The Florence of the Medici: Commerce, Power, and Art in Renaissance Italy

Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Out of a small but fiercely competitive city of some 60,000 inhabitants there erupted, between the 14th and 17th centuries, a torrent of artistic and intellectual creativity that transformed western culture. The wealth of the city, and especially of its rulers, the Medici, whose patronage and influence embraced much of Italy and beyond, made possible an outburst of artistic and intellectual innovations that had consequences throughout Europe. Home to Dante, Toscanelli (the geographer who inspired Columbus), Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo, Florence in these years was at the cutting edge of changes that eventually were to shape the modern world.

Humanities West Board Fellow Dimitrios Latsis has archived selected program materials, including audio of lectures and performances if available, at the non-profit Internet Archive here.

Moderator: Theodore Rabb, PhD
(History), Emeritus, Princeton University

Friday, April 30, 2010

8:15 pm until 10:15 pm

“For the glory of God and the honor of the city, and the commemoration of myself:” Cosimo de’ Medici’s Patronage of Art
Keynote Address.
Dale Kent (History, UC Riverside).
Cosimo de’ Medici achieved power in his lifetime and fame beyond it through his outstanding skills in business and politics—civic, Italian, and international. But he captured the imagination of his contemporaries and has remained an almost legendary figure of history largely because he devoted much of his wealth to patronage of the greatest artists of the early Renaissance. This lecture will examine the image that Cosimo’s commissions expressed; his dedication to family, friends and city, his concern for salvation after death, and his pleasure in the cultivated enjoyment of this life.

Public Sculpture in the Florence of the Medici
Loren Partridge 
(Art History, UC Berkeley).
The extraordinary marble and bronze freestanding figures embellishing the public spaces of Florence constitute some of the greatest glories of Renaissance art. Bold and inventive, thanks to the intense pressure of public scrutiny and artistic rivalry, these monumental works represent some of the most significant aesthetic achievements within Medicean Florence. They register and construct the city’s shifting political discourse across two centuries. Works discussed include Donatello’s gilt bronze St. Louis of Toulouse (1422-25), Verrocchio’s bronze Christ and Doubting Thomas (1467-83), Michelangelo’s marble David (1501-04), Bandindelli’s marble Hercules and Cacus (1534), Cellini’s bronze Perseus Beheading Medusa (1554), Danti’s marble Cosimo I as Augustus (1572-73), and Giambologna’s Equestrian Monument to Cosimo I (1594).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

10:00 am until 12 noon & 1:30 to 4:00 pm 

Creating the Uffizi: The Medici and Their Museum
Paula Findlen 
(History, Stanford University).
The Uffizi gallery is one of the most enduring legacies of the Medici. This lecture traces the multiple transformations of the Medici collections, from the origins under Cosimo il Vecchio to the creation of the gallery in the sixteenth century and its reinvention as a public museum in the eighteenth century. What was the meaning of this collection for the Medici? How did it become one of the most famous and visited museums in the world?

The Birth of a New Politics
Theodore Rabb (History, Princeton University).
Even as Florence alternated between the rule of the Medici and a more broadly-based republican structure, two of her citizens were rethinking the very nature of politics and political destiny. Machiavelli and Guicciardini were neighbors; both served the city’s government; and both were experienced diplomats. Both, too, were students of history. But Guicciardini’s conclusions were deeply pessimistic. Machiavelli, on the other hand, fashioned a way of thinking about political life that offered scope for human action, and his ideas were to influence thought and behavior for generations.

Musical Performance.
The rich and florid secular music of the courts of the Italian trecento. Susan Rode Morris(soprano), Michelle Levy and Shira Kammen (vielles and medieval harp), present a selection of compositions from this era of astonishing and gorgeous musical styles. The songs concern love and politics, and the instrumental dances represent a spicy and highly ornamented repertoire.

