1 Luglio 2018

The Graces and Political Order in the Renaissance Imaginary


Iconocrazia 13/2018 - "Iconocrazia: Art, Astronomy, Politics and Religion", Saggi

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At first view nothing could be more removed from the world of politics than the Graces, delicate embodiments of youthful beauty and feminine charm, as represented most famously in Botticelli’s Primavera (Fig. 1).[1]

Figure 1

As is well known, the motif of the Graces has a long history in classical art and literature, but Botticelli’s main source was the treatise On Benefactions of the Roman philosopher Seneca, a popular author in the Renaissance, for whom the entwined women embody the basic idea of the voluntary circulation of “benefits” through acts of generosity unmotivated by any certainty of recompense and in accordance with the Roman aristocracy’s disdain for commerce.[2] Though Seneca does not use the term, in this context the motif becomes an allegory, or as André Chastel suggested, an “ideogram,” eligible for insertion as a kind of ready-made (an emblema in its original sense[3]) into a composition.[4] In this paper I argue, first, for the importance of a mention of the Graces in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (1133a2), a widely read and commented text in later Quattrocento Florence; the relevant passage is in Book V, known simply – e.g., by Poliziano, who lectured on it — as the Book of Justice.[5]

Aristotle locates a civic cult of the Graces at the heart of a commercial community dependent on exchange facilitated through the use of money, to which he devotes an important discussion.[6]  Significantly, Botticelli’s Graces dance next to Mercury, god of commerce as well as culture[7]; together they project a calm and measured rationality contrasting sharply with the domain of the instinctual and violent wind god Zephyr and his victim Chloris, later transmuted into Flora. Venus stands, accordingly, at the approximate middle of a binary opposition that structures the painting and dramatizes her dual identity both as a civilizational deity and goddess of erotic passion.[8] Not only or not even a work about love and marriage or a poesia responding to contemporary literary trends, Botticelli’s painting is concerned with profound issues grounded in classical philosophical discourse, albeit of a different kind from the Neo-Platonism emphasized in an alternate tradition of scholarship, which this discussion does not invalidate.[9]

A similar opposition to that presided over by Venus exists within the representation of the assault by Zephyr, god of the generative west wind, on the nymph Chloris. A passage in Ovid’s calendar poem, the Fasti (5:183-378), has been long identified as a key source for this motif. Following her rape the Greek nymph Chloris becomes the Roman goddess Flora in a narrative that contrasts, in terms of genre, with the allegory of the Graces, and more importantly turns an act of animal violence into marriage, symbolizing household formation and inspiring a Roman cult of a goddess of spring. Botticelli’s Flora is clearly informed by Ovid’s account of her somewhat scandalous festival and associations;[10] nevertheless, the tale of Flora is a civilizational process, and as such relates to the larger composition as a kind of mise en abyme,[11] in that both embody the binary opposition of nature and culture. This is not absolute, however, at least for Aristotle who famously regarded the polis as both the highest form (telos) of human social organization[12] and as “natural” (Politics 1253a).[13] He also insists on the importance of the household as necessary component of a city, while emphasizing the contrast of types of authority exercised within each.[14]

The Primavera, then, is in an important sense a political painting, though in terms of political theory rather than immediate resonance, as Horst Bredekamp has argued.[15] No account of political imagery in the period – or indeed in early modern Europe — can omit Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s foundational frescoes in the city hall of Siena. The government of Siena at the time, “the Nine,” commissioned Lorenzetti’s allegory of Justice and images of the City at Peace and the City under Tyranny as a frankly political statement, reinforcing and justifying their rule in the city and its hinterland, but also drawing on important traditions of political and social thought that connect them to Botticelli’s exceptional painting. In view of the difference between the two works in terms of period, cultural milieu, and location, it would be difficult to claim a direct line of influence between them; on the basis of an important motif found in both images, however, I will argue that a remarkable coincidence, if not echo, exists.

