This essay on Medieval Genoa is written by Professor Stephen A. Epstein of the History Department of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Professor George L. Gorse of the Art History Department of Pomona College, Claremont, CA
After visiting Genoa in 1352, Petrarch (Le familiari, 14, 5, 23-5) wrote an important, early humanist laudation to city life, stressing the close relationship of Genoa to Nature and the landscape in an idealized, Virgilian pastoral-arcadian mode: “[Genoa] seemed to me not an earthly place, but a celestial abode which the poets place in the Elysian Fields, as the peaks of the hills [rise] with their amenable paths [above] the fertile little valleys and in these valleys [live] happy people. Who would not have gazed with amazement from high [on the surrounding hills] at the towers and palaces, nature vanquished by man, the rough hills covered by citrons, vineyards and olive groves, the buildings of marble at the foot of the hills, second to no one in royalty and enviable to any city?”
Art and architecture in medieval Genoa played a major role in creating this idealized, Golden Age classical image of the city–a rebirth of Mediterranean trading cities, to cite Henri Pirenne–in symbiotic relationship to its natural harbor site: a maritime theatre of art representing the particular interests of business, family, religious and communal patrons. Three themes are central to Genoese medieval art and architecture: appropriation, spoliation, and transformation.
From its Lombard background and Mediterranean ascent, Genoa appropriated diverse cultures, representing its feudal and […]