«Tullia d’Aragona (1501/5–1556) Tullia d’Aragona used a variety of genres—lyric, spiritual, and occasional verse, prose dialogue, and epic ...»
Tullia d’Aragona (1501/5–1556)
Tullia d’Aragona used a variety of genres—lyric, spiritual, and occasional verse, prose dialogue, and epic romance—to establish herself
as one of the most versatile, and prolific, of sixteenth-century Italian
women of letters. Luminaries such as Bernardo Tasso, Benedetto
Varchi, Girolamo Muzio, and Anton Francesco Doni extolled her as
possessing “rare virtue,” and Jacopo Nardi even claimed in his 1536
translation of a Ciceronian oration that she was the “one and only heir of all Tullian eloquence,” punning on d’Aragona’s and Cicero’s shared name.1 Yet alongside d’Aragona’s persona as woman of letters thrived her reputation as a Roman courtesan. A whole other host of literati such as Pietro Aretino, Giambattista Giraldi Cinzio, and Agnolo Firenzuola spared no excess in their condemnation of d’Aragona as proud, presumptuous, and greedy.2 From d’Aragona’s initial appearAs Anton Francesco Doni writes, “Many are the noble spirits and learned men who praise the fine manners and have written about the rare virtue of Tullia, thus my pen would do little to add to her fame, since the praise that she merits is much” (“Molti son gli spiriti nobili, e gli huomini dotti che lodano la creanza buona, e hanno scritto della virtù rara della Tullia, onde la penna mia sarebbe poca a darle fama, essendo molta la lode che la merita” [La libraria (Venice: Gabriele Giolito de’ Ferrari, 1550), 43r]). Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. For Jacopo Nardi, see his letter to Giovanfrancesco della Stufa in which he writes that “perhaps you would say that with this useless effort of mine I have brought water to the sea dedicating an oration of Tully to Signora Tullia Aragona, whom everyone today would judge as the one true heir (just as in her name) of all Tullian eloquence” (“forse dirà ch’io habbia con questa mia inutile fatica portato l’acqua al mare dedicando una oratione di Tullio a la S. Tullia Aragona, la quale per se stessa hoggi diritiamente da ogni homo e giudicata unica et vera herede (così come del nome) di tutta la Tulliana eloquentia” [“Iacopo Nardi a Giovanfrancesco de la Stupha nobilissimo Fiorentino,” in Oratione di M. T. Cicerone a C. Cesare per la quale lo ringratia de l’havere perdonato a Marco Marcello: Nuovamente tradotta in lingua Toscana (Venice: Giovann’ Antonio de Nicolini da Sabio, 1537), section A]).
2. Pietro Aretino, Lettere libro primo, ed. Francesco Erspamer (Parma: Fondazione Pietro Bembo and Ugo Guanda Editore, 1995), 195; see also Ragionamento del Zoppino fatto frate, e Lodovico, puttaniere, dove contiensi la vita e genealogia di tutte le cortigiane di Roma, ed.
Mario Cicognani (Milan: Longanesi, 1969), 45, a book that is variously attributed to either Aretino or Francisco Delicado. Giambattista GiraldiCinzio wrote a novella in which he 2 Introduction ance on the public stage, her persona is doubled and ambiguous; she is both a courtesan and woman of letters, an object of vilification and admiration. In truth, d’Aragona walked a thin line between ignoring or eliding these representations and turning them to her own advantage. Her self-fashioning is an excellent example of the concept of negotiation employed by early modern women writers as she picks and chooses when to emphasize her role as a courtesan and when, admittedly more often, she instead orchestrates her figuration as an author.3 D’Aragona was one of the so-called honest courtesans, of which Veronica Franco constitutes the best-known exemplar.4 As Georgina Masson pointed out long ago, however, d’Aragona carved a niche for herself as the “intellectual courtesan,” or, as Domenico Zanrè rephrased it, perhaps with a touch of irony, the “courtesan of the academicians.”5 Numerous of her poetic interlocutors commented on her intellectual qualities, and Duke Cosimo I even exempted her from having to wear the yellow veil required of sex workers owing to her “rare knowledge of poetry and philosophy.”6
paints an unflattering portrait of d’Aragona (Gli ecatommiti, ovvero cento novelle [Florence:
Borghi, 1834], 43–47). Finally, see Agnolo Firenzuola, Opere, ed. Adriano Serloni (Firenze:
Sansoni, 1958), 383, 941. This list of the authors who vituperated d’Aragona is partial.