None of the innumerable scholars who have worked on the Primavera have, as far as I know, fully appreciated the appearance of the Graces, or at least of their shrine, in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This was a text of enormous importance in Florentine culture, including vernacular culture, at the time of the creation of the painting (c.1484);[16] notably it was the work from which art and architectural patrons took the idea of “magnificence” (NE 4.2) that, as is often argued, helped give legitimacy to their expenditures.[17] In the Book of Justice (the literally central fifth book) Aristotle makes a distinction of types of justice that gave much food for thought to medieval commentators: distributive justice concerns the allocation of goods in society, while commutative or corrective justice addresses transactions between social actors.[18] The latter include practices of exchange – including the use of money – considered fundamental for the maintenance of community, a term that embraces a range of social formations, culminating in the polis, for Aristotle the most perfect form of community (NE 1099b30).[19] It is at this point that Aristotle mentions the presence of a temple of the Graces, evidently at the heart of a polis, perhaps in the vicinity of the market; the implication is that someone walking in the city would inevitably stumble into it (it is “in the way” — ἐμποδὼν).

There is no single master text behind the Primavera; the painting draws on a number of sources – all classical – woven together to form a unique and inextricable pictorial “text.”[20]  An important inter-text is the lyric poetry of Horace, which was of considerable interest in Botticelli’s milieu; in 1482 Cristoforo Landino, a key figure in the circle around Lorenzo de’ Medici, published an edition of the poet’s works with a verse preface by Poliziano in imitation of Horace (Fig. 2). [21]

Figure 2

One of the most famous celebrations of spring in western literature, the fourth poem of the first book of Horace’s Odes evokes a springtime festivity of Venus in the company of the Graces.[22] Opening with a cursory mention of natural processes, Horace then jumps to human economic activity prompted by the changing season; he specifically mentions seafaring and agriculture. In a swerve to mythology, Venus appears as leader of a dance in which the Graces and Nymphs together step forcefully on the ground, literally shaking the earth with their feet and beating time in rhythm, as perhaps we see in the Primavera. In a remarkable association, to which I will return, of the material basis of society and the delights of culture, Horace goes on to conjoin mythology and the theme of labor in a passage on the visit of Vulcan, god of fire and husband of Venus to the subterranean furnaces of the Cyclopes.[23]

This evocation by Horace of a springtime procession of Venus and the Graces is doubtless echoed in the Primavera, not least as regards their clothing. In other poems (Odes 1.30; 4.7), Horace describes the Graces as “daring” to dance naked, or at least with unfastened garments, in this respect following an ancient tradition exemplified in a famous antique statue of the nude Graces that was certainly known in Botticelli’s milieu, and indeed was echoed in a (lost) painting in the room next to where the Primavera was originally displayed.[24] But in Odes 1.4, Horace represents the Graces as decentes, i.e., presumably as clothed. As Charles Dempsey has demonstrated,[25] Botticelli’s representation of the Graces in their diaphanous dress sustains the connection to Seneca’s De Beneficiis, part of a body of ethical writings especially prized among humanists.[26]

Though Seneca surely knew the Nicomachean Ethics, his reference to the Graces brings the readers to a different social world than that implicit in the Ethics.  As an emblem of liberality, Seneca’s Graces evoke a social world grounded in amicitia, as an ideal of genteel interaction, rather than the commercial practices and values eschewed, at least in theory, by ancient Roman elites, as noted above. Though at first sight Botticelli’s refined Graces seem emphatically removed from the bustle of the urban street, the Aristotelian resonance may connect them with just such a milieu, or rather it expands or perhaps blurs their significance, leaving open the nature of the civic values they embody.

In a brief account of the Graces, Leon Battista Alberti recommends them in his Della Pittura (3.2) of 1536 as a motif for suitably cultured painters; evidently Botticelli took Alberti’s advice. Concealing his undoubted dependence on Seneca, Alberti cites instead the ancient poet Hesiod, the ancient rival of Homer as the founder of Greek literature. On the model of Pheidias learning from Homer how to represent the King of the Gods (DP 3.3), Alberti advises visual artists to take inspiration from literature. There could be few more prestigious texts than Hesiod’s Theogony, which presents the foundation of the universe of Greek myth, and in which Hesiod celebrates the place of the Graces, to whom (followed by Seneca and Alberti) he assigns individual names, in the context of the emergence of the Greek pantheon and the organization of the known world, or at least human consciousness of it.