Michelangelo and the Medici: A Forced Relationship?
Morten Steen Hansen 
(Art History, Stanford University).
At the funeral of Michelangelo (1475-1564) in Florence, orchestrated by the newly founded Accademia del Disegno under the patronage of Duke Cosimo I, Michelangelo was praised as the Florentine genius who had perfected Tuscan style. Nurtured in the sculpture garden of Lorenzo de Medici, Michelangelo had made the school of Florence superior to any other artistic school, and his art was taken to prove Tuscan cultural hegemony inseparable from the Medici family. The same Michelangelo had, however, carved a Brutus in celebration of the assassination of Alessandro de Medici, the first duke of Florence. This lecture explores the conflicted relationship between artist and the Florentine family.

Panel Discussion with all Presenters


Clifford (Kip) Cranna (PhD, Musicology, Stanford) is Director of Musical Administration at San Francisco Opera. He has served as vocal adjudicator for numerous groups including the Metropolitan Opera National Council. For many years he was Program Editor and Lecturer for the Carmel Bach Festival. He lectures and writes frequently on music and teaches at the SF Conservatory of Music. He hosts the Opera Guild’s “Insight” panels and intermission features for the SF Opera radio broadcasts, and has been a Music Study Leader for Smithsonian Tours. He was Il Cenacolo’s 2006 “Man of the Year.” In 2008 he was awarded the SF Opera Medal, the company’s highest honor.

Paula Findlen is Professor and Chair of History; Co-Director of the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies; Co-Director of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology Program; all at Stanford. Her interest lies in understanding the world of the Renaissance, with a particular focus on Italy. She is “fascinated by a society that made politics, economics and culture so important to its self-definition, and that obviously succeeded in all these endeavors for some time, as the legacy of such figures as Machiavelli and Leonardo suggests. Renaissance Italy, in short, is a historical laboratory for understanding the possibilities and the problems of an innovative society.” Some publications include “Historical Thought in the Renaissance,” in Companion to Historical Thought, ed. Lloyd Kramer and Sarah Maza (Blackwell, 2002); “Building the House of Knowledge: The Structures of Thought in Late Renaissance Europe,” in Tore Frangsmyr, ed., The Structure of Knowledge: Classifications of Science and Learning since the Renaissance(Berkeley, 2001); (ed.) The Italian Renaissance: Essential Readings(Blackwell, 2002). “Men, Moments and Machines” special on the History Channel: “Galileo and the Sinful Spyglass.”

Morten Steen Hansen is Assistant Professor Art History, Stanford University (PhD Johns Hopkins University). While his research primarily concerns 16th century Italy he teaches courses within a broad range of the visual culture of Europe from the 15th through the 17th century. He has held post-doctoral fellowships from the Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence, and the Carlsberg Foundation. His pre-doctoral work was supported by grants from Fulbright Foundation, Kress Foundation, Fondazione Lemmermann, and the Danish Academy in Rome. His forthcoming book examines the imitation of Michelangelo in Italian Mannerism and issues of artistic latecoming in light of that artist’s increasingly controversial status during his lifetime. Hansen’s publications on the Cinquecento consider church patronage as self-representations by ethnic minorities, artifice used to defend cult images against protestant assumptions, and pictorial imitation in the service of artistic self-fashioning. In Italian archives he has found and published contracts and other unknown documents related to church patronage in the Papal States.

Andrea Husby began her studies at the University of San Francisco where she received a BA and MA in English Literature. While living in Paris and The Hague, she began her study of the Fine Arts. Dr. Husby received a MA in Art History from Hunter College in New York City in 1992 and a PhD in Art History from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York in 2003. Since returning to California, she has taught Art History at Pacific Union College and Santa Rosa Junior College, and the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco.

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Shira Kammen has spent well over half her life exploring the worlds of early and traditional music. A member for many years of the early music Ensembles Alcatraz and Project Ars Nova, and Medieval Strings, she has also worked with Sequentia, Hesperion XX, the Boston Camerata, the Balkan group Kitka, the Oregon, California and San Francisco Shakespeare Festivals, and is the founder of Class V Music, an ensemble dedicated to performance on river rafting trips. She has performed and taught in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Israel, Morocco, and Japan, and on the Colorado, Rogue and Klamath Rivers.

