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Heraldry in the Trecento Madrigal

Heraldry in the Trecento Madrigal

By Sarah M. Carleton

PhD Dissertation, University of Toronto, 2009

Abstract: This study investigates a repertoire of eighteen madrigals whose texts refer to heraldry, all of which were composed in trecento Italy. The hereditary and personal arms cited in the song texts are those of the Visconti, Della Scala and Carrara families of northern Italy. Though these madrigals have been used in the past as a means for dating manuscripts and reconstructing composer biographies, they have never been studied as a discrete repertoire. This study applies musicological, heraldic and art historical approaches to the repertoire in order to investigate the heraldic madrigal as a manifestation of political authority in trecento Italy.

Part One offers background information necessary to the understanding of the heraldic madrigal repertoire. Chapter 1 presents a glossary of heraldic terminology, and an overview of the role of heraldry in late medieval life, art and literature, focusing on heraldry as a means of representing ideas of authority and identity in the late Middle Ages. Chapter 2 defines the heraldic madrigal and discusses the stylistic features unique to this repertoire. This chapter also considers the heraldic madrigal in the context of contemporary musical repertoires such as the Italian motet and the songs of the French ars subtilior. Chapter 3 presents a critical edition of heraldic madrigal texts with translations.

Part Two consists of case studies. Chapter 4 explores the link between Jacopo da Bologna’s madrigal Aquila altera and the references to the Holy Trinity in the heraldry of its dedicatees, Giangaleazzo Visconti and Isabelle de Valois. Chapter 5 offers a re-evaluation of the poem La fiera testa, challenging the common opinion that the text is condemnatory. Chapter 6 considers non-musical models for the the madrigal texts Inperiale sedendo and Per quella strada, based on manuscripts owned by and dedicated to the Carrara family.

The Conclusion of this study touches briefly on the legacy of the heraldic madrigal, giving a summary of later Italian songs containing references to the heraldry of noble families, such as the Malatesta and Medici.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Toronto

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