In particular, Hesiod associates the Graces closely with the Muses, whom they join in dancing and festivity. Beyond the beauty of their dancing, Hesiod emphasizes the Muses’ loveliness of voice (Th. 65) and without clearly distinguishing them from the Graces, he describes them as singing the “laws and usages of all the gods,” which embrace, needless to say, both the natural and social order. Indeed the Muses have an especially important role in Hesiod’s cosmogonic narrative, which is also a narrative of political development, that of the polis out of the household, that would find an echo in later philosophical discussions.[27] At the time of the creation of the Primavera, Hesiod’s poetry was accessible in Latin translation: Poliziano, the poet and philologist usually regarded as Botticelli’s major humanist adviser, gave public lectures on Hesiod’s other major poem, the Works and Days, as well as Vergil’s Georgics, which was explicitly inspired by it. In 1483, following his lectures, Poliziano published his verse introduction, the Rusticus (Countryman), to Hesiod and Vergil’s poetry of country life and labor.[28] At very least, then, the Primavera belongs in a skein of inter-texts that goes back to Hesiod and the dawn of classical civilization. And though like other motifs in the painting, the Graces elude any single or unambiguous interpretation, they embody an implicitly Hesiodic naturalization of the social and, in the original sense, political order that resonates with Aristotelian thinking about the relationship of the political community and its biological basis.

It is an open question whether we should regard such a subtle and complex response to the classical legacy as reflecting a concern with legitimation, or a kind of critique of prevailing political circumstance, as Bredekamp has suggested.[29]  I now turn to an image of undoubted political significance, the frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Sala della Pace in Siena (Fig. 3).

Figure 3

As in the case of the Primavera, the literature on the frescoes is vast; in this essay I will concentrate on the celebrated motif of nine dancing maidens (Fig. 4), a number that immediately connects them to the ruling council.

Figure 4

However, their frequent identification with the nine Muses (a tenth figure, dressed in black, beats time with a tambourine, drawing attention to the rhythmic quality of the dance)[30] raises questions about the knowledge in Lorenzetti’s pre-humanist milieu about the relevant ancient sources. Especially in view of the fluid boundaries between the Muses and Graces in antiquity as well as later, in the following pages I will suggest that Lorenzetti’s dancing women are more fruitfully identified with the Graces, not as Venus’s charming companions, but as the embodiments of a foundational aspect of civil society.

The group of dancing women in Siena has occasioned considerable debate, extending even, as we saw, to their identification.[31] On the wall behind the seated councilors is the celebrated allegory of the Ben Comun (Common Good), which includes references to Aristotle’s discussion of justice in the Nicomachean Ethics, and specifically to the concepts of distributive and corrective justice distinguished there.[32] A key question in the scholarship on the frescoes is the relationship of the frankly allegorical image on the end wall of the room, in front of which the councilors took their seats, and the adjoining walls, that carry – especially in the context of fourteenth century visual culture – markedly “realistic” or mimetic images of the effects of Good Government. However, a sharp contrast between radically different types of image is not sustainable. The distinctive activity, attire, and artistic treatment of the dancers suggest that they constitute a kind of insert, typical of the period, in the fresco as a whole or, in other words, an image within an image of different character (an image that itself may be considered a representation, if Jack Greenstein is right, of the vision of personified Peace).[33]

The dancers’ prominence in the image is assured by their location roughly at the center of the ideal city at peace and by their large scale relative to other figures (Fig. 5).[34]

Figure 5

Attired in festive dress, they perform a round dance in which they seem to be taking turns to form with outstretched arms a kind of portal or gate, under which the other dancers, moving in line, have to duck. The dance, then, is surely an allusion to the city gate that, in the fresco, interrupts the sweep of the high wall separating urban space from the countryside beyond. As in any medieval city the wall serves a symbolic function, as a prominent emblem of the city itself (significantly the distinctive tower and dome of the cathedral are relatively marginal, if not painted later then the rest of the fresco). By passing beneath a human gate the dancers refer to and even represent the city, at first sight a space of human artifice, in which, most notably, builders are busy at construction, and which Lorenzetti contrasts with the countryside beyond the city gate.