Shira happily collaborated with singer/storyteller John Fleagle for fifteen years, and performs now with several new groups: a medieval ensemble, Fortune’s Wheel: a new music group, Ephemeros; an eclectic ethnic band, Panacea; as well as frequent collaborations with performers such as storyteller/harpist Patrick Ball, sopranos Anne Azema, Susan Rode Morris, medieval music expert Margriet Tindemans, and in many theatrical and dance productions. She has played on several television and movie soundtracks, including ‘O’, a modern high school-setting of Othello. Some of her original music can be heard in an independent film about fans of the work of JRR Tolkien. The strangest place Shira has played is in the elephant pit of the Jerusalem Zoo.  Shira Kammen grew up in the SF Bay Area. After receiving her music degree from UC Berkeley, Shira studied vielle with Margriet Tindemans, a specialist in early music.

Dale V. Kent, Professor of History, UC, Riverside, has been a Visiting Professor at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, National Humanities Center of the United States, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities. Her research, concerned with patronage in all its senses – personal, political, and artistic- with a particular focus on the fifteenth-century Medici family of Florence, combines history and art history. Her publications include The Rise of the Medici: Faction in Florence 1426-1434, Oxford, 1978; Cosimo de’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron’s Oeuvre, Yale University Press, 2000; Friendship, Love and Trust in Renaissance Florence, Harvard University Press, 2009. She was chief consultant for the recent PBS special on the Medici, and is working on a new book, Fathers and Friends: Patronage and Patriarchy in early Medicean Florence, showing how society, politics and culture were linked, structurally and ideologically, through patronage practices and patriarchal ideals.

Michelle Levy studied classical viola with Consuelo Sherba and David Rubenstein as well as Old Timey fiddle/banjo with Professor Jeff Titon at Brown University. After receiving a scholarship to Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School, she fell in love with the spontaneity of folk music and began a career focused on accompanying vocalists, improvising, and performing ancient music from Europe, Scandinavia & the Middle East. She is continuing her musical studies on medieval vielle with Shira Kammen and performs throughout the country with an eclectic variety of ensembles. Most recently she co-created an ecologically-minded musician community-house in Berkeley, CA.

Susan Rode Morris is a singer of unusual versatility whose accomplishments encompass a wide range of repertoire and musical styles. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, she has received much critical acclaim for her expressiveness and naturalness in singing, as well as her communicative presence. She is a founding member of Ensemble Alcatraz and has sung with many ensembles including Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Sequentia Koln, Sex Chordae Consort of Viols, Foolia!, Magnificat!, Women’s Philharmonic and others in North America and Europe. She has premiered numerous works of Bay Area composers, including opera and theatre pieces. Performances include appearances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C, Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City, the Cloisters, Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and in such cities as Boston, Seattle, Phoenix, New Orleans, Portland, Pittsburgh, London, Regensberg, Vancouver, and at such universities and colleges as Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley, and Davis, Oberlin College, and Washington State. She has enjoyed collaborations with artists including Shira Kammen, Phebe Craig, Judith Nelson, Alasdair Fraser, Paul Hillier, John Dornenburg, and others. In 1992 she founded a recording company called Donsuemor which has released four compact discs, including songs of Henry Purcell and three recordings of the songs of 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns. For many years she has studied voice with the legendary Lilian Loran. A special love is teaching children the joy of singing. She owns a baking company (Donsuemor) which supplies the U.S. with fresh madeleines. She divides her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Foothills.

Loren Partridge is Professor of the Graduate School in History of Art, UC Berkeley. He has taught Italian Renaissance painting, sculpture, and architecture at UC Berkeley for over forty years as well as chaired intermittently the History of Art Department for thirteen years and the Art Practice Department for five years. He has been awarded fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, Kress Foundation, Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, Fulbright Program, Guggenheim foundation, and the Getty Foundation. Aside from numerous articles and reviews in professional journals, his major publications include: A Renaissance Likeness: Art and Culture in Raphael’s “Julius II”, co-authored with Randolph Starn (Berkeley: UC Press,1980); Arts of Power: Three Halls of State in Italy 1300-1600, co-authored with Randolph Starn (Berkeley: UC Press, 1992); Michelangelo: The Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Rome (NY: Braziller, 1996) The Art of Renaissance Rome, 1400-1600 (NY: Abrams, 1996); Michelangelo, Last Judgment: A Glorious Restoration, with contributions by Fabrizio Mancinelli and Gianluigi Colalucci (NY: Abrams, 1997); and most recently Art of Renaissance Florence 1400-1600 (Berkeley: UC Press, 2009). In progress is a monograph on the late sixteenth century Villa Farnese at Caprarola north of Rome.

