Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge

By Eilean Hooper-Greenhill | Go to book overview

3

The palace of the princem

The Medici Palace combined in a new way earlier practices, including the treasure gathering of the medieval princes, and the newer practices of collecting classical things (for example, sculpture, manuscripts, fragments of buildings, and coins) which emerged as scholarly interest turned very slowly to the past of ancient Greece and Rome. These two elements combined within a shift in the practices of patronage from the older, public, religious forms where buildings or works were commissioned, often by groups of patrons, to glorify God, to a newer form that was private, singular, secular, and dedicated to the glory of man, specifically the patron. Although the two forms ran together in fifteenth-century Florence for some time, the emergence of the newer practices constituted subject positions that positioned families like the Medici in new relations of advantage/disadvantage, as more wealthy, more powerful, more knowledgeable than their fellow merchants. By establishing themselves in this higher social position, they established themselves, within a hierarchised universe, as more worthy than their former peers, thereby legitimising their unconstitutional rule.

Shifts in the practices of collecting and of patronage articulated with new attitudes to the past, and with older understandings of the nature of the universe as the creation of a supernatural being. Material things were made meaningful within this complex discourse of multifaceted and often contradictory factors.

Meanings articulated were in constant movement. Changes in the field of possibilities, which included political changes, changes in the operation and management of the Medici banks, wars, shifts in trading patterns, deaths, movements of finances, as well as cultural changes, led to a constant oscillation of meaning and practices within the Medici Palace. Considerable changes of all sorts can be identified during the fifty-year period under discussion.

-47-

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Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates viii
  • 1 - What Is a Museum? 1
  • 2 - The First Museum of Europe? 23
  • 3 - The Palace of the Princem 47
  • 4 - The Irrational Cabinet 78
  • 5 - The ‘Cabinet of the World’ 105
  • 6 - The Repository of the Royalsociety 133
  • 7 - The Disciplinary Museum 167
  • 8 - A Useful Past for the Present 191
  • Bibliography 216
  • Index 229
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