James Ward – The Compagnia della Cazzuola as locus of opposition to Medici rule



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.

James Ward (Berkeley, CA) – The Compagnia della Cazzuola as locus of opposition to Medici rule

This paper examines the Compagnia della Cazzuola, established in Florence in the fall of 1512, as a locus of opposition to Medici rule. This is done by focusing on the bizarre dinner entertainments given by the company, as described in detail by Vasari. In particular the study shows that, while on the surface presenting the appearance of harmless, if eccentric, spectacles, these festivities actually conveyed, in a highly allusive and recondite manner, criticism of the Medici regime, newly reestablished in the city. The paper will suggest that this was accomplished through the reenactment of stories taken from classical mythology which, in classical times as well as in the Renaissance, had a political subtext. The case of the story of Tantalus and that of Hecuba, the former taken from the masterpiece of the playwright Seneca, the Thyestes, a work well known to Renaissance Italian audiences as early as the 15th century, will be examined in detail.



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