It has been said that as of about 1960, over 250,000 books and
articles had been written about Rome. The numbers for Florence cannot be
much smaller. The titles listed here are for your information and may
prove to be useful in writing your paper.
Historical Studies of Florence and the Medici: to Cosimo
- Jacob Burckhardt. The Civilization of the Renaissance in
Italy. Originally published 1860; many editions. The single most
influential book on Renaissance Florence.
- C. M. Ady. Lorenzo dei Medici and Renaissance Italy London,
1962. A short and well-written, although now inevitably somewhat dated
study of his life. Good chapter on his poetry.
- Benjamin G. Kohl and Ronald G. Witt, eds. The Earthly
Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society. Philadelphia,
1978. Selections from the writings of Petrarch, Bruni and others. The
most easily found source for the reprint of Polizano's discussion of the
- Gene Brucker. Renaissance Florence. Berkeley, et
al. 1969, 1983. Together with Lauro Martines and Richard Trexler, the
dean of U.S. scholars of the history of Renaissance Florence.
- The World of Renaissance Florence. Trans. by
W. Darwell. Florence, 1999. An odd little book that seems to have been
composed of extracts from larger studies by Renaissance scholars. Sort of
an in-depth overview of Florentine life and history; especially good for
Historical Studies of Florence and the Medici: Cosimo I
Studies of sixteenth-century and later Florence were rare until Eric
Cochrane's book (see below) and the 1980 Council of Europe exhibitions on
Florence under Cosimo I. In art history, this has led to new interest in
Giorgio Vasari as artist, courtier, and author.
- Harold Acton. The Last Medici. London, reprint 1973.
- Eric Cochrane. Florence in the Forgotten Centuries.
Chicago, 1973. Superbly written throughout, especially the chapters on
- Detroit Institute of Arts. The Twilight of the Medici: Late
Baroque Art in Florence, 1670-1743. Detroit, 1974.
Considerations of Medici (and related) Patronage
- Martin Wackernagel. The World of the Florentine Renaissance
Artist. Trans. by Alison Luchs. 1981.
- Peter Burke. The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in
Italy. Rev. ed. Princeton, 1986.
- Mary Hollingsworth. Patronage in Renaissance
Italy.1994. Pages 9-83 discuss Florence.
- Francis Ames-Lewis, ed. Cosimo 'il Vecchio' de'Medici
1389-1464. Oxford, 1992.
- Andreas Beyer and Bruce Boucher, eds. Piero deMMedici 'il
Gottoso' (1416-1469): Art in the Service of the Medici. Berlin,
1993. The first serious consideration of the political and cultural
importance of the long-forgotten Piero de'Medici, son of Cosimo and father
- Francis Ames-Lewis, ed. The Early Medici and Their
Artists. London, 1995. This also has the most extensive and the most
up-to-date bibliography of any published book (until, probably, the
publication of the Florence in the 1470s catalogue) The articles will be
most useful to those working in-depth on certain of the paper topics.
- Evelyn Welch. "The year of Lorenzo." Art History,
vol. 17 (1994): 658-663. On the sixteen titles published in commemoration
of the 500th anniversary of the death of Lorenzo de'Medici.
- Eckart Marchand and Alison Wright, eds. With and Without the
Medici: Studies in Tuscan Art and Patronage 1434-1530. Brookfield,
Men, Women, and the Family in Renaissance Florence
Over the past twenty years or so, this category has grown from a
forgotten subject to one of perhaps limitless expansion. In addition to
their general interest, these titles could give support to studies of
portraiture or genre.
- Christiane Klapisch-Zuber. Women, Family, and Ritual in
Renaissance Italy. Chicago, 1985. A collection of her essays. The
starting point for research in this area.
- Gene Brucker. Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in
Renaissance Florence. Berkeley, et al, 1986. A court case brought
by a lower class Florentine woman against an upper class Florentine man in
1455 provides many insights into economic, political, and gender issues.
- Francis Ames-Lewis and Mary Rogers, eds. Concepts of Beauty in
Renaissance Art. Brookfield, VT, 1998.
- Marilyn Migiel and Juliana Schiesari, eds. Refiguring
Woman: Perspectives on Gender and the Italian Renaissance. Ithaca,
A Brief Selection of Titles on Renaissance Art
Relating to Florence
This is the most general selection, and does not include titles
on individual artists. Check the bibliography in Hartt for a large
selection of basic titles. My Vasari online site has a bibliography
page for most of the artists. For the most up-to-date material, you will
be using library sources such as the BHA online catalog to do your
research. Remember to investigate the bibliographies of individual texts
- Robert Klein and Henri Zerner, eds. Italian Art: 1500-1600.
(Sources and Documents Series) Englewood Cliffs, NJ. 1966. This
contains a portion of the deliberation on the placement of Michelangelo's
David, among other MA. The titles in this series go in and out of
print. There is also one for Italian Renaissance (15th Century),
ed. by H. W. Janson.
