Posts Tagged ‘Florence’

Giovanni and Lusanna: a microcosm of Renaissance Florence

23 March 2010

Contributed by Niamh Cullen

It feels a little strange being a twentieth-century historian in Florence, when the city is imbued everywhere with such a strong sense of a much older past. Walking around the centro storico, everywhere you look you see medieval towers, Renaissance palazzi, piazzas, cathedrals, all crowding around churches, statues… you get the idea. And so, even though I’m spending some time in Florence to do research for a project on 1950s and 1960s Italian history, I realised pretty soon that I was going to have to go a little farther back to really understand the city I was staying in.

As part of this ongoing side-project, I came across a small, slim book in the Uffizi Gallery shop called Giovanni and Lusanna. Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence, by American historian Gene Brucker (Berkeley, 2003). First published in 1986, when micro-history was beginning to come into vogue in historical writing – Carlo Ginzburg’s classic study of a sixteenth century miller and his world, The Cheese and the Worms was published in 1976 – the book is a study of a case brought by Lusanna, a widow from a modest background against wealthy banker Giovanni della Casa. According to Lusanna, Giovanni married her in secret. She brought a case against him after learning that he had contracted another marriage with a noblewoman, alleging that his marriage to her made him a bigamist. Read more

A Design for Life

28 September 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour, Channel 4, Sunday 27 September 2009

Pantheon by PaniniConsider this. You’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a mini series on the British grand tourists who travelled through early modern Europe, the places they visited, the foods they tasted, the ideas they borrowed, the things they saw. The second of four instalments details the link between the reconstruction of London after the Great Fire and the architecture of early modern Florence and Rome. In the corners of these majestic cities it uncovers the influences borrowed by the architect Christopher Wren in the construction of St Paul’s Cathedral, the greatest monument to his elaborate and uncompleted plans to transform and rejuvenate a devastated London.

So far, so good, you might think.

But then you place your knowledgeable and articulate presenter (Kevin McCloud of the excellent Grand Designs) on the floor of the Medici Chapel in Florence and have him gaze up at the simple beauty of its Michelangelo-designed dome. McCloud utters something profound about the master’s craft, about this being architecture as power rather than architecture for the people. This is, he tells us, the place where ‘classical mythology meets dynasty, without the shoulder pads. Come to think of it, with the shoulder pads.’

And there it is: the slap in the face for the unsuspecting viewer, the reminder that this is diet history, history zero, history free, or whichever faddish description most tickles your fancy. But is it forgivable?

Just about. Read More