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The Story of Bianco Alfani: Reflecting the Nature of 14th Century Florentine Society

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“I’ll be out of here and away from all you knaves for one time anyway, as not a month will pass before you’ll see whether I’m nobody or a somebody.” The story of Bianco Alfani reflected the nature of 14th century Florentine society where, as Alfani remarked, the election to public office could make or destroy a person. In late 14th century and early 15th century Florence, decreased population and expanding commerce provided a favorable environment for ambitious individuals. The real life examples of Buonaccorso Pitti and Gregorio Dati demonstrated the positive role of ambition in Florence. Pitti, a nobleman had an extremely successful career, partaking in military campaigns, holding public office in Florence and being an ambassador to foreign courts. Gregorio Dati, the grandson of purse venders, engaged in commerce, rising in social standing which culminated with his election to public office. Holding office was a definitive sign of success and recognition in Florence. In contrast was the tale Bianco Alfani, a deemed man unworthy of office. As told by Piero Veneziano, Alfani was the chief jailor in Florence who was duped into believing he had been named captain of the town of Norcia. Alfani publicly made a fool of himself, spending all his money and creating a great fanfare over his supposed appointment. Comparing the lives of Pitti and Dati to the story of Bianco Alfani illustrates how economic and social change in 14th century Florence produced a culture centered on reputation and commerce. For men like Pitti and Dati, who flourished within the constraints of Florentine society, their reward was election to office, a public mark of acceptance and social standing. Those who were ambitious but failed to abide by the values o...


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Piero Veneziano, Bianco Alfani, in Lauro Martines (ed.) An Italian Renaissance Sextet: Six Tales in Historical Context (University of Toronto Press, 1994), pp. 100
Buonaccorso Pitti, Diary, in Gene Brucker (ed), Two Memoirs of Renaissance Florence (Waveland Press, 1991), pp. 19-106
Gregorio Dati, Diary, in Gene Brucker (ed), Two Memoirs of Renaissance Florence (Waveland Press, 1991) p. 107
Lauro Martines, The Wages of Social Sin, in An Italian Renaissance Sextet: Six Tales in Historical Context (University of Toronto Press, 1994) pp. 120
Lisa Kaborycha, A Short History of Renaissance Italy, (Pearson Education, 2011), pp. 29
Gene Brucker ,Two Memoirs of Renaissance Florence (Waveland Press, 1991), pp. 53
Brucker, p.54
Dati, p. 108,
Veneziano p. 97
Pitti, p.21
Veneziano, p.97
Dati, p.125
Veneziano, p. 101
Veneziano, p.97


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