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Title: The fresco decoration of the Oratorio dei Buonomini di San Martino : piety and charity in late-fifteenth century Florence
Author: Hughes-Johnson, Samantha J. C.
Awarding Body: Birmingham City University
Current Institution: Birmingham City University
Date of Award: 2017
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Despite the emergence of various studies focusing on Florentine lay sodalities, the Procurators of the Shamed Poor of Florence, otherwise known as the Buonomini di San Martino, have received little attention from social historians and much less consideration from historians of art. Consequently, there are several distinct research gaps concerning the charitable operations of this lay confraternity and the painted decorations within its oratory that beg to be addressed. The greatest research breach pertains to the fresco decoration of the San Martino chapel as, despite the existence of various preiconographic descriptions of the murals, comprehensive iconographic and comparative analyses of these painted works have never before been carried out. Moreover, the dating of the entire cycle and the attribution of one of its lunette paintings is questionable. Accordingly, the present study addresses these deficiencies. Central to the current research is an original, in-depth art historical analysis of the frescoed paintings. Involving the methodologies of iconographic and comparative analyses alongside connoisseurship, the present investigation has allowed the researcher to establish the following: the art historical significance of the oratory murals; the dating of the fresco cycle; the attribution of an executor for the Dream of Saint Martin fresco; the identification of portraits of Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici within the Buonomini cycle; the disclosure of the shamed poor as non-patrician representatives of Florence. Furthermore, by placing data gained from the Buonomini's archived primary sources and the oratory's murals in juxtaposition with other contemporary Florentine literary and visual materials for the purpose of analysis, the researcher has been able to elucidate the term 'lay piety' and define a set of criteria which the shamed poor must meet in order to be termed so. This sustained use of artworks as documents, supported by other pertinent textual and visual sources has also allowed for further insight into the following spheres: religious doctrines supporting the acts of pilgrimage; the state of the Florentine pilgrim trade and the hospitality associated with this business during the quattrocento; the rituals surrounding the burial of poor people and early Medici patronage of the sodality. Additionally, the present research has more extensive implications: it contributes to material culture studies with regard to the lives of the less-than-wealthy and crucially gives a voice to the silent poor; it reveals that the complex messages contained within the sodality's painted cycle provide more than just a set of instructions to confraternal members. Crucially their content has repercussions beyond the microcosm of confraternal life and their advice and intimations extend onwards into the macrocosm of the civic sphere.
Supervisor: May, Susan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: R300 Italian studies ; V100 History by period ; W100 Fine Art