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New
: Dante vivo || White Silence

ANGLO-ITALIAN

BOOK REVIEWS

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We would be grateful to publishers who send us review copies to review in this space. We seek books on Florence and the Nineteenth Century. In Italian, in English.
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Geoffrey C. Munn. Castellani and Giuliano: Revivalist Jewellers of the 19th Century. New York: Rizzoli, 1984. 208 pp. Colour Plates. Index. ISBN 0-8478-0527-I.

An important book for Browning scholars, who may not know it. Pages 40-41 tell of Robert's purchase of the now-stolen golden ring. It fails to mention the Casa Guidi plaque preceeding The Ring and the Book. Nor may Browning scholars know of Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe standing in tears before a black onyx statue shown to her by the Castellani in their shop, and explaining to her that Italy, too, was a slave, an episode which is recounted in Giuliana Artom Treves' The Golden Ring: The Anglo-Florentines. Plate 136 shows such work.

During the Risorgimento, in the face of strong censorship, such as against the red, white and green Italian flag taken from Dante's Beatrice, against novels and plays, anything that could challenge foreign domination, many resorted to the past as ways of speaking to their present. Especially Niccolò Tommaseo did so, in his case delving into the comunal history of medieval Italy in his verse plays. The nineteenth-century patriot goldsmiths, the Castellani brothers, mentioned in Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book, made use of the even-more distant and Etruscan past and its artistic jewelry to attempt to speak of a self-governing Italy.

For Elizabeth Barrett Browning generally spoke directly about the present. It was Robert, her huband, who typically donned masks from ancient times. At her death in 1860 the Florentine comune arranged for the plaque to be placed on Casa Guidi, its words composed by Niccolò Tommaseo, and which speak of her poetry as a golden ring forged between Italy and England. Robert, in taking up that phrase, recast it both in the contemporary Risorgimento politics Elizabeth had so loved by speaking of the Castellani brothers' work, and by antiquing it as of Etruscan work, 'Etrurian circlets found', as was theirs in the face of censorship. One Castellani brother, Alessandro, was even imprisoned in the Castel Sant-Angelo for his political activites, 1853-1856, pp. 24-36.

This book, despite these omissions, is important for studying one of the strands of Victorianism, and is well worth investigating side by side with the Medievalism of that period, with the Pre-Raphaelite Movement and with the Oxford Movement. Unintentionally, it especially helps illumine a corner of Browning studies with a glint of a golden wedding ring, between individuals and between nations.

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Renaissance Civic Humanism: Reappraisals and Reflections, ed. James Hankins. Ideas in Context 57, ed. Quentin Skinner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. x + 314, list of manuscripts, index. ISBN 0 521 78090 x hardback.
 

German-speaking scholars, Jakob Burckhardt, 1818-1897, Robert Davidsohn, 1853-1937, and Hans Baron, 1900-1988, pioneered the more recent studies of medieval and Renaissance Florence. Baron's work, challenging Burckhardt's, particularly influenced American and English political historians. However, the distinguished international professors contributing essays to this volume are silent about Davidsohn, whose volumes, published in German, then translated into Italian, far more exactly study the archival documents of the origins of Florence's political history. These disciples of Baron, in this volume of essays edited by James Hankins, tear apart their predecessor, red in tooth and claw. Their debate leaves the medievalist cold. The book's cover gives Leonardo Bruni Aretino 'illuminating' Florence with his history of her, an image they do not notice as copying that of Dante illuminating Florence with his Commedia about her, self-referentially placed within the Duomo it depicts. These pages could be better 'illuminated' (not an Italian word, where it is 'miniatura') with Davidsohn on Brunetto Latino, who taught Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Cicero's Rhetoric in the thirteenth century to such students as Guido Cavalcanti and Dante Alighieri, and whose chancery writings were next carefully studied and copied out in turn by Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni, who acknowledged him as their predecessor as Chancellor of Florence. 'Curiouser and curiouser', the blind spot concerning the Middle Ages in Florence, of Arnolfo di Cambio, Dante Alighieri, and Giotto, of the comunal structures of the Bargello, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo and the city walls and gates, built from the Ghibelline towers of pride, and of her vast pilgrim epic in the vernacular which even women and children could read. For in a sense these studies turn Baron back into Burckhardt and the 'rise of individualism', not of the comune, but of the elite, not of the republic (the commonwealth), but of the 'Prince'. It is true the thesis of Hans Baron concerning the crisis of 1402 as engendering 'Civic Humanism' is untenable. What has not been noticed is that Civic Humanism existed so long before that date, which only Quentin Skinner, amongst Renaissance scholars, seems to have observed. The series is funded by the Exxon Foundation.

Reviewer: Julia Bolton Holloway, Director
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei
Piazzale Donatello, 38, Florence

FLORIN WEBSITE © JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAYAUREO ANELLO ASSOCIAZIONE, 1997-2017: MEDIEVAL: BRUNETTO LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI, SWEET NEW STYLE: BRUNETTO LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI, & GEOFFREY CHAUCER || VICTORIAN: WHITE SILENCE: FLORENCE'S 'ENGLISH' CEMETERY || ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING || WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR || FRANCES TROLLOPE || ABOLITION OF SLAVERY || FLORENCE IN SEPIA  || CITY AND BOOK CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII || MEDIATHECA 'FIORETTA MAZZEI' || EDITRICE AUREO ANELLO CATALOGUE || UMILTA WEBSITE || RINGOFGOLD WEBSITE || LINGUE/LANGUAGES: ITALIANO, ENGLISH || VITA
New
: Dante vivo || White Silence

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