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  • The Pontificate of Clement VII: History, Politics, Culture
  • Christine Shaw
Kenneth Gouwens and Sheryl E. Reiss, eds. The Pontificate of Clement VII: History, Politics, Culture. Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2005. xxvi + 438 pp. + 58 b/w pls. index. append. illus. tbls. chron. $99.95. ISBN: 0-7546-0680-5.

Most of the essays in this welcome collection had their origin in papers presented at sessions on the pontificate of Clement VII, organized by the editors, Kenneth Gouwens and Sheryl E. Reiss, for the meeting of The Renaissance Society of America held in Florence, Italy in March 2000.

Understandably, the choice and range of subjects covered reflect the editors' particular interests in literary and art history. Hence, after the introduction by Kenneth Gouwens, the majority of the essays in the first section on "History, Politics and Humanism" take specific sources as their starting point. T. C. Price Zimmermann discusses Clement's character, as portrayed from a historian's perspective by Francesco Guicciardini and a biographer's perspective by Paolo Giovio, while accounts of the conspiracy against the then Cardinal Giulio de' Medici in Florence in 1522 are set against Machiavelli's comments on conspiracies in the Discorsi, by Patricia J. Osmond. The Diarii of Marino Sanuto provide the basis for Barbara McClung Hallman's reassessment of the traditional judgment of Clement's pontificate as disastrous. An intriguing glimpse of the realities of life in Rome in the aftermath of the Sack of 1527 is provided by Anna Esposito and Manuel Vaquero Piñeiro in their study of the registers of Roman notaries. In the account of the Sack provided by a Flemish resident of Rome, Cornelius de Fine, in his Ephemerides Historicae analyzed by Ivana Ait, the Romans appear as heroic defenders of their city and of the pope. Anne Reynolds discusses the exile of the papal court in Orvieto in 1527–28; Cecil Clough gives a characteristically meticulous account of the troubled relations of Clement (and Leo X) with Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, whose duchy was coveted as an endowment for the Medici, and Natalie Tomas looks at Clement's relations with the women of the Medici family. Rounding off this section, a very useful synthesis by Charles L. Stinger on Clement's place in Renaissance history serves as a reminder of areas and issues not covered by the preceding essays.

The second part of the book deals with "Patronage, Cultural Production and Reform." In their contributions, the art historians do not, on the whole, subscribe to André Chastel's thesis of a distinctive "Clementine style" in the visual arts, but they do stress Clement's knowledge of and interest in them. His dealings with Michelangelo are discussed in general terms by William E. Wallace, and in relation [End Page 493] to Michelangelo's work for Clement in San Lorenzo in Florence by Caroline Elam; both make clear the pope's unusually close and informed attention to his work. Linda Wolk-Simon, however, stresses that the Vatican was not the center of artistic patronage in Rome during Clement's pontificate, and Julia Haig Gaisser presents a less favorable view of Clement as patron from the point of view of two humanists. One of these, Pierio Valeriano, was, George Gorse suggests, involved in devising the program for the symbolic frieze at the foot of the portrait of Andrea Doria by Sebastiano del Piombo, commissioned by the pope. His pontificate was not an especially fruitful period for the composition of sacred polyphony for the papal choir, Richard Sherr points out, although Clement did take a close interest in the organization of the choir and the quality of the singers, so that in retrospect a long-serving member could recall Clement's pontificate as a golden age. The celebration of Clement by Vasari and others as the savior of artists starved of support by the "barbarian" Adrian VI is questioned by Sheryl E. Reiss, who argues that Adrian does not deserve his reputation for indifference, if not hostility, to the arts. Two final papers deal with religion. W. David Myers discusses attitudes to penance and confession in Europe, with particular reference to Erasmus. Religion...


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