The Filigree Hiding the Gothic

The Malatesti: the Books, the Sword, the Women and their Popes

University of California, Los Angeles
Royce Hall, Room 314
November 30, 2006 – December 02, 2006

Co-sponsored by the Ahmanson Foundation, the UCLA Department of Italian, the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, and the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Although not as well-known as other prominent families such as the Medici, Este, or Gonzaga, the Malatesti occupy a central position in the history of the Italian Renaissance. We may recall that in Inferno V, Dante recounts the tragic story of Paolo Malatesti and Francesca da Polenta, one of the most famous and enduring episodes of the entire Divine Comedy. Pope Pius II, in his Commentaries, devotes a long section to the “unspeakable crimes” of Sigismondo Malatesta, lord of Rimini, a man gifted with eloquence and great military skill, who “surpassed every barbarian in cruelty. The worst of all men who have lived or ever will live, the shame of Italy, the disgrace of our age”.

Four hundred years later the great historian Jakob Burckhardt, in his influential The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, turned his attention to the same Sigismondo, whom he considered a “whole man,” the crowning figure among “the furtherers of humanism,” a condottiere equally capable in war and art, unscrupulous, cruel, and yet refined, in other words the epitome of the new man capable of changing the course of civilization, and of ushering in the age of modernity. Ezra Pound’s definition of Sigismondo in his Malatesta Cantos as the “the filigree hiding the gothic” takes us back to Burckhardt’s definition of the Italian Renaissance as a time of physical violence and artistic delicacy, and of Sigismondo Malatesti as the source of one of the highest cultural achievements of the West.

This conference will try to untangle the complex web of contradictory opinions built on the house of the Malatesti throughout the centuries by looking at all aspects of their history: the military and political skills that allowed an unknown family from the town of Verucchio to become the masters of many cities in Romagna and the March of Ancona; their relationship with the papacy, which culminated in pope Pius II’s excommunication of Sigismondo Malatesti; their patronage of the arts, especially on the part of Sigismondo in Rimini and Novello Malatesti in Cesena.

A reprint of De Re Militari by humanist Roberto Valturio from Rimini is also presented. Valturio was Apostolic Abbreviator under Eugenio IV, and later served as adviser to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. Published in 1472 in Verona, in Latin, De Re Militari was written to celebrate the military virtues of the Malatesti, and remains the earliest printed book containing technical illustrations.


Thursday, November 30, 2006
UCLA, Royce Hall 314

1:00 pm Welcoming Remarks
Brian Copenhaver (Director, UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies)
Lee Walcott (Managing Director, Ahamanson Foundation)
Massimo Ciavolella (Chair, UCLA Department of Italian)

1:30 pm Marjorie Perloff (Stanford University)
“‘A bit too POLUMETIS’: The Comedy of Polylingualism in the Malatesta Cantos”

2:15 pm Massimo Bacigalupo (University of Genoa)
“Sigismondo and Ezra Pound’s Anti-Waste Land”

3:00 pm Break

3:30 pm Donald Beecher (Carleton University, Ottawa)
“Singing for Cleofe: Dufay at the Malatesta Court”

4:15 pm Concert

5:00 pm Reception on loggia of Royce 306

Friday, December 1, 2006
UCLA, Royce Hall 314 (morning session only)

8:30 am Coffee

9:00 am Italo Pantani (University of Rome)
“From ‘diva’ to ‘dea’: Poetic Transfigurations of Sigismondo’s beloved Isotta degli Atti”

9:45 am Pier Giorgio Pasini (Art Historian)
“La corte dei Malatesta e l’arte”

10:30 am Break

10:45 am Joanna Woods-Marsden ( University of California, Los Angeles)
“How Sigismondo Malatesta Used Art”

11:30 am Joseph Rykwert ( University of Pennsylvania)
“A Pantheon for the Malatesta?”

12:15 pm Lunch

Getty Research Institute, Getty Center Drive 1200 (Afternoon session only)

2:30 pm Franco Cardini (University of Florence)
Presentation of the facsimile of Roberto Valturio’s De re militari

3:30 pm Reception and Special Collections Tours with Presentation
(Four tour options available, maximum twenty per tour)

Saturday, December 2, 2006
UCLA, Royce Hall 314

9:30 am Coffee

10:00 am Ferruccio Farina (University of Urbino, Italy)
“Francesca da Rimini: Le fortune artistiche e il mito tra Europa e America”

10:45 am Roberto Fedi (University for Foreigners, Perugia)
“Noble Tales for the Most Noble Lovers: From Francesca to Giulietta”

11:30 am Paolo Fabbri (University of Venice)
“Paolo breaks his silence”

12:15 pm Lunch on loggia of Royce 306

1:45 pm Marina Montesano (University of Genoa)
“Mala Testa. Some notes about Malatesta’s Heraldic Symbols”

2:30 pm Elisa Tosi Brandi (University of Bologna)
“Sumptuous Dress. Women’s Fashion and Symbols of Power at the Malatesta Court”

3:15 pm Amilcare Iannucci (University of Toronto)
“Francesca da Rimini: Passion and Punishment”

4:00 pm Closing Remarks
Lauro Martines (University of California, Los Angeles)

For information please contact:
The UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
call 310-825-1880 or

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