"Recalling the Council of Ferrara and Florence: two fifteenth-century Florentine 'uomini famosi' cycles"

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In this thesis, I examine the two extant Florentine fresco cycles of famous men, or uomini famosi created in the quattrocento: Andrea del Castagno's Famous Men and Women (1448-51) [figure 1], created for the private residence of the Carducci family, and Domenico Ghirlandaio's Apotheosis of St. Zenobius and Famous Men (1482-83) [figure 2] located in the Sala dei Gigli in the Palazzo Vecchio, suggesting that each recalled the Council of Ferrara and Florence (1438-39), called by Pope Eugenius VI in 1438 in an attempt to unify the Eastern and Western divisions of the Church. While extensive art historical study has been dedicated to each cycle individually, neither installation has been considered in relation to contemporary political events or in relation to the other. Reference to the Council, its temporary success, and the lasting effect that it had in the hearts of Florentines, I suggest, aids in understanding what have been, in the past, identified as the cycles' "unusual" iconography, such as the inclusion of contemporary Florentine men and a somewhat minor saint placed as a central figure. To support this expanded analysis of the frescoes, I first consider the history of uomini famosi cycles, demonstrating that, indeed, both Florentine cycles contain unprecedented groupings and portrayals, intentional departures from cycles produced outside of Florence. Close consideration of both fresco cycles suggests that the multilayered and complex programs each referenced the concerns of their patrons, public and private, to recall the positive nature of the Council of Ferrara and Florence.

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Art history