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Historical memory, Antiquarian Culture and Artistic Patronage: Social Identities in the Centres of Southern Italy between the Medieval and Early Modern Period

Final Report Summary - HISTANTARTSI (Historical memory, Antiquarian Culture and Artistic Patronage: Social Identities in the Centres of Southern Italy between the Medieval and Early Modern Period)

Always regarded as a uniform monarchical, baronial and rural region, lagging behind the rest of Italy and Europe, the study of Renaissance southern Italy has been relegated to the margins of national and international scholarship. The HistAntArtSI project has overturned this picture, shedding new light on the historical memory, antiquarian culture and artistic patronage in the centres of continental southern Italy between the late medieval and early modern period.
In carrying out the first systematic and comprehensive study on southern Italy, during the five years of research between 2011 and 2016, HistAntArtSI undertook on-site surveys of 173 urban centres throughout Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria, Abruzzo and Molise, and a comprehensive investigation of both documentary and literary sources. The research was carried out by an interdisciplinary group, made up of an archaeologist, historian, philologist, art historian and architectural historian, who under the guidance of the PI, developed an innovative cross-disciplinary methodology by working all together at the same time on the same sites and problems. The completely new body of knowledge created by the project has been collected in a specifically designed Database, whose publication online will be completed by July 2017. With its interdisciplinary and multimedia character, which will enable users to navigate across different fields of research and across objects of different kinds, the Database includes critical assessments relating to 42 cities and towns in southern Italy and over 2500 extended entries recording the antiquities known in the Renaissance and works of art and architecture, books, manuscripts, archives and inscriptions created between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It also contains critical portraits of families and single figures who proved to be central to the cultural and social dynamics of the period. Most entries record works and figures who were previously unknown or had been hitherto known only at a local level, or re-examine known items within a new broader cultural and historical context. HistAntArtSI also created a photographic archive of over 90.000 items. A selection of materials has already been shared and with the two main partners of the project: photos are available online through the Warburg Iconographic Database and the entries relating to ancient monuments and objects have been shared with the Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture known in the Renaissance.
The systematic cross-disciplinary survey of sites and sources has revealed the urban and polycentric character of the southern Italian territory, animated by a dense and vital system of small, medium and large centres, and has brought to light the central role of the noble and non-noble elites in the development of the local humanistic and antiquarian culture. By comparing the multiple responses produced by each centres, the research has outlined the specific character of Renaissance culture in southern Italy as a composite but coherent phenomenon which, compared to Florentine and Roman models, followed different priorities. The impact of the conspicuous quantity of ancient remains, the awareness of the existence of a stratified past, which was Italic, Greek and Roman, the strength of medieval traditions and also the condition of being part of the same centralized Kingdom of Naples appear to be the main features of what can be defined as another Renaissance. By establishing a more balanced vision of southern Italy, HistAntArtSI has been able to retrieve a missing element of comparison in our picture of European Renaissance history, and at the same time has encouraged a re-consideration of what have been hitherto regarded as the leading centres of the Renaissance. Through an intense dissemination work at various levels, over the five years of the project HistAntArtSi opened the way to new researches and encouraged citizens of various ages and backgrounds to discover the value of their own cultural patrimony.