The Politicized Muse: Music for Medici Festivals, 1512-1537

The Politicized Muse: Music for Medici Festivals, 1512-1537

by Anthony M. Cummings


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During the years between the restoration of the Medici to Florence and the election of Cosimo I, the Medici family sponsored a series of splendid public festivals, reconstructed here by Anthony M. Cummings. Cummings has utilized unexpectedly rich sources of information about the musical life of the time in contemporary narrative accounts of these occasions—histories, diaries, and family memoirs. In this interdisciplinary work, he explains how the festivals combined music with art and literature to convey political meanings to Florentine observers. As analyzed by Cummings, the festivals document the political transformation of the city in the crucial era that witnessed the end of the Florentine republic and the beginnings of the Medici principate. This book will interest all students of the life and institutions of sixteenth-century Florence and of the Medici family. In addition, the author furnishes new evidence about the contexts for musical performances in early modern Europe. By describing such contexts, he ascertains much about how music was performed and how it sounded in this period of music history and shows that the modes of musical expression were more varied than is suggested by the relatively few surviving examples of actual pieces of music.

Originally published in 1992.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691603612
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/08/2015
Series: Princeton Essays on the Arts , #1767
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.10(d)

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The Politicized Muse

Music for Medici Festivals, 1512â"1537

By Anthony M. Cummings


Copyright © 1992 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-09142-6



The republic of Florence was renewed in 1494, at the time of the French invasion of Italy. A number of disaffected Florentine aristocrats, resentful of Piero di Lorenzo de' Medici's autocratic behavior and jealous of the diplomatic prerogatives he violated when he negotiated directly with King Charles VIII, succeeded in bringing the Medici regime to an end; Piero was exiled and his family's property confiscated and sold. He later died after several attempts to restore his family to Florence.

Eighteen years later, the conditions of Italian political life had changed dramatically. Pope Julius II had expected that the renewed Florentine republic would be among the members of his "Holy League" (England, Spain, and Venice), but Florence, alone among the principal independent Italian states, instead entered into an alliance with France. The Medici negotiated an agreement with the League, which committed them to its financial support in return for their restoration to Florence. The military forces of the League easily overcame any resistance the Florentines could offer, and on September 1,1512, Giuliano di Lorenzo entered Florence; he had last seen his native city as a boy of fifteen.

In the ensuing discussions about the future of the government, one group argued for a set of moderate constitutional reforms that would have limited the authority of the Medici. Giuliano — introspective, by temperament inclined to be accommodating, to a considerable extent apolitical — conceded too easily to such arguments to satisfy the more ardent Mediceans, who appealed to his older brother, Cardinal Giovanni, and persuaded him to intervene.

What might have been the first civic event of the restoration to involve the performance of music in fact never occurred. Cardinal Giovanni was papal legate to Tuscany and as such held a position of authority in Florence that was independent of his status as his family's senior member; although he was thus entitled to a formal entrata, he chose to forego the privilege:

On the fourteenth of September, 1512, the day of Santa Croce, the Cardinal de' Medici entered Florence by the Porta a Faenza, and although he was papal legate to Tuscany, he did not want to enter by means of a procession, as was customary, and with a company of citizens, but in their place armed men and a great many foot soldiers from the Romagna and Bologna, and he went to dismount at his house. The next day, he had to go to visit the Signoria after eating; and the Signoria asked many citizens to go to meet him, as a result of which he changed his plan and said that he would go there by night, in order to minimize ceremony, and thus he did; and the Signoria sent him the customary gifts of a papal legate, and he gave them fifty fiorini larghi; and afterward trumpeters and pifferi came to visit him, with great fanfare, and he tipped them well accordingly.

On the following day, September 16, the citizenry was summoned to a parlamento in the Piazza della Signoria; in the presence of armed men in the employ of the Medici it had no choice but to authorize a balìa, a characteristically Florentine commission that was appointed when political circumstances dictated and was empowered to bypass established procedures for the governance of the city. The fifty-five members of the balìa were selected by Cardinal Giovanni, and the constitutional reforms they subsequently undertook served to restore the methods employed by the Medici regime in the fifteenth century.

