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The Palio Horse in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy

  • Elizabeth Tobey
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)

Abstract

On the first Saturday in May 2002, a black horse sped to the front of the pack in the 128 th running of the Kentucky Derby, winning America’s most important race by four lengths. The horse, War Emblem, though American-bred, became the first winner of the Derby to be owned by an Arab owner, the late Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia, who unfortunately passed away a few months after War Emblem’s historic victory.

Keywords

Sixteenth Century Early Modern Period Italian City National Gallery Late Sixteenth Century 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Claudio Corte, Il cavallarizzo (Venice: Giordano Ziletti, 1562), 98. “But first, you must know, that the Emperor Verus had a horse called Volucrus of incomparable speed, of greatest excellence. In honor of this horse they began to first run palio races; being at first a race of chariots” (Ma prima devete anco sapere, che Vero Imperatore hebbe un cavallo chiamato Volucro della velocità sua incomparabile, di somma eccellenza. In honore del qual cavallo si cominciarono prima à correre i palii; essendosi prima corso con le carrette). Sixteenth-century writers certainly knew about the history and even the appearance of the Roman circus, based upon the unearthing of archaeological sites and surviving writings by Roman authors such as Ovid. Pasquale Caracciolo devotes over six pages to descriptions of the ancient Roman chariot races. Pasquale Caracciolo includes a section on ancient Roman chariot races in his book, La gloria del cavallo (Venice: Gabriel Giulito de’ Ferrari, 1566), 6–10.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The statute establishing the palio is in the Archivio di Stato in Modena, libro II, col. 117. See Nico Franco Visentini, Il Palio di Ferrara (Rovigo, Italy: Istituto Padano di Arti Grafiche, 1968), 12–13.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Giovanni Cecchini and Dario Neri, The Palio of Siena trans. Elisabeth Mann Borgese (Siena: Monte de Paschi, 1958), 63.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    From Gregorio Dati, La storia Ai Firenze 1380–1405 in Luciano Artusi, “Il Palio dei Barberi,” Le feste Ai Firenze (Rome: Newton Compton Editori, 1991), 186–87.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A sixteenth-century manuscript known as the Codice Aei palii gonza-gheschi owned by Marchese Francesco Gonzaga lists palio cloths won by his horses; fabrics are specified as raso (satin), damasco (damask silk), veluto (velvet), and brochato d’oro (gold brocade). The original manuscript is in a private collection. The Codice is illustrated in the catalog of David Chambers and Jane Martineau’s exhibition, Splendours of the Gonzaga (Milan: Amilcare Pizzi, S.p.a., 1981), 147 and is also illustrated and discussed inGoogle Scholar
  6. Giancarlo Malacarne, Il mito Aei cavalli gonzagheschi: Alle origini del purosangue (Verona: Promoprint, 1995).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Gert Kreytenberg, Orcagna’s Tabernacle in Orsanmichele, Florence (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994), 33.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Dino Tebaldi, Luigi Vincenzi, and Stefano Lolli, Ferrara e il Palio: Storia, poesia in Aialetto attualità (Ferrara, Italy: Giovanni Vicentini Editore, 1992), 25.Google Scholar
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    See Duccio Balestracci, “Alle origini del palio. Da festa come tante altre a festa come nessun’altra,” in Pallium: Evoluzione del drapellone dalle origini ad oggi ed. Luca Betti (Siena: Betti Editrice, 1993), 9–10; Christina Ciampoli and Caterina Palmiera, “Il drapellone: Nascita ed evoluzione stilistica fino al 1800,” in Pallium ed. Betti, 10.Google Scholar
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    Mark Christopher Rogers, Art and Public Festival in Renaissance Florence: Studies in Relationships (Diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1996), 212–16. The cassone is reproduced as fig. 7.51 in Paula Vetrone (ed.), Le tems revient, ‘l tempo si rinuova: Feste e spettacoli nella Firenze Ai Lorenzo il Magnifico (Florence: Silvana Editoriale, 1992), 251.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    For more on the heraldry of Florentine palio banners, see Luigi Borgia, “Vicende di alcuni stemmi del Palio di San Giovanni,” in La festa di San Giovanni nella storia di Firenze: Rito, istituzione, e spettacolo ed. Paolo Pastori (Florence: Edizioni Polistampa, 1997), 243–56.Google Scholar
