Jews and Magic in Medici Florence: The Secret World of Benedetto Blanis

Jews and Magic in Medici Florence: The Secret World of Benedetto Blanis

by Edward L. Goldberg

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Overview

In the seventeenth century, Florence was the splendid capital of the Medici Grand Dukedom of Tuscany. Meanwhile, the Jews in its tiny Ghetto struggled to earn a living by any possible means, especially loan-sharking, rag-picking and second-hand dealing. They were viewed as an uncanny people with rare supernatural powers, and Benedetto Blanis—a businessman and aspiring scholar from a distinguished Ghetto dynasty—sought to parlay his alleged mastery of astrology, alchemy and Kabbalah into a grand position at the Medici Court. He won the patronage of Don Giovanni dei Medici, a scion of the ruling family, and for six tumultuous years their lives were inextricably linked.

Edward Goldberg reveals the dramas of daily life behind the scenes in the Pitti Palace and in the narrow byways of the Florentine Ghetto, using thousands of new documents from the Medici Granducal Archive. He shows that truth—especially historical truth—can be stranger than fiction, when viewed through the eyes of the people most immediately involved.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442660137
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Publication date: 08/06/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 366
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Edward Goldberg is an art historian and a long-time resident of Florence. He has worked for more than thirty years in the Medici Granducal Archive.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Illustration Credits 
Notes on Sources
The Blanis Family

CHAPTER ONE  The Piazza

CHAPTER TWO  The Palace
The Medici Family – Palazzo Pitti – Don Giovanni dei Medici – Benedetto Blanis at Court

CHAPTER THREE The Ghetto
Benedetto at Home – The Blanis Family – The Creation of the Ghetto – Segregation, Conversation, and Confusion – Ghetto Government – Benedetto’s Neighbours

CHAPTER FOUR The Synagogue
The Synagogue as It Was – On the Bench – Men of Authority – Quarrels and Dissension – Italians and Levantines

CHAPTER FIVE  Memory and Survival
The Jewish Year – Home and Family – Observance – Justice and Commandments

CHAPTER SIX  The Market
Shopping – Market and Ghetto – Blanis and Sons – Stolen Goods – Scrocchi Barocchi – Rich Jews

CHAPTER SEVEN  Knowledge and Power
Books – Tree of Kabbalah – Medicean Planets – Silver, Gold, and Grappa – The Fish Pond

CHAPTER EIGHT Games of Chance 
Porta al Prato – Risky Business – Jew Made Christian

CHAPTER NINE  The Mirror of Truth
On the Road – Venice – The Mirror of Truth – At Home with Livia and Don Giovanni – Fire at the Fair – Florence

CHAPTER TEN   The Magic Circle
Fellow Travellers – The Late Cosimo Ridolfi – The Workshop – The Apprentice

CHAPTER ELEVEN Curious and Forbidden Books
Passover and Easter – Days of Scruples – Holy Cross – Bad Jew – Business as Usual (I) – Divine Favours – Jews and Converts – Business as Usual (II)

CHAPTER TWELVE Prison
Misery and Woe – Beginning of the End – Cosmic Battle – Out of Sight and out of Mind

CHAPTER THIRTEEN  Habeas Corpus?

Notes
Bibliography
Index

What People are Saying About This

Lucia Frattarelli Fischer

'Suspenseful and compelling, Jews and Magic in Medici Florence plunges readers into the lives and destinies of two figures who strove to explain the world through the language of magical power—Benedetto Blanis, a learned Jew, and Don Giovanni dei Medici, the Duke of Tuscany's one-time unacknowledged son. Edward Goldberg's great narrative talent is revealed through his faithful, flowing translations of Blanis' letters and his vibrant reconstruction of everyday Florentine life.'
Lucia Frattarelli Fischer, Interdepartmental Centre of Jewish Studies, University of Pisa

Robert Bonfil

'This dazzling, valuable biography combines Edward Goldberg's thorough archival expertise with his fresh, fluent writing style to create a vividly detailed portrait of Benedetto Blanis and seventeenth-century Florence. Goldberg compellingly shows how the episodes of Blanis' life reflected a complex, deeply moving response to the conditions of baroque Italian society. Since our knowledge concerning Jewish life in this period is considerably limited, Jews and Magic in Medici Florence must be welcomed as a superb achievement adding substantial components to this puzzle. Travellers can also use it as a muse as they stroll through the narrow lanes of the historical centre of Florence, wondering what it may have been like to walk there five hundred years ago.'
Robert Bonfil, Department of History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

From the Publisher

'This dazzling, valuable biography combines Edward Goldberg's thorough archival expertise with his fresh, fluent writing style to create a vividly detailed portrait of Benedetto Blanis and seventeenth-century Florence. Goldberg compellingly shows how the episodes of Blanis' life reflected a complex, deeply moving response to the conditions of baroque Italian society. Since our knowledge concerning Jewish life in this period is considerably limited, Jews and Magic in Medici Florence must be welcomed as a superb achievement adding substantial components to this puzzle. Travellers can also use it as a muse as they stroll through the narrow lanes of the historical centre of Florence, wondering what it may have been like to walk there five hundred years ago.'

'Suspenseful and compelling, Jews and Magic in Medici Florence plunges readers into the lives and destinies of two figures who strove to explain the world through the language of magical power—Benedetto Blanis, a learned Jew, and Don Giovanni dei Medici, the Duke of Tuscany's one-time unacknowledged son. Edward Goldberg's great narrative talent is revealed through his faithful, flowing translations of Blanis' letters and his vibrant reconstruction of everyday Florentine life.'

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