The role of rare and exotic animals in the self-fashioning of the early modern court: the Medici court in Florence as a case study

Groom, Angelica (2012) The role of rare and exotic animals in the self-fashioning of the early modern court: the Medici court in Florence as a case study. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

PDF - Published Version
Download (104MB) | Preview


The principal aim of this study is to investigate the role rare and exotic animals played in
the cultural self-fashioning and political imaging of the Medici's Ducal and Grand-ducal
Court in Florence (1531-1737). The exclusive focus on this topic will contribute to
Medicean scholarship in an area of research that has hitherto received only scant and
fragmentary attention. This study will provide the first comprehensive and systematic
analysis of the numerous ways in which both real and depicted animals were manipulated to
serve the interests of the Medici regime.

The thesis is formed of five chapters. Chapter one examines the zoological spaces
established by the Medici; chapter two focuses on the procurement of animals and their
use in diplomatic gift exchange. The remainder of the thesis takes the form of three case
studies. These will examine a wide range of Medici-commissioned works of art, from
different points in the family's history, in which unusual fauna feature as a central
element of the iconography. The works discussed will make clear how individual
members of the regime deployed animal imagery to express their political aspirations and
courtly magnificence.

Case study one traces how early members of the Medici family used images of
rare beasts to assert their dynastic and political legitimacy, primarily to a home audience.
Case study two examines the role of zoological illustrations in the Medici's wider
ambition to establish an international reputation as patrons of the natural sciences and to
promote the court as a centre of artistic production. The final case considers a series of
zoological paintings commissioned by the last two Medici rulers, to argue that the
pictures reflected not only the shifting values elite society attached to unusual fauna, but
that they also mirrored the decline of the regime itself.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Art History
Subjects: N Fine Arts > ND Painting > ND1288 Special subjects > ND1380 Animals. Birds
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2012 14:59
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update