3. On the concept of negotiation among early modern European women writers, see Ann Rosalind Jones, The Currency of Eros: Women’s Love Lyric in Europe, 1540–1620 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), esp. 2–6.
4. There is a Hollywood film, for example, based on Franco’s life, entitled Dangerous Beauty (1998). For an excellent scholarly treatment, see Margaret F. Rosenthal, The Honest
Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and Writer in Sixteenth-Century Venice (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1992).
5. See Georgina Masson, “Tullia d’Aragona, the Intellectual Courtesan,” in her Courtesans of the Italian Renaissance (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976), 88–131, and Domenico Zanrè, “Courtesans and the Academicians,” in his Cultural Non-Conformity in Early Modern Florence (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004), 141–64.
6. See ASF, Magistrato supremo 4307, 69v–70r. Bernardo Tasso in a sonnet titled “Anima pura, di virtute ardente” published in his 1534 edition of the Amori referred to her “intelletto
divino”; see his Rime, ed. Domenico Chiodo and Vercingetorige Martignone, 2 vols. (Turin:
Res, 1995), 1:204. For other poems that refer to her intellectual abilities, see 51 and 94 in this edition. For fuller narration of the yellow veil incident, see Salvatore Bongi, “Il velo giallo di Tullia d’Aragona,” Rivista critica della letteratura italiana 3, no. 3 (1886): 85–95, and, more recently, Deana Basile, “Fasseli gratia per poetessa: Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici’s Role in the Introduction 3 D’Aragona thus managed two careers—as a courtesan and as a writer—and there are traces of both in the archives and libraries of Italy. She emerged early in the history of printed publications by living women, second only to Vittoria Colonna, Roman noblewoman and friend of Michelangelo, whose unauthorized canzoniere was published in 1538, and a year before the Neapolitan noblewoman Laura Terracina, whose work appeared in print in 1548.7 Although the question of whether women chose to publish their work or circulate it in manuscript was fraught with a number of different considerations based on rank and social networks, participation in a court milieu, geographical location, as well as concerns regarding reputation, it is undoubtedly true that printing—whether by choice or through the reality or the fiction of someone else promoting their work—meant a much wider circle of readers and therefore a greater possibility of influencing other writers, male and female.8 D’Aragona’s Poems by Tullia di Aragona and by Others to Her (Rime della signora Tullia di Aragona; et di diversi a lei) represents the Florentine Literary Circle of Tullia d’Aragona,” in The Cultural Politics of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, ed. Konrad Eisenbichler (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001), 135–47.
7. See Vittoria Colonna, Rime della divina Vittoria Colonna, marchesa di Pescara (Parma:
[Antonio Viotti], 1538), and Laura Terracina, Rime dela Signora Laura Terracina (Venice:
Gabriel Giolito de Ferrari, 1548). Although Colonna was more famous, one wonders if Terracina actually might have been the more popular and widely read poet as EDIT 16 (Censimento delle edizioni italiane del XVI secolo) now lists forty-one entries for her works again Colonna’s twenty-five (as of May 2012). Virginia Cox suggests that the publisher Giolito promoted both d’Aragona and Terracina as heirs to Colonna’s poetic mantle (Women’s Writing in Italy, 1400–1650 [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008], 80–81). Francesco Bausi has suggested that in 1547, after Colonna’s death, d’Aragona is being proposed (by her literary benefactors Muzio and Varchi) as Colonna’s “legitimate” successor (“ ‘Con agra zampogna’: Tullia d’Aragona a Firenze (1545–48),” Schede umanistiche 2, n.s. : 61–91, at 74).
8. On the difference between scribal publication and print publication, see the following works by Brian Richardson: “From Scribal Publication to Print Publication: Pietro Bembo’s Rime, 1529–1535,” Modern Language Review 95, no. 3 (2000): 684–695; Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 49–57, 77–80, 101–4; “Print or Pen? Modes of Written Publication in Sixteenth-Century Italy,”
Italian Studies 59 (2004): 39–64; and Manuscript Culture in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2009). For its relevance particularly to women authors, see Cox, Women’s Writing, xxvi–xxvii.
