first years of the sixteenth century, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) met the feared warlord Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI. Machiavelli later immortalized Cesare’s meteoric rise and fall in his treatise on The Prince, identifying in the younger Borgia a model for any ruler of a modern state seeking to obtain and maintain power. The ideal Italian Renaissance prince—cunning, ruthless, daring, indifferent to conventions and traditions—must practice an instrumental approach to “the art of the state” that severs ethics from politics. These troubling new “virtues” need to be deployed, but never displayed, because the prince’s grip on power depends in part upon how well he can act like a “fox” by hiding his true thoughts from subjects and enemies alike. In this presentation we will look at some of Machiavelli’s seminal—and still highly controversial—ideas about statecraft, before focusing on the fall-out from The Prince in the final phases of the Renaissance.

Rodrigo Borgia and His Legacy as Art Patron / Meryl Bailey (Art History, Mills College). In 1507, Pope Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere) vacated the Vatican rooms of his despised predecessor Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). Closed for centuries, Pinturicchio’s lavish Borgia Apartments blend Roman, Christian, and unusual Egyptian iconography to celebrate the glorious ancestry, destiny, and virtues of the Borgia pope and his family. Many of the holy figures in the frescoes have been identified as portraits of the pope’s illegitimate children and his mistress. Situating these sumptuous frescoes within their artistic, intellectual, and political context, we will explore Alexander’s use of the visual arts to promote his family and cement his claims to power. For centuries, scholars minimized the influence of the Borgia on later developments in Renaissance art, but we will reconsider Alexander VI’s legacy and his impact on later pontiffs, including his nemesis Julius II.

Sacred Reliquaries and Silk Clad Walls, Portraits and Living Spaces of Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara / Allyson Burgess Williams (Art History, SDSU)Lucrezia Borgia created a sensation when she entered Ferrara in January 1502 clad in a gold and brown striped wedding dress, her golden hair set off by a shimmering diamond studded hairnet. As the bride of Alfonso d’Este I, heir to the venerable dukedom of Ferrara, this twice-married 22-year old daughter of the licentious Pope Alexander VI and sister of the rapacious Cesare Borgia was under intense scrutiny. She quickly proved herself to be intelligent, kind, and pious, a superb administrator and loving mother. In order to move out from under the shadow of her Borgia past, Lucrezia commissioned a series of portraits presenting a new self, the virtuous and magnificent duchess. Lucrezia’s persona was reflected in her fabulous lost living quarters filled with sumptuous textiles and precious objects, consciously selected to firmly entrench her within the courtly world of North Central Italy.

Panel Discussion: Q&A with presenters

Download our postcard here: HW Borgia Postcard FINAL


Ancient Greeks: The Age of Expansion

Influential cultures never arise ex nihilo. Before Athens’ Golden Age, the ancient Greek economy had already expanded dramatically and Greeks had colonized lands on the shores of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. They began to create communities of citizens, to frame laws and develop institutions to govern themselves, which became the context for the development of Greek political thought. Homer immortalized the Trojan War and the adventures of Olympian gods and goddesses. Lyric poets sang of love and political intrigue. The Olympic Games rewarded physical fitness and mental discipline. New forms of scientific reasoning were pioneered in Greek cities on the Anatolian coast, and students of Pythagoras then brought science to southern Italy, where the Sybarites were famed for their pursuit of pleasure. These vibrant cultural strands make the Greek Age of Expansion one of history’s most intriguing eras.

Friday, February 23, 2018 | 7:30 – 9:30 pm

The Rise of the Ancient Greeks / Josiah Ober (Classics, Stanford) After the fall of the Bronze Age Kingdoms, Greece was impoverished, under-populated, and isolated from the wider Mediterranean world. By the classical era, Greece was rich, densely populated, and the bustling center of Mediterranean trade and culture. How and why did the Greek city-states rise, in just a few hundred years, from poverty to wealth, from stagnant backwater to booming metropolis? The “Greek miracle” has long fascinated students of history. It can be explained by applying the methods of modern social science. The creation of new forms of citizenship revolutionized the Greeks’ attitudes towards investment, education, and risk-taking. Competition with fellow Greeks and with neighboring civilizations promoted a cycle of institutional and technological innovation. When citizens gained reasons to invest in themselves, and to defend those investments with laws and arms, a new age dawned. And the world was changed forever.

Orpheus’s Lyre. Music selections from Gluck and Philip Glass; poetry of Rilke and Art of Rodin, Moreau, Cortot. Performed by Kayleen Asbo (story and piano) and Evan Kahn (cello). In 1922, the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke arrived at a chateau in Switzerland in a state of profound depression and grief with a case of writer’s block so intense that it had lasted almost ten years. Over just three weeks, the image of the mythic figure of Orpheus, combined with the sound of violin music played by a young girl, kindled the creative fire within Rilke that gave way to an astonishing series of masterpieces: the Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus. This story of how music opened the doorway to transformation and healing will frame a musical voyage from grief to grace and joy.

