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New Research on Art in Fifteenth-Century Naples / Nuove ricerche sull’arte del Quattrocento a Napoli

 

 

Adrian BREMENKAMP

Renaissance Made in Naples: Alfonso of Aragon as Role Model to Federico da Montefeltro

 

This contribution was first drafted as an introduction to a pair of linked sessions held at the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Boston in spring 2016. It claims that fifteenth-century Naples remains an undervalued artistic center, especially when it comes to the city’s contribution to what art history has defined as “Renaissance Art”. Quattrocento Naples’ artistic production is often considered “Late Gothic” in style. If a relation to antiquity is undeniable, then this relation tends to be judged as impure or deficient. Such preconceptions hark back to Jacob Burckhardt’s moral condemnation of the Aragonese kings of Naples in his famous “Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien” (1860), a book that has long defined our conception of the Renaissance, and continues to do so – both scientifically and on a popular level. Burckhardt’s stylization of Federico da Montefeltro as the perfect Renaissance prince emerges in contrast to his negative characterization of the kings of Naples and to that of Alfonso of Aragon in particular. This article deconstructs Burckhardt’s narrative opposition and offers instead a more historically accurate account that demonstrates Federico’s political and economic dependence on the kings of Naples. I argue that this dependence was nothing but honorable to Federico da Montefeltro and is reflected in an image politics that draws heavily on Neapolitan models. The connection is analyzed by way of a case study that focuses on two medals, one by Cristoforo da Geremia and the second by Clemente da Urbino.