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Mediterranean Pathways: Exotic Flora, Fauna and Food in Renaissance Ferrara

  • Author(s): Ghirardo, Diane
  • et al.

Noble courts in Renaissance Italy demonstrated their status, in part, through the collection of exotic foods and animals. The greater the distance and expense of such items, the higher the status of the princely court. The Este rulers of sixteenth-century Ferrara mounted costly banquets in which luxury spices enlivened the dishes and confirmed the family’s high status among Italian principalities. Water buffaloes and rice both arrived at court via Mediterranean waters in the late fifteenth century, the former as a producer of cheese for the two most famous duchesses, Eleonora d’Aragona and Lucrezia Borgia, while the latter soon lost its status as a rarity unless garnished with rare and expensive spices brought through the port of Venice. The very evanescence of such displays only enhanced their value as indices of princely status.

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