Gonfaloniere

Gonfaloniere

The Gonfaloniere was a highly prestigious communal post in medieval and Renaissance Italy, notably in Florence. The name derives from gonfalone, the term used for the banners of such communes.

In Florence, he was one of the nine citizens selected by drawing lots every two months, who formed the government, or Signoria. As Gonfaloniere di Giustizia he was the temporary standard-bearer of the Republic of Florence and custodian of the city's banner, which was displayed from the yardarm of a portable cross. To distinguish him from his other eight colleagues, his crimson coat, lined with ermine, was further embroidered with golden stars. Each of Florence's neighborhoods, or rioni, had its own priore who might be selected to serve on the council, and its own gonfaloniere di compagnia selected from the first families of each quarter.

Other central and northern Italian communes, from Spoleto to Piemonte, elected or appointed gonfalonieri. The Bentivoglio family of Bologna aspired to this office during the sixteenth century. A century later, however, when Artemisia Gentileschi painted a portrait of Pietro Gentile as a gonfaloniere of Bologna in 1622, with the gonfalone in the background, the office had merely symbolic value.

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