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    Alessandra Gianni, “Araldica e allegoria nel drapellone,” in L’immagine del Palio: Storia cultura e rappresentazione del rito di Siena ed. Maria A. Ceppari Ridolfi, Marco Ciampolini, and Patrizia Turrini (Siena: Monte dei Paschi di Siena, 2001), 131.Google Scholar
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    Heidi Chrétien, The Festival of San Giovanni: Imagery and Political Power in Renaissance Florence American University Studies, series IX: History 138 (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), 65. For more on the history of the potenze in Florence, seeGoogle Scholar
  14. Roberto Ciabani, Le potenze di Firenze: Una pagina inedita di storia fiorentina (Florence: Casa Editrice Bonechi, 1994).Google Scholar
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    Richard Joseph Ingersoll, The Ritual Use of Public Space in Renaissance Rome (Diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1985), 271–74. See also Peter Partner, Renaissance Rome, 1500–1559 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 101.Google Scholar
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    For more on the history of the Corso, see Marina Moriconi, “Il Corso: Dal Carnevale alla festa politica,” in La festa a Roma dal Rinascimento al 1870 ed. Marcello Fagiolo (Rome: Umberto Alledmandi & Co., 1997), vol. I, 168–81.Google Scholar
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    For more on the imperial iconography of Cosimo’s reign, see Janet Cox-Rearick, Dynasty and Destiny in Medici Art: Pontormo, Leo X, and the Two Cosimos (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
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    One of many engraved representations of the Palio dei Cocchi was made by the French printmaker Jacques Callot. In 1617, Callot made a series of 50 etchings known as the Capricci which he dedicated to Don Lorenzo de’ Medici, the younger brother of Grand Duke Cosimo II of Florence. H. Diane Russell, Jacques Callot: Prints and Related Drawings (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1975), 19–21. Prints from the Capricci showing palio races are scattered throughout various print collections worldwide, including the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe at the Uffizi and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.Google Scholar
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    For more on the modern Siena palio see Alan Dundes and Alessandro Falassi, La Terra in Piazza: An Interpretation of the Palio of Siena (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975).Google Scholar
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    Alexander MacKay-Smith, Speed and the Thoroughbred (Lanham, MD: The Derrydale Press, 2000), 117.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    Leo Africanus, whose Arabic name was Hassan Ibn Muhammad al-Wazzin al Zayyati, knew the last of the Hafsid sultans. After converting to Christianity, published a Description of North Africa in Bologna in 1524. Giancarlo Pizzi, Tremila anni di storia in Tunisia (Vibo Valentia (Milan): Jaca Book, Qualecultura, 1996), 279.Google Scholar
  22. 40.
    Giovanni Menavino, I costumi et la vita dei Turchi (Florence: Appresso Lorenzo Torrentino, 1551), 85–86. On pp. 112–13 and 123, Menavino describes the organization of the Sultan’s stables in Constantinople in vivid detail.Google Scholar
  23. 41.
    Ottaviano Bon, The Sultan’s Serraglio: An Intimate Portrait of Life at the Ottoman Court (from the Seventeenth-Century Edition of John Withers) ed. Godfrey Goodwin (London: Saqi Books, 1996 [1625]), 113.Google Scholar
  24. 44.
    Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 140. Patricia Kozlik Kabra, Patterns of Economic Continuity in Early Hafsid Ifrîqîya (Diss., University of California at Los Angeles, 1994), 74.Google Scholar
  25. 51.
    Luca Landucci, Diario fiorentino dal 1450 al 1516: Continuato da un anonimo fino al 1542 ed. Antonio Lanza (Florence: Sansoni Editori, 1985 [1883]), 372. Landucci died in 1516, but an anonymous chronicler continued his chronicle. The editor notes that a contract between Mulay Hassan, king of Tunisia, and Charles V established that every year the king was to give Charles V a tribute of six Barberi horses and twelve falcons.Google Scholar
  26. 52.
