Magnificence, Dignity, and the Sociopolitical Function of Architectural Ornament: Cortesi’s Discussion of the Cardinal’s Architectural Patronage

Article published in Renaissance Quarterly 76 (1), 2023

Nele De Raedt
Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. ©Flavia Rossi
Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. ©Flavia Rossi

By concentrating on Paolo Cortesi’s discussion of the cardinal’s architectural patronage in “De Cardinalatu Libri Tres” (1510), this article shows how Cortesi considered the construction of a sumptuous residence not as a sign of “magnificence” (“magnificentia”) but as a necessary operation to establish “dignity” (“dignitas”). Cortesi thus distinguished between the ethical and political-aesthetic dimension of magnificence, defining virtuous patronage in terms of honoring God and being of service, and sumptuous display as a means to acquire authority. This distinction also sheds new light on Cortesi’s treatment of the exterior architectural ornament that should be applied to the cardinal’s residence.


Article published online in Renaissance Quarterly by Cambridge University Press: 17 April 2023, pp. 1-38


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