The Signoria had intended the entertainment that their instrumentalists had provided to serve as a gesture toward the city's new "first citizen," and they could not have chosen a more appropriate means to honor him. Giovanni de' Medici's musical interests are so well known and so amply documented that to describe them in great detail would be redundant; even a brief review of some evidence that pertains specifically to his interest in instrumental music, however, reveals a great deal about that interest.

Two instrumentalists (Galeatio Baldo and Gian Maria Giudeo) are known to have been in Giovanni's service even before his election to the papacy, and after his election instrumentalists were employed in apparently unprecedented numbers and occupied an important place within his musical establishment.

Of the reports of performances of music in Rome during Leo's papacy, a number refer specifically to instrumental performances and serve to substantiate the claim made in an anonymous biography of Leo about the frequency of such performances in the Vatican palace. In 1513, for example, Alessandro Gabbioneta wrote to Francesco Gonzaga that "yesterday I went to his Holiness, whom I found at the Belvedere with the archbishop of Florence, Giulio de' Medici. In the antechamber was the Most Reverend Cardinal Ippolito d'Este of Ferrara and the cardinal of Ancona. I visited his Holiness, and then Gian Maria Giudeo made music with viols." In June of 1514, Baldassare Turini da Pescia wrote to Lorenzo II de' Medici, the pope's nephew, in a way that reveals something about the variety of circumstances that occasioned instrumental performances: "His Holiness is spending the better part of the day in his room playing chess and listening to instrumental music." And in June of 1516, the bishop of Adria, Beltrando Costabili, reported to Ippolito d'Este that "Adriano, Auns, Sauli, Cornaro, and Medici ate there [on the site of the future Villa Madama] with his Holiness, and Signor Antonio Maria and Frate Mariano and 'il Protho,' with his musicians, attended." Indeed, the pleasure Leo derived from listening to instrumental music may have been equaled only by the pleasure he derived from hunting, as is suggested by a 1518 letter of Antonio de Beatis, Cardinal Luigi d'Aragona's chaplain and amanuensis: "The pope takes great pleasure in the entertainment provided at the expense of Cardinal d'Aragona and of the music of flutes, piferi, and so on, and of the hunt, and every day our house rejoices in the sound of piferi, flutes, crumhorns, cornetti, and every kind of music. "That there were many, many other instrumental performances about which we know comparatively less is suggested by the ad hoc payments sparely recorded in the papal accounts; many of the entries are written in a way that makes one wish for considerably more detail: in September of 1518, two ducats were paid to an unidentified musician who "played the lyre at the Rocca of Viterbo"; a month later a ducat was paid to a musician who "was playing the cithara"; and in June of 1521, five ducats were paid to "three sonatori of the harp, tambourine, and violetta, who played on the day of San Giovanni."

Leo, moreover, was himself a lutenist ("he values nothing except to sound the lute," it was said of him), and a passage in the diary of Paris de Grassis, the papal master of ceremonies, reveals that he was a harpsichordist as well: "Today the pope gave me, as a gift, the most beautiful clavicembalo — a most excellent monochord — valued at one hundred ducats, which he was accustomed to keeping in his room [quod ipsemet in sua camera tenere solatus (sic) est]; moreover, he said that he had gladly provided this because he understood that I delighted greatly in such sound, as indeed I do." Nor was Leo's clavicembalo the only keyboard instrument in his personal possession; he may have owned as many as three organs, if the various references allude, as they appear to, to separate instruments: a letter of Castiglione's of 1521 to the marquis of Mantua documents a famous alabaster organ; Cardinal Luigi d'Aragona honored the pope with the gift of an instrument that had belonged to the cardinal and that was featured in a performance of Ariosto's I suppositi in the Vatican Palace in 1519, its sets designed by Raphael; and in 1517 and 1518 "Ubaldino dant. Ubaldini pictore fiorentino" was paid sums of twenty and fifty ducats "for his work on an organ" and "for completing the painting of the organ in the guardaroba" — that is, the so-called Torre Borgia in the Vatican apartments, which served as Leo's secret treasury. We should surely interpret the privilege Leo granted to Antico for the print entitled Frottole intabulate da sonare organi (Rome, 1517) in light of these references (although its appearance predates some of them), since it is evidence of another kind of interest in keyboard music.

