On the Road to Rome: Ephemera and Experience in Queen Christina's Italy

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Manna, Chantal
Queen Christina of Sweden , Ephemera , Baroque Art , Seventeenth-Century , Italy , Sugar Sculptures , Food History
In the Fall of 1655, Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689)-the former ruler of a Lutheran nation-crossed into the Papal States as Pope Alexander VII Chigi's (1599-1667) most important Catholic convert. Her arrival was his personal victory over the Protestant Reformation (1517-1521), giving rise to a series of elaborate celebrations that lasted weeks. On the road to Rome, status, prestige, respect and hospitality were expressed through extravagant performances of power, which included ephemera, art objects, music, dance, poetry, and food. They played a central role in introducing the queen to the riches of her new homeland while also allowing the queen to carve out a unique position of importance at Pope Alexander VII's court. This dissertation explores ephemera's role in shaping Queen Christina's first journey to Rome, a short period of time filled with festivities that were as opulent as they were political. Printed treatises, drawings, and never-before published records of these sumptuous gatherings reveal how such seemingly frivolous and indulgent celebrations in fact helped establish a new social hierarchy, which inserted the queen into the competitive world of seventeenth-century Rome. Decorative objects set new rules of decorum into motion and mediated social relationships like props on a stage. Imbued with the power to reflect the social statuses of those present, Pope Alexander VII spent exorbitant sums of money on staging these elaborate performances. Procuring only the highest quality materials, provisions and hiring skilled servants as well as actors, artisans and artists of the highest calibre to participate in her grand welcome, ephemera left a powerful mark on nearly all aspects of urban life. The most important palazzi (palaces) and piazze (public squares) were transformed into monumental stages where every citizen of Rome-men and women, rich and poor, young and old-participated. From Ferrara to the tiny town of Terni, ephemeral artworks were hand crafted, and displayed as tools the court of Rome used to perform their statuses. They were used to transform Queen Christina of Sweden into Rome's "regina" (its "pseudo-queen").
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