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"That the Practice of Arms is Most Excellent Declare the Statues of Valiant Men": The Luccan War and Florentine Political Ideology in Paintings by Uccello and Castagno

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The events of 1429–1433, the Luccan War, are of interest to art historians: the battle-scenes in Uccello's ‘Battle of San Romano’ are generally thought to represent one of the skirmishes in the war that took place in 1432, while his commemorative fresco of John Hawkwood and Andrea del Castagno's of Niccolò da Tolentino relate to the Florentine political context of the 1430s. The documentation of these works is re-examined and an account is offered of their commission, suggesting a relative chronology, probable function and intended meaning: they were first and foremost vehicles for a political message. Some of their topical meaning emerges from an analysis of the political context of the Luccan War, and it is argued that all three works were intended to diffuse a political ideology that the Florentine ruling class were keen to promote at home and abroad. Consideration is also given to the significance of the Hawkwood fresco in the later development of Quattrocento equestrian imagery, and to the epideictic function of tomb monuments, commemorative frescos and ‘damnatio memoriae’ in the Renaissance.
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Keywords: Castagno; Andrea del (fresco of Niccolò; Florence; Italy (Lucca); Painting; Politics; Statuary; Uccello; Paolo (Battle of San Romano; John Hawkwood fresco); da Tolentino)

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1993-06-01

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