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Importing, Trading, and Collecting Islamic Artworks in Seventeenth-Century Italy: the Cospi Museum and the Bologna Collection

Citation: Gigante, Federica (2017) Importing, Trading, and Collecting Islamic Artworks in Seventeenth-Century Italy: the Cospi Museum and the Bologna Collection. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Gigante_PhD thesis.pdf

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This thesis explores the importation, trading, and collection of Islamic art in Italy in the seventeenth century, focusing in particular on the case of the Cospi Museum, which featured more Islamic artefacts than any other contemporary Italian collection. The creation of the Bolognese nobleman Ferdinando Cospi (1606-1686), who was brought up and founded his collection at the Medici court in Florence, the Cospi Museum was to flourish with the ongoing patronage of the Medici during Cospi’s adult years in Bologna. Drawing on a wealth of printed and archival sources, this thesis presents a reconstruction of the Islamic holdings of the Cospi Museum, set within the framework of Cospi’s life and his relationship with the Medici court. It follows the objects along their paths across the Mediterranean and through Italy en route to Bologna, investigating the dynamics which prompted and governed their importation as well as the physical mechanisms which enabled it. In so doing, it reveals both the underlying socio-political motivations for exchanges of exotica in seventeenth-century Italy and the Mediterranean and domestic mercantile networks which fuelled such practices. It also examines the transformations in identity which the objects underwent in their passage from one cultural setting to another and discusses the roles played by the wide variety of actors and stakeholders who contributed, deliberately or unwittingly, to this process of transformation. This thesis thus demonstrates that Islamic artefacts in seventeenth-century Italy were appreciated and understood in numerous different ways and that the key factor in this diversity of reception was the means by which the artefacts had reached their destination. Through an in-depth reconstructive focus on a particular collection and collector and its cultural and intellectual milieu, this thesis establishes a foundation upon which to build a broad-ranging analysis of the social history of Italian collecting culture in the seventeenth century as well as of the history of cultural and material exchanges between the Islamic world and Italy in this period.

Creators: Gigante, Federica and
Subjects: History
Keywords: Islamic art, the Bologna collection, Florence, Bologna, Ferdinando Cospi, Medici, collecting, Ulisse Aldrovandi, Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, Istituto delle Scienze, Bologna University Collections, Pelagio Palagi
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 15 December 2017 (submitted)


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