October 23-24, 2015

Marines’ Memorial Theatre, San Francisco

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renaissance mastersUffizi_GiottoThe Italian Renaissance represents a high point of early Western European culture. Italian writers and artists first recaptured and reinvigorated the artistic accomplishments of classical antiquity. The republican communes erected monumental civic palaces and other major architectural works, such as fortifications and public fountains. Duccio, Giotto, Simone Martini, and Giovanni Pisano entered new territory in painting and sculpture, paving the way for later artists such as Masaccio and Brunelleschi. Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio wrote their masterpieces in verse and prose, which Chaucer would later retrieve and reimagine in the English language. The music of the Trecento and Ars Nova paralleled the significant achievements in art, architecture, and literature.  

Commemorating the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth and presented in collaboration with the Consul General of Italy in San Francisco, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Leonardo da Vinci Society, and the Department of History, Stanford.

Friday, October 23, 2015

7:30-9:30 pm

TimRayborn backshot01How the Renaissance Began / Paula Findlen (Stanford). What inspired the creative impulses that we associate with the Italian Renaissance? When we consider the age of Leonardo, Machiavelli, and their contemporaries, we see the Renaissance in its maturity without fully understanding how such a world began. The roots of many features of the Italian Renaissance can be found in a world of commerce, politics, faith, and culture that emerged during the Middle Ages. The world before and immediately after the arrival of plague in western Europe in 1347-48–shaped by ambitious merchants, a papacy absent from Rome, new experiments in politics– gave birth to a society that would ultimately see itself as being “reborn” in some fundamental sense at the dawn of an era that came to be known as the Renaissance.

Performance: The Ars Nova and Beyond: Italian Music from the Borders of the Renaissance / Shira Kammen (early strings and voice), Tim Rayborn (percussion, lute, and voice), and Phoebe Jevtovic Rosquist (voice). 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Courtly Culture at the Dawn of the Renaissance / Carol Lansing (UC Santa Barbara)

In the early Renaissance rising, urban merchants adopted models derived not only from Antiquity, but also from multi-cultural southern Italy. This is a lost history: after 1260 and the defeat of the Emperor Frederick II and his sons, it was politically easier to imagine that culture came from France and the north. But in truth, the vibrant southern mix of Greek, Jewish, Muslim and Latin influences produced fascinating worlds, major centers of intellectual and artistic life. Frederick and his sons were military leaders who also wrote treatises and exquisite love poetry. Frederick travelled in the north for decades, building a chain of massive forts that included elegant palaces decorated with classicizing sculpture. Frederick’s travelling court included not only his elephant and hunting leopards and his troop of Muslim archers, but his gold and enamel throne. This culture profoundly influenced the fascination of young townsmen like Dante and his contemporaries with love poetry, knighthood and courtliness.

Italian Civic Palaces in the Age of the City-Republics / Max Grossman (University of Texas at El Paso). With the death of Emperor Frederick II in 1250 and the subsequent defeat of his Hohenstaufen successors by the Angevins and their Guelph allies, the city-states of central and northern Italy enjoyed a long period of political autonomy and economic prosperity that paved the way for what has come to be called the “Italian Renaissance.” During the century leading up to the Black Death of 1348, major Italian cities projected their power and authority by constructing monumental civic palaces, which were embellished with sumptuous marble ornament and sophisticated cycles of frescoes. The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, and Palazzo Ducale in Venice are among the most celebrated examples. An analysis of their architecture and decorative programs reveals much about the culture and civilization of the republican age.

memorial to dante

The Subtle Art: Courtly Love at the Beginning of the Renaissance / Calextone, with Allison Zelles Lloyd (voice and medieval harp), Frances Blaker (recorders and hackbrett), Letitia Berlin (recorders and douçaine), and Shira Kammen (vielle and rebec

Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio: The Perspectives of Literature in the Early Renaissance / David Lummus (Stanford). The literary works of the “three crowns of Florence” have long been recognized as monumental achievements of human genius. Their works, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Petrarch’s Canzoniere, and Boccaccio’s Decameron, all respond to crises, both individual and cultural, of human solitude, historical isolation, and the uncontrollable events that shape the lives of men. They are poetic universes that provide new perspectives on the world and help confront, if not answer, the fundamental questions of human life. This lecture will address how each author uses literature to try to come to terms with mankind’s changing place in the cosmos. It will conclude by addressing how their works and worldviews were translated and transmitted across Europe, becoming–from Chaucer onward–models for using the powers of the imagination to understand and perhaps overcome the limitations of human existence.

