Paula Findlen

Ereditare un museo: collezionismo, strategie familiari e pratiche culturali nell'Italia del XVI secolo

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This article explores the problems XVI century collectors faced when deciding what to do with a museum at the end of their life. Using collectors' wills, it examines the afterlife of the Renaissance museum and its entanglement with aspects of inheritance law, in particular fideicommissary agreements that bound heirs to maintain key aspects of the family patrimony for generations in order to retain the right of inheritance. Increasingly collectors attempted to entail their possessions by writing elaborate instructions into their wills regarding the preservation of the museums within their family palaces. Heirs disputed these provisions whenever possible, allowing us to see how the role of a collection in a family's inheritance reveals differing perceptions about the cultural, economic and familial value of things in early modern society. By the end of the sixteenth century, a handful of collectors began to consider the possibility that perhaps a museum was best left to a city, a library or a religious institution rather than to one's family. The idea of holding cultural goods in public trust emerged, in part, from the limitations of inheritance law as a means of preserving a cultural patrimony.

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