Dictionary of Italian Literature

By Jody Robin Shiffman; Peter Bondanella et al. | Go to book overview
present, and his nostalgia for an Italy freed from foreign domination. See also MACHIAVELLI, Niccolò.

Bibliography: Versi e prose di Luigi Alamanni, ed. Pietro Raffaelli ( Florence: Le Monnier, 1859); Henri Hauvette, Un exilé florentin à la cour de France au XVIè siècle, Luigi Alamanni (1495-1556); sa vie et son oeuvre ( Paris: Hachette, 1903).

ALBERTI, LEON BATTISTA ( 1404-1472), Florentine humanist, architect, art theorist, poet, painter, and mathematician. Alberti was born in Genoa and was the second natural son of exiled Florentine Lorenzo Alberti and Bolognese widow Bianca di Carlo Fieschi. Battista Alberti, who later added Leo or Leon to his name, belonged to one of the most prominent and prosperous merchant and banking families of the bourgeois aristocracy of Florence. That family, however, like others that had aligned themselves with the popular political factions, had been banished from Florence in 1387 for opposing the ruling faction headed by the oligarchical Albizzi family. In 1406, at the time of the plague that took their mother's life, Lorenzo removed his sons, Battista and Carlo, first to Venice and then to Padua, where the young Alberti, like other prominent educators and humanists of his generation, received the finest available classical literary education. In 1421, at the age of seventeen, Leon Battista went to Bologna to study canon law. In the same year, both his father and his paternal uncle died. His relatives soon appropriated the inheritance left to him and his brother, and they refused to support him. Whether they did so from malice or because Alberti refused to assume a role in the family business is not clear. The following years were difficult ones in which Leon Battista was dogged by poverty and illness. Nonetheless, he persevered in his studies and continued to read the Greek and Latin classics so dear to him. This personal experience of hardship perhaps confirmed in him the belief, echoed in his later writings, that one is the product of one's own will and effort and that fortune, fickle and hostile, defeats only those who let themselves be defeated. His views on the difficulties faced by the intellectual in society are first expressed in the early work De commodis et incommodis literarum ( 1430, The Pains and Pleasures of a Man of Letters). Earlier, in the period 1424-26, Alberti had authored a Latin comedy, Philodoxeos (Philodoxus), which he passed off successfully as the work of a classical Roman poet named Lepidus.

In 1432, Alberti was in Rome, where he had been granted the first benefice of his ecclesiastical career: an appointment as apostolic abbreviator, or secretary, in the papal chancery at the court of Pope Eugemus IV. He was to hold that position until 1464. Enchanted by Rome, Alberti spent the following two years studying its ancient monuments, from which he was to derive some, perhaps too many, of his own architectural principles. In 1435, the sentence of banishment having been lifted, Alberti went to Florence with the pope. There, as he tells us in the dedicatory letter to Filippo Brunelleschi that precedes his treatise De pictura ( 1436, On Painting), a work which influenced Leonardo Da Vinci among others, he was greatly impressed with the genius of that city's artists,

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Dictionary of Italian Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the Second Edition vii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • How to Use This Dictionary xiii
  • DICTIONARY OF ITALIAN LITERATURE xv
  • A 1
  • Appendix A: Time Life 627
  • Appendix B: Entries Grouped by Subject Matter or Period 675
  • Reference Aids: A Selected List 683
  • Index 685
  • About the Editors and Contributors 707
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