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Memory and Imagination in the Ars Memorativa in Fifteenth-Century Italy

Citation: Cacopardo, Valentina (2021) Memory and Imagination in the Ars Memorativa in Fifteenth-Century Italy. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.


Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This thesis outlines and examines the relationship between memory and imagination in the ars memorativa in fifteenth-century Italy. Its principal focus is on selected texts from around 1420 to mid-century, all connected to Padua, Mantua and Venice. The dissertation investigates the role of imagination in the development of the ars memorativa and the techniques of memory employed to control and regulate the processes of both remembering and forgetting. Part One examines the memory-treatises of three authors who taught at the University of Padua: Matteo da Verona, De Arte Memorandi (1420), Ludovico da Pirano, Regulae memoriae artificialis (1422), and Giovanni Fontana, Secretum de thesauro experimentorum ymaginationis hominum (ca. 1430). Investigating how these texts were shaped by the Aristotelian tradition and by new theories connected to ideas of perception, imagination and memory, I demonstrate how the ars memorativa intersected with logic and grammar, in the treatises of Matteo da Verona and Ludovico da Pirano, and with optics in the work of the Venetian physician and engineer Giovanni Fontana. Part Two examines ars memorativa and pedagogy, focusing on the Gonzaga court in Mantua and the humanist school of Vittorino da Feltre, through Bartolomeo da Mantova’s Liber memoriae artificialis (1429) that includes one hundred unstudied illuminations and through Jacopo Ragona’s Artificialis memoriae regulae (1434), dedicated to Gianfrancesco Gonzaga. Part Three explores the inter-relationship between text and image and memory and oblivion in an anonymous Venetian treatise, Di l’Artifitial memoria, dating to c.1450. The Afterword explores parallels between the fifteenth-century ars memorativa and iconographic compilations of the late sixteenth century, particularly the Iconologia of Cesare Ripa. Overall, this study offers a contribution to our understanding of the degree of innovation and originality present in these fifteenth-century treatises and their importance in the development of the artes memorativae as an independent and interdisciplinary genre distinct from rhetoric.

Creators: Cacopardo, Valentina and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Keywords: Memory, Oblivion, Art of Memory, Imagination, Early Modern Italy
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 30 April 2021 (completed)


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