The Medici Wedding of 1589


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Florentine Festival as Theatrum Mundi

James M. Saslow

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The marriage in 1589 of Grand Duke Ferdinando de' Medici and the French princess Christine of Lorraine was a landmark event in Renaissance art and architecture, theater, music, and political ceremonial. Celebrated by a month of elaborate pageantry that required a full year of preparations, the wedding mobilized the combined artistic, intellectual, and administrative forces of Tuscany at the zenith of its wealth, power, and cultural prestige. This book combines art and social history to present the first comprehensive reconstruction of the Medici wedding and in the process provides a fascinating narrative of Florentine culture during the Renaissance.

James Saslow draws on a rich trove of visual and archival sources to describe the jousts, plays, musical-dramatic intermedi, processions, and tournaments that celebrated the wedding; the artists, musicians, and architects who created and organized the events; and the bureaucratic administration that sustained this Renaissance "theater of the world." His sources include producers' daily logbooks and detailed records of the design process, staff, payments, and logistics, as well as eighty-eight set and costume drawings, paintings, and prints, which appear in a catalogue included in the book. Saslow's study will be of interest to practitioners and historians of theater, dance, music, and the visual arts, as well as to students of political and economic history and cultural studies.

James M. Saslow is associate professor of art history at Queens College, City University of New York. He is also the author of Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society and The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation, both published by Yale University Press.

"A highly original, important, and readable account of a famous festival that displayed the best that Florence had to offer in material culture."—Arthur R. Blumenthal, director, Cornell Fine Arts Museum

"Drawing on published texts, sketches, paintings and prints (many of which are superbly reproduced here), and manuscript sources . . . our author explores such details of backstage life as salaries, working conditions, and the incipient roles of women. Valuable reading for students of Renaissance society and the performing arts."—Kirkus Reviews

"A vivid picture of late Renaissance creativity and politico-religious ceremonial, of a great dynasty pulling out all the stops."—Michael Prodger, The Sunday Telegraph

"This is a book about the arts in which people—and not merely those who are historically important—bulk with almost equal prominence. As readable as it is learned, it is patently addressed to people, and it deserves to be popular."—Michael Levey, The Times (London)

"This is a wonderful book, for it recreates the nuptials of Grand Duke Ferdinand de' Medici in all their splendor. The author persuasively demonstrates how Renaissance art was put to political use, showing how painting, architecture, and music come together in a great triumphant ceremony. Richly illustrated with many plates in color, this book explicates the complex and fascinating symbolism of an important state wedding in an analysis through which social history comes alive."—The Virginia Quarterly Review

"Saslow has produced a roughly chronological study in which the connections of political power, art, and civic festival are woven into a fine tapestry that should satisfy historians of art, theater, the city, and even society and politics. Saslow's approach is both multidisciplinary and microhistorical in scope, touched by Foucault and concerns for gender bending among young participants but generally solid in supporting its conclusions and balanced in its conjectures and judgment."—Joseph P. Byrne, History

"This is an important book, which shows why linking the concerns of social and cultural history more fully elucidates both, how works of art are created, and how they are themselves productive of social and political processes."—Charles L. Stinger, American Quarterly Review

"Saslow's examination of the 1589 Medici wedding festivities is the most extensive and thorough analysis ever conducted of this spectacular festival. Its contribution to the sociology and economics of late Renaissance artistic and theatrical production will constitute a benchmark for future scholarship for years to come."—Konrad Eisenbichler, Renaissance Quarterly

Winner of the 1996 Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize given by the Renaissance Society of America
ISBN: 9780300064476
Publication Date: May 29, 1996
352 pages, 7 x 10
111 b/w + 16 color illus.
The Poetry of Michelangelo

An Annotated Translation

James M. Saslow

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