After the long silence since my last post, I wanted to put up something quick to reassure friends and readers who might find the silence worrisome. I am currently in Italy, with my academic conference duties done, my laptop broken and my camera battery fried, so, with no means of being practically productive and a holiday before me, I have no choice but to tromp about museums and enjoy myself. Accompanied by two good friends, I have carried on a lot of valuable debate with fellow historians, as well as philosophers and classicists. I have also researched many manuscripts, books, paintings, sculptures and other artifacts, along with many varieties of cheese, pasta, cold cuts, gnocchi, meatballs, roasts, fruits, pizzas, and, of course, gelatos. Sometimes fate is kind.
I am brimming with ideas for new posts, which I will start on as soon as I’m not on a borrowed machine and unstable hotel internet. I appreciate your patience. Meanwhile I will share a piece of Italian art fun:
This is an illuminated image from a Renaissance manuscript in the Laurenziana library in Florence. From a page of the French translation of a 14th century Latin History of Rome, the Romuleon compiled by Benvenuto da Imola, this image shows the illustrator’s imagined version of the Carthaginian army camp. In addition to armor and siege preparation, you can see a tent on the right-hand side where a doctor is performing surgery on a wounded officer’s leg. This kind of image is extremely valuable for historians, in learning about what the Renaissance imagined the ancient world was like, which was very much not what we imagine it was like. Hannibal’s lovely gold slit-sleeved coat and colorful hat are particularly choice touches. This type of illustration is also useful as a snapshot for historians attempting to reconstruct information about fleeting artifacts of Renaissance culture, like tents, plumes, the little bottles you used for a meal, or for medical treatment, things which rarely survive in physical form but are casually depicted here by an artist imagining a camp scene, complete with a doctor’s equipment. The illustration itself takes up a whole manuscript page, so pretty close in size to what you probably see on your computer screen: