Imago triumphalis: the function and significance of triumphal imagery for Italian Renaissance rulers
This study examines the manner in which independent rulers in fifteenth-century Italy used the motif of the Roman triumph or pompa triumphalis for self-aggrandizement and personal expression. Rulers such as Alfonso of Aragon, Federico da Montefeltro, Sigismondo Malatesta, and Borso d'Este, each chose to incorporate triumphal iconography in the visual construction of their own personal mythology.Triumphal imagery, replete with connotations of victory and splendor, was recognized in the Renaissance as a reflection of the glory of classical antiquity. Its popularity relied on the fact that the image of the triumphal procession could at once suggest victory, antiquity, perpetuity, and power. The imagery's malleability allowed it to both retain its classical associations and function as a highly personalized commentary. Triumphal imagery incorporated visual associations and decorative possibilities that were fundamentally regal and laudatory, qualities that were enticing for any ruler.The appeal of the motif and its power as a visual bearer of meaning is evident in its appearance as a decorative theme in Renaissance literature, art and architecture. Authors such as Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch used the model of the antique triumph as an allegorical tool to express the Triumph of Christian virtue. By the Quattrocento, the theme of the triumph had evolved into an artistic concetto that embodied not only the classical past but also the virtue of the Christian faith. The flexibility and inherent hieratic quality of triumphal imagery made it a significant and dominant feature in the visual propaganda of fifteenth-century rulership.This study addresses the purpose triumphal imagery served for rulers who chose the motif for major artistic commissions in which they themselves are represented. It suggests, ultimately, that there was perhaps no better single image to convey the wide array of political and humanistic concepts so important in the self promotion of the Italian Renaissance ruler.
- Art history