Unreliable Memories: Documenting the Scenography of the 1589 Florentine intermedi

Katritzky, M. A. (2021). Unreliable Memories: Documenting the Scenography of the 1589 Florentine intermedi. European Medieval Drama, 25 pp. 239–281.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1484/J.EMD.5.125685


Not least because of their exceptionally rich Italian textual and visual documentation, the 1589 Florentine intermedi are regarded as one of the outstanding court festivals of early modern Europe. The official festival accounts, written, published and distributed as court propaganda, aimed to inscribe the event into its audiences’ memories in a very specific way. I revisit the 1589 intermedi in the context of the selective memories reflected in non-Italian eyewitness accounts by three foreign visitors to Florence, an anonymous Frenchman and Bavarian, and the German Barthold von Gadenstedt. Previously, musicologists have mined them for information supplementing the Italian accounts. Here, my focus is on their unreliable memories of the spectacular and innovative scenography featured in the 1589 intermedi. I focus on what information can be gleaned about the identity, eye-witness status, sources and motivations of the three foreigners. I consider what brought them to Florence, what their recorded memories convey about the importance of the city and its stage heritage to the designs and props of the 1589 production, the impressions its theatre technology made on them, and how they (and we) address the challenge of identifying, classifying and documenting renaissance scenography.

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