    The Gonzaga were not the only family to import horses from North Africa: Lorenzo de’Medici is known to have sent his representative Martino d’Arezzo to Tunis to buy horses; see Michael Mallett, “Horse Racing and Politics in Lorenzo’s Florence,” in Lorenzo the Magnificent: Culture and Politics ed. Michael Mallett and Nicholas Mann (London: The Warburg Institute, 1996), 258. The most extensive documentation of the importation of Barb horses that I have been able to find, however, are the letters of the Gonzaga family in the Archivio di Stato of Mantua. Excerpts and entire letters appear in Malacarne’s Il mito dei cavalli gonzagheschi and inGoogle Scholar
  27. Carlo Cavriani’s Le razze gonzaghesche dei cavalli nel mantovano e la loro influenza sul puro sangue inglese (Mantua, Italy: Adalberto Sartori Editore, 1974 [1909]). I have cited these transcriptions in this chapter.Google Scholar
  28. 54.
    R. Tamalio, Ferrante Gonzaga alla corte spagnola di Carlo V (Mantua, Italy: Gianluigi Arcari Editore, 1991), 54, also cited in Malacarne, Il mito dei cavalli gonzagheschi 39–40 n. 15.Google Scholar
  29. 56.
    For more on trade between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, see Kate Fleet, European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  30. 57.
    See Patricia Fortini-Brown, Narrative Painting in the Age of Carpaccio (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), ch. 4.Google Scholar
  31. 58.
    For more on the mutual cultural influences between Italy and Ottoman Turkey, see Charles Burnett and Anna Contadini (eds.), Islam and the Italian Renaissance (London: Warburg Institute, 1999).Google Scholar
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    Paul Coles, The Ottoman Impact on Europe (London: Thames and Hudson, 1968), 82–83.Google Scholar
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    R. Tamalio, Federico Gonzaga alla corte di Francesco I di Francia nel carteggio privato con Mantova (1515–1517) (Paris: Honoré Champion Editeur, 1994), 86.Google Scholar
  34. 75.
    Federico Tesio, Breeding the Racehorse trans. Edward Spinola (London: JJ Spinola, 1994 [1958]), 2–3. Tesio, who studied and wrote about the genetics of the Thoroughbred racehorse, was also one of the most influential breeders of the twentieth century. Many of the prominent racehorses of the modern day are descendants of two stallions, Nearco and Ribot, whom Tesio bred at his Dormello stud on the shores of Lago Maggiore in Italy. Tesio maintains that the prevailing theory that the Thoroughbred was produced from three Oriental foundation sires (the Godolphin Barb, the Darley Arabian, and the Byerley Turk) crossed with native English mares is incorrect; he argues that at least some of the mares also were descendants of horses of Oriental blood, including the Gonzaga imports.Google Scholar
  35. 78.
    For more on the conversion of the villa into a palace, see Amadeo Belluzzi and Walter Capezzali, “Le scuderie dei Gonzaga sul Te,” Civiltà Mantovana 42 (1973): 378–94Google Scholar
  36. Amadeo Belluzzi and Walter Capezzali, Il palazzo dei lucidi inganni: Palazzo Te a Mantova (Mantua, Italy: Centro Studi Architettura Ouroboros, 1976).Google Scholar
  37. 79.
    See Amadeo Belluzzi, Palazzo Te a Mantova 2 vols. (Modena, Italy: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore S.p.a, 1998), figs. 215–17.Google Scholar
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    The identification of this bust as the head of Virgil was made by Egon Verheyen, The Palazzo del Te in Mantua: Images of Love and Politics (Baltimore, MD and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 15. Other examples of this Virgil bust are given in Belluzzi, Palazzo Te a Mantova vol. I, 362.Google Scholar
  39. 84.
    Vincenzo Borghini was a humanist and philologist at the Medici court and was one of the first lieutenants of the Academy of Design. Karen-edis Barzman, The Florentine Academy and the Early Modern State: The Discipline of Disegno (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 28–29.Google Scholar
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    Federico Grisone, Gli ordini di cavalcare (Naples: Giovan Paolo Suganappo, 1550).Google Scholar
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    Pirro Antonio Ferraro, Cavallo frenato (Naples: Antonio Pace, 1602).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Karen Raber and Treva J. Tucker 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Tobey

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