KSU Florence director brings myth of Renaissance city back to life

Jason Meek

Fabrizio Ricciardelli, head of Kent State’s Florence program, gave a lecture Thursday entitled “The Myth of Renaissance Florence” in Satterfield Hall to explain the significance of Florence’s history to modern society.

Florence gathered artists to create its image as a “mythological” city. The art, culture and politics of Renaissance-era Florence made it the New York City of its time and the basis for  the democracy of today, Ricciardelli said.

The city was intended to rival ancient Jerusalem as a center of culture. The most powerful noble families commissioned artwork to promote the city, and from the 12th to the 16th century, Florence was considered one of the most famous and prosperous cities in Europe, Ricciardelli said.

“Art is never art for art,” Ricciardelli said. “It’s always for something.”

Often it was meant to create symbols of the largest families’ political power.

Ricciardelli went on to say not only was art useful for creating Florence’s public image in the Renaissance period, it is useful for historians as well. The values and symbols of the city were represented in every painting and sculpture produced during the Renaissance, and the study of artwork is critical to understanding Florence’s cultural and political significance.

Artwork was frequently based on religious iconography as a way to appeal to the masses as it promoted the contemporary leaders of the time, Ricciardelli said.

“If you were a good Christian, you were beloved by everybody,” Ricciardelli said.    

The most powerful families in Florence acted like modern-day political parties, controlling the city’s industry and offering support to their allies in government. While the family members were never directly in power, they were influential to members of all the branches of government and ensured their allies took power.

The use of art and culture to promote political ideals during the Renaissance was similar to modern society, and so was the three-branch structure of government. The model that has been used since 1138 in Florence is still the basis of government in both Italy and the United States.

Ricciardelli has been visiting Kent State’s main campus for the past week. This lecture marked the end of his visit before returning to Italy.

“Fabrizio has a magnetic personality,” said Calvin Carstensen, a senior guest at the lecture. “He has represented Kent State very positively.”

Kristin Stasiowski, Kent State director of international programs and education abroad, hopes that hosting Riccardelli will raise awareness for Kent State’s acclaimed international program.

“It’s the star gem,” Stasiowski said. “Like having a satellite campus in Europe.”

More information about Ricciardelli and the Florence program can be found at http://www.kent.edu/educationabroad/florence/program-info.cfm.

Contact Jason Meek at [email protected].