Book Series Alexander redivivus, vol. 15

Reinventing Alexander

Myth, Legend, History in Renaissance Italian Art

Claudia Daniotti

  • Pages: 348 p.
  • Size:178 x 254 mm
  • Illustrations:80 b/w, 16 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59743-0
  • Hardback
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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59744-7
  • E-book
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A thorough investigation and new insights into the representation of Alexander the Great in Renaissance Italian art


“(…) this is a piece of impeccable scholarship.” (Natalia Agapiou, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2023.09.31)

‘For anyone who wants to understand Alexander’s afterlife at the time of the Renaissance and how the ‘historical Alexander’ of modern scholarship came to be born, this is a must-read.’ (Hugh Bowden, in Journal of the Classical Tradition, 31/1, 2024, p. 115)


Claudia Daniotti is an art historian specialising in Italian Renaissance art, with an emphasis on iconography, the classical tradition, and the transmission of visual motifs from antiquity to the present times. She holds a PhD from the Warburg Institute, London, and is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick.


In this book Claudia Daniotti provides the first comprehensive study of the representation of Alexander the Great in Renaissance Italian art, exploring a fundamental turning point in the tradition: the transition from the medieval imagery of Alexander as a legendary, fairy-tale hero to the new historically grounded portrait of him as an example of moral virtue and military prowess.
During the Middle Ages, Alexander was turned into a fabled creature and fearless explorer, whose Flight to Heaven and other marvellous adventures were tirelessly recounted and illustrated, enjoying huge popularity. With the humanist recovery of the ancient historical texts and the changing taste and expectations of the wider, wealthier and more diverse public of the courts and cities of the Italian peninsula, the fabulous aura that had surrounded Alexander for centuries evaporated. He was recast as the moral exemplum and valorous military commander spoken of by the newly available ancient historians, and became the protagonist of an unprecedently vast iconographic repertoire established in the course of the sixteenth century.
By discussing a body of artworks from 1160s to 1560s spanning several media (from illuminated manuscripts and frescoes to sculptural reliefs, wedding chests and tapestries) and researching this material in constant dialogue with the literary tradition, this book offers a reassessment of the whole visual tradition of Alexander in Renaissance Italy, making sense of a figurative repertoire often perceived as fragmentary and disparate, and casting new light on an overall still neglected chapter in the tradition of the myth of Alexander.



Chapter 1. The Legendary Tradition of Alexander in Medieval Art and Literature  
The Medieval Tradition in Italy: An Overview

Episodes from the Legend: The Begetting and Birth of Alexander; The Taming of Bucephalus; The Flight with Griffins; The Submarine Voyage; The Visit to the Trees of the Sun and the Moon

Chapter 2. The Persistence of the Legendary Tradition in Fifteenth-Century Italian Art  
Marvellous Adventures in the East in the Doria Tapestries

The Flight with Griffins in a Curtius Rufus Manuscript

Alexander as King of Swords in the Sola-Busca Tarocchi

A Fifteenth-Century Drawing Depicting the Submarine Voyage

Alexander among the Nine Worthies: the Sala Baronale in the Castle della Manta; the Triads of Castel Roncolo; the Castelnuovo Cycle; the ‘Cavalcavia’ with the Worthies of Palazzo Trinci

Chapter 3. The Humanist Recovery of Ancient Historical Sources and Its Impact on the Reception of Alexander      
The Recovery of the Ancient Greek Sources: Plutarch’s Life of Alexander; Arrian’s Anabasis; Diodorus Siculus’s Bibliotheca Historica

The Revived Interest in the Ancient Latin Sources: Curtius Rufus’s Historiae Alexandri Magni; Justin’s Epitoma Historiarum Philippicarum
Humanist Use of Ancient Sources: Petrarch; Giovanni Boccaccio; Angelo Decembrio’s De politia litteraria; Pier Paolo Vergerio

Chapter 4. The Emergence of a New Renaissance Iconography in the Fifteenth Century  
Alexander on Cassone Panels: The Battle of Issus and the Meeting with the Family of Darius; Two Sienese Panels Based on Plutarch

Alexander and the Cycles of Uomini famosi: An Introduction to the Uomini famosi in Italian Art; Representations of Alexander in Uomini famosi Cycles; Medieval Cycles (The Castel Nuovo Cycle, Naples); Transitional Cycles (The Cycle in the Aula Minor, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence; The Cycle in the Orsini Palace of Monte Giordano, Rome); Humanist Cycles (Alexander in the Sala dei Giganti, Padua; The Cycle in the Corte Ducale, Palazzo dell’Arengo, Milan; The ‘Piccolomini Cycle’ of Famous Men and Women)

Images of Alexander in Fifteenth-Century Manuscripts: Images of Alexander Based on Ancient Numismatic Prototypes (Alexander Wearing the Lion-Skin of Hercules; the Helmeted Alexander; Alexander with the Horns of Zeus Ammon); A Curtius Rufus Manuscript “Illustrated like a Romance Text”
Chapter 5. The Development and Consolidation of Renaissance
Iconography in the Sixteenth Century                  
Selected Episodes from the Life of Alexander: The Meeting with the Women of Darius; The Marriage of Alexander and Roxane; Alexander, Apelles and Campaspe; The Taming of Bucephalus; The Birth (and Begetting) of Alexander

Index of names
List of Illustrations
Table of contents