Joanna II of Anjou-Durazzo, the Glorious Queen
By Serena Ferente
Renaissance Studies in Honor of Joseph Connors (Harvard University Press, 2013)
Introduction: “The glorious queen”: historians would hesitate to attribute the epithet to Joanna II of Anjou-Durazzo, queen of Naples from 1414 to 1435. Yet the words are those of her contemporary, the palace’s majordomo and memorialist Loise De Rosa (1385–after 1475). Loise wrote fondly of his queen and patron, the same Joanna who appears in early modern and modern historiography as the weak, lustful sovereign of a kingdom in decline, the last scion of a dynasty that had ruled over Naples for almost two centuries and whose territories had stretched, at various points in time, from Anjou and Provence to Hungary.
This short essay reflects on Queen Joanna as a test case of both the difficulties and the potential that always reside in communication and confrontation between disciplines, even when they are as closely related as history and art history. I intend this as a modest but affectionate tribute to Joseph Connors, the historian of art and architecture and the man who so graciously presided over that idyllic interdisciplinary community that is Villa I Tatti.
The negative and astonishingly resilient historiographical picture of Joanna II (so obviously rich in gendered connotations) has never been the object of specific historical analysis, but seems to date back to the second half of the fifteenth century and is probably in great part a product of the anxieties that beset the new Aragonese dynasty of kings of Naples after 1443. It is not surprising that writers at the court of Alfonso (1396– 1458) and Ferrante (1424–1494) of Aragon should give a depiction of the previous Angevin regime that served urgent propagandistic ends; what is more surprising is to find modern historians accepting and perpetuating this same image without much critical revision.