Renaissance Quarterly

This wide-ranging and eclectic collection of thirteen essays plus an introduction by Paolo Carile focuses on various examples of elite education in Italy, France, Spain, and England from the later fifteenth to the early nineteenth century. The essays were originally presented at a conference in Foggia in 2011, the last of four dedicated to the study of ancien régime elites sponsored by the Italiques association.
Based on the written sources of doctors, secretaries, tutors, and others familiar with courtly life, most of the earlier essays explore particular practices and philosophies developed for the education of future princes and other political, religious, and cultural leaders. Many of the essays include useful reexaminations of important Renaissance texts: Cortesi’s De Cardinalatu, Machiavaelli’s Vita di CastruccioCastracani, the educational treatises of Federico Borromeo, and the diary of Jean Herouard. Interested in tracing the ways that princely families in Italy, France, and Spain absorbed the lessons of their humanist tutors, the essays in the first half of the collection are focused primarily on Italian examples from the long sixteenth century and affirm the power of humanist principles combined with the new attention to manners that propelled educational curricula forward. The essays focus on the moral and practical education of future princes, prelates, and other leaders who were acutely aware of the importance of their ceremonialroles from a very early age. During their childhood and adolescence, what were these men taught to expect of themselves? By focusing on this question, the essays point us to a deeper understanding of the paidea, or political culture (broadly understood) of the governing class in the ancien régime.
The interdisciplinary approaches used by the authors, praised by Paolo Carile in his introduction to the volume, are especially noticeable in the second half of the collection. Drawing on the theories of E. H. Gombrich, Angela Giallongo’s study of the iconography of Cesare Ripa’s popular Iconologia, published in 1618, explores the impact of the misogynistic images of women that were a source of inspiration for artists all over Europe. Antonella Romano examines the challenges encountered by Antonio Rubio and other Jesuit missionaries sent to New Spain to found a college for the education of local elites in Mexico City in the late sixteenth century. An important essay in the collection by Andrea Gatti traces the impact of John Locke’s rethinking of the classical humanist educational program on his most famous student, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury. In contrast to his tutor, Shaftesbury was convinced of the importance of an aesthetic education as a stimulus to individual moral development.With the rise of the Grand Tour in the eighteenth century, of course, this new emphasis on aesthetic education becameeven more important, leading to a more precise (and soon ridiculed) understanding of connoisseurship, in the service of the newly powerful bourgeois elites seeking guidance in assembling their collections of paintings and antiquities. The last few essays in the collection focus on the rise of the bourgeoisie at the end of the ancien régime. The ever-increasing emphasis on polite conversation and sociability among these urban elites led to the development of pedagogies that served the interests of this increasingly powerful social class.
Given the stated aims of the conference and this collection of essays — the education of children and adolescents destined to become leaders in early modern Europe — it is not surprising that only two of them discuss themes connected to women and gender: Angela Giallongo’s essay on Cesare Ripa discussed above, and Vittoria Bosna’s study contrasting the educational programs developed for elite versus working-class women in southern Italy during the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The education of girls destined to be queens and princely consorts was the subject of a previous conference sponsored by the Italiques association, Donne di palazzo nelle corti europee, edited by Angela Giallongo and published in 2005.

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