- John Pope-Hennessy. The Portrait in the Renaissance.
Princeton, 1966, 1989. Basic for portraiture, although some of his
remarks on early portraits have been challenged.
- Eve Borsook. The Mural Painters of Tuscany. 2nd ed.,
1980. For any fresco project, start here.
- A. Richard Turner. Renaissance Florence: The Invention of a
New Art. New York, 1997. Good text and illustrations notable for
their number and the architectural views.
- Evelyn Welch. Art and Society in Italy: 1350-1500.
Oxford, 1997. Discussions of, among other topics: materials and methods,
workshop organization, the audiences for art, the domestic life of
art. Also an extensive bibliography.
After you have written the Paper
Some Basic Guides to Florence
- Touring Club Italiano. Firenze e dintorni (7th ed, 1993)
and Toscana (1997). Also useful for academic purposes. Hundreds
of pages of descriptions, maps, suggested itineraries and more. The TCI
guides are what you carry if you are a serious student of Italy.
- Mary McCarthy. The Stones of Florence. New York, 1963. A
bit dated in its description of contemporary Florence, but still a
- Eve Borsook. The Companion Guide to Florence. London, 5th
ed. 1988. An art historian, most famous perhaps for her Mural Painters
of Tuscany, she has lived in Florence for many years. This addition
to the highly-regarded British series is a smooth combination of
historical and cultural observation with genteel touristic advice.
- R. W. B. Lewis. The City of Florence: Historical Vistas and
Personal Sightings. New York, 1995. Some excellent historical
interpretation (see Chapters 3 to 5) combined with recitals of favorite
lodgings and meals. Do not read when hungry.
Let's Move to the Italian Countryside and Be
Artists/Cooks/Intellectuals/Academics at Play
A genre most active among the British. Most of these titles were
originally found on the token English-language books table at Seeber
Bookstore in Florence. Some examples listed here; fiction and non-fiction
- Any Four Women Could Rob the Bank of Italy by Ann
1983. (Fiction) Set in Chiantishire, the English-occupied area of
Tuscany. Actually, they're in Cortona, where the author still lives
(Frances Mayes indicated her gratitude to her). A roman a clef involving
not-too-deeply disguised real-life Brit expats. At the time I read it, I
could only identify Germaine Greer (who owns an herb farm (!) above
Cortona and once tried to lure a friend of mine to his doom there over
Christmas...), who is depicted as a sex-starved idiot in layers of
- When in Florence by Richard Cortez Day. NY,
1986. (Fiction) A group of interrelated short stories set in Florence,
moving in time from the fourteenth century to the contemporary city.
- The Ant Colony by Francis Henry King. London,
1992. (Fiction) Here the Brit colony is that attached to the British
Institute in Florence. Young would-be academic comes to Florence looking
for culture; is disappointed by the intrigue and in-fighting. At least
some sense of the life of the city.
- Italian Neighbors, or, a Lapsed Anglo-Saxon in Verona by
Tim Parks. London, 1992. IMHO, the most realistic--and
entertaining--account of what it is like to live in Italy. Brit would-be
academic (who claimed in a later interview that his own family didn't
object to his moving away from home because he was such a loser that they
figured he'd surely never get on in the U.K.) moves to a rather shabby
frazione (sort of like a suburb, only smaller) of Verona with his Italian
wife. No picturesque vineyards or Brit colony to be found, and not
missed. After every sort of difficulty, they manage to end up in a large
fixer-upper apartment they can live in forever and he lands one of the
jobs expats who have to support themselves dream about: he gets hired to
teach English as a sort of glorified adjunct at the University of Milan.
- Within Tuscany by Matthew Spender. London, 1992. From the
name and the photos, a close relative of Stephen Spender. He and his
(long-suffering, I will bet) wife buy a falling-down farmhouse, fix it up,
and live off their garden. Wife stays home, makes ugly clothes for dirty
children (again, photo evidence). MS travels around Tuscany, inquires into
the secrets of olive oil and wine, almost has an affair with a beautiful
Italian woman. Doesn't because she turns him down.
- Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. NY 1997. A
humungus bestseller (now she can put in the heaters). Set in a Cortona
inhabited by wily real estate agents (who turn out to be honest),
contractors, Polish workmen, and good food and good views. That's about
all the author notices. The most recent example of the foreigner who
interprets the effects of his/her ignorance as the endearing
eccentricities of those many natives who cannot quite adjust to him/her.