4 Introduction first example of the choral anthology in the Italian lyric tradition.9 The choral anthology differed from the lyric anthology, a genre that was to have an even wider diffusion in the sixteenth century, in its attribution to a single author, even though a number of different authors may have contributed to it; the lyric anthology comprised lyric poetry by many different authors and is usually catalogued under the editor’s name. D’Aragona’s canzoniere differs from other sonnet sequences, in that her text includes sonnets by a wide range of other authors, thus embodying and enacting the social nature of Petrarchism.10 She makes extensive use of the proposta/risposta (proposal/response) model of verse exchange in which she calls on others, and is herself called on, to exchange sonnets regarding a particular topic. Moreover—and this is d’Aragona’s true novelty—she is the first to publish the sonnets side by side, thus reinforcing their dialogic nature. This literary dialogue with contemporary men of letters helps to buttress her own reputation as an author. Yet the effect is reciprocal. Many of these poets are remembered today thanks to their association with Tullia d’Aragona.11 Until now, no modern edition or translation exists that replicates the order of d’Aragona’s original canzoniere in its entirety.12
9. For the use of the term “choral anthology,” see Victoria Kirkham, “Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati’s First Book of Poetry: A Renaissance Holograph Comes Out of Hiding,” Rinascimento 36 (1996): 351–91.
10. For an extensive discussion of how d’Aragona’s text figures in the development of the structure of canzonieri, see my “ ‘Di sangue illustre & pellegrino’: The Eclipse of the Body in the Lyric of Tullia d’Aragona,” in The Body in Early Modern Italy, ed. Julia L. Hairston and Walter Stephens (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 158–75.
11. Ann Rosalind Jones gives fuller expression to the reciprocity of the proposta/risposta structure and of the mutual benefits afforded each of the poetic correspondents in her “Surprising Fame: Renaissance Gender Ideologies and Women’s Lyric,” in The Poetics of Gender, ed. Nancy K. Miller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 74–95, “Enabling Sites and Gender Difference: Reading City Women with Men,” Women’s Studies 19, no. 2 (1991): 239–49, and Currency of Eros, 81–82 and 103–17.
12. The only available modern edition of d’Aragona’s poetry is the one that Enrico Celani put together in 1891: Le rime di Tullia d’Aragona, cortigiana del secolo XVI, ed. Enrico Celani (Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua, 1968 ). As Ann Jones first noted, however, it dismantles the structure and order of the sonnets as they appeared in the sixteenth-century editions; see Currency of Eros, 212n35. More recently, Elizabeth Pallitto has also published an edition, with facing-page translation, but it is partial in that it does not include the fourth and fifth sections of d’Aragona’s original edition; see Tullia d’ Aragona,
Introduction 5A supplementary section to this edition also includes other poetic exchanges and a miscellany of recently discovered unpublished or virtually unknown sonnets, mostly from d’Aragona’s later years.
These poems are important because they provide us with information about her ongoing literary activities and search for patrons in the years subsequent to her return to Rome in October 1548.13 I have also included variant manuscript versions of poems by d’Aragona as well as the few spiritual poems that she published after the appearance of her choral anthology. Finally, this volume furnishes complete transcriptions and translations of d’Aragona’s autograph letters to Benedetto Varchi, as well as a previously unknown autograph letter to Francesco de’ Pazzi, a family friend of the Strozzi.14 Details about just how closely d’Aragona socialized with various members of the Strozzi family and over how many years marks another novelty of this volume.
The same year that d’Aragona published her Poems by Signora Tullia di Aragona and by Others to Her she also published a prose work entitled On the Infinity of Love (Dialogo della signora Tullia d’Aragona della infinità di amore).15 As the title indicates, the interlocutors— Tullia d’Aragona, Benedetto Varchi, and Lattanzio Benucci—discuss whether it is possible to love within limits. They are at d’Aragona’s home, presumably in Florence, and there are a number of other men Sweet Fire: Tullia d’Aragona’s Poetry of Dialogue and Selected Prose, ed. and trans. Elizabeth A. Pallitto (New York: George Braziller, 2005).
13. See, for example, P. Renée Baernstein and Julia L. Hairston, “Tullia d’Aragona: Two New Sonnets,” MLN 123, no. 1 (2008): 151–59, for more background on two of these poems.
14. For discussion of d’Aragona’s letters, see Fiora A. Bassanese, “Selling the Self; or, The Epistolary Production of Renaissance Courtesans,” in Italian Women Writers from the
Renaissance to the Present: Revising the Canon, ed. Maria Marotti (University Park, PA:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 69–82, and Maritere López, “The Courtesan’s Gift: Reciprocity and Friendship in the Letters of Camilla Pisana and Tullia d’Aragona,” in Discourses and Representations of Friendship in Early Modern Europe, 1500–1700, ed. Daniel T. Lochman, Maritere López, and Lorna Hutson (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), 99–116.