[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2014.
In most Renaissance courts particular kinds of vessels or galleys used for state ceremonies
and prepared with appropriate lavishness for this purpose were usually called bucintori.
The primary function of these boats was to celebrate the owner in public, to display
the ‘public body’ of princes with appropriate magnificence and to receive visitors,
ambassadors or brides in the most sumptuous manner possible, as well as for luxurious
hunting and fishing trips, concerts and theatrical representations. For this reason,
the entire bucintoro was gilded or painted; balustrades, columns, vases and statues
decorated its hull; embroidered pennons, flags and upholstery enriched the mast, the
lateen and the seats; and, finally, the deck of the bucintori were fitted with a room
that functioned as a private stateroom or Hall of State, usually decorated with embroidered
and painted panels. In this work I propose to analyse the particular case of the Estense
bucintori between 1438 and 1598, through original documents which have not previously
been studied, to show the important role they played in the political strategies of
the Estense duchy and to exemplify how these boats were seen by observers from other
Italian Renaissance courts. For this reason, I shall consider several interesting
ceremonies occurred in Ferrara in which bucintori played an important role, also explaining
the complex and variegated meanings of the different embroidered symbols that decorated
the staterooms of these barges. I will also examine the particular painters and embroiderers
who carried out the heraldic panels and, by means of these analyses, it will become
apparent that among the workers there were different levels of experience and specialisation
and, moreover, that there were obvious differences between professional and amateur
embroiderers, men and women, court professionals and ‘superstars’.