Patronage and Dynasty: The Rise of the Della Rovere in Renaissance Italy.
Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies. Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2007. xxviii + 210 pp. index, append. illus. tbls. bibl. $54.95. ISBN: 978-1-931112-60-4.
Over the last quarter of a century publications on patronage, such as Mary Hollingsworth's Patronage in Renaissance Italy (1995) and Guy Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel's Patronage in the Renaissance (1982), have underscored the importance of diverse models of client-patron relationships, something which is demonstrated here within the various branches of a single family. The book is divided into four sections dealing with Pope Sixtus IV, della Rovere prelates, the women of the family, and the dukes of Urbino. In his introduction, ian Verstegen states that the book can "be considered an interpretive addendum to recent work by Italian scholars on the della Rovere" (xiv). He highlights the need for an investigation of how family concerns might have influenced the patronage of individual members of the della Rovere and cautions that previous examinations of such concerns have often been flawed because of the tendency to view issues though the lens of papal commissions. The decision to start the book with chapters on the Sistine Chapel and Sixtus IV's commissions at Assisi may therefore strike the reader as reinforcing precisely that which Verstegen wishes to avoid. However, he justifies the chapter order by rightly pointing out that without Sixtus IV "there would be no della Rovere popes, cardinals, or dukes" (xiv).
Andrew C. Blume therefore opens the book with a chapter on "The Sistine Chapel, Dynastic Ambition, and the Cultural Patronage of Sixtus IV." This is an enormous subject, certainly not one that it is possible to cover in eleven pages of text. Blume wisely chooses to give an overview of Sixtus's life and commissions, concentrating on the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and arguing that they show Sixtus as pope rather than member of the della Rovere family. The second chapter in this section, by Jill Blondin, deals with Sixtus's commissions in Assisi, particularly his statue placed high on the southwest buttressing of the Sacro Convento, which he had had repaired. Again, these commissions privilege Sixtus as a Franciscan and a pope. (Figure 3, labeled as the Paliotto of Sixtus IV is, in fact, the Flemish tapestry referred to on page 28.) Thus the first section of Patronage and Dynasty effectively separates the former from the latter. It is only in part 2 that dynastic concerns come to the fore and that, in the exploration of the patronage of della Rovere ecclesiastics, Sixtus IV's ambitions for his family start to become clearer. Lisa Passaglia Beauman investigates della Rovere commissions at Santa Maria del Popolo; Henry Dietrich Fernandez explores the architectural patronage of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, later Julius II; and Ian Verstegen discusses Cardinal Giulio Feltre della Rovere. In part 3 Caroline Murphy concentrates on Felice della Rovere's castle at Palo, characterizing her involvement with the building, which she bought from Giulio Orsini, as "opportunistic patronage" (120) that did not involve major building or decorative work and was intended as a sound financial investment; while in Maria Ann Conelli's chapter on Isabella Feltria della Rovere, daughter of Duke Guidobaldo II of Urbino, religious patronage comes to the fore. Deformed by illness, separated from her husband, and with her only son dead, Isabella poured her income into supporting the Jesuits in Naples and Rome. The chapters in part 4--by Verstegen, Jeffrey Fontana, and Stuart Lingo--explore the patronage of those Dukes of Urbino who came from the della Rovere family: Francesco Maria, Guidobaldo II, and Francesco Maria II. Verstegen gives an overview of Francesco Maria's patronage of painters and architects in the context of his military and political career, while Fontana and Lingo concentrate on the painters favored by the successive Dukes of Urbino, in particular Federico Barocci.
The strengths and the weaknesses of this book lie in its dynastic theme. It is fascinating to see, through the various branches of one family (a family tree is helpfully provided at the end of the book), the breadth and diversity of the types of patronage undertaken. The book demonstrates that the della Rovere participated in a wide range of activities that can be grouped under this heading. As one might expect, the type of individual patronage depended to a large extent on financial exigencies and personal interests. In some instances patronage was closely linked to dynastic concerns, but in others had motivations that appear to have had very little to do with dynastic ambition (such as Isabella Feltria della Rovere's support of the Jesuits in Naples). However, because certain members of the della Rovere dynasty have been the subject of more research than others, there are some chapters that are most valuable as discussions based on debates and information that have been put forward more fully elsewhere, and which therefore require previous knowledge of the part of the reader (Blume, for example), while others can be read as fascinating stand-alone insights (Murphy, Fernandez, Fontana, and Lingo). This means that it can be difficult to engage with the book as a discrete entity. Rather, as Verstegen points out in the introduction, it is an "addendum." As such it does its job well, engaging with current debates on a number of different levels and further extending our understanding the complexities of Renaissance patronage.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2008|
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