New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies
The Traffic in Muses: Painting and Poetry in Ferrara around 1450: Stephen J. Campbell 49
The Traffic in Muses: Painting and Poetry in Ferrara around 1450 Stephen J. Campbell By the middle of the fifteenth century the elites of Italian society were becoming adept in using art to articulate social distinctions and to mani- fest their claims to power and status. At the same time-around 1450- painting was increasingly engaging the attention of a rising professional group which was seeking to enlarge its stature within the social hierarchy. As educators, and as advisors on cultural matters to the wealthy and powerful, certain humanists saw in painting a means of proving their usefulness in the staging of power's self-image, as well as a vehicle by which they could construct for themselves an identity in visual terms. Alberti's De Pictura of 1435, ostensibly addressed to artists but dedicated to a feudal prince, gives an important place to litterati-poets and ora- tors-in the production of works of art. 1 In 1447, little more than a decade after the appearance of De Pictura, the scholar and educator Guarino of Verona composed for the prince Leonello d 'Este of Ferrara a set of instructions for a cycle of paintings of the nine Muses.2 The cycle, which was to decorate the prince's study in the palace of Belfiore, was to be the first sequence of purely mythological paintings of modern times. As a subject, the classical goddesses of the arts and human knowledge, newly reconstructed through Guarino's critical method, was suffused with the pedagogical and literary ideals of Guarino's humanism. 3...
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