Pruning and propagating civic behaviour: three feste in and around Santa Maria della Vittoria in Mantua, 1495-97

May, Susan (2018) Pruning and propagating civic behaviour: three feste in and around Santa Maria della Vittoria in Mantua, 1495-97. In: Architecture, Festival and the City. Routledge, pp. 17-34. ISBN 9781138362345

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The Gonzaga of Mantua, in common with other ruling houses, were accustomed to utilising the occasions of religious feasts to promote social cohesion, civic pride and dynastic loyalty. This paper examines three such festive celebrations, to show how the Marquis of Mantua, Francesco II, and his court advisers could turn them to Gonzaga advantage.

Each year on the Feast of the Ascension, the population of Mantua was swollen with pilgrims drawn to the city to venerate the relic of the Most Precious Blood of Christ held in the church of Sant’ Andrea. The processional route passed by the house of a Jew, lying somewhat apart from the city’s Jewish ghetto. With permission, the Jew had removed from its exterior a fresco of the Virgin, Christ Child and saints. During the vigil of Ascension Day 1495, stirred by anti-Jewish sentiment, the processing crowd erupted into a riot in which the Jew’s house was vandalised.

To compensate for the removal of the holy image, despite his having secured prior consent, the unfortunate Jew was made to pay the expenses of having a new painting made, the Madonna della Vittoria by Andrea Mantegna, today displayed in the Louvre. The painting was a votive altarpiece, to give thanks to the Virgin for having saved the marquis in battle and his victory at Fornovo on 6 July 1495. On the twelve-month anniversary of the battle, a lavish commemoration was organised, whereby the finished canvas was solemnly processed through the streets of Mantua from Mantegna’s house to Santa Maria della Vittoria, a little church hurriedly erected to receive the painting on the site of the expunged fresco. A sermon was preached in front of the altarpiece on the street outside, the portrait of Francesco allegedly moving everyone to tears.
The following year, in 1497, Francesco brought forward by four days the commemoration of his victory to coincide with the Feast of the Visitation, thus grafting his temporal triumph onto an assured, sacred ritual, to be annually inscribed in the city’s fabric.

Item Type: Book Section
Date: 15 November 2018
Subjects: K100 Architecture
K900 Others in Architecture, Building and Planning
L300 Sociology
V100 History by period
V200 History by area
V300 History by topic
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts > Birmingham School of Art
Depositing User: Susan May
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2019 11:13
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2020 15:29

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