As we saw, however, Aristotle claims (Politics 1252b30-1253a1) that the city exists “by nature” – moreover that humans are political animals (1253a1-18), i.e., they belong by nature in the city. Significantly, then, Lorenzetti’s dancers perform in proximity to a wedding procession conveying the bride, presumably, to the bridegroom’s house.[35] If, as is likely, the dance celebrates the wedding, it can be understood both as a typical event and as a symbol of the well-governed and peaceful city as a whole, while also echoing a key Aristotelian theme, the relationship of household and city or, in simpler terms, biology and politics.[36] The rhythmic dance hints at the cosmic dimension of civic order[37] and the creatures–dragonflies and caterpillars– embroidered on the dancers’ dresses evoke generative nature, as does the “implied eroticism” of the dancers and their costumes[38] (a similar point can be made about the embroidered dress of Flora in the Primavera).

By introducing the theme of the celebration, through art, of political and social order, Lorenzetti’s dancers transfigure the imagery, evoking the ancient idea that the world is incomplete unless there is someone to celebrate it, a role assigned from the beginning of European literature to the Muses, with memorable invocations in Hesiod and Homer.[39] Hesiod was unknown in Trecento Italy, but as Marco Santucci has demonstrated there are striking correspondences and possibly connections between Lorenzetti’s fresco and Homer’s famous ekphrasis of Achilles’ shield (Iliad 18. 478-607), which launched the theme of contrasted cities, one at war and the other at peace and enjoying good order.[40] Few Trecento Italians understood Greek, though it was a native language in part of Campania, and a translation of the Iliad was underway at the time of the creation of the painting.[41] But whether or not he was aware of the Iliad passage, Lorenzetti’s image of dancers not only glorifies Siena as an idealized urban community but also reflexively celebrates that glorification of the city through art (in this case, the “mechanical art” theatrica[42]). In this way the artist proclaimed himself the visual bard of his city; moreover, both the dancers and the artist produce the “delight” hailed in an inscription in the Sala della Pace as a consequence of the rule of the Nine.[43] In an Aristotelian conceptual world, such delight constitutes both the objective and justification of city life.

The identification of the dancers as the Muses depends in large part on numerical correspondence – nine of each – though a more pressing contemporary resonance of the number nine involved the government of Siena, “The Nine,” that commissioned Lorenzetti’s frescos.[44]  Rather than the Muses, however, I propose that the Graces are better candidates for the role of dancers in the City at Peace. Their number was hardly an issue, especially in the light of Lorenzetti’s likely limited knowledge of the visual tradition of triple Graces or indeed of such authors as Hesiod (Seneca’s ethical writings were known, albeit mainly through a medieval encapsulation).[45] In any case, the number of the Graces was not fixed in ancient sources, nor was there clear differentiation among gaggles of divine girls, such as the Horae (Seasons), the innumerable Nymphs, or even the Muses. Of these groups, however, only the Aristotelian Graces appear in an urban context, indeed at the heart of a commercial city, but without specification of their number, and the Graces “lend their grace and beauty to everything that delights and elevates gods and men,” especially the arts.[46] Even if Lorenzetti knew of the tradition of three sisters, however, his nine dancers may be specifically Sienese Graces, celebrating the prosperity resulting from the wise rule of the Nine, and through carefully orchestrated movements dancing a city – this city — into being.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s fame in fifteenth-century Florence was assured by the admiring praise in Ghiberti’s Commentaries (after 1448) of his innovativeness, especially in narrative painting (Book 2, chapters 11 and 12).[47]  Botticelli’s self-conscious interest in narrative forms surely draws on Ghiberti’s achievement, as does his expansive, in some ways “Gothicizing” approach to antiquity, as notably exemplified in the Graces of the Primavera. Whether or not Botticelli studied Lorenzetti’s paintings, the Primavera embodies one of the most important elements of continuity between the medieval intellectual world and that of fifteenth-century Florence, the intense engagement with the ethical and political thought of Aristotle. What changed, most notably, was the view of Aristotle as writer, as Renaissance translators sought to present a philosopher of eloquence and grace as well as logic.[48] This may well also have been a subsidiary motivation for Botticelli!


