Guilds of Florence

Guilds of Florence

The guilds of Florence were secular corporations that controlled the arts and trades in Florence from the twelfth into the sixteenth century. These "Arti" included seven major guilds (collectively known as the "arti maggiori"), five middle guilds ("arti mediane") and nine minor guilds ("arti minori"). Their rigorous quality control and the political role in the commune that the "Art Maggiori" assumed were formative influences in the history of Florence, which became one of the richest cities of late Medieval Europe.

The "Minuto Popolo"— skilled and unskilled workers including weavers, spinners, dyers, boatmen, labourers, peddlers and others—despite constituting a majority of the population, were barred from forming guilds.

Formation of the "arti"

The guilds were the medieval institution within which were organized every aspect of a city's economic life, forming a social network that complemented and in part compensated for family ties, although in Florence the welfare side of the guilds' activities was less than in many cities. [Levey, 35] The first of the guilds of Florence of which there is notice is the "Arte di Calimala", the cloth-merchants' guild, mentioned in a document of about 1150. By 1193 there existed seven such corporate bodies, which each elected a council whose members bore the Roman-sounding designation "consoli". A single "capo" was elected to manage all the business of the guild.

Entrance to the "Arti" was highly structured from the first records; it was necessary to be the legitimate son of a member, to give proofs of competence in the craft involved, and to pay an entrance tax. Masters of the guilds, who possessed the means of production, took on apprentices and "garzoni", the "boys" or journeymen who might work through a long career without ever becoming a master.Each of the "Arti" was ruled according to its statutes, which had the force of law, and might pass judgement in controversies among its members and with their workers. In the fourteenth century the guilds established the market tribunal called the "Mercatanzia" to hear causes that involved more than one of the "Arti". The Palazzo del Tribunale della Mercatanzia ("illustration, right") still occupies a prominent place in the piazza della Signoria, befitting the controlling role of the "Arti" in governing Florence.

As elsewhere, the guilds of Florence protected its members from competition within the city by strangers and Florentine outsiders, guaranteed the quality of work through strict supervision of the workshops ("botteghe"), stipulated work hours, established markets and feast days, and provided public services to its members, and their wives, widows and children. During the fifteenth century city watchmen were organized by the "Arti" to protect closed workshops and warehouses.

From the beginning, not all "arti" were equal: to the original seven "Arti Maggiori" were added fourteen "Arti Minori" as the guild system spread.

Role in government

Six of the nine "Priori" of the Signoria of Florence were selected from the major guilds, and two were selected by the minor guilds.McClelland, Aaron D. " [ Government of Florence] ." "Quattrocento Project".] The "Seven Greater Guilds" are first mentioned distinctly (separating the Calimala from "Wool") in 1197.Staley, 1906, p. 601.] The first State enactment appertaining to Guilds was not issued until 1228.

The first scheduled list of Guilds, including twenty-one, appared in 1236. The second scheduled list of Guilds, differentiating seven "Greater" and fourteen "Lesser" Guilds, appeared in 1266.Staley, 1906, p. 602.] That same year theconsuls of the seven "Greater" Guilds became the "Supreme Magistrate of the State". The first five of the "Lesser Guilds" weredesignated "Intermediate Guilds" ("Arte Mediane") in 1280, when the Signoria first assumed office, and their consults were admitted to theconferences of the consuls of the seven "Greater" Guilds.

In 1282, three "Priors of the Guilds" were elected, with powers only inferior to the Chief-Magistrate of the State. Thethird scheduled list of guilds, finalizing their order of precedence appeared the following year. The nine lowest guildswere allotted banners and coats-of-arms in 1291.

A General Code, "Il Statuto", for the guilds was promulgated in 1296 with the founding of the "Corte della Mercanzia". The Statues of all the guilds underwent a complete revision between 1301 and 1307, and the "New Code" was first adopted by the Calimala;Staley, 1906, p. 603.] the statutes were again revised in 1386.

Three new operative guilds were formed in 1378 after the Ciompi revolt.Staley, 1906, p. 604.] The fourth scheduledlist of guilds, appearing in 1415, however, still included only twenty-one guilds. The "Grandi" attempted in1427 to reduce the "Lesser" guilds to only seven. Indeed, in 1534, the fourteen "Lesser" guilds were arranged in fourUniversities, and saw many of their privileges curtailed.Staley, 1906, p. 605.]

Arti maggiori


In Florence a separate Guild of Saint Luke for artists did not exist. Painters belonged to the guild of the Doctors and Apothecaries ("Arte dei Medici e Speziali") as they bought their pigments from the apothecaries, while sculptors were members of the Masters of Stone and Wood ("Maestri di Pietri e Legname),Hughes (1986): 3–5.] or the metalworkers if working in that medium. They were also frequently members in the confraternity of St. Luke ("Compagnia di San Luca")—which had been founded as early as 1349—although it was a separate entity from the guild system. [Mather (1948): 20; Jack (1976): 5–6.] In the sixteenth century, the "Compagnia di San Luca" began to meet at SS. Annunziata, and sculptors, who had previously been members of a confraternity dedicated to St. Paul ("Compagnia di San Paolo"), also joined. [Mather (1948): 20.] This form of the "compagnia" developed into the Florentine Accademia del Disegno in 1563, which was then formally incorporated into the city's guild system in 1572.

The guilds were important patrons of the arts. The statues of the Orsanmichele were a lavish joint, and highly competitive, effort, the Calimala were responsible for the Baptistry and paid for Ghiberti's famous doors, while the Lana were responsible for the cathedral itself, and paid for the cupola, the altar frontal and other works, and the Seta built and ran the Ospedale degli Innocenti [Levey, Michael; "Florence, A Portrait", pp. 82-3, Jonathan Cape, 1996, ISBN 0712673105]

ee also

* Ciompi, guild-less wool carders who revolted in 1378



* Hughes, Anthony."'An Academy for Doing'. I: The Accademia del Disegno, the Guilds and the Principate in Sixteenth-Century Florence." "Oxford Art Journal", vol. 9, no. 1. (1986), pp. 3-10.
* Jack, Mary Ann. "The Accademia del Disegno in Late Renaissance Florence." In: "Sixteenth Century Journal", vol. 7, no. 2. (Oct., 1976), pp. 3-20.
* Mather, Rufus Graves. "Documents Mostly New Relating to Florentine Painters and Sculptors of the Fifteenth Century." In: "The Art Bulletin", vol. 30, no. 1. (Mar., 1948), pp. 20-65.
* Staley, John Edgcumbe. 1906. " [ The Guilds of Florence] ". Methuen & Co.

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