Leo also purchased gold and silver instruments imported from Nuremberg for the extraordinary sum of one thousand ducats: "domino Corrado Trompa de Nolirbergo for a clock and certain musical instruments made both of gold and of silver, given by him to his Holiness."

On the basis of these and other references, it has been argued that the old Julian library in the Vatican apartments (what is now called the Stanza della Segnatura) may have been converted under Leo to serve as the pope's music room: its doors are decorated by Fra Giovanni da Verona with intarsie of musical instruments. According to this interpretation, "sua camera" in the text quoted from Paris's diary would thus refer to the Stanza della Segnatura.

Finally, and perhaps most strikingly, on at least two occasions during Leo's papacy instrumentalists accompanied the singing of the papal choir in the Cappella Sistina, the very institution whose musical practices gave rise to the term used to this day to describe unaccompanied singing.

One cannot argue, even on the basis of these many references, that Giovanni de' Medici favored instrumental music above other forms of musical expression or that in his interests in such music he was unusual among patrons of his time; the comparative material that would substantiate the second of these propositions is simply not available. At the very least, they do suggest that the Signoria's gesture of September 1512 was appropriate indeed.

But if the instrumentalists who performed for Cardinal Giovanni in 1512 were confident that they had succeeded in ingratiating themselves with the Medici, that confidence was in one instance misplaced. Cardinal Giovanni and his relatives moved quickly to reestablish themselves, and Michele di Bastiano detto Talina sonatore, who had entered the service of the Signoria in 1509, was among those turned out of office by the Medici in 1512, notwithstanding his personal relationship to Giuliano de' Medici, his colleague in the Compagnia della Cazzuola. Had there been any doubt as to the Medici's reemergent authority in all matters pertaining to the governance of Florence, large and small, Talina's experience would have served to resolve it.



The first important festive occasion that the restored regime organized and that involved musical performances was the 1513 Carnival. "A year that brought a change of government or a new Pope was a good one for ... young artists," John Shearman has written; in 1513, the Medici were anxious to demonstrate that their restoration promised considerable benefits, and in an attempt to ensure the Carnival's artistic success they solicited the participation of some of the city's most prominent artists and literati. Two companies assumed responsibility for organizing the Carnival activities; Jacopo Guicciardini's letter of January 8,1513, to his brother Francesco suggests that the companies were founded toward the end of November 1512. Bartolomeo Cerretani, who was the author of one of the most important contemporary accounts of the events of the first months of the Medici restoration and a witness to them, reported:

Pope Julius instructed Cardinal Giovanni to attend to the Ferrarese undertaking, and so he did, recommending his brother Giuliano to all his relatives and friends. At our behest, Giuliano formed a company like that of Lorenzo "il Magnifico," and it was called the Diamante [Diamond] because it was an old device among the Medici. It had its beginning in this way: we made a list of thirty-six, almost all sons of men who were colleagues of Lorenzo "il Magnifico" in the company of the Zampillo (or Magi). And having had them summoned for an evening at Palazzo Medici, where they dined, Giuliano spoke, calling to mind how his family and the others who were there had happily possessed the city, and because that had to continue, he encouraged and proposed feste for the coming carnival, and they were planned; Giuliano was thinking of giving the order that this company govern the city, and already there wasn't a magistracy formed where there wasn't one of our number. Since no one of us prevailed because of the expectations of each, Giuliano began, in his kindly way, to suggest that each succeed in such a way that that close group of young men (who were his contemporaries) cohere, as had happened with their fathers. It transpired that Lorenzo came to their meeting, the son of Piero and Alfonsina Orsini, about eighteen years old, raised in Rome, without advantages but freely. There were those who persuaded him that the city, having been his father's, belonged to him, which induced him to want to form a company, and he did and called it the Broncone [Laurel Branch], all of its members his contemporaries from the leading families, and they also ordered a pantomime, as we had previously done.

