The Heraldic Imagination in Renaissance Ferrara

Jennifer Mackenzie

In Este Ferrara, humanist and heraldic practices converged and mutually informed one another. My project considers three genres in particular that the Este dynasty patronized and that engaged in the construction and promotion of its coat of arms to local and international publics: chivalric poetry, dynastic historiography, and diplomas. Across these genres, I am looking to understand how the emotional, cultural, and legal associations of the Este coat of arms changed over the course of the late Quattrocento, through the so-called High Renaissance and Counter Reformation. I am also seeking to illuminate some of the controversies that surrounded these images as they were received abroad. The project aims to contribute to a cultural history of the coat of arms in the Italian Renaissance. In a context in which the search for a "rule of signs" was ongoing, heraldry was a site of major advances in image law, even as alternative avenues for producing visual norms were developed, to reveal the law’s cultural and political limits.


This project was part of the Minerva Research Group The Nomos of Images. Manifestation and Iconology of Law.


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