With this well-produced book, Alick McLean provides a much-needed study of the urban development and architectural history of the key institutional buildings of one of Tuscany's lesser-known city-states. Between 1351 and 1992 Prato was under the administrative control of its nearby neighbor, Florence; this is perhaps the main reason why this interesting small city has been so easily overlooked as a marginal dependent in the hinterland of that paradigmatic central Italian city. The author's strategy for dealing with the overbearing presence of Florence is to make a strength out of a weakness. In the preface, McLean speaks of the “typicalness” of Prato (viii), identifying it as broadly representative of a swath of similarly diminutive city-states of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries and suggesting that the in-depth study of one will offer a comparative frame for a better understanding of the others....

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