Advertisement

Magical and Mechanical Evidence: The Late-Renaissance Automata of Francesco I de’ Medici

  • Lily Filson
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 225)

Abstract

In the realization of moving automata for Francesco I de’ Medici’s sixteenth-century Villa Pratolino outside of Florence, the memory of antiquity informed both the practical and theoretical operations of these “living statues.” The 1587 description of the villa and its wonders, Delle Maravigliose Opere di Pratolino, & d’Amore by Francesco de’ Vieri, associates magical traditions of statue animation with Renaissance automata in a passage that cites Aristotle’s description, rooted in atomism and sympathetic magic, of the physical process by which Daedalus animated his legendary wooden Venus. From the fifteenth century onwards, the rediscovery and popularity of Neoplatonic and Hermetic philosophical texts in the Renaissance perpetuated Greco-Egyptian methods of investing man-made vessels, typically cult statues, with some kind of “life” from received celestial influences, thus manufacturing the “living gods” of antiquity. Simultaneously, mechanical texts which preserved mechanical devices and principles from ancient Alexandria were being assimilated to the engineering repertoire of Western Europe, and air and water were harnessed to impart movement to the early modern automata which graced Italian Renaissance hydraulic villas and gardens. For the court of Francesco I de’ Medici, the division between our modern scientific concept of air and a metaphysical “spirit” was not yet drawn, and manipulating this occult “influence” was invested with a mastery of a far broader, unseen sphere. For the court philosopher De’ Vieri, Neoplatonic and Hermetic writings furnished alternative and not necessarily contradictory understandings of various hidden forces which could cause statues to move. In the late sixteenth century, a much broader conception of “nature” allowed for the confirmation of invisible or “occult” phenomena which did not preclude the magical philosophy of antiquity from being related to the empirical discoveries being made via the production of new mechanical devices. De’ Vieri’s 1587 panegyric to Pratolino demonstrates that the mastery of mechanical as well as esoteric magical philosophy came to feature in the propaganda of the newly-invested Medici Grand Duke.