Saturday, February 24, 2018 | 10 am – noon and 1:30 – 4:00 pm

Homer and the Hero / Richard Martin (Classics, Stanford). Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Agamemnon—when moderns think of Homer, they think “heroes.” But what were the Greeks thinking about these characters in the period that the Homeric poems took shape (roughly 800-500 BCE)? What did it mean to be a hero (or heroine—also a Greek word)? How can heroes also be killers, cheats, and liars? This illustrated talk will explore the idea of the hero as a religious, social, and poetic category, while interpreting the two great epics attributed to the mysterious composer Homer. The Panhellenic nature of the hero and the poems will be investigated in relation to several other major phenomena that had their start in archaic Greek culture—among them, colonization from the Black Sea to the western Mediterranean, the spread of localized shrines to heroic figures, and the Olympic games.

Harmonic Proportions: Pythagorean Architecture in Greek Italy / Margaret Miles (Classics and Art History, UC Irvine)In this lecture we explore the impact of Pythagoras, the Greek sage, seer, and philosopher who taught Greeks in southern Italy how number, proportion and musical harmonics are built into the universe, how life and death are cyclical, and how best to live life accordingly. Pythagoras was born about 570 BC on the island Samos, where Ionian Greek literary and artistic culture flourished. After some travels in the eastern Mediterranean, Pythagoras settled in southern Italy, at Greek Croton and Metapontum. Pythagoras and his students Empedocles and Archytas had enormous influence on subsequent philosophies, and their ideas had visible expressions in art and architecture. We consider here some of Pythagoras’ scientific and religious teachings, and how architects in southern Italy and Greek Sicily included Pythagorean harmonic proportions in Greek temples.

Performance / The Odyssey: A Modern Folk-Opera / Joe Goodkin. Joe Goodkin’s Odyssey is an original musical composition for solo acoustic guitar and voice. A performance of 24 original songs with lyrics inspired by Odysseus’ famous exploits, it represents in a contemporary musical mode both the abridged plot and the performance circumstances of Homer’s original oral composition of The Odyssey. Joe’s Odyssey is intended to highlight a broad range of classical and literary issues including: oral tradition, local variation, identity, and classical reception.

The Making of States and Citizenship in Archaic Greece / Emily Mackil (History, UC Berkeley). The Archaic Period was an age of political experimentation and struggle. Rising social stratification led to fierce political battles over the distribution of power and privilege within communities, and it was in this fiery crucible that the Greeks forged a world of micro-states and a distinctive notion of citizenship. In this lecture we will consider a series of phenomena that contributed to the formation of the distinctive micro-states of the Archaic Greek world: the entanglement of private wealth and public power, the emergence of written law, the importance of status, the value of collective deliberation, and the struggle for justice in the distribution of power. In the process we will examine how and why the privileges and obligations associated with citizenship changed over the course of the Archaic period.

Panel Discussion: Q&A with presenters

Download our postcard here: HW Ancient Greece Postcard

Blues, Jazz, and Rock ‘n’ Roll — An Evening with Robert Greenberg, the Erik Jekabson Quartet & John Santos

Blues, Jazz, and Rock ‘n’ Roll / Robert Greenberg. An extraordinary offshoot of the otherwise horrific institution of slavery was the synthesis of African and European music in the melting pot of North America. This synthesis created a dazzling array of utterly unique musical genres, among them, the Spiritual, Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Starting with West African music, we will observe the development and evolution of the African-American Spiritual, Blues and the emergence of Ragtime. We will pay special attention to the “birth” of Jazz in the amazing multi-racial, multi-ethnic city of New Orleans, and the role of the New Orleans native Louis Armstrong in the advent and popularization of jazz in the 1920s. From there, we’ll trace through the development of “Swing” in the 1930s, “Bebop” in the 1940s; and post-WWII youth culture and the advent of Rock & Roll in the 1950s, itself a harbinger of the Civil Rights and Youth movements of the 1960s.

Performance/ the Erik Jekabson Quartet and John Santos, featuring Tommy Folen (bass), David Flores (drums), Erik Jekabson (trumpet), Grant Levin (piano) and John Santos (percussion).

Download the Jazz postcard here: HW Jazz Postcard FINAL

Vespri Siciliani
Vespri Siciliani

Norman Sicily: Art and Power in Palermo

Even before their rapid conquest of England in 1066, Norman knights arrived in Saracen-controlled Sicily. Pretending to serve as mercenaries variously to the Lombards, the local lords of Benevento or the Byzantines, they plotted long-term opportunities for themselves in Sicily. Those who found it even more enticing than a Crusade to the Holy Land settled in to enjoy domination of the local population. Sicily under the Normans became a crossroad for intense yet prosperous interaction among Norman-Catholic, Byzantine-Orthodox and Arab-Islamic cultures, endowing Palermo with great art, an art that glorifies the severe authoritarianism of centralized royal and divine power, such as the famous mosaic of Christ Pantocrater in Monreale.

