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Gift Exchange at the Court of Cosimo I de’ Medici (1537-1574)

Gallacher, Samuel Morrison (2015) Gift Exchange at the Court of Cosimo I de’ Medici (1537-1574). Advisor: Pellegrini, Prof. Emanuele. Coadvisor: Pellegrini, Prof. Emanuele . pp. 503. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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Objects are there to be used. Throughout history, the gifting of objects has been a universal activity. Anthropologists, sociologists, economists, philosophers, and historians (amongst others) have all grappled to define the role that gift-giving has played in diverse human societies. The act of gifting immediately modifies the value of an object, transfiguring it into a ‘gift’. Once defined as a gift, both the object and its presentation contain particular meanings which resonate within the context of its exchange: the gift both communicates a message and a bond between sender and recipient. The resulting web of connections formed by gift exchanges are arguably the sinews of complex societies. The gift debits and credits, it obligates and liberates, it intimates and discriminates, not only between the one who gifts and the one who receives, but by those who view its exchange (who interpret the symbolism of a gift as indicative of a relationship or favour). In a society in which loyalty, gratitude, obligation, courtesy, personal conduct, and social standing matter acutely – for example, sixteenth-century Europe – the gift is a truly efficacious social tool. In the hands of someone who understands the communicative power of objects, particularly artworks, but not solely – for example, Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574) – then gifts, both those given and received, can force the actions of others, influence the perception of the audience, and effect the realisation of political objectives. As such, the Florentine court – famous for its magnificent collections of objects – represents an outstanding historical context in which to analyse the efficacy of gifts and the social and political world of material culture they inhabit. This thesis draws upon a vast trove of unpublished archival material to study the potency of gifts in the diplomacy of Cosimo I de’ Medici, duke of Florence (from 1537), later Siena (from 1557), and finally, grand duke of Tuscany (from 1570). As well as portraying the social value of the gift in sixteenth-century Europe and tracing the influence of gifts and their presentation in the iconographic programme of the Palazzo Vecchio, this thesis also presents a diplomatic biography of Cosimo I through the gifts he sent and received.

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
PhD Course: Management and Development of Cultural Heritage
Identification Number: 10.6092/imtlucca/e-theses/162
NBN Number: urn:nbn:it:imtlucca-27192
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2015 12:54
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/162

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