Already the different political sensibilities of various members of the family begin to reveal themselves in the contemporary sources: Cerretani's description of Giuliano's measured response to the claims of his colleagues in the Diamante is consistent with what one knows of his personal characteristics from other accounts; on the other hand, the portrait of an indulged, ambitious, and competitive Lorenzo does not flatter its subject. Accounts of the Carnival festivities themselves serve to substantiate some details of the profiles that emerge from Cerretani's narrative.

Lorenzo's Compagnia del Broncone performed on February 6; the famous Florentine historian Jacopo Nardi, who was responsible for its elaborate program, was also the author of the text of the canto Colui che dà le leggi alia natura, whose music is preserved. The procession was formed of four hundred torchbearers and seven floats (see figure 4).(Vasari recorded that Lorenzo, having seen the three Diamante earn, desired "that they should be surpassed," and that Nardi's program called for seven carri expressly in order to exceed the number executed for the Diamante.) As Janet Cox-Rearick suggested, Nardi's program was an elaborate allegory whose various elements represented the effects of buon governo: religion, virtù and prosperity, victory, poetry, and law. The first float, drawn by a pair of oxen, represented the Age of Saturn and Janus (called the Age of Gold) and was accompanied by six pairs of mounted shepherds, clothed in skins, their shoes fashioned in imitation of ancient footwear, and each pair attended by four grooms attired as shepherd boys who carried torches in the form of dry trunks and branches of pine; seated on the second carro was Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome and the originator of religion and sacrifices among the Romans, who was accompanied by six priests, richly attired in classical dress and on muleback, attended by Levites whose torches resembled ancient candelabra; the third, which symbolized the consulate of Titus Manlius Torquatus, consul after the first Carthaginian war, was drawn by eight horses and preceded by six pairs of mounted senators, attired in togas and accompanied by grooms who carried fasces and axes, symbols of the administration of justice; the fourth, drawn by buffaloes disguised as elephants, represented the victory of Julius Caesar over Cleopatra and was accompanied by six pairs of men in armor; the fifth, drawn by winged horses, carried Caesar Augustus, attended by six pairs of Poets on horseback, crowned with laurel (as was Caesar himself) and attired in distinctive costumes that varied according to their provinces; the sixth carried Trajan and was preceded by six pairs of Doctors of Laws attended by grooms who represented copyists and notaries and carried torches and books. After the six floats came the triumphal chariot representing the Age of Gold. On it lay a man dressed in rusted armor, as if dead, and from the armor there emerged a young boy, naked and gilded, who represented the birth of the Age of Gold and the end of the Age of Iron. Also featured was a dry branch, symbolic of the House of Medici, which was seen to put forth new leaves, its imagery anticipated by the torches carried by the grooms who attended the first float.


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Table of Contents


Preface and Acknowledgments

Partial Genealogy of the Medici Family

To the Reader

Introduction: Some Aspects of Methodology 3

Pt. I The First Years of the Medici Restoration: The Union of Florence and Rome

Ch. 1 The Restoration 11

Ch. 2 The 1513 Carnival 15

Ch. 3 The Election of Leo X 42

Ch. 4 Giuliano de Medici's Capitoline Investiture 53

Ch. 5 Leo X's 1515 Florentine Entrata 67

Pt. II Toward the Principato: Lorenzo De Medici, 1513-1519

Ch. 6 Archbishop Giulio's Possesso 85

Ch. 7 The 1514 Feast of San Giovanni 87

Ch. 8 Lorenzo de Medici, Captain General of the Florentine Militia and Duke of Urbino 93

Ch. 9 The Wedding of Lorenzo and Madeleine 99

Pt. III Alessandro De Medici and the Establishment of the Principato

Ch. 10 The First Years of Clement's Pontificate 117

Ch. 11 The Coronation of Charles V 128

Ch. 12 Alessandro, Duke of the Florentine Republic 140

Ch. 13 The Wedding of Alessandro and Margaret 151

Conclusion: Toward a Typology of Florentine Festival Music of the Early Cinquecento 163

Notes 173

Index 251

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