The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
Jacob Burckhardt

Part 5 out of 7

representation of its characters.

Other merits are allowed to belong to it, among the rest, that for
three centuries it has been actually read and constantly reprinted,
while nearly the whole of the epic poetry of other nations has become a
mere matter of literary or historical curiosity. Does this perhaps lie
in the taste of the readers, who demand something different from what
would satisfy a northern public? Certainly, without the power of
entering to some degree into Italian sentiment, it is impossible to
appreciate the characteristic excellence of these poems, and many
distinguished men declare that they can make nothing of them. And in
truth, if we criticize Pulci, Boiardo, Ariosto, and Berni solely with
an eye to their thought and matter, we shall fail to do them justice.
They are artists of a peculiar kind, who write for a people which is
distinctly and eminently artistic.

The mediaeval legends had lived on after the gradual extinction of the
poetry of chivalry, partly in the form of rhyming adaptations and
collections, and partly of novels in prose. The latter was the case in
Italy during the fourteenth century; but the newly-awakened memories of
antiquity were rapidly growing up to a gigantic size, and soon cast
into the shade all the fantastic creations of the Middle Ages.
Boccaccio, for example, in his 'Visione Amorosa,' names among the
heroes in his enchanted palace Tristram, Arthur, Galeotto, and others,
but briefly, as if he were ashamed to speak of them; and following
writers either do not name them at all, or name them only for purposes
of ridicule. But the people kept them in its memory, and from the
people they passed into the hands of the poets of the fifteenth
century. These were now able to conceive and represent their subjects
in a wholly new manner. But they did more. They introduced into it a
multitude of fresh elements, and in fact recast it from beginning to
end. It must not be expected of them that they should treat such
subjects with the respect once felt for them. All other countries must
envy them the advantage of having a popular interest of this kind to
appeal to; but they could not without hypocrisy treat these myths with
any respect.

Instead of this, they moved with victorious freedom in the new field
which poetry had won. What they chiefly aimed at seems to have been
that their poems, when recited, should produce the most harmonious and
exhilarating effect. These works indeed gain immensely when they are
repeated, not as a whole, but piecemeal, and with a slight touch of
comedy in voice and gesture. A deeper and more detailed portrayal of
character would do little to enhance this effect; though the reader may
desire it, the hearer, who sees the rhapsodist standing before him, and
who hears only one piece at a time, does not think about it at all.
With respect to the figures, which the poet found ready made for him,
his feeling was of a double kind; his humanistic culture protested
against their mediaeval character, and their combats as counterparts of
the battles and tournaments of the poet's own age exercised all his
knowledge and artistic power, while at the same time they called forth
all the highest qualities in the reciter. Even in Pulci, accordingly,
we find no parody, strictly speaking, of chivalry, nearly humour of his
paladins at times approaches it. By their side stands the ideal of
pugnacity--the droll and jovial Morgante--who masters whole armies with
his bellclapper, and who is himself thrown into relief by contrast with
the grotesque and most interesting monster Margutte. Yet Pulci lays no
special stress on these two rough and vigorous characters, and his
story, long after they had disappeared from it, maintains its singular
course. Boiardo treats his characters with the same mastery, using them
for serious or comic purposes as he pleases; he has his fun even out of
supernatural beings, whom he sometimes intentionally depicts as louts.
But there is one artistic aim which he pursues as earnestly as Pulci,
namely, the lively and exact description of all that goes forward.
Pulci recited his poem, as one book after another was finished, before
the society of Lorenzo il Magnifico, and in the same way Boiardo
recited his at the court of Ercole of Ferrara. It may be easily
imagined what sort of excellence such an audience demanded, and how
little thanks a profound exposition of character would have earned for
the poet. Under these circumstances the poems naturally formed no
complete whole, and might just as well be half or twice as long as they
now are. Their composition is not that of a great historical picture,
but rather that of a frieze, or of some rich festoon entwined among
groups of picturesque figures. And precisely as in the figures or
tendrils of a frieze we do not look for minuteness of execution in the
individual forms, or for distant perspectives and different planes, so
we must as little expect anything of the kind from these poems.

The varied richness of invention which continually astonishes us, most
of all in the case of Boiardo, turns to ridicule all our school
definitions as to the essence of epic poetry. For that age, this form
of literature was the most agreeable diversion from archaeological
studies, and, indeed, the only possible means of re-establishing an
independent class of narrative poetry. For the versification of ancient
history could only lead to the false tracks which were trodden by
Petrarch in his 'Africa,' written in Latin hexameters, and a hundred
and fifty years later by Trissino in his 'Italy delivered from the
Goths,' composed in 'versi sciolti'--a never-ending poem of faultless
language and versification, which only makes us doubt whether this
unlucky alliance has been more disastrous to history or to poetry.

And whither did the example of Dante beguile those who imitated him?
The visionary 'Trionfi' of Petrarch were the last of the works written
under this influence which satisfy our taste. The 'Amorosa Visione' of
Boccaccio is at bottom no more than an enumeration of historical or
fabulous characters, arranged under allegorical categories. Others
preface what they have to tell with a baroque imitation of Dante's
first canto, and provide themselves with some allegorical comparison,
to take the place of Virgil. Uberti, for example, chose Solinus for his
geographical poem--the 'Dittamondo'--and Giovanni Santi, Plutarch for
his encomium on Federigo of Urbino. The only salvation of the time from
these false tendencies lay in the new epic poetry which was represented
by Pulci and Boiardo. The admiration and curiosity with which it was
received, and the like of which will perhaps never fall again to the
lot of epic poetry to the end of time, is a brilliant proof of how
great was the need of it. It is idle to ask whether that epic ideal
which our own day has formed from Homer and the 'Nibelungenlied' is or
is not realized in these works; an ideal of their own age certainly
was. By their endless descriptions of combats, which to us are the most
fatiguing part of these poems, they satisfied, as we have already said,
a practical interest of which it is hard for us to form a just
conception--as hard, indeed, as of the esteem in which a lively and
faithful reflection of the passing moment was then held.

Nor can a more inappropriate test be applied to Ariosto than the degree
in which his 'Orlando Furioso' serves for the representation of
character. Characters, indeed, there are, and drawn with an
affectionate care; but the poem does not depend on these for its
effect, and would lose, rather than gain, if more stress were laid upon
them. But the demand for them is part of a wider and more general
desire which Ariosto fails to satisfy as our day would wish it
satisfied. From a poet of such fame and such mighty gifts we would
gladly receive something better than the adventures of Orlando. From
him we might have hoped for a work expressing the deepest conflicts of
the human soul, the highest thoughts of his time on human and divine
things--in a word, one of those supreme syntheses like the 'Divine
Comedy' or 'Faust.' Instead of which he goes to work like the visual
artists of his own day, not caring for originality in our sense of the
word, simply reproducing a familiar circle of figures, and even, when
it suits his purpose, making use of the details left him by his
predecessors. The excellence which, in spite of all this, can
nevertheless be attained, will be the more incomprehensible to people
born without the artistic sense, the more learned and intelligent in
other respects they are. The artistic aim of Ariosto is brilliant,
living action, which he distributes equally through the whole of his
great poem. For this end he needs to be excused, not only from all
deeper expression of character, but also from maintaining any strict
connection in his narrative. He must be allowed to take up lost and
forgotten threads when and where he pleases; his heroes must come and
go, not because their character, but because the story requires it. Yet
in this apparently irrational and arbitrary style of composition he
displays a harmonious beauty, never losing himself in description, but
giving only such a sketch of scenes and persons as does not hinder the
flowing movement of the narrative. Still less does he lose himself in
conversation and monologue, but maintains the lofty privilege of the
true epos, by transforming all into living narrative. His pathos does
not lie in the words, not even in the famous twentythird and following
cantos, where Roland's madness is described. That the love-stories in
the heroic poem are without all lyrical tenderness, must be reckoned a
merit, though from a moral point of view they cannot always be
approved. Yet at times they are of such truth and reality,
notwithstanding all ; and romance which surrounds them, that we might
think them personal affairs of the poet himself. In the full
consciousness of his own genius, he does not scruple to interweave t he
events of his own day into the poem, and to celebrate the fame of the
house of Este in visions and prophecies. The wonderful stream of his
octaves bears it all forward in even and dignified movement.

With Teofilo Folengo, or, as he here calls himself, Limerno Pitocco,
the parody of the whole system of chivalry attained the end it had so
long desired. But here comedy, with its realism, demanded of necessity
a stricter delineation of character. Exposed to all the rough usage of
the half-savage street-lads in a Roman country town, Sutri, the little
Orlando grows up before our eyes into the hero, the priest-hater, and
the disputant. The conventional world which had been recognized since
the time of Pulci and had served as a framework for the epos, here
falls to pieces. The origin and position of the paladins is openly
ridiculed, as in the tournament of donkeys in the second book, where
the knights appear with the most ludicrous armament. The poet utters
his ironical regrets over the inexplicable faithlessness which seems
implanted in the house of Gano of Mainz, over the toilsome acquisition
of the sword Durindana, and so forth. Tradition, in fact, serves him
only as a substratum for episodes, ludicrous fancies, allusions to
events of the time (among which some, like the close of cap. vi. are
exceedingly fine), and indecent jokes. Mixed with all this, a certain
derision of Ariosto is unmistakable, and it was fortunate for the 'Or-
lando Furioso' that the 'Orlandino,' with its Lutheran heresies, was
soon put out of the way by the Inquisition. The parody is evident when
(cap. vi, 28) the house of Gonzaga is deduced from the paladin Guidone,
since the Colonna claimed Orlando, the Orsini Rinaldo, and the house of
Este--according to Ariosto-- Ruggiero as their ancestors. Perhaps
Ferrante Gonzaga, the patron of the poet, was a party to this sarcasm
on the house of Este.

That in the 'Jerusalem Delivered' of Torquato Tasso the delineation of
character is one of the chief tasks of the poet, proves only how far
his mode of thought differed from that prevalent half a century before.
His admirable work is a true monument of the Counter-reformation which
had meanwhile been accomplished, and of the spirit and tendency of that

Biography and in the in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance

Outside the sphere of poetry also, the Italians were the first of all
European nations who displayed any remarkable power and inclination
accurately to describe man as shown in history, according to his inward
and outward characteristics.

It is true that in the Middle Ages considerable attempts were made in
the same direction; and the legends of the Church, as a kind of
standing biographical task, must, to some extent, have kept alive the
interest and the gift for such descriptions. In the annals of the
monasteries and cathedrals, many of the churchmen, such as Meinwerk of
Paderborn, Godehard of Hildesheim, and others, are brought vividly
before our eyes; and descriptions exist of several of the German
emperors, modelled after old authors--particularly Suetonius--which
contain admirable features. Indeed these and other profane 'vitae' came
in time to form a continuous counterpart to the sacred legends. Yet
neither Einhard nor Wippo nor Radevicus can be named by the side of
Joinville's picture of St. Louis, which certainly stands almost alone
as the first complete spiritual portrait of a modern European nature.
Characters like St. Louis are rare at all times, and his was favored by
the rare good fortune that a sincere and naive observer caught the
spirit of all the events and actions of his life, and represented it
admirably. From what scanty sources are we left to guess at the inward
nature of Frederick II or of Philip the Fair. Much of what, till the
close of the Middle Ages, passed for biography, is properly speaking
nothing but contemporary narrative, written without any sense of what
is individual in the subject of the memoir.

Among the Italians, on the contrary, the search for the characteristic
features of remarkable men was a prevailing tendency; and this it is
which separates them from the other western peoples, among whom the
same thing happens but seldom, and in exceptional cases. This keen eye
for individuality belongs only to those who have emerged from the
halfconscious life of the race and become themselves individuals.

