On October 3rd, 1559, Duke Ercole II of Este, lord of Ferrara, suddenly died. His funeral, however, took place two months later, and the ceremony was performed not with his body, which had already been buried without much ado, but with a statue of the duke. Why were two distinct funerals celebrated? What were the political and cultural implications of these rites and related customs, such as the removal of the heart and embalming? Through the use of a rich set of historical documents, Giovanni Ricci has painstakingly reconstructed the intricate death apparatus of the duke and placed it within the context of regal funeral customs in Renaissance Europe. The narration touches upon topics of great historical and anthropological interest - such as the nature of political worship and royal sanctity, the integrity of the corpse, the unitary character of tombs, the obsession with apparent death, the status and functions of images (both ceremonial and not) - and thus sheds light on the historically defined mobility of any boundary dividing the living from the dead.
Giovanni Ricci teaches Modern History at the University of Ferrara.