Book Series European Festival Studies: 1450-1700

The Role of Courtly Spectacle in the Politics of the House of Savoy (1450-1750)

Margaret McGowan, Melanie Zefferino (eds)

  • Pages: 375 p.
  • Size:178 x 254 mm
  • Illustrations:22 b/w, 20 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • c. € 110,00 EXCL. VAT RETAIL PRICE
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59048-6
  • Hardback
  • Forthcoming (Nov/22)

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The extravagant festivals designed to promote the political interests of the House of Savoy in the Early Modern period are re-animated through the archival treasures which survive in abundance


Professor Margaret M. McGowan CBE, FBA (Research professor at the University of Sussex). Her research interests centre on intellectual, cultural, and artistic concerns in early modern Europe. Her publications include: L'Art du Ballet de cour, (1581--1643) (Paris 1963); Montaigne's Deceits (1974); Ideal Forms in the Age of Ronsard (1985); The Vision of Rome in Late Renaissance France (2002); Dynastic Marriages 1612/1615 (2013); Festival and Violence: Princely Entries in the Context of War 1480--1635 (2019); and with Margaret Shewring, Charles V, Prince Philip and the Politics of Succession: Festivities in Hainault and Mons, 1549 (2020).

Dr Melanie Zefferino (Porta Coeli Foundation and Academy Venos; PhD in Art History (with Theatre Studies) at the University of Warwick). She has curated many art exhibitions: at the Palazzo Medici Ricardi Florence, the Victor Salvi Harp Museum in Pasco, the Porta Coeli Foundation and Study Centre for Mediterranean Culture in Venosa, and has designed and managed multidisciplinary events and art exhibitions held in public spaces in Florence, Assisi, Pietrasanta, Turin , Vienna, Thessaloniki and Yerevan. She teaches in the Masters Programme at the Academy run by the Porta Coeli Foundation in Venosa. Her publications include: 'The Savoy Naumachia on the Lake of Mont Cenis: a Site-specific spectacle in the "Amphitheatre of the Alps", in Margaret Shewring (ed.), Waterborne Pageants and Festivities in the Renaissance (2013), pp. 301-12; Castello d'Uzzano (2015); 'Rose e Visioni. Iconografia di una Santa tra feudalesimo e Ancien Régime; Elizabetta d'Ungheria', in Anna Cantaluppi and Alice B. Raviola (eds), L'Umiltà e le rose (2017), pp. 213-44. Her research on moving images and figures in the Venetian Republic from the Middle Ages to the late eighteenth century, funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, is being prepared for publication in the Society for European Festival Studies Series.


This book is based on the International Conference held at the State Archives (Turin) in September 2019, as a joint initiative between the State Archives and the Society for European Festivals Research. The House of Savoy preserved a formidable treasury of information about its Court Festivals in the Early Modern period. Illustrated manuscripts, musical scores, financial records, printed accounts of entertainments, histories of orders of chivalry and royal palaces, diaries of travellers, all survive to reveal how Festival and Politics were brought together to enhance the prestige of successive dukes of Savoy. This book lays bare these propaganda pretentions by presenting the wealth of the archives, the evidence they provide for understanding and analysing both the detail and the purpose of Festivals. It presents analyses of specific events such as weddings and consecrations. Using local sources as well as the accounts provided by visitors and ambassadors, the variety of festival forms are examined: ballets, tournaments, carrousels and naumachia, and underpinning this analysis, emerges the contribution of musicians, painters, illuminators, architects and textile expertise alongside the inventions of noble patrons themselves.


Preliminaries: Statement by Dr Stefano Benedetto (Director of the State Archives, Turin).