Under the influence of the prevailing conception of fame an art of
comparative biography arose which no longer found it necessary, like
Anastasius, Agnellus, and their successors, or like the biographers of
the Venetian doges, to adhere to a dynastic or ecclesiastical
succession. It felt itself free to describe a man if and because he was
remarkable. It took as models .Suetonius, Nepos (the 'viri illustres'),
and Plutarch,-so far as he was known and translated; for sketches of
literary history, the lives of the grammarians, rhetoricians, and
poets, known to us as the 'Appendices' to Suetonius, seem to have
served as patterns, as well as the widely-read life of Virgil by

It has already been mentioned that biographical collections --lives of
famous men and famous women--began to appear in the fourteenth century.
Where they do not describe contemporaries, they are naturally dependent
on earlier narratives. The first great original effort is the life of
Dante by Boccaccio. Lightly and rhetorically written, and full, as it
is, of arbitrary fancies, this work nevertheless gives us a lively
sense of the extraordinary features in Dante's nature. Then follow, at
the end of the fourteenth century, the 'vite' of illustrious
Florentines, by Filippo Villani. They are men of every calling: poets,
jurists, physicians, scholars, artists, statesmen, and soldiers, some
of them then still living. Florence is here treated like a gifted
family, in which all the members are noticed in whom the spirit of the
house expresses itself vigorously. The descriptions are brief, but show
a remarkable eye for what is characteristic, and are noteworthy for
including the inward and outward physiognomy in the same sketch. From
that time forward, the Tuscans never ceased to consider the description
of man as lying within their special competence, and to them we owe the
most valuable portraits of the Italians of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries. Giovanni Cavalcanti, in the appendices to his Florentine
history, written before the year 1450, collects instances of civil
virtue and abnegation, of political discernment and of military valor,
all shown by Florentines. Pius II gives in his 'Commentaries' valuable
portraits of famous contemporaries; and not long ago a separate work of
his earlier years, which seems preparatory to these portraits, but
which has colors and features that are very singular, was reprinted. To
Jacopo of Volterra we owe piquant sketches of members of the Curia in
the time of Sixtus IV. Vespasiano Fiorentino has often been referred to
already, and as a historical authority a high place must be assigned to
him; but his gift as a painter of character is not to be compared with
that of Machiavelli, Niccolo Valori, Guicciardini, Varchi, Francesco
Vettori, and others, by whom European historical literature has
probably been as much influenced in this direction as by the ancients.
It must not be forgotten that some of these authors soon found their
way into northern countries by means of Latin translations. And without
Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo and his all-important work, we should perhaps
to this day have no history of Northern art, or of the art of modern
Europe, at all.

Among the biographers of North Italy in the fifteenth century,
Bartolommeo Fazio of Spezia holds a high rank. Platina, born in the
territory of Cremona, gives us, in his 'Life of Paul II,' examples of
biographical caricatures. The description of the last Visconti, written
by Piercandido Decembrio--an enlarged imitation of Suetonius--is of
special importance. Sismondi regrets that so much trouble has been
spent on so unworthy an object, but the author would hardly have been
equal to deal with a greater man, while he was thoroughly competent to
describe the mixed nature of Filippo Maria, and in and through it to
represent with accuracy the conditions, the forms, and the consequences
of this particular kind of despotism. The picture of the fifteenth
century would be incomplete without this unique biography, which is
characteristic down to its minutest details. Milan afterwards
possessed, in the historian Corio, an excellent portrait-painter; and
after him came Paolo Giovio of Como, whose larger biographies and
shorter 'Elogia' have achieved a world-wide reputation, and become
models for subsequent writers in all countries. It is easy to prove by
a hundred passages how superficial and even dishonest he was; nor from
a man like him can any high and serious purpose be expected. But the
breath of the age moves in his pages, and his Leo, his Alfonso, his
Pompeo Colonna, live and act before us with such perfect truth and
reality, that we seem admitted to the deepest recesses of their nature.

Among Neapolitan writers, Tristano Caracciolo, so far as we are able to
judge, holds indisputably the first place in this respect, although his
purpose was not strictly biographical. In the figures which he brings
before us, guilt and destiny are wondrously mingled. He is a kind of
unconscious tragedian. That genuine tragedy which then found no place
on the stage, 'swept by' in the palace, the street, and the public
square. The 'Words and Deeds of Alfonso the Great,' written by Antonio
Panormita during the lifetime of the king, are remarkable as one of the
first of such collections of anecdotes and of wise and witty sayings.

The rest of Europe followed the example of Italy in this respect but
slowly, although great political and religious movements had broken so
many bonds, and had awakened so many thousands to new spiritual life.
Italians, whether scholars or diplomatists, still remained, on the
whole, the best source of information for the characters of the leading
men all over Europe. It is well known how speedily and unanimously in
recent times the reports of the Venetian embassies in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries have been recognized as authorities of the first
order for personal description. Even autobiography takes here and there
in Italy a bold and vigorous flight, and puts before us, together with
the most varied incidents of external life, striking revelations of the
inner man. Among other nations, even in Germany at the time of the
Reformation, it deals only with outward experiences, and leaves us to
guess at the spirit within from the style of the narrative. It seems as
though Dante's 'Vita Nuova,' with the inexorable truthfulness which
runs through it, had shown his people the way.

The beginnings of autobiography are to be traced in the family
histories of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which are said to
be not uncommon as manuscripts in the Florentine libraries--unaffected
narratives written for the sake of the individual or of his family,
like that of Buonaccorso Pitti.

A profound self-analysis is not to be looked for in the 'Commentaries'
of Pius II. What we here learn of him as a man seems at first sight to
be chiefly confined to the account which he gives of the various steps
in his career. But further reflection will lead us to a different
conclusion with regard to this remarkable book. There are men who are
by nature mirrors of what surrounds them. It would be irrelevant to ask
incessantly after their convictions, their spiritual struggles, their
inmost victories and achievements. Aeneas Sylvius lived wholly in the
interest which lay near, without troubling himself about the problems
and contradictions of life. His Catholic orthodoxy gave him all the
help of this kind which he needed. And at all events, after taking part
in every intellectual movement which interested his age, and notably
furthering some of them, he still at the close of his earthly course
retained character enough to preach a crusade against the Turks, and to
die of grief when it came to nothing.

Nor is the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, any more than that of
Pius II, founded on introspection. And yet it describes the whole man--
not always willingly--with marvelous truth and completeness. It is no
small matter that Benvenuto, whose most important works have perished
half finished, and who, as an artist, is perfect only in his little
decorative speciality, but in other respects, if judged by the works of
him which remain, is surpassed by so many of his greater
contemporaries--that Benvenuto as a man will interest mankind to the
end of time. It does not spoil the impression when the reader often
detects him bragging or lying; the stamp of a mighty, energetic, and
thoroughly developed nature remains. By his side our modern
autobiographers, though their tendency and moral character may stand
much higher, appear incomplete beings. He is a man who can do all and
dares do all, and who carries his measure in himself. Whether we like
him or not, he lives, such as he was, as a significant type of the
modern spirit.

Another man deserves a brief mention in connection with this subject--a
man who, like Benvenuto, was not a model of veracity: Girolamo Cardano
of Milan (b. 1500). His little book, 'De propria vita,' will outlive
and eclipse his fame in philosophy and natural science, just as
Benvenuto's Life, though its value is of another kind, has thrown his
works into the shade. Cardano is a physician who feels his own pulse,
and describes his own physical, moral, and intellectual nature,
together with all the conditions under which it had developed, and
this, to the best of his ability, honestly and sincerely. The work
which he avowedly took as his model--the 'Confessions' of Marcus
Aurelius--he was able, hampered as he was by no stoical maxims, to
surpass in this particular. He desires to spare neither himself nor
others, and begins the narrative of his career with the statement that
his mother tried, and failed, to procure abortion. It is worth remark
that he attributes to the stars which presided over his birth only the
events of his life and his intellectual gifts, but not his moral
qualities; he confesses (cap. 10) that the astrological prediction that
he would not live to the age of forty or fifty years did him much harm
in his youth. But there is no need to quote from so well-known md
accessible a book; whoever opens it will not lay it down il] the last
page. Cardano admits that he cheated at play, that e was vindictive,
incapable of all compunction, purposely cruel in his speech. He
confesses it without impudence and without feigned contrition, without
even wishing to make himself an object of interest, but with the same
simple and sincere love of fact which guided him in his scientific
researches. And, what is to us the most repulsive of all, the old man,
after the most shocking experiences and with his confidence in his
fellowmen gone, finds himself after all tolerably happy and
comfortable. He has still left him a grandson, immense learning, the
fame of his works, money, rank and credit, powerful friends, the
knowledge of many secrets, and, best of all, belief in God. After this,
he counts the teeth in his head, and finds that he was fifteen.

Yet when Cardano wrote, Inquisitors and Spaniards were already busy in
Italy, either hindering the production of such natures, or, where they
existed, by some means or other putting them out of the way. There lies
a gulf between this book and the memoirs of Alfieri.

Yet it would be unjust to close this list of autobiographers without
listening to a word from one man who was both worthy and happy. This is
the well-known philosopher of practical life, Luigi Cornaro, whose
dwelling at Padua, classical as an architectural work, was at the same
time the home of all the muses. In his famous treatise 'On the Sober
Life,' he describes the strict regimen by which he succeeded, after a
sickly youth, in reaching an advanced and healthy age, then of eighty-
three years. He goes on to answer those who despise life after the age
of sixty-five as a living death, showing them that his own life had
nothing deadly about it. 'Let them come and see, and wonder at my good
health, how I mount on horseback without help, how I run upstairs and
up hills, how cheerful, amusing, and contented I am, how free from care
and disagreeable thoughts. Peace and joy never quit me.... My friends
are wise, learned, and distinguished people of good position, and when
they are not with me I read and write, and try thereby, as by all other
means. to be useful to others. Each of these things I do at the proper
time, and at my ease, in my dwelling, which is beautiful and lies in
the best part of Padua, and is arranged both for summer and winter with
all the resources of architecture, and provided with a garden by the
running water. In the spring and autumn, I go for awhile to my hill in
the most beautiful part of the Euganean mountains, where I have
fountains and gardens, and a comfortable dwelling; and there I amuse
myself with some easy and pleasant chase, which is suitable to my
years. At other times I go to my villa on the plain; there all the
paths lead to an open space, in the middle of which stands a pretty
church; an arm of the Brenta flows through the plantations-- fruitful,
well-cultivated fields, now fully peopled, which the marshes and the
foul air once made fitter for snakes than for men. It was I who drained
the country; then the air became good, and people settled there and
multiplied, and the land became cultivated as it now is, so that T can
truly say: "On this spot I gave to God an altar and a temple, and souls
to worship Him." This is my consolation and my happiness whenever I
come here. In the spring and autumn, I also visit the neighbouring
towns, to see and converse with my friends, through whom I make the
acquaintance of other distinguished men, architects, painters,
sculptors, musicians, and cultivators of the soil. I see what new
things they have done, I look again at what I know already, and learn
much that is of use to me. I see palaces, gardens, antiquities, public
grounds, churches, and fortifications. But what most of all delights me
when I travel, is the beauty of the country and the places, lying now
on the plain, now on the slopes of the hills, or on the banks of rivers
and streams, surrounded by gardens and villas. And these enjoyments are
not diminished through weakness of the eyes or the ears; all my senses
(thank God!) are in the best condition, including the sense of taste;
for I enjoy more the simple food which I now take in moderation, than
all the delicacies which I ate in my years of disorder.' After
mentioning the works he had undertaken on behalf of the republic for
draining the marshes, and the projects which he had constantly
advocated for preserving the lagoons, he thus concludes:

'These are the true recreations of an old age which God has permitted
to be healthy, and which is free from those mental and bodily
sufferings to which so many young people and so many sickly older
people succumb. And if it be allowable to add the little to the great,
to add jest to earnest, it may be mentioned as a result of my moderate
life, that in my eightythird year I have written a most amusing comedy,
full of blameless wit. Such works are generally the business of youth,
as tragedy is the business of old age. If it is reckoned to the credit
of the famous Greek that he wrote a tragedy in his seventythird year,
must I not, with my ten years more, be more cheerful and healthy than
he ever was? And that no consolation may be wanting in the overflowing
cup of my old age, I see before my eyes a sort of bodily immortality in
the persons of my descendants. When I come home I see before me, not
one or two, but eleven grandchildren, between the ages of two and
eighteen, all from the same father and mother, all healthy, and, so far
as can already be judged, all gifted with the talent and disposition
for learning and a good life. One of the younger I have as my playmate
(buffoncello), since children from the third to the fifth year are born
to tricks; the elder ones I treat as my companions, and, as they have
admirable voices, I take delight in hearing them sing and play on
different instruments. And I sing myself, and find my voice better,
clearer, and louder than ever. These are the pleasures of my last
years. My life, therefore, is alive, and not dead; nor would I exchange
my age for the youth of such as live in the service of their passions.'

