Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Social Closure and the Arts in Late Medieval Siena
by Dobrynin, Laura M., Ph.D., Ohio University, 2012, 226; 10630930
Abstract (Summary)

During the late Middle Ages, a remarkable phenomenon occurred in Italy: the growth of many small, self-governing city-states, which included Siena. At this time the Sienese commune was administered by a succession of elected ruling councils: the Ventiquattro, the Trentasei, and the Nove. Despite being mired in social and political turmoil, these regimes sponsored great works of art. This dissertation argues that the arts were a fundamental component of these administrations' ability to rule because of the way that cultural production helped to create and spread new conceptions of social class.

This project examines two areas of the arts either commissioned, or created, by the Trentasei, Ventiquatttro, and the Nove: a set of eighteen painted book covers from the government financial offices of the Biccherna and Gabella, and the Palazzo Pubblico complex (which includes the town's main square). Through the methods of iconology and social closure it demonstrates how each of these arts, over time, acted as fulcrums through which members of Siena's various social groupings attempted to monopolize certain cultural advantages by usurping privileges held by others and/or by excluding (or attempting to exclude) outside groups. Such cultural advantages included: displaying coats of arms and last names, possessing a palace and tower, and accessing the space of the city's piazza. The structural relationships that were made as groups sought to usurp/exclude others from participation in these arts created the city's social classes.

This dissertation provides an interdisciplinary bridge between socio-political and art historical analyses on late medieval Siena. It fills an important gap between the detailed social histories of the city, whose methodologies have not allowed the detailed examination of the evidence provided by the arts, and traditional art historical approaches, for which Sienese society tends to be a backdrop to other concerns, such as patronage, technique, and iconography.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Buchanan, Charles
Commitee: Bradshaw, Marilyn, Frohne, Andrea, Peterson, Marina
School: Ohio University
Department: Interdisciplinary Arts
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Art history
Keywords: Biccherna, Gabella, Palazzo pubblico, Siena, Social closure
Publication Number: 10630930
ISBN: 9780355012569
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