Faces of power : visible agency of Florentine and Venetian leaders 1500-1600.
Pfifferling, Jillian Muth.
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It is the aim of this thesis to examine what accounts for the difference between portraits of Florentine and Venetian leaders, as I believe they each have a distinct character. I will explore this subject through a comparison of the portraiture of sixteenth-century leaders from Venice and Florence and to detangle the social, political, and artistic structures revealed by these depictions. Portraits of Florentine and Venetian leaders are the product of the varied situations found in each city, which in turn determined the distinctive visual rhetoric seen in the subsequent visual products. Because of the increase in the number of portraits produced in both Florence and Venice in the sixteenth century, a comparative study seems à propos. Indeed, while Florence and Venice are two of the most central Renaissance locales, a lack of comparative studies between them is evident and my thesis will open a needed dialogue by using portraiture as a starting point. I first discuss the state of portraiture in the sixteenth-century, dealing with issues such as sitters, functions and meaning, as well as introducing the main courtly artists of the time period. In order to contextualize the paintings that I use as the crux of my comparative argument, I also examine the history of Florence and Venice, with a focus on the political and social structures of each locale. My main argument, thus, is a detailed comparative account of the ways in which portraits of the Medici patriarchs and the Venetian Doges highlight the distinctiveness of each government while both reflecting and intervening into the construction of power each ruler held in that government. Particularly, I believe that the notion of agency serves as an essential tool of comparison: while the Medici princes held great power in creating and controlling their self-image as well as determining their position, the identity of the Venetian Doges was appropriated by the state and self-fashioning abilities were restricted once they accessed power.
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