Maria Ruvoldt

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20042005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams

Maria Ruvoldt

Art History

Sleep, Dreams, and Spectacle at the Court of Francesco de’Medici

Since antiquity, dreams have been the focus of speculation both poetic and scientific. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Italy, the universal and democratic experience of dreaming became an indicator of character as poets and philosophers alike defined true dreams—those sent by God—as signs of divine favor, the purview of gifted individuals. Sleeping figures were adopted as personal emblems on portrait medals, artists and writers reported their dreams to one another, and themes of sleep and dreams became increasingly popular in the visual and literary arts.

Dr. Ruvoldt investigates how the concept of the dream gradually migrated from the private to the public sphere. As part of a larger examination of theme of sleep and dreams in sixteenth-century political propaganda and court spectacle, she will focus on the personal iconography of Francesco de’Medici (1541-1587), Grand Duke of Tuscany. Dr. Ruvoldt explores the imagery of sleep and dreams in the private spaces of the prince’s bedroom and studiolo and in the public masques staged in honor of his weddings in 1566 and 1579. The masques in particular, the Triumph of Dreams (1566) and the Cavalcade of Night (1579), demonstrate the role that themes of sleep and dreams played in fashioning Francesco’s public identity. His ability to place before the eyes of his public a dream fully realized places Francesco in the role of God, controlling and directing the visionary experience of his subjects.

Building on Dr. Ruvoldt’s work on sleep and dreams in Renaissance art and on the work of historians of theatre and Medicean dynastic imagery, this project will be the first study of the cult of dreams at Francesco’s court.