Performance: Dante Across the Centuries. Featuring Julija Zibrat (violin), introduced by Kayleen Asbo

  • Violin Sonata No. 2, “Obsession”   (Eugene Ysaye, 1923)
  • Violin Sonata No. 2, “Melancholia” (Eugene Ysaye, 1923)

Panel Discussion with Presenters

4 pm Conclusion

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Presenters & Resources


kayleen smallKayleen Asbo has multidisciplinary expertise as a professor of music and psychology at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, pre-concert lecturer for the San Francisco Opera and the Santa Rosa Symphony, and lecturer at Dominican University and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC Berkeley on multidisciplinary courses focused on the integration of psychology, myth, cultural history, music and art. She has a PhD in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute, an MA in Psychology and the Expressive Arts from Meridian University, and a Masters of Music from San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Dr. Asbo performs and lectures widely and conducts art tours across the Bay Area and in Europe.

Calextone, a new East-Bay ensemble, whose members have performed around the world and across the United States, is comprised of Allison Zelles Lloyd (voice and medieval harp), Frances Blaker (recorders and hackbrett), Letitia Berlin (recorders and douçaine), and Shira Kammen (vielle and rebec).

findlenPaula Findlen (PhD, UC Berkeley) is Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History; Chair of the Department of History; Director of the Suppes Center for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology Director, SIMILE Program, at Stanford. Her teaching and research examine how scientific knowledge emerged in the context of humanistic approaches to the world in order to understand how science, medicine and technology have become central to contemporary society. Her other principal interest lies in understanding the Italian Renaissance, a society that made politics, economics and culture so important to its self-definition, and that succeeded, as the legacy of such figures as Machiavelli and Leonardo suggests. Renaissance Italy, in short, is a historical laboratory for understanding the possibilities and problems of an innovative society. Selected publications include Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (2003); (with Michelle Fontaine and Duane Osheim, eds.), Beyond Florence: The Contours of Medieval and Early Modern Italy (2003); and The Italian Renaissance: Essential Readings (2002).

Grossman2Max Grossman (PhD, Columbia University) is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Texas at El Paso. Prior to UTEP he taught at San Jose State and at Stanford. His dissertation on the Sienese Republic in the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance is a comprehensive study of the total architectural production of an Italian city-state. His research focuses on the political iconography of the Sienese commune, as manifest in painting, sculpture, architecture, coinage and manuscripts. Dr. Grossman also serves as Vice-Chair of the El Paso County Historical Commission. During summers he is Coordinator of the ROMA AETERNA summer study abroad program. His article “A Case of Double Identity: The Public and Private Faces of the Palazzo Tolomei in Siena” appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2013), and he is currently editing a volume on the artistic patronage of the Orsini family in Renaissance Latium. In 2013, he lectured for Humanities West on Bernini and Borromini in Rome.

Shira_KammenMulti-instrumentalist and vocalist Shira Kammen has spent well over half her life exploring the worlds of early and traditional music. A member for many years of the early music Ensembles Alcatraz, Project Ars Nova, and Medieval Strings, and founder of Class V Music providing music on river rafting trips, she has performed and taught in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Israel, Morocco, Latvia, Russia and Japan, and on many rivers. Shira collaborated with singer/storyteller John Fleagle for fifteen years, and performs now with Fortune’s Wheel, Ephemeros, Panacea, Roguery, Cançoniér and In Bocca al Lupo; as well as with performers such as storyteller/harpist Patrick Ball, medieval music experts Margriet Tindemans and Anne Azema. She has played on soundtracks, including ‘O’, a modern high-school setting of Othello and The Nativity Story. Some of her original music can be heard in an independent film about fans of JRR Tolkien. The strangest place Shira has played is in the elephant pit of the Jerusalem Zoo.

carol lansingCarol Lansing (PhD, University of Michigan) is professor of history and a historian of early Renaissance Italy at UC Santa Barbara. Her teaching and research explores the problem of civil society: how Italian townsfolk envisioned and struggled to create a peaceful, urban community. What were the sources of conflict and where did they turn to find solutions? Her first book (The Florentine Magnates) analyzed a noble culture in many ways at odds with the needs of community. In Power and Purity, she explored struggles over religious culture, arguing that the popularity of Cathar dualist heresy was ironically an expression of confidence in self-restraint and the sacrifice needed to live in community. Passion and Order is a study of civic legislation intended to control behavior. Laws intended to curb public displays of grief, shaped by ancient models and the early Renaissance turn to Stoicism, were an effort to restrain emotions that were perceived as the source of disastrous instability as passion overwhelmed reason. Other studies draw on criminal court records to study the lives of people like concubines and con men who show up in no other sources.

