BMCR 2022.09.21

The Latin inscriptions of Medici Florence: piety and propaganda, civic pride and the Classical past

, The Latin inscriptions of Medici Florence: piety and propaganda, civic pride and the Classical past. Texts, translations and commentaries. Analecta Romana Instituti Danici. Supplementum, LV. Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2021. Pp. 362. ISBN 9788854911154. €32,00.

[Chapter titles are listed below.]

Patrick Kragelund’s volume brings together more than 200 Latin inscriptions from c. 1250 – c. 1737 still preserved in Florence, in particular those from the period of Medici dominance (c. 1434-1737). The focus is, as the subtitle states, the use of this documentation in conveying political, cultural and religious ideas, and the target group are historians and art historians. The purpose and the corpus are consequently of the greatest historical interest. The inscriptions, all diplomatically transcribed (with abbreviations marked in parentheses), have been translated into English and commented upon from the historical, cultural and art historical points of view, with a rich apparatus of photographical evidence. Consequently, the volume is both a representative anthology of texts in their context, to be used by scholars to start working on these Latin inscriptions (which will of course have then to be examined at first hand), and a welcome walking guide to Florentine monuments.

The volume is divided into 13 chapters, preceded by a useful Preface sketching the main developments relating to epigraphy in the period studied and A note on transcriptions and abbreviations. Chapters I to VI and again XI-XIII (I The Bridge, the River, the Mountains, and the Builders; II The Church, its Founders, and its Saints; III Chapels, Hospitals and Pious Donors; IV The “Comune” and Republic; V Illustrious Heroes, from Scripture and from Ancient Rome; VI Civic Humanism in Public and Private Memorials; XI The Cult of Art and Learning; XII The Cult of Michelangelo; XIII Belated Honours for Galileo) are thematic, whereas chapters VII to X (VII The Advent of Medici Monarchy; The Medici Comeback; IX Cosimo de’ Medici, the Second Duke and first Grand Duke; X Cosimo’s Successors) are chronological. A rich apparatus of end notes covers the relevant bibliography and provides some more in-depth development to the text. The body of the text is followed by an index of places and people, an index locorum of Ancient authors as well as an index of Formal aspects of Florentine epigraphy, i.e. abbreviations, archaic forms, dates according to the style of Annunciation used in Florence as well as the Classical Roman style, the forms of the family name of the House of Medici, the metres encountered in the inscriptions; furthermore, a useful concordance of the volume with such early epigraphical syllogae as those of Signorili, Poggio, Cyriac of Ancona, Antiquus Tiburtinus and others, as well as references to a series of important Ancient Roman inscriptions from CIL VI, XI and XIV; an index of Roman inscriptions quoted in the volume; a list of image credits and a Postscript detailing the work process and acknowledgements.

The volume incontestably fills in a significant gap in the documentation available in English on late medieval and early modern Florentine epigraphy. It also makes more accessible these important sources to those who have (not yet) sufficient command of Latin, which is indispensable for scholars interested in the Renaissance. The volume eloquently brings out the paramount importance of such aspects as the dates (Classical? Medieval? Hybrid?), the abbreviations (Suspension? Contraction? etc.), the formulae (Classical? Medieval?), the metre (Hexameters? Elegiac distichs? Sapphic stanzas? etc.) and the decorative elements (tabula ansata? Putti? etc.) in shedding light on the political, cultural and religious orientation and objectives of the sponsors of the monuments and the inscriptions. The author’s excellent language skills, his knowledge of the formal aspects of Renaissance epigraphy (formulae, decoration etc.) and art history, as well as his familiarity with relevant bibliography are demonstrated not only by the transcriptions and translations but by the well-documented comments on significant details encountered in the inscriptions. It is particularly meritorious that the author should have examined all inscriptions at first hand. The only important aspect that might have been treated in greater depth is palaeography, which would have provided essential insights into the development and forms of conveying the message, and which has been extensively studied, with innovative results, especially in the last few decades by Stefano Zamponi and Teresa De Robertis, among others (see e.g. the relevant chapters by Zamponi and De Robertis in Frank T. Coulson, Robert G. Babcock, The Oxford handbook of Latin palaeography. Oxford handbooks. [Oxford; New York]: Oxford University Press, 2020). Even without a detailed palaeographical discussion, however, Patrick Kragelund’s well-conceived, well-written and well-presented volume is a most welcome instrument, considerably facilitating the access to this important corpus of texts in their historical and cultural context.


A Note on Transcriptions and Abbreviations
I The Bridge, the River, the Mountains, and the Builders
II The Church, its Founders, and its Saints
III Chapels, Hospitals and Pious Donors
IV The “Comune” and Republic
V Illustrious Heroes, from Scripture and from Ancient Rome
VI Civic Humanism in Public and Private Memorials
VII The Advent of Medici Monarchy
VIII The Medici Comeback
IX Cosimo de’ Medici, the Second Duke and first Grand Duke
X Cosimo’s Successors
XI The Cult of Art and Learning
XII The Cult of Michelangelo
XIII Belated Honours for Galileo
Index of Places & People
Index of Ancient Authors
Indices of Inscriptions
1. Formal Aspects of Florentine Epigraphy
2. Roman Inscriptions featuring in Early Syllogae, which influenced Florentine Epigraphy of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
3. Index of Roman Inscriptions quoted in this Book
Image Credits