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Title: Staging and painting musical heavens : performance and visual culture in fifteenth-century Florence
Author: Stefanescu, Laura Cristina
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 9246
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2020
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Music-making angels change their appearance in fifteenth-century Florentine art, transitioning from silent adoration in Nativity of Christ scenes from the Trecento to exclusively vocal performances, as well as from orchestras of soft instruments in Coronation of the Virgin images from the fourteenth century to ensembles playing both soft and loud instruments. This thesis aims to understand what prompted and influenced changes in the iconography of heaven in Quattrocento Florence, by analysing the visual culture of the period from the perspective of the new developments in confraternal life, particularly in the realm of musical and theatrical activities promoted by the laity. The insertion of angelic choirs performing vocal music into images of the Nativity are analysed in connection to the creation of youth confraternities in which young boys dressed up as angels sang hymns and laude during processions. The Magi chapel choir of angels painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1459 is reinterpreted from the perspective of Cosimo de' Medici's patronage of the youth confraternity of the Purification, given the close resemblance between the external appearance of these figures and the angelic costumes worn by the young boys of the confraternity during theatrical representations. Florentine adult confraternities also increased their numbers in the fifteenth century, focusing their activities on theatrical performances in which heavenly spaces were materialised in front of devotees. Images of the Coronation painted by Neri di Bicci, an artist closely involved in the confraternal life of the Oltrarno, are analysed in order to demonstrate the insertion of scenographical elements relating to the representation of heaven as a space, and the depiction of music-making angels. Through a visual comparative analysis of works of art, as well as through the study of the theatrical and musical activities of confraternities—as they appear in laude and sacre rappresentazioni texts, and in company records and inventories and eye-witness accounts—this thesis aims to demonstrate that the painted heavens and musical angels of fifteenth-century Florence were a visual representation born from the heavens staged by the laity in confraternities, and from their musicmaking child-angels.
Supervisor: Shephard, Tim ; Shaw, James Sponsor: Leverhulme Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Thesis
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available