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Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in…
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Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence (1986)

by Gene Brucker

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193291,797 (3.64)5
  1. 00
    The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis (jcbrunner)
    jcbrunner: While Giovanni and Lusanna never approach Martin Guerre's judicial and marital problems, both are short and sweet micro histories.
  2. 00
    Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence: The Courtauld Wedding Chests by Caroline Campbell (jcbrunner)
    jcbrunner: The sumptuous wedding chests on display at the Londoner Courtauld Gallery offers a glimpse into the wealth and power the socially inferior Lusanna was fighting against.
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A serendipitous find in the Florentine archives offers us a glimpse of a tumultuous relationship between an upper class banker and a middle class widow of the 15th century, micro history at its best. While the barren (and at first married) Lusanna was an attractive lover for Giovanni Della Casa, the equation changed when it turned to perpetuating a dynasty. The fallout of this change and the resulting canonical lawsuit highlights both gender and social relations in Renaissance Florence.

Overall, a great case and a lucky find that ultimately does not attain the gold standard set by Natalie Zemon Davis in The Return of Martin Guerre. Having told his story, Brucker does not dig deep enough in his analysis of the different power relations, leaving much of the interpretation to the reader. ( )
  jcbrunner | Jul 11, 2010 |
In 1455, in Florence, Lusanna di Benedetto, a widow of the artisanal class, brought suit against the noble, Giovanni della Casa, attempting to prove that he had secretly married her, and that, therefore, his publicly celebrated marriage to another was bigamous.

Professor Brucker has taken the simple records of this lawsuit and has used them as the framework for a short, but information-packed, account of Florentine society in the 14th-century. This story of a woman who challenged class and hierarchy in order to protect her reputation and prove the legitimacy of her marriage has a great deal to teach us about the legal process of the time, the interplay and tension between civil and church authority, the relationship between social classes, gender norms, and, of course, marriage laws and customs. This book shows Brucker as not only a scholar, but a story-teller, one who can turn the dry papers of the law courts into a fascinating human narrative. In particular, he brings Lusanna and Giovanni to life. We can almost feel what they felt, and understand how their upbringing, social positions and expectations brought them, first, together, and then into conflict. I was, frankly, surprised to find how much I had learned from a book of slightly over 100 pages!

As one who believes that one of the great disadvantages of closed stacks and internet search engines is the minimized opportunity for digression and serendipitous finds, I was delighted to read that this book was the result of Professor Brucker's fascination with a story that he came across while doing research into another matter at the Florentine State Archives. Indeed, he temporarily abandoned that research to concentrate on this story. A man after my own heart!
1 vote lilithcat | Jul 21, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520063287, Paperback)

This compelling account of a wronged woman in Renaissance Florence, first published in 1986, is a fascinating view of Florentine society and its attitudes on love, marriage, class, and gender. Lusanna was a beautiful woman from a middle-class background who, in 1455, brought suit against Giovanni, her aristocratic lover, when she learned he had contracted to marry a woman of his own class. Blending scholarship with insightful narrative, the book portrays an extraordinary woman who challenged the unwritten codes and barriers of the social hierarchy and dared to seek a measure of personal independence in a male-dominated world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:57 -0400)

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