University of Sussex
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The role of rare and exotic animals in the self-fashioning of the early modern court: the Medici court in Florence as a case study

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posted on 2023-06-08, 13:38 authored by Angelica Groom
The principal aim of this study is to investigate the role rare and exotic animals played in the cultural self-fashioning and political imaging of the Medici's Ducal and Grand-ducal Court in Florence (1531-1737). The exclusive focus on this topic will contribute to Medicean scholarship in an area of research that has hitherto received only scant and fragmentary attention. This study will provide the first comprehensive and systematic analysis of the numerous ways in which both real and depicted animals were manipulated to serve the interests of the Medici regime. The thesis is formed of five chapters. Chapter one examines the zoological spaces established by the Medici; chapter two focuses on the procurement of animals and their use in diplomatic gift exchange. The remainder of the thesis takes the form of three case studies. These will examine a wide range of Medici-commissioned works of art, from different points in the family's history, in which unusual fauna feature as a central element of the iconography. The works discussed will make clear how individual members of the regime deployed animal imagery to express their political aspirations and courtly magnificence. Case study one traces how early members of the Medici family used images of rare beasts to assert their dynastic and political legitimacy, primarily to a home audience. Case study two examines the role of zoological illustrations in the Medici's wider ambition to establish an international reputation as patrons of the natural sciences and to promote the court as a centre of artistic production. The final case considers a series of zoological paintings commissioned by the last two Medici rulers, to argue that the pictures reflected not only the shifting values elite society attached to unusual fauna, but that they also mirrored the decline of the regime itself.


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  • eng


University of Sussex

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