Designed to Impress: Guido Mazenta’s Plans for the Entry of Gregoria Maximiliana of Austria into Milan (1597)

With an edition of Madrid MS 2908

by Janis Bell , Elisa Ruiz Garcia (University of Madrid, Spain), Silvio Leydi , Stefano Bruzzese

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The book is a clearly-structured and well-written account of the sources and context in which the Milanese Guido Mazenta planned the Triumphal Entry of Gregoria into Milan. It offers a transcription of MS 2908 made by Elisa Ruiz Garcia, an extremely interesting source material, with a useful introduction on the iconography of the project identifying the emblematic and allegorical sources used by to construct the program for the welcoming of Gregoria Maximiliana into Milan, a failed project by Mazenta.
Janis Bell, Stefano Bruzzese and Silvio Leydi, in the first three chapters of the monograph, offer insight into this intriguing sixteenth-century figure and on his contribution to the artistic and intellectual life of Milan. Mazenta is considered a minor figure in sixteenth-century Milanese life nowadays, but his achievements are vastly underrated: he studied at the Borromeo college in Pavia, graduating in 1584 and being admitted to the college of jurisconsults of Milan in 1586. He became prefect of the Basilica of San Lorenzo building in Milan, actively dealing with the project drawn up for the dome by Martino Bassi. In 1600 he was elected among the sixty decurions of the Milanese administration, and in 1605, he was chosen to fill the position of vicar of provision. The authors succeed in doing justice to this figure, examining Guido’s reputation as one of the central figures of the intellectual life of the city.
Milan itself, among the Renaissance cities (Florence, Rome, Venice, for instance), is still an underrated place of study considering its dynamic artistic life, especially for what concerns decorative and ephemeral arts. As Bell rightly states in the introduction, “Milan had a history of welcoming illustrious visitors with processions, decorations, and theatrical spectacles. When Milan was an independent state ruled by Ludovico Sforza before the French invasion, Sforza ordered his court artists—including Leonardo da Vinci and myriad armorers, goldsmiths, textile weavers, and carpenters—to transform the urban space into a grand theater displaying his dynastic power” (p.21). However, works such as the present monograph constitute a praiseworthy (and successful) attempt in order to re-evaluate both the city and the figures who inhabited it.
Janis Bell focuses on the role of Mazenta as collector and on his engagement in the life of the city. She mentions his association with the ‘Accademia dei Facchini della Val di Blenio’, which is testified by the painter and writer Gian Paolo Lomazzo who published a sonnet dedicated to him.
Stefano Bruzzese consequently explores a different side of Mazenta, that of the architect and, in a way, “self-made-man”, who had a general education and different interests: his knowledge is versatile and diversified, though not specific. This is emblematic of many of the men animating the cultural life of the city at the time (including the aforementioned Lomazzo).
The three first chapters shed light on the artistic life of Milan and how the project by Mazenta fits into this dynamic landscape. As Bell stated at the very beginning: “The project of 1597 occupies a transformative place as one of the first major projects undertaken after Federico Borromeo was appointed Archbishop of Milan and began to reconstruct the city as a center of modern art and architecture to rival Rome.” (i) This topic is eloquently developed by Silvio Leydi, in the third chapter, who focuses on the triumphs and festivals of the city of Milan, offering an insightful discussion on the effort of the whole city (including the various workshops) to achieve the projects.
The fourth chapter, written by Eliza Ruis Garcia, focuses on the iconography of the 1597 project.
The final transcription of the ‘Apparato’ (in Italian) is of extreme interest as it presents new sources which will certainly be very useful for researchers of the period.
Few comments on the possible public of this excellent work: the monograph can (and will) be of extreme interest to a fairly wide audience of scholars, as it is original and significant in its content. It is primarily directed to scholars of the Renaissance and Early Modern periods, historians, art historians and students of the sixteenth century. The book will also interest universities worldwide, especially in Europe and the United States, museums, libraries, booksellers, collectors and cultured readers.

Prof. Dr. Barbara Tramelli
Department of Humanities
Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy

La Biblioteca Nazionale di Spagna a Madrid conserva un manoscritto (segnato MS 2908) che fino a oggi è stato oggetto di scarsa attenzione. Si tratta del programma iconografico che nel 1597 il nobile milanese Guido Mazenta (1561? – 1613) presentò al governatore spagnolo della città meneghina per l’imminente passaggio in città (e conseguente entrata trionfale) di Gregoria Massimiliana (1581-1597), cugina dell’imperatore Rodolfo II (appartenente al ramo austriaco degli Asburgo). [...] , il punto forte del libro è quello di partire da un documento per sviluppare un contesto, indagando in più direzioni. [...]

[Extract from book review (Italian) at 'Letteratura artistica.' Reviewer: Giovanni Mazzaferro. January 2024.]

