Margaret King shows what the death of a little boy named Valerio Marcello over five hundred years ago can tell us about his time.
This child, scion of a family of power and privilege at Venice's time of greatness, left his father in a state of despair so profound and so public that it occasioned an outpouring of consoling letters, orations, treatises, and poems. In these documents, we find a firsthand account, richly colored by humanist conventions and expectations, of the life of the fifteenth-century boy, the passionate devotion of his father, the feelings of his brothers and sisters, the striking absence of his mother. The father's story is here as well: the career of a Venetian nobleman and scholar, patron and soldier, a participant in Venice's struggle for dominion in the north of Italy.
Through these sources also King traces the cultural trends that made Marcello's century famous. Her work enlarges our view of the literature of consolation, which had a distinctive tradition in Venice, and shifting attitudes toward death from the late Middle Ages onward.
For the depth and acuity of its insights into political, cultural, and private life in fifteenth-century Venice, this book will be essential reading for students of the Renaissance. For the grace and drama of its storytelling, it will be savored by anyone who wishes to look into life and death in a palace, and a city, long ago.