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J. R. Mulryne’s study of the naval battle, or naumachia, staged in the Palazzo Pitti courtyard in Florence for the 1589 wedding of Ferdinando I de’ Medici and Christine of Lorraine points out the vivid, borderline unpleasant experience that audiences would have felt in such an enclosed space. This study takes inspiration from Mulryne’s work by looking at the pairing of water and fire in 16th century representations and performances of naval battles. An astounding level of manipulation and choreography was needed to bring together these two unpredictable and dangerous elements of nature. Contemporaries were struck by the wondrous but terrifying displays of fire on water, conveying an impression of destructive power, altogether fitting given the terrifying experience of real maritime warfare.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.