Everyday Renaissances (Hardcover)

The Quest for Cultural Legitimacy in Venice (I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History #18)

By Sarah Gwyneth Ross

Harvard University Press, 9780674659834, 256pp.

Publication Date: March 8, 2016

List Price: 51.50*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The world of wealth and patronage that we associate with sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Italy can make the Renaissance seem the exclusive domain of artists and aristocrats. Revealing a Renaissance beyond Michelangelo and the Medici, Sarah Gwyneth Ross recovers the experiences of everyday men and women who were inspired to pursue literature and learning.

Ross draws on a trove of original unpublished sources--wills, diaries, household inventories, account books, and other miscellany--to reconstruct the lives of over one hundred artisans, merchants, and others on the middle rung of Venetian society who embraced the ennobling virtues of a humanistic education. These men and women sought out the latest knowledge, amassed personal libraries, and passed both their books and their hard-earned wisdom on to their families and heirs.

Physicians were often the most avid--and the most anxious--of professionals seeking cultural legitimacy. Ross examines the lives of three doctors: Nicol Massa (1485-1569), Francesco Longo (1506-1576), and Alberto Rini (d. 1599). Though they had received university training, these self-made men of letters were not patricians but members of a social group that still yearned for credibility. Unlike priests or lawyers, physicians had not yet rid themselves of the taint of artisanal labor, and they were thus indicative of a middle class that sought to earn the respect of their peers and betters, protect and advance their families, and secure honorable remembrance after death.