The musical culture of La Concezione : devotion, politics and elitism in post-Tridentine Florence



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The musical culture of the female monastic institution called La Concezione, or il monastero nuovo, reflected the political, social and devotional objectives of the Medici court. In 1562, at the close of the Council of Trent, the convent was founded through the last testament of Grand Duchess Eleonora de Toledo de'Medici with the support of Grand Duke Cosimo I's personal knighthood-- the Cavalieri di Santo Stefano. Glorified as a "reformed" institution reflecting the piety of Florence and the rectitude of the Medici family, the public image of the convent required strict adherence to Catholic Reformation ideals of female virtue. Musically, the women of the convent restricted their public performance to monophonic chant. The only universally approved music for monastics, chant was thought to be the most appropriate form of public musical devotion for the virginal daughters of the court. In private, the patrician women perhaps enjoyed the popular polyphonic music that the vast resources of their families, the Florentine court, and their superiors, afforded them. The public image of perfection was of the utmost importance to the Medici; polyphonic performance was only allowed in the most private spaces of the cloister--away from the public eyes and ears. A counter-example to recent scholarship, this view of female monastic music is in contrast to studies that have highlighted examples of wealthy convents that actively sought opportunities for polyphonic performance as part of their public character. This dissertation relies on various extant archival documents of the convent, the Order of Santo Stefano and the Medici family in an examination of the role that music played in both the public and private spheres of the most elite convent of early modern Florence.