[1] For an exhaustive review of the sources, with particular emphasis on Seneca, see Charles Dempsey, “Botticelli’s Three Graces,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 34 (1971), pp. 327-8.

[2] Seneca lamented the decline of this attitude; Miriam T. Griffin, Seneca on Society: A Guide to De Beneficiis, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.v56-57.

[3] Hessel Miedema, “The Term `Emblema’ in Alciati,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 31 (1968), pp. 234-50, esp. 239.

[4] André Chastel, Arte e umanesimo a Firenze al tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Studi sul Rinascimento e sul umanesimo platonico, Turin: Einaudi, 1979, p. 421: “Le Carità divengono così una sorte di ideogramma, un geroglifico dell’universo `armonico’ nella tavola del cosmo `musicale’ del Gafurio e nella ricca illustrazione umanistica del manoscritto dell’Etica a Nicomaco.”

[5] Cesare Martinelli “Poliziano professore allo studio fiorentino,” in L. Beschi and M. Gregori (edits.), La Toscana al tempo di Lorenzo, Pisa: Pacini 1996, vol.2, pp. 463-481, esp. 477.

[6] Scott Meikle, “Aristotle on Money,” Phronesis, 39/1 (1994), pp. 26-44.

[7] The association occurs in Seneca’s ekphrasis of the Graces (De Beneficiis 1.3), though with the odd claim that the god is represented only because the artist wished it so.

[8] Charles Burroughs, “Talking with Goddesses: Ovid’s Fasti and Botticelli’s Primavera,” Word and Image, 28 (2012), p. 77, argues for Ovidian inspiration. For a classic interpretation in a Neo-Platonist key see Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, revised ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980, p. 125.

[9] In the vast literature on the painting, Burroughs, op. cit., pp.71-83, lays out the argument alluded to here. The leading current champion of a Neo-Platonist interpretation is Liana De Girolami Cheney; see her Quattrocento Neoplatonism and Medici Humanism in Botticelli’s Mythological Paintings. Lanham: University Press of America, 1985). Wind, op. cit., 113-127, remains fundamental.

[10] Burroughs, op. cit., pp. 73-74. On Renaissance reception of the Fasti see Lew Andrews, “Botticelli’s Primavera, Angelo Poliziano, and Ovid’s Fasti,” Artibus et Historiae, 63 (2011), pp. 73-84

[11] For the concept see Lucien Dällenbach, The Mirror in the Text (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989).

[12] According to Aristotle (Politics 1252b29-30), the polis comes into being for the sake of life, but exists for the sake of the good life. See C.W. Taylor, “Politics,” in The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 233-58, esp. 237; David Keyt, “Three Fundamental Theorems in Aristotle’s Politics,” in L.P. Gerson (ed.), Aristotle: Politics, Rhetoric and Aesthetics, New York: Taylor & Francis, 1999, pp. 83-107, esp. 88.

[13] Adriel M. Trott, Aristotle on the Nature of Community, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014, p. 129.

[14] Aristotle, NE 5 1134b, 8-17; cf. Politics 2.1261b. For a general discussion see D. Brendan Nagle, The Household as the Foundation of Aristotle’s Polis, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006, esp. p.29.

[15] Horst Bredekamp, Botticelli: la Primavera. Modena: F. C. Panini, 1996, esp. pp.43-46.

[16] David A. Lines, “Aristotle’s Ethics in the Renaissance,” The Reception of Aristotle’s Ethics, ed. Jon Miller, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 171-193; Idem, “Ethics as Philology: A Developing Approach to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in Florentine Humanism,” in M. Pade (ed.), Renaissance Readings of the Corpus Aristotelicum, Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, 2001, pp. 27–42.

[17]  James R. Lindow, The Renaissance Palace in Florence: Magnificence and Splendour in Fifteenth-Century Italy, London: Routledge, 2017, pp. 9-18.

