Diane Finiello Zervas: A Cloud of Witnesses: the suspended votive effigies at SS. Annunziata, Florence. In memory of Louisa Bulman
The votive effigies fashioned for the Servite church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence to commemorate the miraculous cures, deliverances, and thanks for prayers granted by its image of the Annunciate Virgin have long fascinated art historians, who have investigated their important patrons, various aspects of their portrait qualities, and the artists who fashioned them. What has been hitherto neglected is a serious study of the history of the effigies' creation, their increasingly complex displays within the church as it expanded - especially under the encouragement of Medici patronage in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries - and the hierarchy of typology and rank as Florentines and illustrious foreigners' vied to position their votive gifts close to the Virgin’s illustrious shrine. This study addresses some of these considerations by attempting to offer a more complete reconstruction of the effigies which formed the 'cloud of witnesses' at SS. Annunziata, and to explore their similarities with aspects of official state pageantry and the religious theatre productions in Florentine churches.
Diane Finiello Zervas received her PhD in Art History from the Johns Hopkins University in 1973. She taught at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, between 1974-1978, was a fellow at I Tatti, the Harvard Center of Renaissance Studies, between 1977-1979, and taught at the Kunsthistorisches Institute, Utrecht, in 1979-80. She has published numerous works on Florentine Renaissance art, including "The Parte Guelfa, Donatello and Brunelleschi" in 1987, "Orsanmichele a Firenze/Orsanmichele Florence" (2 vols.), for the Mirabilia Italiae series edited by S. Settis, and "Orsanmichele Documenti/Documents 1336-1452", both published by Franco Cosimo Panini in 1996. Her most recent article with Brenda Preyer is "Donatello's 'Nunziata del Sasso': The Cavalcanti chapel at S. Croce and its patrons", The Burlington Magazine CL, 2008. She is currently working on a study of Light, Wax and Devotion in the Florentine Renaissance. Since 1996 she has practiced as a Jungian psychoanalyst, also publishing and editing works on aspects of art and psychology in English and Italian.
Louisa Connor Bulman (1943 - 2008) submitted her thesis "Artistic Patronage at SS Annunziata 1440 - c1520" for a PhD at London University in 1971. From 1970 - 1975 she was Lecturer in the History of Art at Manchester University. Later, from 1988 - 2004 she was Keeper of Prints and Drawings at Eton College and published on many aspects of that collection, concentrating on the collection of eighteenth-century drawings after the antique. Examples include "The Florentine Draughtsmen in Richard Topham's Paper Museum" (Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Serie IV, Vol vii.2, 2002, pp.343 - 357 & pls. 17 - 32), and "Richard Topham's Collection of Drawings" in "John Talman: An Early-Eighteenth-Century Connoisseur" (ed. C Sicca & E.Hughes, New Haven, 2008, pp.287 - 307). Fascinated by the transformation of originals through the process of reduction, simplification or reproduction, she returned to a very different source of transmitted memory, the votive effigies at SS. Annunziata, Florence.
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