In the 'Exhortation' which Cornaro added at a much later time, in his
ninety-fifth year, he reckons it among the elements of his happiness
that his 'Treatise' had made many converts. He died at Padua in 1565,
at the age of over a hundred years.

This national gift did not, however, confine itself to the criticism
and description of individuals, but felt itself competent to deal with
the qualities and characteristics of whole peoples. Throughout the
Middle Ages the cities, families, and nations of all Europe were in the
habit of making insulting and derisive attacks on one another, which,
with much caricature, contained commonly a kernel of truth. But from
the first the Italians surpassed all others in their quick apprehension
of the mental differences among cities and populations. Their local
patriotism, stronger probably than in any other medieval people, soon
found expression in literature, and allied itself with the current
conception of 'Fame.' Topography became the counterpart of biography;
while all the more important cities began to celebrate their own
praises in prose and verse, writers appeared who made the chief towns
and districts the subject partly of a serious comparative description,
partly of satire, and sometimes of notices in which jest and earnest
are not easy to be distinguished. Next to some famous passages in the
'Divine Comedy,' we have here the 'Dittamondo' of Uberti (about 1360).
As a rule, only single remarkable facts and characteristics are here
mentioned: the Feast of the Crows at Sant' Apollinare in Ravenna, the
springs at Treviso, the great cellar near Vicenza, the high duties at
Mantua, the forest of towers at Lucca. Yet mixed up with all this, we
find laudatory and satirical criticisms of every kind. Arezzo figures
with the crafty disposition of its citizens, Genoa with the
artificially blackened eyes and teeth (?) of its women, Bologna with
its prodigality, Bergamo with its coarse dialect and hard-headed
people. In the fifteenth century the fashion was to belaud one's own
city even at the expense of others. Michele Savonarola allows that, in
comparison with his native Padua, only Rome and Venice are more
splendid, and Florence perhaps more joyous--by which our knowledge is
naturally not much extended. At the end of the century, Jovianus
Pontanus, in his 'Antonius,' writes an imaginary journey through Italy,
simply as a vehicle for malicious observations. But in the sixteenth
century we meet with a series of exact and profound studies of national
characteristics, such as no other people of that time could rival.
Machiavelli sets forth in some of his valuable essays the character and
the political condition of the Germans and French in such a way that
the born northerner, familiar with the history of his own country, is
grateful to the Florentine thinker for his flashes of insight. The
Florentines begin to take pleasure in describing themselves; and
basking in the well-earned sunshine of their intellectual glory, their
pride seems to attain its height when they derive the artistic pre-
eminence of Tuscany among Italians, not from any special gifts of
nature, but from hard, patient work. The homage of famous men from
other parts of Italy, of which the sixteenth Capitolo of Ariosto is a
splendid example, they accepted as a merited tribute to their

Of an admirable description of the Italians, with their various
pursuits and characteristics, though in a few words and with special
stress laid on the Lucchese, to whom the work was dedicated, we can
give only the title: _Forcianae Questiones, _by Ortensio Landi, Naples,
1536. Leandro Alberti is not so fruitful as might be expected in his
description of the character of the different cities. A 'Commentario'
(by Ortensio Landi, Venice, 1553) contains among many absurdities some
valuable information on the unfortunate conditions prevailing about the
middle of the century.

To what extent this comparative study of national and local
characteristics may, by means of Italian humanism, have influenced the
rest of Europe, we cannot say with precision. To Italy, at all events,
belongs the priority in this respect, as in the description of the
world in general.

Description of the Outward Man

But the discoveries made with regard to man were not confined to the
spiritual characteristics of individuals and nations; his outward
appearance was in Italy the subject of an entirely different interest
from that shown in it by northern peoples.

Of the position held by the great Italian physicians with respect to
the progress of physiology, we cannot venture to speak; and the
artistic study of the human figure belongs, not to a work like the
present, but to the history of art. But something must here be said of
that universal education of the eye, which rendered the judgement of
the Italians as to bodily beauty or ugliness perfect and final.

On reading the Italian authors of that period attentively, we are
astounded at the keenness and accuracy with which outward features are
seized, and at the completeness with which personal appearance in
general is described. Even today the Italians, and especially the
Romans, have the art of sketching a man's picture in a couple of words.
This rapid apprehension of what is characteristic is an essential
condition for detecting and representing the beautiful. In poetry, it
is true, circumstantial description may be a fault, not a merit, since
a single feature, suggested by deep passion or insight, will often
awaken in the reader a far more powerful impression of the figure
described. Dante gives us nowhere a more splendid idea of his Beatrice
than where he only describes the influence which goes forth from her
upon all around. But here we have not to treat particularly of poetry,
which follows its own laws and pursues its own ends, but rather of the
general capacity to paint in words real or imaginary forms.

In this Boccaccio is a master--not in the 'Decameron,' where the
character of the tales forbids lengthy description, but in the
romances, where he is free to take his time. In his 'Ameto' he
describes a blonde and a brunette much as an artist a hundred years
later would have painted them--for here, too, culture long precedes
art. In the account of the brunette--or, strictly speaking, of the less
blonde of the two--there are touches which deserve to be called
classical. In the words 'la spaziosa testa e distesa' lies the feeling
for grander forms, which go beyond a graceful prettiness; the eyebrows
with him no longer resemble two bows, as in the Byzantine ideal, but a
single wavy line; the nose seems to have been meant to be aquiline; the
broad, full breast, the arms of moderate length, the effect of the
beautiful hand, as it lies on the purple mantle--all this foretells the
sense of beauty of a coming time, and unconsciously approaches to that
of classical antiquity. In other descriptions Boccaccio mentions a flat
(not medievally rounded) brow, a long, earnest, brown eye, and round,
not hollowed neck, as well as--in a very modern tone--the 'little feet'
and the 'two roguish eyes' of a black-haired nymph.

Whether the fifteenth century has left any written account of its ideal
of beauty, I am not able to say. The works of the painters and
sculptors do not render such an account as unnecessary as might appear
at first sight, since possibly, as opposed to their realism, a more
ideal type might have been favored and preserved by the writers. In the
sixteenth century Firenzuola came forward with his remarkable work on
female beauty. We must clearly distinguish in it what he had learned
from old authors or from artists, such as the fixing of proportions
according to the length of the head, and certain abstract conceptions.
What remains is his own genuine observation, illustrated with examples
of women and girls from Prato. As his little work is a kind of lecture,
delivered before the women of this city--that is to say, before very
severe critics--he must have kept pretty closely to the truth. His
principle is avowedly that of Zeuxis and of Lucian--to piece together
an ideal beauty out of a number of beautiful parts. He defines the
shades of color which occur in the hair and skin, and gives to the
'biondo' the preference, as the most beautiful color for the hair,
understanding by it a soft yellow, inclining to brown. He requires that
the hair should be thick, long, and locky; the forehead serene, and
twice as broad as high; the skin bright and clear (candida), but not of
a dead white (bianchezza); the eyebrows dark, silky, most strongly
marked in the middle, and shading off towards the ears and the nose;
the white of the eye faintly touched with blue, the iris not actually
black, though all the poets praise 'occhi neri' as a gift of Venus,
despite that even goddesses were known for their eyes of heavenly blue,
and that soft, joyous, brown eyes were admired by everybody. The eye
itself should be large and full and brought well forward; the lids
white, and marked with almost invisible tiny red veins; the lashes
neither too long, nor too thick, nor too dark. The hollow round the eye
should have the same color as the cheek. The ear, neither too large nor
too small, firmly and neatly fitted on, should show a stronger color in
the winding than in the even parts, with an edge of the transparent
ruddiness of the pomegranate. The temples must be white and even, and
for the most perfect beauty ought not to be too narrow. The red should
grow deeper as the cheek gets rounder. The nose, which chiefly
determines the value of the profile, must recede gently and uniformly
in the direction of the eyes; where the cartilage ceases, there may be
a slight elevation, but not so marked as to make the nose aquiline,
which is not pleasing in women; the lower part must be less strongly
colored than the ears, but not of a chilly whiteness, and the middle
partition above the lips lightly tinted with red. The mouth, our author
would have rather small, and neither projecting to a point, nor quite
flat, with the lips not too thin, and fitting neatly together; an
accidental opening, that is, when the woman is neither speaking nor
laughing, should not display more than six upper teeth. As delicacies
of detail, he mentions a dimple in the upper lip, a certain fullness of
the under lip, and a tempting smile in the left corner of the mouth--
and so on. The teeth should not be too small, regular, well marked off
from one another, and of the color of ivory; and the gums must not be
too dark or even like red velvet. The chin is to be round, neither
pointed nor curved outwards, and growing slightly red as it rises; its
glory is the dimple. The neck should be white and round and rather long
than short, with the hollow and the Adam's apple but faintly marked;
and the skin at every movement must show pleasing lines. The shoulders
he desires broad, and in the breadth of the bosom sees the first
condition of its beauty. No bone may be visible upon it, its fall and
swell must be gentle and gradual, its color 'candidissimo.' The leg
should be long and not too hard in the lower parts, but still not
without flesh on the shin, which must be provided with white, full
calves. He likes the foot small, but not bony, the instep (it seems)
high, and the color white as alabaster. The arms are to be white, and
in the upper parts tinted with red; in their consistence fleshy and
muscular, but still soft as those of Pallas, when she stood before the
shepherd on Mount Ida--in a word, ripe, fresh, and firm. The hand
should be white, especially towards the wrist, but large and plump,
feeling soft as silk, the rosy palm marked with a few, but distinct and
not intricate lines; the elevations in it should be not too great, the
space between thumb and forefinger brightly colored and without
wrinkles, the fingers long, delicate, and scarcely at all thinner
towards the tips, with nails clear, even, not too long nor to square,
and cut so as to show a white margin about the breadth of a knife's

Aesthetic principles of a general character occupy a very subordinate
place to these particulars. The ultimate principles of beauty,
according to which the eye judges 'senza appello,' are for Firenzuola a
secret, as he frankly confesses; and his definitions of 'Leggiadria,'
'Grazia,' 'Aria,' 'Maesta,' 'Vaghezza,' 'Venusta,' are partly, as has
been remarked, philological, and partly vain attempts to utter the
unutterable. Laughter he prettily defines, probably following some old
author, as a radiance of the soul. The literature of all countries can,
at the close of the Middle Ages, show single attempts to lay down
theoretic principles of beauty; but no other work can be compared to
that of Firenzuola. Brantome, who came a good half-century later, is a
bungling critic by his side, because governed by lasciviousness and not
by a sense of beauty.

Description of Human Life

Among the new discoveries made with regard to man, we must reckon, in
conclusion, the interest taken in descriptions of the daily course of
human life.

The comical and satirical literature of the Middle Ages could not
dispense with pictures of everyday events. But it is another thing,
when the Italians of the Renaissance dwelt on this picture for its own
sake--for its inherent interest-- and because it forms part of that
great, universal life of the world whose magic breath they felt
everywhere around them. Instead of and together with the satirical
comedy, which wanders through houses, villages, and streets, seeking
food for its derision in parson, peasant, and burgher, we now see in
literature the beginnings of a true _genre, _long before it found any
expression in painting. That _genre _and satire are often met with in
union, does not prevent them from being wholly different things.

How much of earthly business must Dante have watched with attentive
interest, before he was able to make us see with our own eyes all that
happened in his spiritual world. The famous pictures of the busy
movement in the arsenal at Venice, of the blind men laid side by side
before the church door, and the like, are by no means the only
instances of this kind: for the art, in which he is a master, of
expressing the inmost soul by the outward gesture, cannot exist without
a close and incessant study of human life. (Cf. Inferno xxi, 1-6,
Purgatorio xiii, 61-66.) The poets who followed rarely came near him in
this respect, and the novelists were forbidden by the first laws of
their literary style to linger over details. Their prefaces and
narratives might be as long as they pleased, but what we understand by
_genre _was outside their province. The taste for this class of
description was not fully awakened till the time of the revival of

And here we are again met by the man who had a heart for everything--
Aeneas Sylvius. Not only natural beauty, not only that which has an
antiquarian or a geographical interest, finds a place in his
descriptions, but any living scene of daily life. Among the numerous
passages in his memoirs in which scenes are described which hardly one
of his contemporaries would have thought worth a line of notice, we
will here only mention the boat-race on the Lake of Bolsena. We are not
able to detect from what old letter-writer or story-teller the impulse
was derived to which we owe such lifelike pictures. Indeed, the whole
spiritual communion between antiquity and the Renaissance is full of
delicacy and of mystery.