[18] Izhak Englard, Corrective and Distributive Justice: From Aristotle to Modern Times, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 11-25; S. Todd Lowry, “The Economic and Jurisprudential Ideas of the Ancient Greeks: Our Heritage from Hellenic Thought,” in S.T. Lowry, B. Lewis, and J. Gordon (edits.), Ancient and Medieval Economic Ideas and Concepts of Social Justice, Leiden: Brill, 1998, pp. 11-38, esp. 27: medieval commentaries on Book V “served as the vehicle for a broad spectrum of nascent economic theory.”

[19] At Politics 1253a29, Aristotle calls the city “the greatest of goods.” On the connection between exchange and the maintenance of community see Gabriel Danzig, “The Political Character of Aristotelian Reciprocity,” Classical Philology, 95/4 (2000), pp. 399-424, esp. 411-12. Danzig notes, “it is the concern with κοινωνία [community] that encourages Aristotle to overcome his reservations about the marketplace expressed in Book I of the Politics, and to suggest the extension of monetization.”

[20] Dempsey, op. cit., 330 (“The classical texts which inspired the Primavera are as tightly locked as the pieces in a Chinese puzzle”); Jean Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods: The Mythological Tradition and Its Place in Renaissance Humanism and Art, Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 115, memorably refers to “a confused murmur of literary recollections.”

[21] Glenn W. Most, “Horace,” in The Classical Tradition, ed. Anthony Grafton et al., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013, p.456; Ida Maïer, Ange Politien: la formation d’un poète humaniste, 1469-1480, Geneva: Droz, 1966, pp. 29-42.

[22] Katharina Tiemeyer, “Solvitur acris hiems” – ein Frühlingsgedicht des Horaz:

Interpretation von Horaz, c.1,4, Munich: Grin Verlag, 2010; Reinhard Thurow, “Frühlingsbilder: Botticelli und Horaz,” Antike und Abendland, 33 (1987), pp.140-162.

[23]  On occasion Hephaistos is the spouse of “Charis,” i.e., a single Grace; Iliad, 18.369-467; Horace, Odes 4.7.5.

[24] Webster Smith, “On the Original Location of the Primavera,” The Art Bulletin, 57/1 (1975), pp. 31-40, esp.33.

[25] Dempsey, op. cit., 328, denounces earlier attempts to minimize Seneca’s importance.

[26] Roland Mayer, “Seneca redivivus: Seneca in the Medieval and Renaissance World,” in S. Bartsch and A. Schiesaro (edits.), The Cambridge Companion to Seneca, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 277-302.

[27] Stephen Scully, Hesiod’s Theogony: From Near Eastern Creation Myths to Paradise Lost, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 38 and 118-119.

[28] Scully, op. cit., pp. 160-67; Charles Fantuzzi, in idem (ed.), Angelo Poliziano, Silvae, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004, xii.

[29]  For the argument that the painting echoes the political stance of the presumed patron, Lorenzo di Piefrancesco de’ Medici, see Bredekamp, op. cit. This requires a later dating for the Primavera (late 1480s) than is usually accepted.

[30] Feldges-Henning, op. cit., p.151; Chiara Frugoni, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Milan, Scala Books, 1988, 68.

[31] Feldges-Henning, op. cit., p.154; Jack M. Greenstein, “The Vision of Peace: Meaning and Representation in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Sala della Pace Cityscapes,” Art History, 11 (1988), p. 493.

[32] The connection with Aristotle’s Ethics was proposed by Nicolai Rubinstein, “Political Ideas in Sienese Art: The Frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Taddeo di Bartolo in the Palazzo Pubblico,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 21/3-4 (1958), pp. 179-207. Rubinstein’s view was contested by Quentin Skinner, “Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the Portrayal of Virtuous Government,” in idem, Visions of Politics, Volume 2, Renaissance Virtues, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 39-92. For a good summary of the continuing debate see Ulrich Meier, “Die linke und die rechte Waagschale der Justiz: Die Rezeption der aristotelischen Lehre der Teilgerechtigkeiten bei Albertus Magnus und Ambrogio Lorenzetti,” in Petra Schulte, et al. (edits.), Gerechtigkeit im gesellschaftlichen Diskurs des späteren Mittelalters, Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 2012, pp. 66-71.

