Engaging Symbols - Randolph, Adrian W. B. - Yale University Press
Art and Architecture
Social Science

Engaging Symbols

Gender, Politics, and Public Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence

  • Adrian W. B. Randolph
      REVIEWS             PREVIEW             CONTENTS             EXCERPTS      

Out of Print.

During the fifteenth century, Florence emerged as one of Europe’s most important city-states. This fresh and insightful book investigates the fascinating intersection of art, politics, and gender in the public sphere of Florence at this time. Adrian W. B. Randolph identifies a pivotal moment in the history of public art when Florentines visually encoded political and social relations within gendered categories. Randolph shows how “engaging” political symbols were grounded in a revolutionary way in amorous discourses that drew on metaphors of affection, desire, courtship, betrothal, marriage, homo- and hetero-eroticism, and procreation.

This book emphasizes the sculpture of Donatello and the Medici family’s efforts to seek legitimacy through artistic patronage. To characterize the political function of art, however, the book also encompasses a broad array of media--including paintings by Botticelli, portrait medals, and especially engravings--and tracks a number of important political developments. During the course of the fifteenth century, as tensions grew between Florence’s explicit republicanism and a waxing politics of personal charisma, art was employed to alleviate the uneasiness, Randolph argues. First an oligarchical government and then three generations of Medici rulers, recognizing the importance of political appearances, carefully crafted images of themselves, their city, and the consensual relation they imagined existing between the two. Randolph casts new light on these artistic practices to arrive at a new and convincing view of the connections among politics, gender, and art in quattrocento Florence.

Adrian W. B. Randolph is associate professor of art history at Dartmouth College.