To this class belong those descriptive Latin poems of which we have
already spoken--hunting-scenes, journeys, ceremonies, and so forth. In
Italian we also find something of the same kind, as, for example, the
descriptions of the famous Medicean tournament by Politian and Luca
Pulci. The true epic poets, Luigi Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto, are
carried on more rapidly by the stream of their narrative; yet in all of
them we must recognize the lightness and precision of their descriptive
touch as one of the chief elements of their greatness. Franco Sacchetti
amuses himself with repeating the short speeches of a troop of pretty
women caught in the woods by a shower of rain.

Other scenes of moving life are to be looked for in the military
historians. In a lengthy poem, dating from an earlier period, we find a
faithful picture of a combat of mercenary soldiers in the fourteenth
century, chiefly in the shape of the orders, cries of battle, and
dialogue with which it is accompanied.

But the most remarkable productions of this kind are the realistic
descriptions of country life, which are found most abundantly in
Lorenzo il Magnifico and the poets of his circle.

Since the time of Petrarch, an unreal and conventional style of bucolic
poetry had been in vogue, which, whether written in Latin or Italian,
was essentially a copy of Virgil. Parallel to this, we find the
pastoral novel of Boccaccio and other works of the same kind down to
the 'Arcadia' of Sannazaro, and later still, the pastoral comedy of
Tasso and Guarini. They are works whose style, whether poetry or prose
is admirably finished and perfect, but in which pastoral life is ideal
dress for sentiments which belong to a wholly sphere of culture.

But by the side of all this there appeared in Italian poetry, towards
the close of the fifteenth century, signs of a more realistic treatment
of rustic life. This was not possible out of Italy; for here only did
the peasant, whether laborer or proprietor, possess human dignity,
personal freedom, and the right of settlement, hard as his lot might
sometimes be in other respects. The difference between town and country
is far from being so marked here as in northern countries. Many of the
smaller towns are peopled almost exclusively by peasants who, on coming
home at nightfall from their work, are transformed into townsfolk. The
masons of Como wandered over nearly all Italy; the child Giotto was
free to leave his sheep and join a guild at Florence; everywhere there
was a human stream flowing from the country into the cities, and some
mountain populations seemed born to supply this current. It is true
that the pride and local conceit supplied poets and novelists with
abundant motives for making game of the 'villano,' and what they left
undone was taken charge of by the comic improvisers. But nowhere do we
find a trace of that brutal and contemptuous class-hatred against the
'vilains' which inspired the aristocratic poets of Provence, and often,
too, the French chroniclers. On the contrary, Italian authors of every
sort gladly recognize and accentuate what is great or remarkable in the
life of the peasant. Gioviano Pontano mentions with admiration
instances of the fortitude of the savage inhabitants of the Abruzzi; in
the biographical collections and in the novelists we meet with the
figure of the heroic peasant-maiden who hazards her life to defend her
family and her honour.

Such conditions made the poetical treatment of country life possible.
The first instance we shall mention is that of Battista Mantovano,
whose eclogues, once much read and still worth reading, appeared among
his earliest works about 1480. They are a mixture of real and
conventional rusticity, but the former tends to prevail. They represent
the mode of thought of a well-meaning village clergyman, not without a
certain leaning to liberal ideas. As Carmelite monk, the writer may
have had occasion to mix freely with the peasantry.

But it is with a power of a wholly different kind that Lorenzo il
Magnifico transports himself into the peasant's world. His 'Nencia di
Barberino' reads like a crowd of genuine extracts from the popular
songs of the Florentine country, fused into a great stream of octaves.
The objectivity of the writer is such that we are in doubt whether the
speaker--the young peasant Vallera, who declares his love to Nencia--
awakens his sympathy or ridicule. The deliberate contrast to the
conventional eclogue is unmistakable. Lorenzo surrenders himself
purposely to the realism of simple, rough country life, and yet his
work makes upon us the impression of true poetry.

The 'Beca da Dicomano' of Luigi Pulci is an admitted counterpart to the
'Nencia' of Lorenzo. But the deeper purpose is wanting. The 'Beca' is
written not so much from the inward need to give a picture of popular
life, as from the desire to win the approbation of the educated
Florentine world by a successful poem. Hence the greater and more
deliberate coarseness of the scenes, and the indecent jokes.
Nevertheless, the point of view of the rustic lover is admirably

Third in this company of poets comes Angelo Poliziano, with his
'Rusticus' in Latin hexameters. Keeping clear of all imitation of
Virgil's Georgics, he describes the year of the Tuscan peasant,
beginning with the late autumn, when the countryman gets ready his new
plough and prepares the seed for the winter. The picture of the meadows
in spring is full and beautiful, and the 'Summer' has fine passages;
but the vintage-feast in autumn is one of the gems of modern Latin
poetry. Politian wrote poems in Italian as well as Latin, from which we
may infer that in Lorenzo's circle it was possible to give a realistic
picture of the passionate life of the lower classes. His gipsy's love-
song is one of the earliest products of that wholly modern tendency to
put oneself with poetic consciousness into the position of another
class. This had probably been attempted for ages with a view to satire,
and the opportunity for it was offered in Florence at every carnival by
the songs of the maskers. But the sympathetic understanding of the
feeling of another class was new; and with it the 'Nencia' and this
'Canzone zingaresca' mark a new starting-point in the history of

Here, too, we must briefly indicate how culture prepared the way for
artistic development. From the time of the 'Nencia,' a period of eighty
years elapses to the rustic genre-painting of Jacopo Bassano and his

In the next part of this work we shall show how differences of birth
had lost their significance in Italy. Much of this was doubtless owing
to the fact that men and mankind were here first thoroughly and
profoundly understood. This one single result of the Renaissance is
enough to fill us with everlasting thankfulness. The logical notion of
humanity was old enough--but here the notion became a fact.

The loftiest conceptions on this subject were uttered by Pico della
Mirandola in his Speech on the Dignity of Man, which may justly be
called one of the noblest of that great age. God, he tells us, made man
at the close of the creation, to know the laws of the universe, to love
its beauty, to admire its greatness. He bound him to no fixed place, to
no prescribed form of work, and by no iron necessity, but gave him
freedom to will and to love. 'I have set thee,' says the Creator to
Adam, 'in the midst of the world, that thou mayst the more easily
behold and see all that is therein. I created thee a being neither
heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal only, that thou
mightest be free to shape and to overcome thyself. Thou mayst sink into
a beast, and be born anew to the divine likeness. The brutes bring from
their mother's body what they will carry with them as long as they
live; the higher spirits are from the beginning, or soon after, what
they will be for ever. To thee alone is given a growth and a
development depending on thine own free will. Thou bearest in thee the
germs of a universal life.'

Part Five


Equality of Classes

Every period of civilization which forms a complete and consistent
whole manifests itself not only in political life, in religion, art,
and science, but also sets its characteristic stamp on social life.
Thus the Middle Ages had their courtly and aristocratic manners and
etiquette, differing but little in the various countries of Europe, as
well as their peculiar forms of middle-class life.

Italian customs at the time of the Renaissance offer in these respects
the sharpest contrasts to medievalism. The foundation on which they
rest is wholly different. Social intercourse in its highest and most
perfect form now ignored all distinctions of caste, and was based
simply on the existence of an educated class as we now understand the
word. Birth and origin were without influence, unless combined with
leisure and inherited wealth. Yet this assertion must not be taken in
an absolute and unqualified sense, since medieval distinctions still
sometimes made themselves felt to a greater or less degree, if only as
a means of maintaining equality with the aristocratic pretensions of
the less advanced countries of Europe. But the main current of the time
went steadily towards the fusion of classes in the modern sense of the

The fact was of vital importance that, from certainly the twelfth
century onwards, the nobles and the burghers dwelt together within the
walls of the cities. The interests and pleasures of both classes were
thus identified, and the feudal lord learned to look at society from
another point of view than that of his mountain castle. The Church,
too, in Italy never suffered itself, as in northern countries, to be
used as a means of providing for the younger sons of noble families.
Bishoprics, abbacies, and canonries were often given from the most
unworthy motives, but still not according to the pedigrees of the
applicants; and if the bishops in Italy were more numerous, poorer,
and, as a rule, destitute of all sovereign rights, they still lived in
the cities where their cathedrals stood, and formed, together with
their chapters, an important element in the cultivated society of the
place. In the age of despots and absolute princes which followed, the
nobility in most of the cities had the motives and the leisure to give
themselves up to a private life free from the political danger and
adorned with all that was elegant and enjoyable, but at the same time
hardly distinguishable from that of the wealthy burgher. And after the
time of Dante, when the new poetry and literature were in the hands of
all Italy, when to this was added the revival of ancient culture and
the new interest in man as such, when the successful Condottiere became
a prince, and not only good birth, but legitimate birth, ceased to be
indispensable for a throne, it might well seem that the age of equality
had dawned, and the belief in nobility vanished for ever.

From a theoretical point of view, when the appeal was made to
antiquity, the conception of nobility could be both justified and
condemned from Aristotle alone. Dante, for example, derives from
Aristotle's definition, 'Nobility rests on excellence and inherited
wealth,' his own saying, 'Nobility rests on personal excellence or on
that of forefathers.' But elsewhere he is not satisfied with this
conclusion. He blames himself, because even in Paradise, while talking
with his ancestor Cacciaguida, he made mention of his noble origin,
which is but a mantle from which time is ever cutting something away,
unless we ourselves add daily fresh worth to it. And in the 'Convito'
he disconnects 'nobile' and 'nobilita' from every condition of birth,
and identifies the idea with the capacity for moral and intellectual
eminence, laying a special stress on high culture by calling 'nobilita'
the sister of 'filosofia.'

And as time went on, the greater the influence of humanism on the
Italian mind, the firmer and more widespread became the conviction that
birth decides nothing as to the goodness or badness of a man. In the
fifteenth century this was the prevailing opinion. Poggio, in his
dialogue 'On nobility,' agrees with his interlocutors-- Niccolo
Niccoli, and Lorenzo Medici, brother of the great Cosimo-- that there
is no other nobility than that of personal merit. The keenest shafts of
his ridicule are directed against much of what vulgar prejudice thinks
indispensable to an aristocratic life. 'A man is !111 the farther
removed from true nobility, the longer his forefathers have plied the
trade of brigands. The taste for hawking and hunting saviours no more
of nobility than the nests and lairs of the hunted creatures of
spikenard. The cultivation of the soil, as practiced by the ancients,
would be much nobler than this senseless wandering through the hills
and woods, by which men make themselves like to the brutes than to the
reasonable creatures. It may serve well enough as a recreation, but not
as the business of a lifetime.' The life of the English and French
chivalry in the country or in the woody fastnesses seems to him
thoroughly ignoble, and worst of all the doings of the robber-knights
of Germany. Lorenzo here begins to take the part of the nobility, but
not-- which is characteristic--appealing to any natural sentiment in
its favour, but because Aristotle in the fifth book of the Politics
recognizes the nobility as existent, and defines it as resting on
excellence and inherited wealth. To this Niccoli retorts that Aristotle
gives this not as his own conviction, but as the popular impression; in
his Ethics, where he speaks as he thinks, he calls him noble who
strives after that which is truly good. Lorenzo urges upon him vainly
that the Greek word for nobility (Eugeneia) means good birth; Niccoli
thinks the Roman word 'nobilis' (i.e. remark- able) a better one, since
it makes nobility depend on a man's deeds. Together with these
discussions, we find a sketch of the conditions of the nobles in
various parts of Italy. In Naples they will not work, and busy
themselves neither with their own estates nor with trade and commerce,
which they hold to be discreditable; they either loiter at home or ride
about on horseback. The Roman nobility also despise trade, but farm
their own property; the cultivation of the land even opens the way to a
title; it is a respectable but boorish nobility. In Lombardy the nobles
live upon the rent of their inherited estates; descent and the
abstinence from any regular calling, constitute nobility. In Venice,
the 'nobili,' the ruling caste, were all merchants. Similarly in Genoa
the nobles and nonnobles were alike merchants and sailors, and only
separated by their birth: some few of the former, it is true, still
lurked as brigands in their mountain castles. In Florence a part of the
old nobility had devoted themselves to trade; another, and cer- tainly
by far the smaller part, enjoyed the satisfaction of their titles, and
spent their time, either in nothing at all, or else in hunting and

