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Building Family Identity

The Orsini Castle of Bracciano from Fiefdom to Duchy (1470–1698)


Edited By Paolo Alei and Max Grossman

The Orsini of Bracciano were among the most powerful and influential signori di castelli of early modern Italy, controlling a vast domain that stretched from the Tyrrehenian Sea to the mountains of Abruzzo. This book explores the construction and decoration of their principal headquarters north of Rome between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as the careers and artistic patronage of its leaders, who included captains, condottieri, cardinals and urban aristocrats. The castle is one of the largest in Latium and was once a centre of courtly culture and diplomacy, hosting princes, kings and popes. Today it boasts many beautifully preserved artworks of the Renaissance era, including frescos by Antoniazzo Romano and the Zuccari brothers.

The contributors to this study investigate the castle as a visual expression of the family identity of its builders. They trace its evolution from the fortified capital of a large fiefdom at the dawn of the age of artillery to the palatial residence of a ducal dynasty in the aftermath of the Italian Wars. Richly illustrated with numerous historic and new photographs, this book analyses a fascinating and mostly neglected facet of early modern Italian culture: the artistic patronage of seigniorial clans.

CONTENTS: Part I: Arma et Litterae: The Castle of Bracciano in the Quattrocento – Paolo Alei: Building with Magnificenza: The Orsini Castle of Bracciano – Stefania Camilli: The State of the Condottiero: Bracciano in the System of the Italian States in the Age of Gentil Virginio Orsini – Paul Gwynne: The Poets and the Prince: Silius Italicus, Johannes Michael Nagonius and Gentil Virginio Orsini, Lord of Bracciano – Max Grossman: Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Gentil Virginio Orsini and the Defence of Bracciano – Anna Cavallaro: Renaissance Paintings in the Castle of Bracciano: The Celebration of Gentil Virginio Orsini and the Pastimes of Courtly Women – Part II: Locus Amoeunus: The Transformation of the Castle of Bracciano in the Cinquecento – Elisabetta Mori: Isabella de’ Medici and Vittoria Accoramboni: The History and Legend of the Two Wives of the Duke of Bracciano – Maria Giulia Aurigemma: Palatium sive forticium: Sixteenth-century Architecture of the Palazzo-Castello of Bracciano – Claudia Daniotti: Stories of Valour and Love for a Wedding: The Sala di Alessandro Magno and Sala di Psiche in the Castle of Bracciano – Paolo Alei and Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings: Astrological Fashioning in the Castle of Bracciano: The Frescoes of the Sala Papalina by the Zuccari Brothers and the Celebration of Duke Paolo Giordano Orsini – Barbara Furlotti: Living between Rome and Bracciano: Art, Cultural Interests and Social Behaviour at the Orsini Court in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries – Part III: Beyond the Castle Walls: The Orsini of Bracciano in the Seicento – Guendalina Ajello Mahler: Paolo Giordano II Orsini, Orazio Torriani and the Remaking of Bracciano – Eleonora Chinappi: The Orsini Portraits in the Castle of Bracciano – Eric Nicholson: Sweet Roman Hands and Actors: The Orsini as Theatrical Performers in Early Seventeenth-century English Drama