Italy during the Spanish Peace, 1559-1598
Italy during the years 1559-1598 enjoyed an extraordinary period of peace, sometimes referred to as the pax hispanica (Spanish peace).
When the French and Spanish kings signed the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in April 1559 the “Italian Wars” officially came to an end.
The Signing of the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis
In 1556 Emperor Charles V abdicated his throne.
Frans II Francken, Allegory of the Abdication of Emperor Charles V
Recognizing that his territories had grown too immense to control, Charles divided his realm, giving the imperial title and rule of Germany to his brother Ferdinand,
Hans Bocksberger the Elder, Emperor Ferdinand I von Habsburg
while leaving Spain, the New World, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, and Milan to his son Philip.
Though Italy had lost its political independence to the Spanish, the entire peninsula enjoyed a period of peace and cultural flowering during the “Imperial Renaissance”.
Education flourished, not only in public universities, but in academies, like the Accademia della Crusca, which published this dictionary in 1612:
Information circulated as never before, in books, pamphlets, and printed newspapers known as gazettes, or avvisi.
Poets were writing verse…
La Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)
Veronica Franco (1546-1591) and her Terze rime, 1575
Companies of travelling players made the Italian street theater of commedia dell’arte popular everywhere,
giving birth to Renaissance drama
Actress and playwright Isabella Andreini performing with the company of the Gelosi
In the 1580s Battista Guarini wrote the hit pastoral tragicomedy Il Pastor fido about the shepherd Mirtillo who is in love with the nymph Amarilli
Amarilli crowning Mirtillo in this 1635 painting by Cornelis van Poelenburgh
For the 1589 wedding of Ferdinando de’ Medici to Christina of Lorraine elaborate staged musical festivities called intermedi were performed
One of the stars was baritone Jacopo Peri , who sang a title role
Jacopo Peri as Arion in the fifth Medici intermedio
Peri went on eleven years later to compose the first opera, Dafne.
Though the dramatic solo voice would triumph on operatic stages, Italian madrigals were ever popular.
In 1644 Barbara Strozzi dedicated a volume of madrigals to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Madrigals were polyphonic compositions sung by groups of singers either publicly or in more intimate settings as depicted here by Caravaggio
Caravaggio The Musicians 1595-96
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio burst onto the art scene in Rome in the 1590s with a fresh new style of painting
Caravaggio The Fortuneteller, 1596
His work could also shock. This sleepy-eyed Bacchus is sensuous, a boy wrapped in bedsheets offering an intoxicating drink…
Caravaggio’s Bacchus c. 1596
and those dirty fingernails..!
Whether in a secular scene…
Caravaggio The Cardsharpsc. 1596
or a sacred setting….
Caravaggio The Calling of St. Matthew 1600
Caravaggio’s stark use of light and shadow and unyielding naturalism lent drama and emotional power to his works.
Caravaggio, The Death of the Virgin 1602-06
Caravaggio introduced many innovations and spawned an entire school of artistic followers known as “Caravaggisti”, yet his was not the only style of painting during this period.
A school of painting, for instance, developed around the Academy founded by the Carracci brothers in the 1580s as a reaction against new styles of painting
Annibale Carracci, detail from Loves of the Gods, Palazzo Farnese, Rome 1597-1601
Women artists in Italy began to have more opportunities than they had earlier in the Renaissance.
Sofonisba Anguissola Portrait of the Artist’s Sisters Playing Chess, 1555
Lavinia Fontana Portrait of a Lady, 1590s
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