Introduction: Professor Margaret M. McGowan (Research Professor, University of Sussex) and Dr Melanie Zefferino (Porta Coeli Foundation and Academy Venosa)

Section I: Sources for Festivals:

Chapter I - Dr Luisa Gentile (Senior archivist at the State Archives, Turin) - The presence of Fêtes in the archives and their exploitation by early Dukes of Savoy.
Chapter 2 - Dr Daniela Cereia (Senior archivist at the Sate Archives, Turin) - The value of archives: the evidence from accounting documents.
Chapter 3 - Dr Giuseppina Mussari (Director of the Royal Library, Turin) - Festivals and Public Spectacle in Turin from the fifteenth to the seventeenth-centuries: the Memories treasured in the Royal Library of Turin.
Chapter 4 - Dr Paola Bianchi (teaches Modern History, University of the Valle d'Aosta) - Strangers at the Savoy Court in the Eighteenth Century.

Section II: Weddings and Consecration:

Chapter 5 - Professor Paul Gwynne (Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the American University in Rome) - 1501 wedding, evoked through the poems of Michael Nagonius.
Chapter 6 - Professor Richard Cooper (Emeritus Professor of French, Principal of St. Benet's Hall, Oxford) - The French/Savoy wedding celebrations of 1559.
Chapter 7 - Dr Maria Alberti (Scholar at the Franco Zefferelli  Foundation, and Lecturer at the Academy of Fine Art, Genoa)  - Water Mirrors: The 1608 Waterborne spectacles for the Nuptials of Margaret of Savoy and Francis IV Gonzaga in Mantua and Mary Magdalene of Austria to Cosimo II of the Medici in Florence.
Chapter 8 - Professor Martine Boiteux (Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) - The Savoy dynasty celebrated in Eighteenth-century Rome.

Section III: Music and Material Culture:

Chapter 9 - Professor Iain Fenlon (Emeritus Professor of Musicology, King's College, Cambridge - Gonzaga Celebrations for a Savoy Bride and their artistic consequences.
Chapter 10 - Dr Jorge Morales (Associate Research Fellow, Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance (Tours) - The Duke, the Cardinal and Madama Reale: Music, Festivals, and Spectacle in the Age of Sigismondo D'India (1611-1623).
Chapter 11 - Gian Luca Bovenzi (Independent Scholar) - Clothes, Textiles, and Embroidery for the Marriages of Margaret and Isabella of Savoy.

Section IV: Forms of Spectacle and their context


Chapter 12 - Professor Margaret M. McGowan CBE, FBA (Research Professor, University of Sussex) - Dance, Music and Décor as Expressions of Political Resolve in the early seventeenth-century Savoy Court.
Chapter 13 - Dr Clelia di Arnaldi di Balme (Conservator in chief of antique art collections, Palazzo Madama, Turin) - French and Savoy drawings for festivals.
Chapter 14 - Dr Andrea Merlotti (Director of the Study Centre of the Consorzio della Residenze Reale Sabaude, Reggia di Venaria) - Eighteenth-century diplomatic encounters with ballet.


Chapter 15 - Dr Maria Gattullo (Senior Archivist, Associate Teacher of  Palaeography, and Former Deputy Director of State Archives, Turin) - Tournament miniature of the Roy Modus.
Chapter 16 - Professor Alessandro Metlica (Associate Professor of Literary Criticism and Comparative Literature, University of Padua) - Giovanni Battista Marino's Adone and the Joust.
Chapter 17 - Professor Sydney Anglo, FBA (Emeritus Professor, University of Swansea) - The Chivalric Tournament, its history as exemplified by the Court of Savoy.


Chapter 18 - Dr Melanie Zefferino (Lecturer at the Porta Coeli Foundation and Academy, Venosa) - Naumachia: a series of paintings in the Palazzo Madama.

Section V: Documentary Evidence

Chapter 19 - Professor Franca Varallo (Professor of Art History, University of Turin) and Professor Blythe Alice Raviola (Professor of History, University of Milan) - Past and future use of sources.

Panorama of Festivals at the Savoy Court in the Early Modern period: Margaret M. McGowan
Dr Sara Ayres (Queen Margarethe II, Post Doctoral Fellow at the National Portrait Gallery, London 2016-2018) - Prince George of Denmark's Grand Tour and his confessor's description of Turin.