Friday, November 3, 2017 | 7:30-9:30 pm

Sicily as a Site of Encounter / Teofilo Ruiz (History, UCLA). After the defeat of the Muslims, Sicily became a county under Norman rulers in 1071 and, under Roger II, a kingdom in 1130. The kingdom of Sicily encompassed most of southern Italy (the mezzogiorno), so towns along the Amalfi coast joined this ambitious political and cultural project. Under Norman and Hohenstaufen rulers, Sicily became a paradigmatic site of encounter. Greek, Arabic, and Latin became the official languages. The Normans promoted a vigorous cultural program in which great works of art, such as the church at Monreale, the Mediterranean map of al-Idrisi, and the tombs of Norman kings in Palermo, showed the richness of cultural hybridity. This lecture recaps the history of Sicily and southern Italy and discusses Sicily as a site of encounter. In Sicily a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-linguistic population forged a unique moment in time. Their many accomplishments, carried out under Norman and Hohenstaufen rule, show the possibilities for cooperation, as short-lived as they were, in Mediterranean societies.

Performance / Sicily at the Opera: Sicilian Life on the Operatic Stage / Clifford (Kip) Cranna.  Sicily’s unique culture and history have been vividly reflected in operas written by, for, or about Sicilians. San Francisco Opera’s Dramaturg Clifford (Kip) Cranna examines the ways in which operatic art has mirrored the island’s colorful past. Live performances will highlight such masterpieces as Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani (The Sicilian Vespers), based on momentous events in medieval Sicilian history, and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry), a potent tale of machismo, betrayal, and revenge in the 19th-century Sicilian countryside. Featuring Marie Plette (soprano), Philip Skinner (bass-baritone) and Bryndon Hassman (piano).

Saturday, November 4, 2017 | 10:00 am – noon & 1:30 – 4:00 pm

Before the Normans / Fred Astren (Jewish Studies, SFSU) — For half a millennium before the late 11th-century Norman conquest, the history of Sicily and southern Italy was characterized by division and competition between distant empires and local centers of power. Muslim amirs and rival Frankish and Greek emperors competed with land-based Lombard Benevento and Capua, and with maritime city-states, such as Gaeta and Amalfi. Naples and Salerno were land-sea hybrids. Religious gazes were directed variously toward Rome, Constantinople, or Mecca, with a significant minority of Jews looking toward Jerusalem. In fact, this island and peninsula in middle of the “Middle Sea” was at the center of Mediterranean connectivity, whose curse brought armies and navies, but whose blessings put its peoples in contact with a wide variety of economic, cultural, linguistic, religious, and intellectual trends. In this arena of complex struggle and multiple-layered accommodation between North and South, and East and West—with no strong central power—the Normans found opportunity, but also had to grapple with deep and abiding diversity.

Manifesting Connections: The Art and Architecture of the Kingdom of Sicily / Sharon Gerstel (Art and Archeology, UCLA) / Throughout its medieval history, Sicily benefitted economically, culturally, and politically from its position as an important station on trade routes between Europe and Africa, Byzantium and the West. The splendid monuments of the Kingdom of Sicily, founded by Roger II, demonstrate how, under the patronage of specific rulers and the sponsorship of members of their court, the island’s diverse cultural strands could be interwoven to create unique works of art and architecture. These works, as we shall see, were intended to manifest connections with cultures and courts located far from the island kingdom. Analysis of the works also provides insights into the make-up of the island’s cosmopolitan culture. In this lecture, we will unravel the Islamic, Romanesque, and Byzantine strands that make up Norman art and architecture in Sicily. We will also consider how the region’s incomparable ecclesiastical mosaics contributed to the modern understanding of medieval cultures.

The Courtly Love Poetry of Syracuse in Sicily / Beverly Allen (Italian, Syracuse University). The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) presided over his remarkable court at Castel Maniace in Syracuse (and at his numerous other castles throughout Sicily and Puglia), where one of the earliest traditions in Italian literature took hold: courtly love poetry, sung by troubadours from Europe and North Africa. We will explore representative poems, including one by the Emperor himself, and consider the general traits of this genre, the possibility that it defined love in the Western World, and the less-known possibility that it may have served as a code for heresy at a time when the Roman Inquisition was just getting started.

Performance / Troubadour Music from the Court of Frederick II / Tim Rayborn. Including pieces by the Occitan troubadours in exile, the German Minnesingers, and the maluf of the Tunisian Hafsida, played on the medieval citole, the medieval harp, and the Arabic ‘ud.

Panel Discussion with the Presenters; Q&A

Download the postcard here: HW Norman Sicily Postcard