- The Italian Emblem: A Collection of Essays
The introduction describes how, despite the fragmented and constantly perturbed political state of Italy in the centuries before unification, Italian imprese [End Page 1263] were born in an already unified artistic and literary tradition. They evolved from individuals' symbols, largely through the activities of academies, into the preferred form of symbolic expression of a wide variety of institutions, both lay and ecclesiastical. The consequent potential for use as symbols of truths of ethics and faith, and international circulation which could rely on a shared tradition of classical culture and often on a common language, led to contamination with other emblematic forms. The essays sample the variety of the resulting usages.
In "Imprese as Emblems: The European Reputation of an 'Italian' Genre," Guido Arbizzoni shows how the original defining notion of the impresa as an expression of an individual bearer's conceit was often loosened, and the impresa came to serve in the seventeenth century, especially with the Jesuits, as a symbol of a universal message, of a moral precept or a truth of faith, like the emblem, and with explanatory verse or prose commentaries. In one case in fact —a history of the first century of the Jesuit order —the work seems to draw on both traditions. In another, though the images "actually have impresa characteristics," they are called "emblems."
Sonia Maffei ("Giovio's Dialogo delle imprese militari e amorose and the Museum" ) suggests that the Dialogo, usually read only as the initial document of the subsequent theoretical discussions, may be seen rather as an element, even as the culmination of his work of self-commemoration as a cultured inventor of imprese in his museum (now lost, but largely recoverable on the basis of surviving evidence).
Monica Calabritto ("Women's Imprese in Girolamo Ruscelli's Le imprese illustri )" examines imprese of nine women in Ruscelli's collection and shows that these women succeeded in speaking of their own qualities of intelligence and moral independence, even if within the limits of the restrictive expectations of a male-dominated aristocratic society.
Giuseppe Cascione ("Filosofia e communicazione politica nell' Europa di Carlo V: Erasmo, Alciato, l' emblematica " ) seeks to show that some of Alciato's emblems may be read as designed to publicize a political theory elaborated by Erasmus and Gattinara, and to serve the creation of a new European political elite that might provide an alternative to imperial plans for the renovatio imperii. However the details of the allegedly "alternative" policies of this coterie and "imperial plans of renovatio imperii" are very unclear and seem unlikely in view of Gattinara's position. Though he asked Erasmus to translate and publish Dante's De monarchia, the latter demurred because he believed imperial plans for world monarchy could only lead to a worsening of present hostilities. As for Alciato's part, Cascione ignores the chronology of the emblems (two of the four emblems cited date from the 1546 edition). The question of Alciato's patronage and po-litical loyalties in the 1520s and in the period from his return from Bourges to 1546, when both Erasmus and Gattinara were dead, is complex and marked by reluctance on his part to yield to imperial demands.
Anna Maranini ("'Col senno e con la mano' : Eyes, Reason and Hand in Symbolic Transmission" ) ranges widely over classical, medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque texts, not only Italian but European generally, to describe the [End Page 1264] transformations of meanings in a single set of images, the eye and the hand, and their application to new social, moral, and political realities. Though the account may be thought rather disorganized, there is much useful information here and the assemblage of such a variety of manifestations is in itself a novel history.
Liana de Girolami Cheney ("Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: A Garden of Neoplatonic Love" ) describes the parallel traced by Colonna between the mythical love of Venus and Adonis and the Neoplatonic love of...