- The Grand Ducal Medici and Their Archive (1537–1543) eds. by Alessio Assonitis and Brian Sandberg, and: Women Artists in Early Modern Italy: Careers, Fame and Collectors ed. by Sheila Barker
These two volumes inaugurate the Medici Archive Project series utilizing the documentary sources, mainly, but not exclusively, of the Grand Ducal Medici Archive, housed in the Florentine State Archive. The series also exploits the material available in the BIA (Building Interactive Archives) database, which is progressively making volumes of Medici correspondence and other Medici documents digitally available at <www.medici.org>. The first volume advertises the breadth of riches of the archive by examining a range of topics and individuals, while the second volume demonstrates the depth of the archive by focusing on a single topic, that of women artists. Both volumes are plentifully illustrated, but sadly my copy of Volume 1 had pages incorrectly bound in two chapters (Stoppato, pp. 189–90, and Brownless, pp. 207–08) and they are incomplete. Hopefully, mine is the only copy with this error.
The Grand Ducal volume begins with Stefano d'Aglio's chapter on the assassination of Lorenzino de' Medici, the assassin of his cousin, Duke Alessandro de' Medici. This unforeseen event unexpectedly catapulted Cosimo de' Medici to power. D'Aglio argues that contrary to received historical wisdom, King Charles V of Spain, Alessandro's father-in-law, had arranged for Lorenzo's murder rather than Duke Cosimo I. Cosimo's library and early education are the topic of the next chapter, which suggests that the information in his library helped him navigate an increasingly complex and global world (Assonitis). Francesca Funis documents Giorgio Vasari's 'recycling' of older building material into his new architectural projects for Cosimo. Therefore, newer projects are infused with 'hidden' medieval architectural elements. The refusal of a cardinal's hat to enter into an unsuitable marriage by Duchess Eleonora's brother Don Luis of Toledo, a member of the Medici court, is the subject of the next chapter. Cosimo's correspondence with a Portuguese Jewish merchant living in Venice and [End Page 179] the court's positive attitude — for its time — towards Jews, highlight the global nature of the networks and correspondence that the Medici cultivated. The next three chapters deal with the experience of respectively: women in Siena during its war with Florence (Brizio), grand duchesses as medical practitioners (Barker), and Sofonisba Anguissola as a lady-in-waiting and court artist at the Spanish court (Arfaioli). Apart from Brendan Dooley's chapter on Livia Vernazza's treatment by the Medici because of her unsuitable marriage to Don Giovanni, Cosimo's natural son, and the strategies she used to retain at least some of her possessions, the other chapters focus on broader, global themes. Markey discusses the discovery of the Americas and changing attitudes to its usefulness in the Florentine court from Cosimo's and Eleonora's collecting its new curiosities to Ferdinando's interest in its riches. Cultural exchange between the Medici and Savoy court (Piccinelli), Medici understandings of the Ottoman court as seen through the eyes of a pretender to the Ottoman throne (Rosen), a comparison between the regency governments of Christine de Lorraine in Florence and Maria de' Medici in France and a discussion of the cooperation between the older aunt Christine and her niece Maria (Sandenberg), form the next tranche of studies. Stoppato looks at the use of portraiture as a diplomatic tool in marriage negotiations between the Medici and the Gonzaga. The last two chapters look at diplomatic correspondence from the English court (Kaborycha) and the use of diplomatic newsletters (avvisi) to disseminate knowledge to inform the decision making of rulers (Brownless).
The unity of the Women...