LummusDavid Lummus (PhD, Stanford) is Assistant Professor of Italian at Stanford. Prior to Stanford he taught at Yale and was a Visiting Scholar at Notre Dame. He specializes in late medieval and early modern Italian literature and intellectual history. His research and teaching interests include fourteenth-century literature in Latin and the vernacular, Renaissance Humanism, medieval and early modern mythography, and the pastoral tradition. He has written on Giovanni Boccaccio, Francesco Petrarca, Dante Alighieri, Albertino Mussato, and Edoardo Sanguineti, and he is completing his book, The City of Poetry: Imagining the Role of the Poet in 14th-century Italy, which addresses the nature of the humanist revival of the classical past by examining how proto-humanist defense of poetry imagined a civic and intellectual role for the nascent humanist poet-scholar.

TimRayborn backshot01An internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, Tim Rayborn sings and plays dozens of musical instruments from medieval Europe, the Middle East, and the Balkans, including lutes, plucked strings, percussion, and flutes. He co-directs the medieval ensemble Cançonièr with Annette Bauer. He has toured extensively with Tintagel and Ensemble Florata, performed for BBC, and worked with folk musicians in Marrakech and Istanbul. Concerts include Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh; Indianapolis Early Music Festival; Kalamazoo International Medieval Congress; Tucson Early Music; Humanities West; SFEMS; San Diego Early Music; Houston Early Music; Koncert Kirken in Copenhagen; and Early Music Alberta in Edmonton. Tim has collaborated with Ensemble Alcatraz, Anne Azema, Margriet Tindemans, and Sinfonye; Kitka; Mehmet Sanlikol; Ruben Van Rampaey; Grammy nominees Linda Tillery and Alex De Grassi; and film composers for Warner Brothers. He has recorded on more than 40 CDs for labels including ASV/Gaudeamus, Wild Boar, Magnatune, EMP, and Harmonia Mundi.

PhoebePhoebe Jevtovic Rosquist’s singing spans repertoire from medieval to contemporary, with a specialty in baroque. Her voice has been reviewed as “arresting,” “haunting,” and “ravishing.” Phoebe has appeared as a soloist with the Waverly Consort, American Bach Soloists, Musica Angelica, and North Holland Opera. She has performed Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, The Bride in Stravinsky’s Les Noces (Svadebka), Amphitrite in Locke’s Tempest, Cupid in Purcell’s Timon of Athens, and Orfeo in Rossi’s Orfeo. She has collaborated with ensembles La Monica and Cançonièr, pianist Robert Thies, and Italy’s Art Monastery Project. She has toured the US and Indonesia with Gamelan X and sung Balkan & folk music with Kitka and VOCO. Phoebe has recorded for Naxos, Dorian, Nonesuch, and Sony Records. Phoebe earned a MA in Early Music Performance at USC, and has edited a book of 17th century solo songs by Tarquinio Merula, published by A&R Editions.

Julija ZibratJulija Zibrat, violin, is a graduate student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, specializing in early music. She will be the featured concerto soloist this fall for the Conservatory Baroque. Originally from Slovenia, she has performed both classical and folk music in festivals around the world.

Resource Materials

Selected Resources, Humanities West Dawn of the Italian Renaissance (October 23-24, 2015)

July 2015

Major Works

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. 1353.

—. On Famous Women. 1374.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. 1380s+.

Dante (Alighieri). The Divine Comedy. 1308-20. – Translated by Clive James

Petrarch, Francesco. Canzoniere. 1327-1368.

—. Trionfi. 1351-74.

Secondary Sources

Findlen, Paula. Beyond Florence: The Contours of Medieval and Early Modern Italy. 2003.

—. The Italian Renaissance: Essential Readings. 2002.

Lansing, Carol. A Companion to the Medieval World. co-editor with Edward English. 2008.

—. “Concubines, Lovers, Prostitutes: Infamy and Female Identity in Medieval Bologna.” in Beyond Florence, ed. Findlen, Fontaine, Osheim. 2003.

—. The Florentine Magnates: Lineage and Faction in a Medieval Commune. 1991.

—. Passion and Order: Restraint of Grief in the Medieval Italian Communes. 2007.

—. Power and Purity: Cathar Heresy in Medieval Italy. 1998.

Lummus, David. The City of Poetry: Imagining the Role of the Poet in 14th-century Italy. Forthcoming. 


http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/florence/ (Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance, 2012)

(Christine Sciatta, curator)

Metropolitan Museum of Art Timelines


Duccio (c. 1260-c.1319)

Source: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Duccio

Giotto (c. 1267-1337)

Source: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Giotto-di-Bondone