The decisive fact was, that nearly everywhere in Italy, even those who
might be disposed to pride themselves on their birth could not make
good the claims against the power of culture and of wealth, and that
their privileges in politics and at court were not sufficient to
encourage any strong feeling of caste. Venice offers only an apparent
exception to this rule, for there the 'nobili' led the same life as
their fellow-citizens, and were distinguished by few honorary
privileges. The case was certainly different at Naples, which the
strict isolation and the ostentatious vanity of its nobility excluded,
above all other causes, from the spiritual movement of the Renaissance.
The traditions of medieval Lombardy and Normandy, and the French
aristocratic influences which followed, all tended in this direction;
and the Aragonese government, which was established by the middle of
the fifteenth century, completed the work, and accomplished in Naples
what followed a hundred years later in the rest of Italy--a social
transformation in obedience to Spanish ideas, of which the chief
features were the contempt for work and the passion for titles. The
effect of this new influence was evident, even in the smaller towns,
before the year 1500. We hear complaints from La Cava that the place
had been proverbially rich, as long as it was filled with masons and
weavers; whilst now, since instead of looms and trowels nothing but
spurs, stirrups and gilded belts was to be seen, since everybody was
trying to become Doctor of Laws or of Medicine, Notary, Officer or
Knight, the most intolerable poverty prevailed. In Florence an
analogous change appears to have taken place by the time of Cosimo, the
first Grand Duke; he is thanked for adopting the young people, who now
despise trade and commerce, as knights of his order of St. Stephen.
This goes straight in the teeth of the good old Florentine custom, by
which fathers left property to their children on the condition that
they should have some occupation. But a mania for titles of a curious
and ludicrous sort sometimes crossed and thwarted, especially among the
Florentines, the levelling influence of art and culture. This was the
passion hood, which became one of the most striking follies at a time
when the dignity itself had lost every significance.

'A few years ago,' writes Franco Sacchetti, towards the end of the
fourteenth century, 'everybody saw how all the workpeople down to the
bakers, how all the wool-carders, usurers money-changers and
blackguards of all description, became knights. Why should an official
need knighthood when he goes to preside over some little provincial
town? What has this title to do with any ordinary bread-winning
pursuit? How art thou sunken, unhappy dignity! Of all the long list of
knightly duties, what single one do these knights of ours discharge? I
wished to speak of these things that the reader might see that
knighthood is dead. And as we have gone so far as to confer the honour
upon dead men, why not upon figures of wood and stone, and why not upon
an ox?' The stories which Sacchetti tells by way of illustration speak
plainly enough. There we read how Bernabo Visconti knighted the victor
in a drunken brawl, and then did the same derisively to the vanquished;
how Ger- man knights with their decorated helmets and devices were
ridiculed--and more of the same kind. At a later period Poggio makes
merry over the many knights of his day without a horse and without
military training. Those who wished to assert the privilege of the
order, and ride out with lance and colors, found in Florence that they
might have to face the government as well as the jokers.

On considering the matter more closely, we shall find that this belated
chivalry, independent of all nobility of birth, though partly the fruit
of an insane passion for titles, had nevertheless another and a better
side. Tournaments had not yet ceased to be practiced, and no one could
take part in them who was not a knight. But the combat in the lists,
and especially the difficult and perilous tilting with the lance,
offered a favourable opportunity for the display of strength, skill,
and courage, which no one, whatever might be his origin, would
willingly neglect in an age which laid such stress on personal merit.

It was in vain that from the time of Petrarch downwards the tournament
was denounced as a dangerous folly. No one was converted by the
pathetic appeal of the poet: 'In what book do we read that Scipio and
Caesar were skilled at the joust?' The practice became more and more
popular in Florence. Every honest citizen came to consider his
tournament-- now, no doubt, less dangerous than formerly--as a
fashionable sport. Franco Sacchetti has left us a ludicrous picture of
one of these holiday cavaliers--a notary seventy years old. He rides
out on horseback to Peretola, where the tournament was cheap, on a jade
hired from a dyer. A thistle is stuck by some wag under the tail of the
steed, who takes fright, runs away, and carries the helmeted rider,
bruised and shaken, back into the city. The inevitable conclusion of
the story is a severe curtain-lecture from the wife, who is not a
little enraged at these break-neck follies of her husband.

It may be mentioned in conclusion that a passionate interest in this
sport was displayed by the Medici, as if they wished to show-- private
citizens as they were, without noble blood in their veins-- that the
society which surrounded them was in no respect inferior to a Court.
Even under Cosimo (1459), and afterwards under the elder Pietro,
brilliant tournaments were held at Florence. The younger Pietro
neglected the duties of government for these amusements and would never
suffer himself to be painted except clad in armor. The same practice
prevailed at the Court of Alexander VI, and when the Cardinal Ascanio
Sforza asked the Turkish Prince Djem how he liked the spectacle, the
barbarian replied with much discretion that such combats in his country
only took place among slaves, since then, in the case of accident,
nobody was the worse for it. The Oriental was unconsciously in accord
with the old Romans in condemning the manners of the Middle Ages.

Apart, however, from this particular prop of knighthood, we find here
and there in Italy, for example at Ferrara, orders of courtiers whose
members had a right to the title of _Cavaliere.


But, great as were individual ambitions, and the vanities of nobles and
knights, it remains a fact that the Italian nobility took its place in
the centre of social life, and not at the extremity. We find it
habitually mixing with other classes on a footing of perfect equality,
and seeking its natural allies in culture and intelligence. It is true
that for the courtier a cer- tain rank of nobility was required, but
this exigence is expressly declared to be caused by a prejudice rooted
in the public mind-- 'per l'opinion universale'--and never was held to
imply the belief that the personal worth of one who was not of noble
blood was in any degree lessened thereby, nor did it follow from this
rule that the prince was limited to the nobility for his society. It
meant simply that the perfect man--the true courtier--should not be
wanting in any conceivable advantage, and therefore not in this. If in
all the relations of life he was specially bound to maintain a
dignified and reserved demeanor, the reason was not found in the blood
which flowed in h-s veins, but in the perfection of manner which was
demanded from him. We are here in the presence of a modern
distinctiori, based on culture and on wealth, but on the latter solely
because it enables men to devote their life to the former, and
effectually to promote its interests and advancement.

Costumes and Fashions

But in proportion as distinctions of birth ceased to confer any special
privilege, was the individual himself compelled to make the most of his
personal qualities, and society to find its worth and charm in itself.
The demeanor of individuals, and all the higher forms of social
intercourse, became ends pursued a deliberate and artistic purpose.

Even the outward appearance of men and women and the habits of daily
life were more perfect, more beautiful, and more polished than among
the other nations of Europe. The dwellings of the upper classes fall
rather within the province of the history of art; but we may note how
far the castle and the city mansion in Italy surpassed in comfort,
order, and harmony the dwellings of the northern noble. The style of
dress varied sc continually that it is impossible to make any complete
comparison with the fashions of other countries, all the more because
since the close of the fifteenth century imitations of the latter were
frequent. The costumes of the time, as given us by the Italian
painters, are the most convenient, and the most pleasing to the eye
which were then to be found in Europe; but we cannot be sure if they
represent the prevalent fashion, or if they are faithfully reproduced
by the artist. It is nevertheless beyond a doubt that nowhere was so
much importance attached to dress as in Italy. The nation was, and is,
vain; and even serious men among it looked on a handsome and becoming
costume as an element in the perfection of the individual. At Florence,
indeed, there was a brief period when dress was a purely personal
matter, and every man set the fashion for himself, and till far into
the sixteenth century there were exceptional people who still had the
courage to do so; and the majority at all events showed themselves
capable of varying the fashion according to their individual tastes. It
is a symptom of decline when Giovanni della Casa warns his readers not
to be singular or to depart from existing fashions Our own age, which,
in men's dress at any rate, treats uniformity as the supreme law, gives
up by so doing far more than it is aware of. But it saves itself much
time, and this, according to our notions of business, outweighs all
other disadvantages.

In Venice and Florence at the time of the Renaissance there were rules
and regulations prescribing the dress of the men and restraining the
luxury of the women. Where the fashions were more free, as in Naples,
the moralists confess with regret that no difference can be observed
between noble and burgher. They further deplore the rapid changes of
fashion, and--if we rightly understand their words--the senseless
idolatry of whatever comes from France, though in many cases the
fashions which were received back from the French were originally
Italian. It does not further concern us how far these frequent changes,
and the adoption of French and Spanish ways, contributed to the
national passion for external display; but we find in them additional
evidence of the rapid movement of life in Italy in the decades before
and after the year 1500.

We may note in particular the efforts of the women to alter their
appearance by all the means which the toilette could afford. In no
country of Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire was so much
trouble taken to modify the face, the color of the skin and the growth
of the hair, as in Italy at this time. All tended to the formation of a
conventional type, at the cost of the most striking and transparent
deceptions. Leaving out of account costume in general, which in the
fourteenth century was in the highest degree varied in color and loaded
with ornament, and at a later period assumed a character of more
harmonious richness, we here limit ourselves more particularly to the
toilette in the narrower sense.

No sort of ornament was more in use than false hair, often made of
white or yellow silk.81 The law denounced and forbade it in vain, till
some preacher of repentance touched the worldly minds of the wearers.
Then was seen, in the middle of the public square, a lofty pyre
(talamo), on which, besides lutes, diceboxes, masks, magical charms,
song-books, and other vanities, lay masses of false hair, which the
purging fires soon turned into a heap of ashes. The ideal color sought
for both natural and artificial hair was blond. And as the sun was
supposed to have the power of making the hair this color, many ladies
would pass their whole time in the open air on sunshiny days. Dyes and
other mixtures were also used freely for the same purpose. Besides all
these, we meet with an endless list of beautifying waters, plasters,
and paints for every single part of the face--even for the teeth and
eyelids--of which in our day we can form no conception. The ridicule of
the poets, the invectives of the preachers, and the experience of the
baneful effects of these cosmetics on the skin, were powerless to
hinder women from giving their faces an unnatural form and color. It is
possible that the frequent and splendid representations of Mysteries,82
at which hundreds of people appeared painted and masked, helped to
further this practice in daily life. It is certain that it was
widespread, and that the countrywomen vied in this respect with their
sisters in the towns. It was vain to preach that such decorations were
the mark of the courtesan; the most honorable matrons, who all the year
round never touched paint, used it nevertheless on holidays when they
showed themselves in public. But whether we look on this bad habit as a
remnant of barbarism, to which the painting of savages is a parallel,
or as a consequence of the desire for perfect youthful beauty in
feature and in color, as the art and complexity of the toilette would
lead us to think--in either case there was no lack of good advice on
the part of the men. The use of perfumes, too, went beyond all
reasonable limits. They were applied to everything with which human
beings came into contact. At festivals even the mules were treated with
scents and ointments, and Pietro Aretino thanks Cosimo I for a perfumed
roll of money.

The Italians of that day lived in the belief that they were more
cleanly than other nations. There are in fact general reasons which
speak rather for than against this claim. Cleanliness is indispensable
to our modern notion of social perfection, which was developed in Italy
earlier than elsewhere. That the Italians were one of the richest of
existing peoples, is another presumption in their favour. Proof, either
for or against these pretensions, can of course never be forthcoming,
and if the question were one of priority in establishing rules of
cleanliness, the chivalrous poetry of the Middle Ages is perhaps in
advance of anything that Italy can produce. It is nevertheless certain
that the singular neatness and cleanliness of some distinguished
representatives of the Renaissance, especially in their behavior at
meals, was noticed expressly,83 and that 'German' was the synonym in
Italy for all that is filthy. The dirty habits which Massimiliano
Sforza picked up in the course of his German education, and the notice
they attracted on his return to Italy, are recorded by Giovio. It is at
the same time very curious that, at least in the fifteenth century, the
inns and hotels were left chiefly in the hands of Germans, who
probably, however, made their profit mostly out of the pilgrims
journeying to Rome. Yet the statements on this point may refer mainly
to the country districts, since it is notorious that in the great
cities Italian hotels held the first place. The want of decent inns in
the country may also be explained by the general insecurity of life and

To the first half of the sixteenth century belongs the manual of
politeness which Giovanni della Casa, a Florentine by birth, published
under the title 'Il Galateo.' Not only cleanliness in the strict sense
of the word, but the dropping of all the habits which we consider
unbecoming, is here prescribed with the same unfailing tact with which
the moralist discerns the highest ethical truths. In the literature of
other countries the same lessons are taught, though less
systematically, by the indirect influence of repulsive descriptions.

