Florence "city of the arts" and the French
The object of this conference is to examine the role of the French in the construction of a myth of Florence as a "city of the arts" in history, art history and diverse forms of artistic production. In Florence, more than anywhere else in Italy, the beauty of the city, the urban landscape, the great artists and their masterpieces were subject to a veritable process of cultural mythologizing starting in the 19th century. Florence thus appears in French culture as an ideal and central location whose representations have an enormous impact on the general conception of the arts, of humanism, of the Italian Renaissance, of artistic genius. If the persistence of the Florentine myth has been well-documented by our European neighbors, particularly in England and Germany, the presence of the French in Florence, the importance of the Florentine myth and its intellectual and artistic evolution in France remain comparatively neglected by critics.
This conference aims to illustrate how Florentine works of art, artists and cultural hotspots were perceived and received by the French, the sorts of consideration and critical analysis generated in intellectual circles by the study of works of art, but also the numerous poetic evocations of the city, of Florentine art as well as the history of the Medici family in artistic and literary works in France (literature, plastic arts, music, photography, cinema). In addition to purely historiographical subjects, the conference will also focus on representations of Florence in other forms of artistic and intellectual activity, as well as in publishing production, print images and certain types of cultural industries which have continued to promote the Florentine myth in France up to the present.
For the Florentines as well as the French, the historical origins of the myth are often quite ancient, sometimes even contemporary with the creation of Florence as a "city of the arts" during the Renaissance. The influence of Florentine art in France, Franco-Florentine relations and the history of the Medici family's' "patronage" may constitute the subject of an introductory discussion. However, the main focus will be the relationship between the Florentine myth and the Romantic spirit in France, the 19th-century resurgence of interest in medieval and Renaissance arts, the rise of historical schools of thought, the development of public library collections, the trend of long journeys, etc. The conference will thus focus on the period (between 1850 and the Second World War) during which the myth of Florence became ingrained among writers, collectors and artists, followed by the rapid diffusion of these ideas and images among the social elites via education, reading and extensive travel, and ending up in a sort of democratization of the myth, in the first half of the 20th century, with the development of cultural tourism.