Cambridge historian reveals double life of Renaissance artist

Historians in the News
tags: Medici, Renaissance, art, Cambridge, Constantino de Servi

Davide Martino, a History student at St John’s, decided last year to explore the life and works of Constantino de Servi whom he believed to be an architect-scenographer and possible designer of a number of significant Renaissance fountains. What he discovered, however, on embarking on his dissertation, was that although Constantino was guest to a number of Europe’s royalty and frequently travelled around, he actually completed very few works — pointing to him being a spy. 

“In the beginning, as I trawled through his correspondence in the archives in Florence expecting to find evidence of many wonderful Renaissance gardens he had worked on and found nothing, I was very disappointed,” Martino commented to The Guardian. “Then as I followed the paper trial, I began to wonder if there was something more interesting going on.” 

According to Martino, there was one event in particular that led him to question Constantino ‘the artist’ and hinted at a secretive diplomatic role. The incident, recounted in a letter by the Florentine Secretary, involved an arranged marriage between Caterina, a Medician princess, and Henry, Prince of Wales, who was son and heir to James I of England. Discussions of their union were at an advanced stage and a substantial dowry promised to the Medici family, when the prince suddenly refused to marry Caterina without seeing a portrait first. ...

Read entire article at The Cambridge Student