References

  1. Agrippa, Heinrich Cornelius. 1992. De occulta philosophia Libri tres. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  2. Anonymous. 1829. Letters of an Artist on Italy, 1798. Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine: 574.Google Scholar
  3. Aristotle. 1956. De anima. Trans. W. S. Hett. London: Loeb Classical Library.Google Scholar
  4. Baldinucci, Filippo. 1845–1847. Notizie de’ Professori del Disegno da Cimabue in qua. Firenze: Per V. Batelli e compagni.Google Scholar
  5. Benoît de Sainte Maure. 1904–1912. Le Roman de Troie [1165]. Ed. Léopold Constans. 6 vols.Paris: Firmin Didot.Google Scholar
  6. Berti, Luciano. 2002. Il Principe dello Studiolo: Francesco I dei Medici e la fine del Rinascimento fiorentino. Firenze: Maschietto & Musolino.Google Scholar
  7. Boyancé, Pierre. 1955. Théurgie et télestique néoplatoniciennes. Revue de l’histoire des religions 47: 189–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brett, Gerard. 1954. The Automata in the Byzantine ‘Throne of Solomon’. Speculum 29: 477–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Charageat, Marguerite. 1950. Le parc d’Hesdin, création monumentale du XIIIième siècle, ses origines arabes. Bulletin de la societé d’histoire de l’art français: 94–106.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, John. 1966. Human Robots in Myth and Science. New York: A. S. Barnes and Company.Google Scholar
  11. Daston, Lorraine, and Katharine Park. 2001. Wonders and the Order of Nature. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  12. Davanzati, Bernardo. 1862. Della natura del voto di Erone Alessandrino. Firenze: Gargiolli and Martin.Google Scholar
  13. De Caus, Salamon. 1624. La raison des forces mouvantes. Paris.Google Scholar
  14. de Montaigne, Michel. 1946. Journal de voyage en Italie, par la Suisse et l’Allemagne en 1580 et 1581. Ed. Charles Dédéyan. Paris.Google Scholar
  15. De’ Vieri, Francesco. 1587. Delle Maravigliose Opere di Pratolino, & d’Amore. Firenze: Marescotti.Google Scholar
  16. Delumeau, Jean, and Matthew O’Connell. 1995. History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  17. DeSolla Price, and J. Derek. 1964. Automata and the Origins of Mechanism and Mechanistic Philosophy. Technology and Culture 5: 9–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. ———. 1951. The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Festugière, André-Jean. 1963. Proclus et la réligion traditionelle. Mélanges Piganiol 3: 1581–1590.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 1968. Contemplation philosophique et art theurgique chez Proclus. Studia di storia religiosa di tarde antichità: 7–18.Google Scholar
  21. Fliegel, Stephen N. 2002. The Cleveland Table Fountain and Gothic Automata. Cleveland Studies in the History of Art 7: 6–49.Google Scholar
  22. Godwin, Jocelyn. 2002. The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  23. Hanegraaff, Wouter. 1998. Sympathy or the Devil: Renaissance Magic and the Ambivalence of Idols. Esoterica 2: 1–44.Google Scholar
  24. Homer. 1990. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  25. Kang, Minsoo. 2011. Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kieckhefer, Richard. 1989. Magic in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Koetsier, Teun. 2010. Simon Stevin and the Rise of Archimedean Mechanics in the Renaissance. In The Genius of Archimedes: 23 Centuries of Influence in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, ed. Stephanos A. Paipetis and Marco Ceccarelli, 85–112. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kraye, Jill. 2002. La filosofia nelle università italiane del XVI secolo. In Le filosofie del Rinascimento, ed. C. Vasoli and P. Pissavino, 350–373. Milano: Bruno Mondadori Editori.Google Scholar
  29. LaGrandeur, Kevin. 1999. The Talking Brass Head as a Symbol of Dangerous Knowledge in Friar Bacon and in Alphonsus King of Aragon. English Studies 5: 408–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lewy, Hans. 1978. Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy: Mysticism, Magic and Platonism in the Later Roman Empire [1956]. Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes.Google Scholar
  31. Littlewood, A. R. 1992. Gardens of the Palaces. In Byzantine Court Culture from 829 to 1204, ed. Henry Maguire, 13–38. Washington: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Luck, Georg. 1989. Theurgy and Forms of Worship in Neoplatonism. In Religion, Science, and Magic: In Concert and in Conflict, ed. Jacob Neusner et al., 185–228. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mastrorocco, Mila. 1981. Le Mutazione di Proteo: I Giardini Medicei del Cinquencento. Firenze: Sansoni.Google Scholar
  34. Mignani, Daniela. 1995. The Medicean Villas by Giusto Utens. Trans. Stephanie Johnson. Firenze: Arnaud.Google Scholar
  35. Moore, Thomas. 1990. The Planets Within: The Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Press.Google Scholar
  36. Moryson, Fynes. 1907. An Itinerary Containing His Ten Yeeres Travell Through the Twelve Dominions of Germany, Bohmerland, Sweitzerland, Netherland, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Turky, France, England, Scotland, & Ireland. Glasgow: James MacLehose & Sons.Google Scholar
  37. Philostratus. 1912. Life of Apollonius of Tyana. Trans. C. F. Conybeare. New York: The Macmillan Co.Google Scholar
  38. Pingree, David. 1992. Hellenophilia versus the History of Science. Isis 83: 554–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Quinlan-McGrath, Mary. 2013. Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Robert of Clari. 1936. The Conquest of Constantinople. Trans. Edgar Holmes McNeal. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Laurence J. Rosán. 1949. The Philosophy of Proclus. New York: Cosmos.Google Scholar
  42. Sgrilli, Bernardo Sansone. 1742. Descrizione della Regia Villa, Fontane e Fabbriche di Pratolino. Florence.Google Scholar
  43. Shaw, Gregory. 1985. Theurgy: Rituals of Unification in the Neoplatonism of Iamblichus. Traditio 41: 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sheppard, Anne. 1982. Proclus’s Attitude to Theurgy. The Classical Quarterly 32: 212–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Smith, Webster. 1961. Pratolino. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 20: 155–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith, Anthony. 1974. Porphyry’s Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition. The Hague: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. St. Irenaeus of Lyons. 1992. Against Heresies. Trans. Dominick J. Unger. New York: The Newman Press.Google Scholar
  48. Tchikine, Anatole. 2014. ‘L’anima del giardino’: Water, Gardens, and Hydraulics in Sixteenth-Century Florence and Naples. In Technology and the Garden, ed. Michael G. Lee and Kenneth I. Helphand, 129–155. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks.Google Scholar
  49. Trouillard, Jean. 1972. L’un et l’âme selon Proclus. Paris: Belles lettres.Google Scholar
  50. ———. 1973. Le merveilleux dans la vie et la pensée de Proclus. Philos 163: 439–451.Google Scholar
  51. Ungruhe, Christine. 2007. Die Normannischen Gartenpaläste in Palermo: Aneignung einer Mittelmeerischen “Koinê im 12. Jahrhundert. Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florence 51. Bd., H.½: 1–44.Google Scholar
  52. Vasari, Giorgio. 1906. Le Opere con nuove annotazioni e commenti. Ed. Gaetano Milanesi. Firenze: Sansoni.Google Scholar
  53. Vezzosi, Alessandro. 1986. ‘Pratolino d’Europa,’ degli antichi e dei moderni. In Il Giardino d’Europa: Pratolino come modello nella cultura europea, ed. Centro Mostre di Firenze, 18–24. Firenze: Mazzotta.Google Scholar
  54. Wolfe, Jessica. 2004. Humanism, Machinery, and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Wotton, Henry. 1969. The Elements of Architecture. Famborough: Gregg International Publishers.Google Scholar
  56. Zangheri, Luigi. 1979. Pratolino: il giardino delle meraviglie, 2 vols. Firenze: Edizioni Gonnelli.Google Scholar
  57. ———. 1986. I giardini d’Europa: una mappa della fortuna medicea nel XVI e XVII secolo. In Il Giardino d’Europa: Pratolino come modello nella cultura europea, ed. Centro Mostre di Firenze, 82–92. Firenze: Mazzotta.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lily Filson
    • 1
  1. 1.Tulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

Personalised recommendations