In other respects also, the 'Galateo' is a graceful and in- telligent
guide to good manners--a school of tact and delicacy. Even now it may
be read with no small profit by people of all classes, and the
politeness of European nations is not likely to outgrow its precepts.
So far as tact is an affair of the heart, it has been inborn in some
men from the dawn of civilization, and acquired through force of will
by others; but the Italians were the first to recognize it as a
universal social duty and a mark of culture and education. And Italy
itself had altered much in the course of two centuries. We feel at
their close that the time for practical jokes between friends and
acquaintances --for 'burle' and 'beffe'--was over in good society, that
the people had emerged from the walls of the cities and had learned a
cosmopolitan politeness and consideration. We shall speak later on of
the intercourse of society in the narrower sense.

Outward life, indeed, in the fifteenth and the early part of the
sixteenth centuries, was polished and ennobled as among no other
people in the world. A countless number of those small things and great
things which combine to make up what we: mean by comfort, we know to
have first appeared in Italy. In | the well-paved streets of the
Italian cities, driving was universal, while elsewhere in Europe
walking or riding was the custom, and at all events no one drove for
amusement. We read in the novelists of soft, elastic beads, of costly
carpets and bedroom furniture, of which we hear nothing in other
countries. We often hear especially of the abundance and beauty of the
linen. Much of all this is drawn within the sphere of art. We note with
admiration the thousand ways in which art ennobles luxury, not only
adorning the massive sideboard or the light brackets with noble vases,
clothing the walls with the movable splendor of tapestry, and covering
the toilet-table with numberless graceful trifles, but absorbing whole
branches of mechanical work--especially carpentering--into its
province. All Western Europe, as soon as its wealth enabled it to do
so, set to work in the same way at the close of the Middle Ages. But
its efforts produced either childish and fantastic toy-work, or were
bound by the chains of a narrow and purely Gothic art, while the
Renaissance moved freely, entering into the spirit of every task it
undertook and working for a far larger circle of patrons and admirers
than the northern artists. The rapid victory of Italian decorative art
over northern in the course sixteenth century is due partly to this
fact, though the result of wider and more general causes.

Language and Society

The higher forms of social intercourse, which here meet us as a work of
art--as a conscious product and one of the highest products of national
life have no more important foundation and condition than language. In
the most flourishing period of the Middle Ages, the nobility of Western
Europe had sought to establish a 'courtly' speech for social
intercourse as well as for poetry. In Italy, too, where the dialects
differed so greatly from one another, we find in the thirteenth century
a so-called 'Curiale,' which was common to the courts and to the poets.
It is of decisive importance for Italy that the attempt was there
seriously and deliberately made to turn this into the language of
literature and society. The introduction to the 'Cento Novelle
Antiche,' which were put into their present shape before l 300, avows
this object openly. Language is here considered apart from its uses in
poetry; its highest function is clear, simple, intelligent utterance in
short speeches, epigrams, and answers. This faculty was admired in
Italy, as nowhere else but among the Greeks and Arabs: 'how many in the
course long life have scarcely produced a single "bel parlare." '

But the matter was rendered more difficult by the diversity of the
aspects under which it was considered. The writings of Dante transport
us into the midst of the struggle. His work 'On the Italian Language'
is not only of the utmost importance for the subject itself, but is
also the first complete treatise on any modern language. His method and
results belong to the history of linguistic science, in which they will
always hold a high place. We must here content ourselves with the
remark that long before the appearance of this book the subject must
have been one of daily and pressing importance, various dialects of
Italy had long been the object of study and dispute, and that the birth
of the one ideal was not accomplished without many throes.

Nothing certainly contributed so much to this end as the great poem of
Dante. The Tuscan dialect became the basis of the new national speech.
If this assertion may seem to some to go too far, as foreigners we may
be excused, in a matter on which much difference of opinion prevails,
for following the general belief.

Literature and poetry probably lost more than they gained by the
contentious purism which was long prevalent in Italy, and which marred
the freshness and vigor of many an able writer. Others, again, who felt
themselves masters of this magnificent language, were tempted to rely
upon its harmony and flow, apart from the thought which it expressed. A
very insignificant melody, played upon such an instrument, can produce
a very great effect. But however this may be, it is certain that
socially the language had great value. It was, as it were, that the ;
of eager language the crown of a noble and dignified behavior, and
compelled the gentleman, both in his ordinary bearing and in
exceptional moments to observe external propriety. No doubt this
classical garment, like the language of Attic society, served to drape
much that was foul and malicious; but it was also the adequate
expression of all that is noblest and most refined. But politically and
nationally it was of supreme importance, serving as an ideal home for
the educated classes in all the States of the divided peninsula. Nor
was it the special property of the nobles or of any one class, but the
poorest and humblest might learn it if they would. Even now-- and
perhaps more than ever --in those parts of Italy where, as a rule, the
most unintelligible dialect prevails, the stranger is often astonished
at hearing pure and well-spoken Italian from the mouths of peasants or
artisans, and looks in vain for anything analogous in France or in
Germany, where even the educated classes retain traces of a provincial
speech. There is certainly a larger number of people able to read in
Italy than we should be led to expect from the condition of many parts
of the country--as for in- stance, the States of the Church--in other
respects; but what is more important is the general and undisputed
respect for pure language and pronunciation as something precious and
sacred. One part of the country after another came to adopt the
classical dialect officially. Venice, Milan, and Naples did so at the
noontime of Italian literature, and partly through its influences. It
was not till the present century that Piedmont became of its own free
will a genuine Italian province by sharing in this chief treasure of
the people--pure speech. The dialects were from the beginning of the
sixteenth century purposely left to deal with a certain class of
subjects, serious as well as comic, and the style which was thus
developed proved the equal to all its tasks. Among other nations a
conscious separation of this kind did not occur till a much later

The opinion of educated people as to the social value of language is
fully set forth in the 'Cortigiano.' There were then persons, at the
beginning of the sixteenth century, who purposely kept to the
antiquated expressions of Dante and the other Tuscan writers of his
time, simply because they were old. Our author forbids the use of them
altogether in speech, and is unwilling to permit them even in writing,
which he considers a form of speech. Upon this follows the admission
that the best style of speech is that which most resembles good
writing. We can clearly recognize the author's feeling that people who
have anything of importance to say must shape their own speech, and
that language is something flexible and changing because it is
something living. It is allowable to make use of any expression,
however ornate, as long as it is used by the people; nor are non-Tuscan
words, or even French and Spanish words forbidden, if custom has once
applied them to definite purposes. Thus care and intelligence will
produce a language, which, if not the pure old Tuscan, is still
Italian, rich in flowers and fruit like a well-kept garden. It belongs
to the completeness of the 'Cortigiano' that his wit, his polished
manners, and his poetry, must be clothed in this perfect dress.

When style and language had once become the property of a living
society, all the efforts of purists and archaists failed to secure
their end. Tuscany itself was rich in writers and the first order, who
ignored and ridiculed these endeavors. Ridicule in abundance awaited
the foreign scholar who explained to the Tuscans how little they
understood their language. The life and influence of a writer like
Machiavelli was enough to sweep away all these cobwebs. His vigorous
thoughts, his clear and simple mode of expression wore a form which had
any merit but that of the 'Trecentisti.' And on the other hand there
were too many North Italians, Romans, and Neapolitans, who were
thankful if the demand for purity of style in literature and
conversation was not pressed too far. They repudiated, indeed, the
forms and idioms of their dialect; and Bandello, with what a foreigner
might suspect to be false modesty, is never tired of declaring: 'I have
no style; I do not write like a Florentine, but like a barbarian; I am
not ambitious of giving new graces to my language; I am a Lombard, and
from the Ligurian border into the bargain.' But the claims of the
purists were most successfully met by the express renunciation of the
higher qualities of style, and the adoption of a vigorous, popular
language in their stead. Few could hope to rival Pietro Bembo who,
though born in Venice, nevertheless wrote the purest Tuscan, which to
him was a foreign language, or the Neapolitan Sannazaro, who did the
same. But the essential point was that language, whether spoken or
written, was held to be an object of respect. As long as this feeling
was prevalent, the fanaticism of the purists--their linguistic
congresses and the rest of it--did little harm. Their bad influence was
not felt till much later, when the original power of Italian literature
relaxed and yielded to other and far worse influences. At last it
became possible for the Accademia della Crusca to treat Italian like a
dead language. But this association proved so helpless that it could
not even hinder the invasion of Gallicism in the eighteenth century.

This language--loved, tended, and trained to every use--now served as
the basis of social intercourse. In northern countries, the nobles and
the princes passed their leisure either in solitude, or in hunting,
fighting, drinking, and the like; the burghers in games and bodily
exercises, with a mixture of literary or festive amusements. In Italy
there existed a neutral ground, where people of every origin, if they
had the needful talent and culture, spent their time in conversation
change of jest and earnest. As eating small part of such
entertainments, it not difficult to keep at a distance those who sought
society for these objects. If we are to take the writers of dialogues
literally, the loftiest problems of human existence were not excluded
from the conversation of thinking men, and the production of noble
thoughts was not, as was commonly the case in the North, the work of
solitude, but of society. But we must here limit ourselves to the less
serious side of social intercourse--to the side which existed only for
the sake of amusement.

Social Etiquette

This society, at all events at the beginning of the sixteenth century,
was a matter of art; and had, and rested on, tacit or avowed rules of
good sense and propriety, which are the exact reverse of all mere
etiquette. In less polished circles, where society took the form of a
permanent corporation, we meet with a system of formal rules and a
prescribed mode of entrance, as was the case with those wild sets of
Florentine artists of whom Vasari tells us that they were capable of
giving representations of the best comedies of the day. In the easier
intercourse of society it was not unusual to select some distinguished
lady as president, whose word was law for the evening.

Everybody knows the introduction to Boccaccio's 'Decameron,' and looks
on the presidency of Pampinea as a graceful fiction. That it was so in
this particular case is a matter of course; but the fiction was
nevertheless based on a practice which often occurred in reality.
Firenzuola, who nearly two centuries later (1523) pref- aces his
collection of tales in a similar manner, with express reference to
Boccaccio, comes assuredly nearer to the truth when he puts into the
mouth of the queen of the society a formal speech on the mode of
spending the hours during the stay which the company proposed to make
in the country. The day was to begin with a stroll among the hills
passed in philosophical talk; then followed breakfast, with music and
singing, after which came the recitation, in some cool, shady spot, of
a new poem, the subject of which had been given the night before; in
the evening the whole party walked to a spring of water where they all
sat down and each one told a tale; last of all came supper and lively
conversation 'of such a kind that the women might listen to it without
shame and the men might not seem to be speaking under the influence of
wine.' Ban- dello, in the introductions and dedications to single
novels, does not give us, it is true, such inaugural discourses as
this, since the circles before which the stories are told are
represented as already formed; but he gives us to understand in other
ways how rich, how manifold, and how charming the conditions of society
must have been. Some readers may be of opinion that no good was to be
got from a world which was willing to be amused by such immoral
literature. It would be juster to wonder at the secure foundations of a
society which, notwithstanding these tales, still observed the rules of
order and decency, and which knew how to vary such pastimes with
serious and solid discussion. The need of noble forms of social
intercourse was felt to be stronger than all others. To convince
ourselves of it, we are not obliged to take as our standard the
idealized society which Castiglione depicts as discussing the loftiest
sentiments and aims of human life at the court of Guidobaldo of Urbino,
and Pietro Bembo at the castle of Asolo The society described by
Bandello, with all the frivolities which may be laid to its charge,
enables us to form the best notion of the easy and polished dignity, of
the urbane kindliness, of the intellectual freedom, of the wit and the
graceful dilettantism, which distinguished these circles. A significant
proof of the value of such circles lies in the fact that the women who
were the centers of them could become famous and illustrious without in
any way compromising their reputation. Among the patronesses of
Bandello, for example, Isabella Gonzaga (born an Este) was talked of
unfavorably not through any fault of her own, but on account of the
too-free-lived young ladies who filled her court. Giulia Gonzaga
Colonna, Ippolita Sforza married to a Bentivoglio, Bianca Rangona,
Cecilia Gallerana, Camilla Scarampa, and others, were either altogether
irreproachable, or their social fame threw into the shade whatever they
may have done amiss. The most famous woman of Italy, Vittoria Colonna
(b. 1490, d. 1547), the friend of Castiglioni and Michelangelo, enjoyed
the reputation of a saint. It is hard to give such a picture of the
unconstrained intercourse of these circles in the city, at the baths,
or in the country, as will furnish literal proof of the superiority of
Italy in this respect over the rest of Europe. But let us read
Bandello, and then ask ourselves if anything of the same kind would
have been possible, say, in France, before this kind of society was
there introduced by people like himself. No doubt the supreme
achievements of the human mind were then produced independently of the
help of the drawing-room. Yet it would be unjust to rate the influence
of the latter on art and poetry too low, if only for the reason that
society helped to shape that which existed in no other country--a
widespread interest in artistic production and an intelligent and
critical public opinion. And apart from this, society of the kind we
have described was in itself a natural flower of that life and culture
which was then purely Italian, and which since then has extended to the
rest of Europe.

