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Tennis in Early Modern Visual Culture

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Taking as its departure point the celebrated passage in Galileo’s Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo on the game of pallacorda, this paper is an invitation to re-read the ample visual documentation on the game, on its perception and its representation in early modern Europe. In fact, prints and paintings produced between the end of the sixteenth and the middle of the seventeenth centuries testify to the vast and complex panorama of themes and motifs which marked the development of the imagerie linked to games (in particular, its allegorical dimension), and to tennis as its most noble expression. The metaphor conceived by Galileo and the interest of other scientists in games as a source of models and illustrative examples can be seen as part of a broader cultural and social sensibility in which games played a central role.

Affiliations: 1: Università di Pisa, Italy,


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