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Renaissance Studies

A «Festschrift» in Honor of Professor Edward J. Olszewski

Edited By Jennifer H. Finkel, Michael D. Morford and Dena M. Woodall

This Festschrift is dedicated to Edward J. Olszewski and was created by his former PhD students in gratitude and honor of a professor whose innovative and comprehensive research spans the Renaissance and Baroque periods. His research provided much insight to the arts, issues of patronage, conservation, and context. The text includes an array of topics conceived by each author while studying with Olszewski. His intense seminar on Michelangelo was the catalyst for many articles: Jennifer Finkel introduces new ideas regarding the proposed sculptural plan for the façade of San Lorenzo; Dena M. Woodall provides keen insight on the representations of genii on the Sistine Ceiling; Karen Edwards proposes the early creation of the figura serpentinata in Michelangelo’s own drawings and paintings; and Rachel Geshwind offers a new interpretation of his use of color symbolism in the Sistine Chapel. This seminar, and another on Mannerism, involved provocative discussion of the competitors of Michelangelo, where the foundation was laid for the much needed re-examination of Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus in Michael Morford’s article, which introduces the probability of Machiavellian influence, and Christine Corretti’s interpretation of Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa as the symbol of Cosimo’s I ideas of justice and the influence of women in his life. Olszewski’s own research on patronage, especially of the Ottoboni, mirrors Henrietta Silberger’s article on the collecting habits of Livio Odescalchi. Finally, Holley Witchey provides a personal experience in authenticating works of art in collections (a topic of interest for Olszewski) and ends her essay with a series of important questions for each of us to ask ourselves.


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Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa: The Public Face of Justice in Medicean Florence CHRISTINE CORRETTI 123


Christine Corretti Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa: The Public Face of Justice in Medicean Florence Like Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes (c.1460, Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence), Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus and Medusa (1545-1555, Loggia dei Lanzi, fig. 1) for Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici of Florence (r.1537-1574) im- plies a threat of execution by decapitation. The viewer standing beneath the Gorgon’s body lying upon Athena’s shield and under the hero’s feet receives the impression that the sword Perseus used to decapitate Medusa is about to alight upon his/her head (fig. 2). The ancient Greek hero appears to watch for the spectator’s reaction to that threat. Cellini’s actualization of Perseus’ de- struction of Medusa must have been most menacing in light of the fact that when Cosimo’s bronze sculpture was unveiled in 1555 the Loggia dei Lanzi was still used for executions, just as it had provided a setting for the behead- ing of victims of the Battle of Montemurlo (1537). Cellini’s sculpture com- memorates this glorious event of utmost importance to Cosimo’s defeat of the republicans and therefore to his rise to power.1 The Perseus testifies to the fact that ducal manipulation of Florence’s judicial system was vital to the formation of Cosimo’s absolutist state, for through that system the Medici ruler could impose his will on his constituents in the name of political and social cohesion. In this context, the heterogeneity of the Tuscan state re- quired the strictest measures. However, despite the duke’s tremendous effort to control Florentines, Cosimo’s authority was...

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