“Giovanni and Lusanna” by Gene Brucker

Art is a great tool for understanding cultures. But sometimes it’s not enough.

This is my second semester studying Italian Renaissance art (IN FLORENCE GUYS), and though I love it, I realize that I’m still fairly unfamiliar with the culture of the people who lived through it.

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Then I picked up this book. Well, it was actually in my apartment when I moved here, so technically I chose it out of about ten other books on ‘my’ bookshelf. It was for my train trip to Rome for the weekend, so I just grabbed it and didn’t really give it any thought.

Then I missed my first train (and my second, ugh, how is that even possible?) so I perched in a cafe with a cappuccino and gave myself more reading time than I anticipated. And I got so engrossed in this book.

Back to the whole learning more about the culture thing. This book, although describing a specific circumstance within Florentine culture, describes judicial, marriage, and social practices of the time. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to use this knowledge in my work specifically, but I found it absolutely fascinating.

The story revolves around the romance of Giovanni, a wealthy Florentine, and Lusanna, a beautiful married woman in the social class just below Giovanni’s. They fall in love and Giovanni promises to marry her if her husband ever dies. Coincidentally (or not, hmmm…), Lusanna is widowed, and before the official mourning period ends, Giovanni marries her in secret.

The newlyweds are happy- until Giovanni decides to marry another woman. Since his marriage to Lusanna was secret (although in presence of a religious figure and family), the unknowing public doesn’t see anything wrong. Lusanna then decides to go to Rome and appeal to the church, leading to a public trial.

The trial becomes the talk of the town, and many people become involved. Giovanni’s lawyers try to eradicate Lusanna’s credibility by claiming that she has a habit of being promiscuous (ugh and this still happens today).

I won’t give away every detail, or who wins the case. You’ll just have to read it!

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