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Illustrations and heritage

From the images so far seen, you will have noted how these festival records might appeal to the historian, and to scholars of the theatre and of art.   They have, additionally, a wider interest to anyone concerned with the cultural heritage of the Renaissance.   This was a time when humanism had brought enhanced knowledge of classical forms and ways of thinking.   Poets and artists, in particular, seized on this new information which was conveniently accessible in Renaissance dictionaries of myths and symbols, and in books of emblems and devices.   With this material, they adorned their inventions, covering them with images and symbols, so that triumphal arches, for example, had interpretative and pedagogic functions, and often left commentators with a happy abundance of different ways to explain the symbolism.   When the Jesuits got hold of them, they let their imaginations run riot.   Handbooks of myths and symbols were not followed slavishly but they provided new ways of presenting ideas.   In time, festival books themselves became sources for manipulation by later inventors.   Vincenzo Borghini, for instance, who conceived the whole plan of the festival devised to celebrate the marriage of Francesco de’Medici with Joanna of Austria in 1565, systematically consulted descriptions of festivals and triumphal entries from all over Europe, as well as studying classical imagery at first hand so that he might incorporate authentic images into the many medallions he used for his decorative programme.

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