A FLORENTINE LOOKS AT FLORENCE: PIERO CENNINI ON THE BAPTISTERY AND THE FEAST OF ST JOHN

Anthony Grafton, William Theiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

In 1475, the Florentine humanist Piero Cennini sent a friend a letter in Latin, in which he described in detail both the Florentine baptistery and the yearly celebration of the feast of St John in late June. This article presents a full text and English translation of the document, with an introduction and notes. Cennini, a scribe and scholar, belonged to a distinguished family of Florentine goldsmiths, with whose members he collaborated on an edition of the commentaries of Servius on Virgil. His description of the baptistery was informed by his knowledge of and pride in his family’s craft, as well as by the teachings of Leon Battista Alberti, which he had mastered. Cennini’s hybrid of craft and humanism enables him to fill his account of the celebration of St John with vivid detail, but his choice of Latin also makes it too artificial to convey the enchantment that the plays and processions, like the baptistery itself, inspired in other observers—a feature that helps to explain the author’s frustration with his remarkably vivid text. Drawing on contemporary texts and paintings, this article finally places Cennini’s vision on the spectrum between the magic of Florentine religion and its disenchantment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-69
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
Volume85
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities

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