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Aspen and Treccani Institutes join forces for Machiavelli showcase

Aspen Institute Italia and the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana (or Treccani Institute), founded by its namesake Giovanni Treccani and chaired by Giuliano Amato, is holding an exhibition entitled “Niccolò Machiavelli. The Prince and his times. 1513-2013” in Rome at the Vittoriano Museum Complex from April 25 to June 16, 2013. Organized under the High Patronage of the President of the Italian Republic, the exhibition will mark the fifth centenary of the writing of The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.

“As things stand today”, writes Chairman of Aspen Italia Giulio Tremonti, “it is no longer possible to confine one’s focus to merely ‘local’ horizons, as an outward-looking approach is becoming increasingly ‘strategic’ in the present day. Increasingly strategic, in a world that first went from being local to international, and which now tends towards transcending even national borders and relations hence dubbed international, so that everything is becoming global. Transcending borders in order to learn, dialogue, and grow: this is and always has been the philosophy of the Aspen method, and is even more so now (...). In Machiavelli’s time, there was no Aspen, and in Aspen’s world, there is no Machiavelli. There is still however a specific lesson that Machiavelli can teach us today – an important lesson that is even more pertinent at the beginning of this new century. The lesson is that it is necessary to marry traditional knowledge with the courage to change. We cannot ignore the past, but nor can we allow ourselves to be held captive by it, in the belief that the future will see things continue just as they were. This is the seemingly old but actually very up-to-the-minute truth that comes to us from Machiavelli’s teachings”.

The exhibition is curated by Alessandro Campi in collaboration with Marco Pizzo, under the direction and overall coordination of Alessandro Nicosia. Many prestigious museums, along with a number of important private institutions and collections, have contributed to putting this landmark event together. Among others, these include: the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Casa del Machiavelli in Colmasino, the Florence State Archives, the Laurentian Library and the National Central Library of Florence, the principal museums of Florence’s Polo Museale, the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples, and the “Victor Emmanuel II” National Central Library, the Borghese Gallery, the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Central Museum of the Risorgimento, and the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

Exhibition layout
Presented in six sections, the exhibition explores the figure of Machiavelli, and traces the history of The Prince and the fortunes of this important work over the centuries. Indeed, a string of writers, politicians and intellectuals spanning the 16th century to the present day have seen Machiavelli’s treatise as providing an ideal compass, contributing to the extraordinary scale of its reach throughout the world, thanks also to its translation and publication in many different languages.

Machiavelli and his times. This section places Machiavelli’s life and times in their historical context, describing the main events and key people of the period, covering the Pazzi Conspiracy, the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the figure of Girolamo Savonarola, the Florentine Republic of Pier Soderini, and culminating in the Medici restoration. Featured among the many items on display in this section are the arrest warrant for Niccolò Machiavelli dating back to February 19, 1513 (from the Florentine State Archives), and the splendid portrait of Pope Clement VII by Sebastiano del Piombo of 1526 (from the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples).

The Art of War. This part of the exhibition offers an insight into Machiavelli’s tract on The Art of War, written between 1516 and 1520, in which the political and military convictions of the author emerge. Among the items on show are the first printed edition of the volume dated 1521, subsequent 16th-century editions of the book, and various historical works of armor.

The Prince. Forming the centerpiece of the exhibition, this section is devoted to the famous treatise The Prince, with some of the more important and prestigious printed editions of the work on display, starting with one of the nineteen codex manuscripts still in existence and the first printed copies of 1532 from Florence and Rome, published after Machiavelli’s death. A series of important portraits introduces the figure of Cesare Borgia, known as “the Valentine”, the condottiere that Machiavelli identified as the ideal prince. The section also deals with the particular circumstances that led to The Prince being placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Church. The exhibition will present some notable artifacts, including the card catalogue of the Congregation of the Index (from the historical archives of the Holy Office). One part of this section is also dedicated to the main translations of The Prince in French, English, and Latin, that appeared between the 16th and 17th centuries. Serving as an introduction to the literary and pictorial works on show is a large multimedia installation, made possible thanks to the exclusive participation of Pierfrancesco Favino, who reads a letter from Niccolò Machiavelli to Francesco Vettori, written on December 10, 1513, in which the author announces that he has completed the celebrated treatise.

Machiavelli and the classics. This special section explores the profound and fruitful relationship that Machiavelli had with the “classics” that played so important a part in his formative development. On display are the Introduction of Book I of the Discourses on Livy, an autograph draft by Machiavelli written on recto and verso of an unbound sheet of paper n.d. 1513-1519 (from the National Central Library of Florence), as well as a number of classical sculptures (from the Capitoline Museums). The autograph draft from the Discourses on Livy is one of several handwritten documents on show, including the Florentine Histories (a manuscript from the Laurentian Library).

The fortunes and impact of The Prince. This section aims to demonstrate to scholars and the general public how The Prince has been the focus of studies, writings, and analyses by great intellectuals over the centuries, and how it has been handed and come down to us. On display are several copies of the treatise that have belonged to revered cultural figures such as Benedetto Croce and Federico Chabod, as well as works that have famously interpreted it like Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks of 1930-1933 (from the Antonio Gramsci Archive of the Fondazione Istituto Gramsci in Rome). In modern times too, many cultural and political figures have expressed interest in Machiavelli, including Mussolini, Gentile, Fanfani, Spadolini and Berlusconi. Exhibited are copies owned by these famous personalities or their testimonials on the work.

Machiavelli in our times: uses and abuses. The section dedicated to “appropriations” and “misappropriations” of The Prince looks at board games, videogames, stamps, postcards, and items of marketing literature that have drawn inspiration from the “philosophy” of Machiavelli. It aims to show how the influence of the greatest political thinker of contemporary culture has extended to many fields even beyond that of political thought.


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