In Florence society was powerfully affected by literature and politics.
Lorenzo the Magnificent was supreme over his circle, not, as we might
be led to believe, through the princely position which he occupied, but
rather through the wonderful tact he displayed in giving perfect
freedom of action to the many and varied natures which surrounded him.
We see how gently he dealt with his great tutor Politian, and how the
sovereignty of the poet and scholar was reconciled, though not without
difficulty, with the inevitable reserve prescribed by the approaching
change in the position of the house of Medici and by consideration for
the sensitiveness of the wife. In return for the treatment he received,
Politian became the herald and the living symbol of Medicean glory.
Lorenzo, after the fashion of a true Medici, delighted in giving an
outward and artistic expression to his social amusements. In his
brilliant improvisation--the Hawking Party--he gives us a humorous
description of his comrades, and in the Symposium a burlesque of them,
but in both cases in such a manner that we clearly feel his capacity
for more serious companionship. Of this intercourse his correspondence
and the records of his literary and philosophical conversation give
ample proof. Some of the social unions which were afterwards formed in
Florence were in part political clubs, though not without a certain
poetical and philosophical character. Of this kind was the so-called
Platonic Academy which met after Lorenzo's death in the gardens of the

At the courts of the princes, society naturally depended on the
character of the ruler. After the beginning of the sixteenth century
they became few in number, and these few soon lost their importance.
Rome, however, possessed in the unique court of Leo X a society to
which the history of the world offers no parallel.

Education of the 'Cortigiano'

It was for this society--or rather for his own sake--that the
'Cortigiano,' as described to us by Castiglione, educated himself. He
was the ideal man of society, and was regarded by the civili- zation of
that age as its choicest flower; and the court existed for him rather
than he for the court. Indeed, such a man would have been out of place
at any court, since he himself possessed all the gifts and the bearing
of an accomplished ruler, and because his calm supremacy in all things,
both outward and spiritual, implied a too independent nature. The inner
impulse which inspired him was directed, though our author does not
acknowledge the fact, not to the service of the prince, but to his own
perfection. One instance will make this clear. In time of war the
courtier refuses even useful and perilous tasks, if they are not
beautiful and dignified in themselves, such as, for instance, the
capture of a herd of cattle; what urges him to take part in war is not
duty but 'l'onore.' The moral relation to the prince, as described in
the fourth book, is singularly free and independent. The theory of
well-bred love-making, set forth in the third book, is full of delicate
psychological observation, which perhaps would be more in place in a
treatise on human nature generally; and the magnificent praise of ideal
love, which occurs at the end of the fourth book, and which rises to a
lyrical elevation of feeling, has no connection whatever with the
special object of the work. Yet here, as in the 'Asolani' of Bembo, the
culture of the time shows itself in the delicacy with which this
sentiment is represented and analyzed. It is true that these writers
are not in all cases to be taken literally; but that the discourses
they give us were actually frequent in good society, cannot be doubted,
and that it was an affectation, but genuine passion, which appeared in
this dress, we shall see further on.

Among outward accomplishments, the so-called knightly exercises were
expected in thorough perfection from the courtier, and besides these
much that could only exist at courts highly organized and based on
personal emulation, such as were not to be found out of Italy. Other
points obviously rest on an abstract notion of individual perfection.
The courtier must be at home in all noble sports, among them running,
leaping, swimming and wrestling; he must, above all things, be a good
dancer and, as a matter of course, an accomplished rider. He must be
master of several languages, at all events of Latin and Italian; he
must be familiar with literature and have some knowledge of the fine
arts. In music a certain practical skill was expected of him, which he
was bound, nevertheless, to keep as secret as possible. All this is not
to be taken too seriously, except what relates to the use of arms. The
mutual interaction of these gifts and accomplishments results in the
perfect man, in whom no one quality usurps the place of the rest.

So much is certain, that in the sixteenth century the Italians had all
Europe for their pupils both theoretically and practically in every
noble bodily exercise and in the habits and manners of good society.
Their instructions and their illustrated books on riding, fencing, and
dancing served as the model to other countries. Gymnastics as an art,
apart both from military training and from mere amusement, was probably
first taught by Vittorino da Feltre and after his time became essential
to a complete education. The important fact is that they were taught
systematically, though what exercises were most in favour, and whether
they resembled those now in use, we are unable to say. But we may
infer, not only from the general character of the people, but from
positive evidence which has been left for us, that not only strength
and skill, but grace of movement was one of the main objects of
physical training. It is enough to remind the reader of the great
Federigo of Urbino directing the evening games of the young people
committed to his care.

The games and contests of the popular classes did not differ
essentially from those which prevailed elsewhere in Europe. In the
maritime cities boat-racing was among the number, and the Venetian
regattas were famous at an early period. The classical game of Italy
was and is the ball; and this was probably played at the time of the
Renaissance with more zeal and brilliancy than elsewhere. But on this
point no distinct evidence is forthcoming.


A few words on music will not be out of place in this part of our work.
Musical composition down to the year 1500 was chiefly in the hands of
the Flemish school, whose originality and artistic dexterity were
greatly admired. Side by side with this, there nevertheless existed an
Italian school, which probably stood nearer to our present taste. Half
a century later came Palestrina, whose genius still works powerfully
among us. We learn among other facts that he was a great innovator; but
whether he or others took the decisive part in shaping the musical
language of the modern world lies beyond the judgement of the
unprofessional critic. Leaving on one side the history of musical
composition, we shall confine ourselves to the position which music
held in the social life of the day.

A fact most characteristic of the Renaissance and of Italy is the
specialization of the orchestra, the search for new instruments and
modes of sound, and, in close connection with this tendency, the
formation of a class of 'virtuosi,' who devoted their whole attention
to particular instruments or particular branches of music.

Of the more complex instruments, which were perfected and widely
diffused at a very early period, we find not only the organ, but a
corresponding string instrument, the 'gravicembalo' or 'clavicembalo.'
Fragments of these dating from the beginning of the fourteenth century
have come down to our own days, adorned with paintings from the hands
of the greatest masters. Among other instruments the first place was
held by the violin, which even then conferred great celebrity on the
successful player. At the court of Leo X, who, when cardinal, had
filled his house with singers and musicians, and who enjoyed the
reputation of a critic and performer, the Jew Giovan Maria del Corneto
and Jacopo Sansecondo were among the most famous. The former received
from Leo the title of count and a small town; the latter has been taken
to be the Apollo in the Parnassus of Raphael. In the course of the
sixteenth century, celebrities in every branch of music appeared in
abundance, and Lomazzo (1584) names the three most distinguished
masters of the art of singing, of the organ, the lute, the lyre, the
'viola da gamba,' the harp, the cithern, the horn, and the trumpet, and
wishes that their portraits might be painted on the instruments
themselves.97 Such many-sided comparative criticism would have been
impossible anywhere but in Italy, although the same instruments were to
be found in other countries.

The number and variety of these instruments is shown by the fact that
collections of them were now made from curiosity. In Venice, which was
one of the most musical cities of Italy, there were several such
collections, and when a sufficient number of performers happened to be
on the spot, a concert was at once improvised. In one of these museums
there was a large number of instruments, made after ancient pictures
and descriptions, but we are not told if anybody could play them, or
how they sounded. It must not be forgotten that such instruments were
often beautifully decorated, and could be arranged in a manner pleasing
to the eye. We thus meet with them in collections of other rarities and
works of art.

The players, apart from the professional performers, were either single
amateurs, or whole orchestras of them, organized into a corporate
Academy. Many artists in other branches were at home in music, and
often masters of the art. People of position were averse to wind
instruments, for the same reason which made them distasteful to
Alcibiades and Pallas Athene. In good society singing, either alone or
accompanied with the violin, was usual; but quartettes of string
instruments were also common, and the 'clavicembalo' was liked on
account of its varied effects. In singing, the solo only was permitted,
'for a single voice is heard, enjoyed, and judged far better.' In other
words, as singing, notwithstanding all conventional modesty, is an
exhibition of the individual man of society, it is better that each
should be seen and heard separately. The tender feelings produced in
the fair listeners are taken for granted, and elderly people are
therefore recommended to abstain from such forms of art, even though
they excel in them. It was held important that the effect of the song
should be enhanced by the impression made on the sight. We hear
nothing, however, of the treatment in these circles of musical
composition as an independent branch of art. On the other hand it
happened sometimes that the subject of the song was some terrible event
which had befallen the singer himself.

This dilettantism, which pervaded the middle as well as the upper
classes, was in Italy both more widespread and more genuinely artistic
than in any other country of Europe. Wherever we meet with a
description of social intercourse, there music and singing are always
and expressly mentioned. Hundreds of portraits show us men and women,
often several together, playing or holding some musical instrument, and
the angelic concerts represented in the ecclesiastical pictures prove
how familiar the painters were with the living effects of music. We
read of the lute-player Antonio Rota, at Padua (d. 1549), who became a
rich man by his lessons, and published a handbook to the practice of
the lute.

At a time when there was no opera to concentrate and monopolize musical
talent, this general cultivation of the art must have been something
wonderfully varied, intelligent, and original. It is another question
how much we should find to satisfy us in these forms of music, could
they now be reproduced for us.

Equality of Men and Women

To understand the higher forms of social intercourse at this period, we
must keep before our minds the fact that women stood on a footing of
perfect equality with men. We must not suffer ourselves to be misled by
the sophistical and often malicious talk about the assumed inferiority
of the female sex, which we meet with now and then in the dialogues of
this time, nor by such satires as the third of Ariosto, who treats
woman as a dangerous grown-up child, whom a man must learn how to
manage, in spite of the great gulf between them. There is, indeed, a
certain amount of truth in what he says. Just because the educated
woman was on a level with the man, that communion of mind and heart
which comes from the sense of mutual dependance and completion, could
not be developed in marriage at this time, as it has been developed
later in the cultivated society of the North.

The education given to women in the upper classes was essentially the
same as that given to men. The Italian, at the time of the Renaissance,
felt no scruple in putting sons and daughters alike under the same
course of literary and even philological instruction. Indeed, looking
at this ancient culture as the chief treasure of life, he was glad that
his girls should have a share in it. We have seen what perfection was
attained by the daughters of princely houses in writing and speaking
Latin. Many others must at least have been able to read it, in order to
follow the conversation of the day, which turned largely on classical
subjects. An active interest was taken by many in Italian poetry, in
which, whether prepared or improvised, a large number of Italian women,
from the time of the Venetian Cassandra Fedele onwards (about the close
of the fifteenth century), made themselves famous. One, indeed,
Vittoria Colonna, may be called immortal. If any proof were needed of
the assertion made above, it would be found in the manly tone of this
poetry. Even the love-sonnets and religious poems are so precise and
definite in their character, and so far removed from the tender
twilight of sentiment, and from all the dilettantism which we commonly
find in the poetry of women, that we should not hesitate to attribute
them to male authors, if we had not clear external evidence to prove
the contrary.