[33] Greenstein, op.cit. More generally see Péter Bokody, Images-within-Images in Italian Painting (1250-1350): Reality and Reflexivity, London: Routledge, 2017, esp. pp. 155-166, on Pietro Lorenzetti’s enhanced use of images-within-images. Bokody does not discuss the Sala della Pace.

[34] Greenstein, op. cit., p. 496.

[35] Frank A. D’Accone, The Civic Muse: Music and Musicians in Siena during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 641.

[36] Constance Jordan, “The Household and the State: Transformations in the Representation of an Analogy from Aristotle to James I,” Modern Language Quarterly, 54 (1993), pp. 307-26; D. Brendan Nagle, The Household as the Foundation of Aristotle’s Polis, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006. On Alberti’s distorted elaboration of Aristotle’s thinking, see Massimo Danzi, “Fra `oikos’ e `polis’: il pensiero familiare di Leon Battista Alberti,’ in Claudia Bastia, et al. (edits.), La memoria e la città. Scritture storiche tra medioevo e Età moderna, Bologna, Il Nove, 1995, pp. 47-62.

[37] Greenstein, op.cit., p. 494.

[38] Jean C. Campbell, The Commonwealth of Nature: Art and Poetic Community in the Age of Dante, University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008, p. 17.

[39] Stephen Halliwell, “Greek Gods and the Archaic Aesthetics of Life,” in E. K. Emilsson, et al. (edits.), Paradeigmata: Studies in Honour of Øivind Andersen, Athens: Norwegian Institute at Athens, 2014, pp. 121-7, esp. 121.

[40] Marco Santucci, “Immagini della città da Omero ad Ambrogio Lorenzetti,” Rivista di Filologia e Istruzione Classica, 134 (2006), pp.404-28; Campbell, op. cit., 252.

[41] Santucci, op. cit., 426-27, notes readings of Homer already in thirteenth-century Italy.

[42] Feldges-Henning, op. cit., p.154, includes theatrica among the canonical mechanical arts that, she argues, underlie Lorenzetti’s image of the well-governed city and country. She notes Albertus Magnus’s conviction, in his commentary on Aristotle’s Politics, that the mechanical arts produce delight.

[43] Text in Joseph Polzer, “Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s `War and Peace’ Murals Revisited: Contributions to the Meaning of the Good Government Allegory,” Artibus et Historiae, 23/45 (2002): p.101 n.89: “PER QUESTO CONTRIUNFO ALLUI (the common good) SI DANNO. CENSI TRIBUTI E SIGNORIE DI TERRE. PER QUESTO SENCA GUERRE SEGUITA POI OGNI CIVILE E EFFTTO. UTILE NECESSARIO E DI DILETTO” (italics mine). The inscription appears in the lower border below the figure of Peace, whose physical attractiveness – even erotic quality – Polzer stresses (p. 87).

[44] Construction work on the Campo is dated to 1333-34, close in time to the fresco; Colin Cunningham, “For the Honour and Beauty of the City: The Design of Town Halls,” in D. Norman (ed.), Siena, Florence, and Padua: Case Studies, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995, p. 41.

[45] Skinner, op. cit., p. 55.

[46] Denis Vidal, “The Three Graces, or the Allegory of the Gift: A Contribution to the History of an Idea in Anthropology,” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 4/2 (2014), pp. 339–368. Online http://www.haujournal.org/index.php/hau/article/view/hau4.2.024/1139:

[47] Carl B. Strehlke, “Art and Culture in Renaissance Siena,” in K.Christiansen, L.B. Kanter, and Strehlke (eds), Painting in Renaissance Siena, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988, p. 35.

[48] Paul Botley, Latin Translation in the Renaissance: The Theory and Practice of Leonardo Bruni, Giannozzo Manetti, and Desiderius Erasmus, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 43-44.

Charles Burroughs

Retired from the Smith Chair in Liberal Arts at Case Western Reserve University in 2014; subsequently he teaches part time in the Art History Department, SUNY Geneseo

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Category: Iconocrazia 13/2018 - "Iconocrazia: Art, Astronomy, Politics and Religion", Saggi | RSS 2.0 Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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