The Medici and their Archive: Diplomacy, News, and Material Culture

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Date / time: 26 October, 6:00 pm

Italian Seminar Room, Foster Court 351, UCL

The Medici and their Archive: Diplomacy, News, and Material Culture

The Medici and their Archive: Diplomacy, News, and Material CultureEvent description:The Italian department at UCL is organising the first talk of a new series of Research Seminars (2016-2017):

The Medici and their Archive: Diplomacy, News, and Material Culture –Dr Alessio Assonitis (Director of the Medici Archive Project, Florence).

Chair: Dr Oscar Schiavone

The event will take place on 26 October 6pm in the UCL Italian Seminar Room, Room 351, Third Floor, Foster Court, Malet Place, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (View map

Contact: Dr Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti ( website:

Abstract: Comprising roughly three million letters and largely published online through the BIA digital platform (, the Mediceo del Principato is the epistolary collection of the Medici Grand Dukes housed at the Archivio di Stato in Florence. Alongside this dynasty’s vast artistic collection, its patronage of literary and scientific works, and its many architectural landmarks throughout Tuscany, the Mediceo del Principato also stands as a testament to Medici magnificence. This corpus of documents covers a chronological span of over two hundred years: the first missives arrived at court when Michelangelo was coming to terms with the composition of the Last Judgment, while the last letters left the Medici secretariat the year that Thomas Jefferson was born. Effectively, the Mediceo del Principato is a global, local, and personal archive. Penned by an extensive network of diplomats and informants, the great majority of these letters chronicle the political and cultural developments in Italy, Europe, and the known world. In an era marked by the emergence of European nation-states, the Medici court’s most formidable form of defense was information. This continual current of foreign news was vetted and archived by an efficient secretariat in Florence, which simultaneously monitored both domestic affairs and court matters. Information also constantly traveled between the Medici court and the legislative, judicial and fiscal branches of government, as well as the public health board, the ecclesiastical constituencies, the offices in charge of infrastructure, postal service, commercial, military, and maritime affairs, and the financial administration. The ensuing paper trail in the Mediceo del Principato is therefore an important resource for understanding the intricate mechanisms that connected the epicenter of power with local institutions and diplomatic capillaries. At the same time, the Mediceo del Principato also constitutes a personal archive, recording the vicissitudes of the Medici themselves and the events at their court. We learn of their passions and ambitions, their education and scholarship, their patronage and taste, their physical maladies and religious observance, their everyday activity and dynastic preoccupations, and the interactions with each other and with the world outside their palaces and villas. In this presentation, I shall address the pre-history and history of this collection, from its creation to its current digital incarnation; its architecture and its relation to the the Grand Ducal state; and its multifarious content (including, the endless research trajectories available to scholars).

Bio: Dr Alessio Assonitis received his doctoral degree in Renaissance art history from Columbia University in 2003. He has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College, Herron School of Art, and the Christian Theological Seminary. In 2003-4, he served as Allen Whitehill Clowes Curatorial Fellow at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He has published on Quattrocento and Cinquecento painting in Rome and Tuscany, antiquarian studies, history of Mendicant pauperism, and early modern travel history. He is Director of the Medici Archive Project and editor-in-chief of the historical journal Memorie Domenicane.