Soon after celebrating the appointment of Federico Borromeo to Archbishop, the city of Milan began planning elaborate festivities to celebrate the betrothal of Prince Philip, future King of Spain, to the niece of the Holy Roman Emperor, Gregoria Maximiliana. She was scheduled to travel through Milan in 1597 on her journey to Spain. Guido Mazenta, a private citizen, planned for the erection of five triumphal arches in strategic locations throughout the city. This volume includes studies of the author and his previously unrecognized importance in turn-of-the-century Milan, presents an analysis and transcription of his illustrated manuscript for the program (Biblioteca Nacional Ms. 2908), and fully examines the scope and expenses of the festivities in honor of royal visitors in the second half of the sixteenth century. Although Gregoria died before the planned celebration, many of its features were transferred to the entry in 1598 of her sister, Margherita, who married Philip soon after he ascended to the throne as Philip III of Spain. This celebration left a permanent mark on the city of Milan through the construction of the Porta Romana.

Scholars of early modern European art and history will find a richness of new archival documentation, particularly those interested in the history of book and art collecting and in economic history. The essays in this volume bring to light the important role of a private citizen whose reputation was later deliberately obscured to cover the ignominy that led to his exile from Milan. Janis Bell and Stefano Bruzzese discuss the author and his activities, Silvio Leydi discusses the many elaborate festivities conducted for royal visitors to the city of Milan during the Hapsburg reign and the expenses involved in hosting their courts, and Elisa Ruiz Garcia presents a detailed examination of the program and the sources used by the author.

List of Figures
List of Tables

Prefazione and Preface
Rossana Sacchi

Janis Bell

Janis Bell

Chapter 1 Guido Antonio Mazenta (c. 1561-1613)
Janis Bell

Chapter 2 Guido Mazenta, erudito e architetto “specolativo”
Stefano Bruzzese

Chapter 3 Asburgo a Milano. Trionfi, feste, tornei, balli e fuochi artificiati (1549-1599)
Silvio Leydi

Chapter 4 Estudio arqueológico del manuscrito 2908. La entrada real de Gregoria Maximiliana en Milán: un proyecto fallido de Guido Mazenta

Chapter 5 Edición Paleográfica del BNEM MS 2908
Eliza Ruiz Garcia, transcripción y notas

Transcripción del texto de la obra
Index of Names

Janis Bell completed her Ph.D. in Art History at Brown University and taught for 12 years at Kenyon College, a four-year liberal arts college in Ohio. She received grants from the Fulbright Commission, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies (Villa I Tatti), and the American Academy in Rome. Her principal field of study is early modern Italian art and theory, in which she has published on Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Zaccolini, and Bellori. She serves on the board of a new international journal dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. Her recent publications deal with the reception of Leonardo in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, among which is a forthcoming edition and translation of Zaccolini’s 'Prospettiva del colore.'

Stefano Bruzzese majored in Philosophy and received his Ph.D. in Art History and Criticism from the University of Studies in Milan. He has written numerous studies on art and literature from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries. He edited an edition of the letters of Guido Cagnola, a Lombard collector who was close to Bernard Berenson (2012), and a critical edition of the earliest history of the Milanese school by Antonio Francesco Albuzi (written in the late 1700s). He has completed a monograph on the Mazenta family in the Milan of Federico Borromeo and is currently preparing a study of the correspondence between Austen Henry Layard and Giovanni Morelli.

Silvio Leydi, Ph.D. studied in Bologna, Turin and Florence (Villa I Tatti). His main interests lie in the social and material history of the sixteenth century, with a focus on Lombardy and Northern Italy. He has collaborated on miscellaneous volumes and international exhibitions, in which he has contributed essays and entries on the workshops of Milanese armorers, sculptors, medalists, crystal makers. He has published books on the imperial image in Milan in the sixteenth century (1999) and on the Milanese families d’Adda di Sale (2008) and Annoni (2015). He is currently preparing an edition of the 'Memorie' of the Milanese notary Giovan Pietro Fossano (1512-1559).

Elisa Ruiz Garcia is Professor at the University of Madrid. She received her Ph.D. in Classic Philology at UCM, served as Professor of Greek in INEM, and is currently Emeritus Professor of Paleography and Diplomacy at UCM. In 2007, she became a member of the Spanish Royal Academy of History, and in 2017 she received the medal of Les Palmes Académiques of France. She has organized numerous exhibitions, and has published articles in professional journals and fourteen books, the most recent of which are 'Cartas a una mujer. Mathilde Pomès' (2017), 'Devocionario cisterciense de Herrenalb' (2017), 'El sueño del gran pájaro. Estudio del Códice sobre el vuelo de los pájaros de la Biblioteca Real de Turín' (2019), 'El monasterio de Guadalupe y la Inquisición' (2019), and 'Artemidoro de Éfeso. La interpretación de los sueños' (2021). Her study of BNF (Paris) MS Fr. 2929 is currently in press.

architecture; history of art; economic history; social history; history of collecting; book collecting; history of architecture; patronage; architectural theory; Italian art; Lombard art; Milanese art; iconography

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title
Designed to Impress: Guido Mazenta’s Plans for the Entry of Gregoria Maximiliana of Austria into Milan (1597)
Book Subtitle
With an edition of Madrid MS 2908
Number of pages
Physical size
236mm x 160mm
14 B&W
Publication date
May 2023