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Robert Black and John E. Law (eds.). The Medici: Citizens and Masters.

Robert Black and John E. Law (eds.). The Medici: Citizens and Masters. Villa I Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, 2015.

The Medici: Citizens and Masters is an essential addition to the scholarship on Quattrocento Italy. The anthology is a compilation of scholarly papers presented at a conference held at Villa I Tatti in October of 2011, treating the political and social status of the Medici family in fifteenth-century Florence. The book is divided into four parts, each of which contains a series of essays examining specific themes attributed to fifteenth-century Florence and Italy. Part One entitled "Power and Legitimacy," is made up of eight essays concerning the political relationship between Medicean Florence and the surrounding cities.

Chapter One is an essay written by noted scholar Giorgio Chittolini, entitled "Dominant Cities: Florence, Genoa, Venice, Milan, and Their Territories in the Fifteenth Century." Following a brief discussion of the concept of civitas, Chittolini provides a detailed explanation of the authority of dominant northern Italian cities, especially Florence, Genoa, Milan, and Venice, over their conquered territories. Gian Maria Varanini's "Medicean Florence and Beyond: Legitimacy of Power and Urban Traditions," demonstrates how Florence, Milan, and Venice, in exerting power over their respective contadi, gained supremacy. In the third essay of Part One, through the reading of noted historians, especially Nicolai Rubinstein, Bill Kent, Philip Jones, and Ernesto Sestan, Andrea Zorzi's essay "Communal Traditions and Personal Power in Renaissance Florence: The Medici as Signori" details the development of Florence from commune to signoria, as well as the Medici from eminent citizens to signori. "Diplomacy, Language, and the 'Arts of Power'" by Melissa Meriam Bullard demonstrates how Lorenzo the Magnificent's use of power and duplicity, which Bullard names the Medicean 'arts of power,' (51) provides the Medici with a successful political strategy in dealing with Milan, Naples, and the Pope. In Riccardo Fubini's study, entitled "Lorenzo the Magnificent's Regime: Aims, Image, and Constitutional Framework," the author argues that Lorenzo, through the use of balie (committees) and "methods of narrowing and tightening of power," (65) was able to exert control over the signoria from outside the regime. "Tuscans and Lombards: the Political Culture of Officialdom," by Marco Gentile, examines the tensions and hostilities experienced by Florentine functionaries (podcsta and commissari) who served in Lombardy. Alison Brown's essay, "Piero in Power, 1492-1494: A Balance Sheet for Four Generations of Medici Control," examines the transfer of power, upon Lorenzo's death, to his son Piero, and the causes of the family's demise.

Part Two, "Economic Policy," consists of two essays, the first by Franco Franceschi, entitled "Medici Economic Policy." Following a discussion focused on Medicean policy regarding the building and maintenance of roads, Franceschi examines the Florentine maritime trade, which he argues, "remained a central feature of Medicean public policy" (137). Comparisons of economic policy between the Albizzi regimes and the Medici complete Franceschi's essay. Lorenz Boninger's essay, "Lorenzo de' Medici and Foreigners: Recommendations and Reprisals," is an examination of immigration in fifteenth-century Florence, and Lorenzo the Magnificent's role as intermediary of disputes and reprisals.

"Religion and the Church," the subject and title of Part Three, offers three essays which examine the interaction of the Medici, theology, and the leadership of the Catholic Church. "The Albizzi, the Early Medici, and the Florentine Church, 1375-1460," written by David S. Peterson discusses "[T]he contrasting strategies of the Albizzi and early Medici" (172) as they apply to the church in Florence, but also to the Popes, and the Church in Rome. Paolo Orvieto's "Religion and Literature in Oligarchic, Medicean, and Savonarolan Florence," explores three phases of Medicean religious and philosophical observance from traditional orthodox Catholicism, to a humanistic theological philosophy, promoted by Marsilio Ficino, and supported by Lorenzo the Magnificent, and finally the return to the tenets and traditions of the Catholic faith.

Part Four, "The Medici and Their Image," is the most substantive of the book, with nine essays which explore the popular image of the Medici as patriarchs and patrons of the arts. Dale V. Kent's essay "Patriarchal Ideals, Patronage Practices, and the Authority of Cosimo 'il vecchio'" explores the "Florentine reverence for autorita" (222), as it applied to Cosimo de' Medici. "The Medici: Defenders of Liberty in Fifteenth-Century Florence" written by Francesco Bausi, discusses the writings of Florentine humanists (whether letters or works of literature) who wrote about Medicean authority. Some, such as Poggio Bracciolini and Alamanno Rinuccini, write in support of the Medici regime, while others, such as Guarino Veronese and Platina, denounce the Medici as autocrats and tyrants. Promotional displays illustrating the Medici family's preeminence (256) through religious and civic festivals, spectacles, and weddings, is the subject of Paola Ventrone's "Medicean Theater: Image and Message," while, in

"Sound Patrons: The Medici and Florentine Musical Life," Blake Wilson discusses the Medici patronage of polyphonic musical compositions and composers. "The Medici Question: A Rhetorical 'Special Case'?" by Stephen J. Milner is an in-depth discussion regarding the use of rhetoric, especially in either support of the Medici as first among equals or in denouncing the family as "tyrannical usurpers of republican liberty" (286). The final essay of the book, "Florence and Ferrara: Dynastic Marriage and Politics," authored by Carolyn James, examines the differences of the concepts of marriage as they existed in Florence in opposition to the concept held by baronial cities such as Ferrara, Milano, or Napoli. James provides her reader with an in-depth understanding of how the Medici employed both the endogamic union (i.e., Piero de' Medici to Lucrezia Tornabuoni) and the exogamic (i.e., Lorenzo il Magnifico to Clarice Orsini) to their political advantages.

Black and Law have compiled an intellectual, yet very readable compendium, which will prove very useful to both the scholar and student of Renaissance Florence and Italy. The Medici: Citizens and Masters is a fundamental contribution to the study and understanding of one of history's most interesting and influential families.


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Author:Crudale, Alfred R.
Date:Dec 22, 2018
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