Launch of “Italian Renaissance Courts: Art, Pleasure and Power” by Alison Cole

Pleasure and Power: The Art of the Italian Renaissance

with Alison Cole and Arts Editor of the BBC Will Gompertz

Tuesday 19th January 19:00 at Waterstones Piccadilly

Tickets are £5 (redeemable against purchase of the books on the night) and are available in-store, by telephone 0207 851 2400 or email


Italian Renaissance Courts: Art, Pleasure and Power by Alison Cole, published by Laurence King in February 2016, is a richly illustrated study of the arts and culture of the Italian Renaissance courts, focusing on the five great secular courts of Naples, Urbino, Ferrara, Mantua and Milan and their complex web of political and artistic alliances.

Italian Renaissance Courts is an authoritative history exploring the relationship between art, pleasure and power at the great secular courts of the Italian Renaissance. Packed with fresh insights from Renaissance art historian Alison Cole, this book examines the complex motivations of the princes, lords, consorts and nobles who relied on artistic patronage to promote their legitimacy and authority. It also highlights the ambitions of the artists who ‘freely’ placed their extraordinary talents at their patron’s disposal.

Major artists and architects, from Mantegna and Pisanello to Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci, were commissioned to design, paint and sculpt, but also to oversee the court’s building projects and lavish entertainments. The court artist’s role was central to a society where art was a key transmitter of propaganda and tool of diplomacy. Bronze medallions, illuminated manuscripts, portraits and rich tapestries, inspired by sources as varied as Roman coins, Byzantine ivories and French chivalric romances, were treasured and traded. Palaces were decorated, extravagant public spectacles were staged and whole cities were redesigned to bring prestige and honour.

The ‘courtly’ styles that emerged from this intricate landscape are examined in detail, bringing to life the various regional identities and ‘modern’ trends they sought to represent. Building on its classic forerunner, Virtue and Magnificence: Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts (1995), this book draws on new and original scholarship to present a vivid picture of the art of this remarkable period.

Alison Cole is a Renaissance art historian, journalist and senior strategic adviser in the arts and cultural field. She has worked on the executive boards of some of the UK’s leading arts organizations and has also written several books. She lives and works in London.


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