Theodore Rabb, Emeritus Professor of History, Princeton University (PhD Princeton), is a specialist in Renaissance and Early Modern European History. He has been on the Princeton faculty since 1967, where he has taught a variety of courses in European history both within the department and in the interdisciplinary area of Humanistic Studies. He has been the editor of theJournal of Interdisciplinary History since 1970 and has published and edited a number of books including: Renaissance Lives (1993, paperback 2000);Jacobean Gentleman (1998); The Struggle for Stability in Early Modern Europe (1975); The Last Days of the Renaissance (2006); Enterprise and Empire (1967). He has written dozens of articles and reviews for many publications, including Past & PresentTimes Literary Supplement, and New York Times. He has directed Princeton’s Community College Programs since 1984 and has chaired the National Council for History Education and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. He is currently engaged in a long-term study on the response of artists to warfare, from ancient Assyria to Guernica.

Richard Savino’s performances and recordings have been praised by critics throughout the world. In addition to receiving a Diapason d’Or from Compact ( Paris) and a 10 du Rèpertoire (Paris), the latter has also placed his Boccherini recordings in their “Great Discoveries” category which they deem as essential to any classical music collection. He has also recorded the romantic guitar music of Johann Kaspar Mertz (HM) virtuoso sonatas by Paganini and Giuliani with violinist Monica Huggett, and sonatas for flute and guitar with flutist Laurel Zucker. In 1998 Koch International released his recording of an extensive collection of 18th century guitar music from Mexico by Santiago de Murcia (4 Stars: Goldberg) which the Public Radio International program The World featured as its “Global Hit,” and in September 1999 Mr. Savino was the subject of a one hour special on the PRI program Harmonia.

With El Mundo he has recorded Venice Before Vivaldi, a Portrait of Giovanni Legrenzi and Villancicos y Cantadas (sacred music from Spain and Latin America) and with Ensemble Galatea he has recorded the music by Barabara Strozzi (Emanuella Galli, mezzo soprano), Biagio Marini (with Monica Huggett) and Giovanni Buonamente (with Monica Huggett and Bruce Dickey). In recent years Koch released his recording of the first period instrument versions of the Boccherini Guitar Symphonia and the Op. 30 Concerto for Guitar by Mauro Giuliani with Ms. Huggett and the Portland Baroque Orchestra.

His most recent recordings (2006-07) include The Essential Giuliani Vol. 1 (Koch), Music Fit for a King (solo baroque guitar music by Robert De Viseé and Françios Campion) and Baroque Guitar Sonatas (1696) of Ludovico Roncallii (Dorian). As a continuo player and accompanist Mr. Savino has worked with some of the world’s most important performers and is a principal performer with the Houston Grand Opera, New York Collegium, Portland Baroque Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Santa Fe Opera, San Diego Opera, Opera Colorado, Dallas Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. From 1986-98 Mr. Savino directed the CSU Summer Arts Guitar and Lute Institute. Presently he is director of the ensemble El Mundo, and in 1995 and 2005 he was Visiting Artistic Director of the prestigious NEH sponsored Aston Magna Academy and Music Festival at Rutgers University. An avid writer, Mr. Savino has had articles and editions published by Cambridge University Press, Editions Chantarelle and Indiana University Press. He is a lecturer and instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a Professor of Music at CSU Sacramento where he has been the only music professor to receive “outstanding and exceptional” and “best” sabbatical awards. Mr. Savino’s instructors have included Andres Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia, Albert Fuller and Jerry Willard. He received his Doctorate from SUNY at Stony Brook.