The Medici Heritage - The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Medici Heritage

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The Medici Heritage

British Academy Leverhulme Project - Small Research Grant


This project funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant is a study of the history and transmission of the Medici family patrimony, as seen through an extraordinary and understudied legal dispute that spanned fifty years, from 1537 until 1587. This dispute concerned the ownership of land, buildings and works of art acquired before 1537 by members of the main branch of the Medici family in Florence and Rome. The research focuses on the competing interests of Duke Cosimo de’ Medici (1519–1574), the French Queen Caterina de’ Medici (1519–1589), and Margaret of Austria (1522–1586), three exceptionally powerful figures with claims on the possessions of the main branch of the family. It examines this complex legal case through a range of documents that have been completely ignored by scholarship, yet offer a remarkable seam of evidence for understanding the role played by works of art and ancestral buildings in crafting a visible, ‘material memory’ of the Medici family, the political mechanisms that underpinned the construction of the family’s history, and the struggles that took place to forge alternative dynastic identities. These themes intersect at various stages during the decades of the dispute, which can be subdivided into three main phases.

This project examines this complex dispute by looking at mostly unpublished legal papers, inventories, notarial acts and letters contained in several archival series preserved in the Archivio di Stato in Florence.

As part of the project, a collaboration with the Medici Archive Project based in Florence has been established. In addition, Dr Giacomo Giudici (Istituto italiano per gli studi storici, Naples) has contributed to organise a panel on “Material Memory: Politics, Art and Religion in Renaissance Italy” at the Renaissance Society of America in New Orleans (22–24 March 2018), where the initial results of the project will be presented.

Dr Guido Rebecchini (Courtauld Institute, London) and Dr Marcello Simonetta (Medici Archive Project, Florence)


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