A note on Palmieri’s account of the 1454 St. John’s procession

I’ve been working on two separate reply posts, especially the related subject of Ross’s interesting 1457 Sforza-Ferrara post, but thought I'd get this note off my chest in the interim….

The translated Palmieri passage in question from Newbigin’s webpage
http://www-personal.usyd.edu.au/~nnew41 ... on1454.pdf
11.The Templum Pacis with the pageant-wagon of the Nativity to do its rappresentazione.
The Arrival of the Madman
And it happened that, when the pageant-wagon was in front of the Signoria, and Octavian had
got off his horse and gone up onto the pageant-wagon, under, or rather, into the temple, to
begin his rappresentazione, there arrived a mad German, wearing just a thin shirt, and at the
foot of the pageant-wagon he asked: “Where is the King of Aragon?” Somebody answered
him: “There he is,” and pointed to Octavian. The German got up onto the pageant-wagon, and
lots of people thought he was one of the people who had to appear in the festa, so nobody
stopped him. First of all he took the idol that was in the temple and hurled it into the square,
then he turned to Octavian who was dressed in a very rich robe of peacock-purple velvet
embroidered with gold, and took hold of him and tossed him head over heels onto the people
into the square, then he climbed up a column of the temple to get up so some small boys who
were standing on the top of the temple dressed as angels, and when he did so, bystanders
reached him with the maces they had in their hands, and by striking him heavily, with great
difficulty they brought him to the ground, but he got up again, and tried to climb up again
until, struck repeatedly by the maces from above and below, he was finally overcome.
I took the liberty of contacting Newbigin back in January 2017 per the below, regarding a related article of hers (quoted below): "Rewriting John the Baptist: Building a history of the San Giovanni edifici," Spunti e ricerche, 22 (2007):5-27. https://www.academia.edu/20319205/_Rewr ... _2007_5-27
Given the tight relations between Cosimo and F. Sforza (formal allies in 1454) is it not possible the Temple of Peace celebrated the Peace of Lodi from earlier that spring, and that Alfonso - a later signatory (in 1455 I believe) - was singled out by a 'German madman' who was actually an actor meant to defame the King of Aragon? The double means of dissociating Florence from this event - both foreign and mad - seems all too convenient. Re. "The fifth edificio was particularly complex, consisting of the TempIe of Peace and the Nativity....lt arrived in the piazza accompanied by a cavalcade with the Emperor Octavian Augustus Caesar and the Sibyl. The Emperor went up onto the edificio to make a sacrifice before an idol, only to be attacked by a matto tedesco ("mad German") who mistook him for the King of Aragon."
Newbigin was dubious (reply from Feb 2017):
My apologies for the delay in replying. What you propose is not impossible, but I think it is unlikely. The overriding decorum of the event would have precluded such a devious intervention because of the risk of "scandalo." But Palmieri's narrative does, as you say, dissociate Florence from the intervention by attributing it to an outsider. I have since published a sidenote to the play in "Il piede di Ottaviano" which I have posted on Academia.
Let me know what comes out of this work.
The “decorum” she speaks of would have been especially acute in 1454 as the St. John’s procession was reformed with religious floats taking the limelight (but non-canonical works, such as that regarding the Sibyls, still allowed classical personages such as Octavian to make appearances). What I have since stumbled across in Trexler, however, indicates a rationale for the planned entertainment of a certain prince who was present at the 1454 procession:
When Alfonso, duke of Calabria, was in Florence for the celebration of the Baptist, for example, ‘a dispute arose as to how one should arrange to have him see our feast.” Some time before, our source tells us [uncertain date], the Anjou pretender to Alfonso’s title had been in the city for the same feast, making it as difficult now to honor Alfonso without offending the pretender as it had been to honor Jean d’Anjou without offending the Aragonese. The government decided to duplicate the earlier protocol….In other words, when Jean d'Anjou attended the festival in 1454 no way could be found for the Frenchman and the Signoria to watch the procession of floats together without injuring their honor and that of of the Aragonese claimants (R. Trexler, Public Life in Renaissance Florence . 1980: 327).
The solution was apparently to build two separate canopied viewing platforms in the same piazza so that Jean was not directed seated among the Signoria (which could have signaled explicit alliance), although Trexler (or his source?) provides no details on that particular solution, but proximity to visiting dignitaries was always at the forefront of Florentine desires and protocols.

Certainly the same concern for decorum in Trexler's source is self-evident and Florence had no interest in supporting the Angevin claims to Naples after being saddled with the debt of Sforza’s just concluded war. And yet an apparently random event (the German mad man), as a means of entertaining their Angevin guest in 1454, wouldn’t have been beyond the pale. Alfonso’s own triumphal parade into Naples featured a float presented by the Florentine contingent, that featured a related emperor, Julius Caesar, who carried a scepter and wore a laurel wreath, who saluted Alfonso while figuratively presenting him with his throne and crown (formerly worn by the Angevins). A Roman emperor in a triumph-like parade in Florence, specifically called the "King of Naples" with Jean d’Anjou as a witness hardly seems accidental. Palmieri was a Medici insider and would have known if the German mad man was a “plant”, if in fact he was, to entertain the Angevin, but must stick to the fiction that it is was random in his published account (Liber de Temporibus), even if privately amused by the insider's joke ( and why else does Palmieri introduce the mad men with his own subtitled section, as if part of the program, and the timing of the episode to occur "in front of the Signoria"?). Tellingly, the added detail of the mad men having been beaten with maces (who knows how seriously - the episode reads like a Keystone Cops scene as they fail to subdue to him the first time and he climbs the float a second time) absolves the Florentines of all culpability.

The bottom line is that the Florentines went to great lengths to entertain visiting princes and Jean’s disposition towards the King of Naples was no state secret: Five years later he invaded Naples in 1459, allied with Sigismondo Malatesta. The naming of the Angevin's rival in a negative light, in Jean's presence, seems otherwise extremely coincidental.


(edit: added details about the Florentine "Emperor float" in Alfonso's triumphal parade in Feb., 1443)

Re: A note on Palmieri’s account of the 1454 St. John’s procession

Thanks for this note, Phaeded, putting the "madman" episode in a political context.

For anyone new to the forum (since this topic was last discussed in 2016), Phaeded introduced this topic back in Dec. 2014, quoting the same passage translated by Newbigin, for which see Phaeded at viewtopic.php?p=15822#p15822, and related posts. It was discussed again in connection with Pratesi's note on Processions etc, as translated at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1092&start=30#p17993, with the whole procession described on pp. 13-15 of the note.

For my attempt to relate the 22 motifs of the procession in which the madman intrudes to the 22 of the tarot sequence, see my post at viewtopic.php?p=18516#p18516.

Newbigin's more recent article is at http://www.academia.edu/30227114/Il_pie ... lOrso_2016. I do not see anything relevant there for us, but I have not studied it closely.

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