- Perhaps to be contrasted with Philancy N. Holder's Cortona in
Context: the History and Architecture of an Italian Hill Town to the 17th
Century, Clarksville, TN, 1992, a laborious and detailed history
published privately and used most often in conjunction with the courses
taught there by the University of Georgia's Studies Abroad
also lives part-time in Cortona, as does Ann Cornelison. Reading these
three books together, one would never know that they were about the same
Italians Look at Themselves and Us
A distinctive sub-genre that requires some ambition and some patience
on the part of the U.S. reader, who will probably find, at first, the
Italians even more strange than first he realized, with their obsessions
with their hometowns, specific kinds of food, and their resigned
expectations of suffering from any contact with the government--the only
more painful experience being that provided by the foreigners among
them. (Bernard Berenson, the Lithuanian/US expat who lived most of his
life in Italy once tried to explain to a Florentine store clerk that
Mussolini was probably going to hand over Italy to the Germans and that
therefore the Italians should support the Allies. She looked at him
pityingly and replied, "Oh, signore, for us all foreigners
are equally hateful.")
- Those Cursed Tuscans by Curzio Malaparte. Athens, OUP,
1964. They're hardworking and loyal, but stingy, cold, unimaginative, and
don't like foreigners (see above). The perfect gift for a sister or
daughter going on the RU Year Abroad Program to Florence. (Plus, of
course, a set of Henry James.)
- The Italians by Luigi Barzini. London, 1968. Sort of the
Alistair Cooke of Italy, Barzini produced this book, which became a
bestseller, perhaps as much as to explain the U.S. and Italy to Italians
as to Americans.
- Un Italiano nell'America by Beppe Severgnini. Milano,
1995. A young Italian journalist and his wife move to a suburb of
Washington, D.C. and marvel at the efficiency of U.S. life, while
sensitive to such personal matters as "how close Americans always stand to
you" and more universal observations such as "why does the waitress
always ask how the food is when your mouth is full?" As almost always the
case with Italians who visit here, they speak English fluently and they
love the food.
Italy During the War
WWII is fading fast from everyone's memory, but there are several
well-written titles that deserve to be remembered.
- Artemisia by Anna Banti. Milan, 1947. A novel within a
novel; the narrator has been dragged out of her apartment near the Arno
River by the Germans during the last days of the war; unknown to her and
to the many others with her the Germans plan to blow up all of the
buildings and as much of Florence as the can before they retreat. Set
against this is the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a painter of the Roman
Baroque who suffers assaults even more personal.
- Florentine Art Under Fire by Frederick Hartt. Princeton,
1949. In the last days of the war a multi-national group of Allied
officers (including Italians and even some Germans) moved into Florence
and Tuscany to locate, protect, and save art of all types from damage and
- Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby. London,
1971. Newby escaped from a German prisoner of war camp and had to depend
upon the kindness of the Italian farmers around him to help him to survive
and evade the Germans. Dramatic without any bloodshed; even romance, as
he meets the young woman who will become his wife.
- War in the Val D'Orcia by Iris Origo. London, 1947. An
Anglo-American from an aristocratic family, she married an Italian and
lived in a refurbished villa outside of Florence. Her book describes how
she, her family, and the many refugees they sheltered managed to survive
WWII and German occupation.
Pretty Books on Florence and Tuscany
- Tuscan Villas. Harold Acton. London, 1973. (Sir) Harold
Acton's family owned a famous villa just outside of Florence's historic
center, now a campus of New York University. His book was one of the
first of the "coffee table", lavishly-illustrated photo books, and is
- Courtesans of the Italian Renaissance by Georgina
Masson. London, 1975. An illustrated history (the first on the
subject) by expat Rome's favorite monster; she was, among other
accomplishments, the only person allowed to have a car at the American
Academy in Rome. She is, by the way, also the author of The Companion
Guide to Rome.
- An Architect in Italy by Caroline Maudit. London,
1987. A small book of beautiful drawings made by an English graduate
student living in Italy for a year.
- Views from a Tuscan Vineyard by Julian and Carey
More. London, 1984. A beautiful small book of photographs and
observations by a father-daughter team.
- Traditional Houses of Rural Italy by Paul Duncan. London,
1993. A book of photographs of architectural bits and pieces from
locations so obscure (when identified) that the author easily wins the I
Know Italy Prize.
- The Light in the Piazza. by Elizabeth Spencer. NY,
1960. The best of her Italy books and made into a much-praised movie in
1962. An American mother and daughter are taking a long vacation in
Florence, where the daughter falls in love with a young Florentine
man. Their relationahip has a special complication: unknown to him, she
is mentally retarded.
- The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga. NY, 1994. Set in
Florence just after the terrible flood of 1966, the youngish heroine,
bored with her dead-end job in the U.S., flees here to find a better
life. Generally convincing, although filled with the oddest anachronisms
(making me feel, of course, just that much smarter).
- Death and Restoration by Iain Pears. London, 1997. One of
series of "Art History Mysteries" by a part-time art historian and
writer. Character studies seem to be stronger than the art history part,
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