Déborah Blocker – The Alterati in Medici Florence (1529-ca1620): an accademia privata between cultural dissidence and political service



Event Date: 17 – 18 September 2011
British Library Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

The Italian Academies 1525–1700 Project presents:


This major international conference is being hosted as part of the AHRC funded research project The Italian Academies 1525-1700: the first intellectual networks of early modern Europe.

Academies represent a vital and characteristic dimension of early modern culture.
There were ca. 600 Academies in Italy in the period 1525-1700. Frequently international in membership, and in correspondence with scholars across Europe, they were fundamental to the development of the intellectual networks later defined as the ‘République des Lettres’, and to the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe. Their membership included pioneering scientists, writers, artists, political thinkers, and representatives of both sexes and all social classes. The interests of the Academies ranged from the humanities, to the figurative and performance arts, natural sciences and medicine; many were interdisciplinary in their outlook and activities.

However, the social and cultural phenomenon of the Italian Academies has hitherto attracted relatively little research due in part to the wide range of their interests and difficulties in accessing relevant information.

The conference aims to explore research questions raised by the activities of Academies in this period.

Déborah Blocker (Berkeley, CA) – The Alterati in Medici Florence (1529-ca1620): an accademia privata between cultural dissidence and political service

This paper attempts to understand how the Alterati, one of the main private academies of late Renaissance Florence, related to the principato. It first details some of its activities, underlining that this secretive group of educated patricians all stemming from Republican families cultivated, within their institution, an intellectual and political counterculture. The second part of the paper examines the history of the academy in light of its relationship(s) with the Medici, from Francesco to Cosimo II, stressing that some of these rulers were more tolerant or even protective of it than others. The last part of the paper stresses that, though discreetly critical of the Medici, a number of the Alterati also simultaneously used the knowledge and skills they acquired through academic practice to praise and court them, at times transforming cultural dissidence into political service. This accademia privata thus obeyed a complex economy: its nostalgia and discontent, vented in semi-secrecy, were tolerated by the Medici and occasionally recycled to serve the ideology of the ruling family.



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