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

 

 

Philine HELAS

The Triumph of Alfonso of Aragon in Naples: From Living Images to Pictorial Representations 

 

Alfonso of Aragon’s triumphal entry into Naples on 26 February 1443 marked the end of Angevin rule and the beginning of fifty years of Aragonese dominion in southern Italy. In various ways, Alfonso’s entry was an epoch-making event. A highpoint of the celebratory program was the Florentine merchants’ presentation of tableaux vivants or living images. This article concerns the depiction of Alfonso’s triumph in a Florentine cassone that offers us an extraordinary example of the representational strategies of the city of Florence within the context of the festivities surrounding the triumphal entry and the pictorialization of these events. 

Alfonso of Aragon’s classically modeled triumphal procession was itself innovative, and the process of its manifold perpetuation in written and pictorial media endowed the representation of the ruler with unprecedented argumentative force. In its antique formal language, the relief on Alfonso’s triumphal arch at Castel Nuovo is oriented toward both the Neapolitan populace and the Italian elite. This image is doubled in a smaller relief in the sala dei baroni, which draws the triumph into the castle’s interior and serves as a reference to the monumental triumphal arch. 

A medal by Pisanello presents an emblematic image that takes up antique elements of the iconography of victory. Manuscript miniatures correspond to the books’ authors or patrons: the work of the physician Gaspare Pellegrino is illustrated in the style of a chivalric novel; an urban chronicle employs a documentary mode; and Gaspare de Santangelo furnishes the panegyric text of the court humanist Panormita with a miniature that interprets the pictorial formula of the triumphal entry in a new way, and with antiquarian ambitions. All of these images can be ascribed to the vicinity of the Aragonese court to the city of Naples; the cassone can be distinguished from them in its representation of Alfonso’s triumph from the perspective of the Florentines.