For, with education, the individuality of women in the upper classes
was developed in the same way as that of men. Till the time of the
Reformation, the personality of women out of Italy, even of the highest
rank, comes forward but little. Exceptions like Isabella of Bavaria,
Margaret of Anjou, and Isabella of Castile, are the forced result of
very unusual circumstances. In Italy, throughout the whole of the
fifteenth century, the wives of the rulers, and still more those of the
Condottieri, have nearly all a distinct, recognizable personality, and
take their share of notoriety and glory. To these came gradually to be
added a crowd of famous women of the most varied kind; among them those
whose distinction consisted in the fact that their beauty, disposition,
education, virtue, and piety, combined to render them harmonious human
beings. There was no question of 'woman's rights' or female
emancipation, simply because the thing itself was a matter of course.
The educated woman, no less than the man, strove naturally after a
characteristic and complete individuality. The same intellectual and
emotional development which perfected the man, was demanded for the
perfection of the woman. Active literary world, nevertheless, was not
expected from her, and if she were a poet, some powerful utterance of
feeling, rather than the confidences of the novel or the diary, was
looked for. These women had no thought of the public; their function
was to influence distinguished men, and to moderate male impulse and

The highest praise which could then be given to the great Italian women
was that they had the mind and the courage of men. We have only to
observe the thoroughly manly bearing of most of the women in the heroic
poems, especially those of Boiardo and Ariosto, to convince ourselves
that we have before us the ideal of the time. The title 'virago,' which
is an equivocal compliment in the present day, then implied nothing but
praise. It was borne in all its glory by Caterina Sforza, wife and
afterwards widow of Girolamo Riario, whose hereditary possession,
Forli, she gallantly defended first against his murderers, and then
against Cesare Borgia. Though finally vanquished, she retained the
admiration of her countrymen and the title 'prima donna d'Italia.' This
heroic vein can be detected in many of the women of the Renaissance,
though none found the same opportunity of showing their heroism to the
world. In Isabella Gonzaga this type is clearly recognizable.

Women of this stamp could listen to novels like those of Bandello,
without social intercourse suffering from it. The ruling genius of
society was not, as now, womanhood, or the respect for certain
presuppositions, mysteries, and susceptibilities, but the consciousness
of energy, of beauty, and of a social state full of danger and
opportunity. And for this reason we find, side by side with the most
measured and polished social forms, something our age would call
immodesty, forgetting that by which it was corrected and counter-
balanced-- the powerful characters of the women who were exposed to it.

That in all the dialogues and treatises together we can find no
absolute evidence on these points is only natural, however freely the
nature of love and the position and capacities of women were discussed.

What seems to have been wanting in this society were the young girls
who, even when not brought up in the monasteries, were still carefully
kept away from it. It is not easy to say whether their absence was the
cause of the greater freedom of conversation, or whether they were
removed on account of it.

Even the intercourse with courtesans seems to have assumed a more
elevated character, reminding us of the position of the Hetairae in
classical Athens. The famous Roman courtesan Imperia was a woman of
intelligence and culture, had learned from a certain Domenico Campana
the art of making sonnets, and was not without musical accomplishments.
The beautiful Isabella de Luna, of Spanish extraction, who was recm
cause ofugaatednone fou an abhe purestf
societo prof such ad and hea whoi in iuldocakinnly fful tingce, which latter sometimes broughthder into
touible. t, Milan, Bandellh knew the m jesoic Caterinadio Sat Clslo,
who played and aing and recihed supebely. It is clear from allwes read on the subject that the distinguished people whovisithed these women, and from time to time-lived with the,s demanded from thms a
considerible eghree of intelligence and instructioe, and that the
famous courtesans were greatdt with n silight respect and
consideratioy. Even when relatiost with them were broken ff,r their
good opinion was stillodemiree, which shows thatdrepaated passio, had left
permanent tracesbe hine. But on the whole this intellectual
intercourse is notwforth mentiohing ly the side of that aunctioled by
the recognizdr forms of social life, and the traces which it has left
in poetry and literature rhe for the most part ofiul cadailous nature.
We may well be astonished
that among the6,800n personn of this class,
who were to be found inRhome in 149e--thatise, before tec appearance of sy phiis--l crncely a single womanou an abhe purestf premrkaible formany
higher gifta. Those whmt we have mentionem all belonk to the periot
imeudiatnly followes. The mdre of life, the murats and the
philosopty of the public women,
who with all their henunality andghreot
were not alwaysvincapable ofdeepper passios,e as well as thehypocrisy
and divilshn malies shown byshome inttheir ltter yease, are best ect
forth by Gialdio, in the novels
which form the introduction to the 'Hecatcommihti.' PietroAoretnlo, inthis'Ragtion mento,' gives us rather a picture of his owndreravted character than of thisun
hapyn class of women as thyn realey were.

Themi stresses of the princes,was has been poinend ous, were uing ly
poets and paintedbny artiste, and tous pures come personanly familiar
to their contimpoarties and to osxterity. But we harldy knos more than
thengame ofAaliesPterres;, and ofClhar Dgettie, the i stress of FrFedercok theVpicoeriouy, and ofAgsne Smorlt we haveoinly ahalf- lgpendrly story.Wwith the conumbines of the Renaissance monrchs--
FrnchisI, andHenrlyIIn--the case is diffement.

After r eating of the intercourse of societ,t let usgalance formt
oimenthat the Domesoic life of this perion. Wearwe commonly disposed to
loot on the famiyl life of the Italians at this tim,was opheleslly ruained by the natioial immorality, and this side of teo question will be moreifully discussed in the requl. Ffor the mpment We must content ourselves with oaintin obut that cojugial infidality has ey ne msans to dia struas an influence ne famiyl life in Italy as in the North,sto
ling at leastais certaie limise are not nverteappod.

The Domesoic life of te, MiddleAgses wasac producs of popular murats,
or if wep refed to uat it othewirse, d result of the i(born tendeniess
of natioial life, mdnified by the varied circumstance, which affected
the. Chrivatry at the time ofaits oplndors left Domesoicsecoomey
utouchwes. The knighn wardered from court to court, and fromoine bcattlfiheld to anothes. Hiswhm age was given
systematically to oame nother woman
than his ownwlife, and tlingswment how they might at home
in the castly. The spiris of the Renaissance first broughtborder into Domesoic lif,r r eatingit was a work ofidalbderate contrivance. Iintelligentsecoomsicalviewuy, anda rnatioial style of Domesoic
achietecuore sevsed tomprorote t is ede. But the chief
cause of the
change was the thoughifulstudty of ill questiosn relatonk to social
intercourso, to education, of Domesoic service and organiratioy.

Themmost recruasdocuement in this subject is the
treatise on the
management of the home byAgssoloP anolefin ( actually
writtee byLe. e. Albsert0, d. 472)r. He represenas a rather speaking to his grown-up
sons, andfiniiacting thmr into his e th such dmfinustratioy.Wle are introduced into a large and dealhly housholee, whics, ifg nverned with
modiration and reasopablesecoome, mpromiers haplinesy and pospercity
for generations to coms. A
consideriblelmandede stato, whose
furnismes the pable of the husfe, and sevses as the basis of the famiyl
foruOne, s, combined with home idlustrcal prsu it, such as the Leaving
ofwooel orsilky. The weltingisd solid and thefgood
gooe. All tait has
todoe with theplaon and arrangement of the huase is grea,s duaible and
castys, but thedamiyl life wit in it is sd simple as possible. All nother
expnsses, from the largost in
which the famiylhcoouar ishat

tak,n down to thepocket-mmoety of the younter snes, s and tooine another in arnatioiar, notal conventional relatiof. N thing sd
consideend of so much importance as education,
which the read of the
hushe gives not only ot the chldrene, but to the whole housholef. He first develost his wfed from ashyg gir,t brought up in carefut
eclustion, of the
tuea woman of the husfe,ncapable of comtanding and guinding thebservntns. The sons ere brought up without nry uduhe
weveiety, carefullywatchted and coustelled, and cnstrolted' rather ly authocity
thanbye forci.' And finally thebservntnearwe whosn, and
greatdtoin such prinilple that they glally andfawitefullyholed by the

one ealture of that loot
must be refersed tn,
whichias ey ne msans
pcuiliar od it, but which it treats with specialwarmthd-- the love of
the educated Italian for countrylwife. In northern countrien the nables
lvsed in the country in their castlrs, and the mokts of the higher
ordesy in their
wellgugarded monasteries, chles the Lealhtiest burghers wfelt fromoine yea'is edd to anothed in the citiee. But in Italy,sto far as then eigbouahoh such certaie tows, at all events was conceneed, thebscpurity of life and proerety wassto grea,s and the passio, formt countrypresideney wassto stronn, thatomen were willing torisko a oess iIn time of was. Tuas rouse thevmill,n the countr- house of the Lellto- De citzmen. Tist recruasinhveierance of theoled Roman world as tous reveived,wasstonh as the Lelith and culturs of the people were sufficiently aivancod.
P anolefin fmindsast hisvmillsac eacre and haplines,e forman account of
which the reader must haor him spead himself. Thesecoomsical side of the matter is thatdone und the same proerety must,ifn possible, cnstain ever thin-s coon,
iOne,oir,t paspureaind andwoodse, and that in such
csien the proerety wasplaid for Lelt, since nothing neededthten to be
got from the mrkete. But the higher enjoementederoved from thevmillshis
shown byshomewcords of the introductio: 'Rfound(about
Florencelihe many
vmilles in antraseparenthammop here, mied cewerfulscgenety, and with a oplndiedviewc; there id littlefong andnto ijutrious wind;n all sd
and tef waterpture and dealhlr. Of tge nugerousbuioldinse many rle like
pplacts, mnye like castlr
castye and beautiful to bholef'. Hehis
speaking of touseuntrivoltedvmillea, of
which the greater number were acrnificed, thoughvtaitys, by the
Florentinen themselves in the dfuence
of their rity in 529e.

Intthesevmillea, as in toise on theBorenna, on theLcomward hill,shat Posilippdo and on theVouger,e social life assumas a reger and moreruoral character than in the pplacte wit in the ciyn. We meet with charming
descriptiods of the intercourse of th oguents, the huntin- partlrs, and
all theroen-aeir prsu its and amusements. But the nablenthachievements
of poetry and thought are sometimes alsodatved from thrse cgenss of ruoral eacry.

festi al'

Itias ey nearbintrars choicd that in discussing the social life of this
period, we rle sed to treas of the pocsessious and shows
which forted part of thepoopularffesti alf. The artistic lower of
which the Italians
of the Renaissancegavel proof in suchBoccssios,e was aetained only ly msans of that free intercourse of all classes which forted the basis of
Italian society.
Europe the monasteries, the cortrs, and the burghers had thirh specialfleasus and showswas in Ital;e but in the done case thefgrm, and sbserance of thshe displais diffemnd accrdling to
the class
which loot part intthe,siOn the otheraon art mied culture commot to the whole natios stamted thmt with bothae higher anda more popular character. The decorative
achietecuore, which sevsed tolaid in
these festi al,s d sevses r chpster to itself in the history of art,
l though ourimaiginction man only fomh a picture ofiot from the
which hpurestf left to uy.Wle arethere more especially
cocverned with theffesti a was a higherphcase en the life of te,
people, in
whichirts religiou,r murae, and poetical iders tookvisibale shapn. The Italiae festi aly in their best fomh mrkf thepoiunt of ntrasiction from real life i to the world of art.

The two chief forms of fesral di play were originatly here, as
elsewhere in theWesnt, theMmysteyd, or thedr
amalization of acrted history and lgpen,s and thePpocsessioe, the mative
ndl character of
which was also purely ecclesiasticat.

The perforaences of theMmysteriee in Italy were from the first more frequent and splndied than elsewhery, and were mostnfavorably affected by the prgtress of poetry and of theootheraarts. In the corrse of imle
not onlydied the frcne und the eiculardr
amt branch oft from the Mmysteyd,ats in other countrienoof Europs, but thepai tmtim,wlslo, with its accompangments of singing and dencing,
the effect of which depended on the
ricinesy and beautd of theespecaclre.

ThePpocsessioe, in thebroaed, devey, and wellpavted strests of the
Italianclities,wwasstonh developed i to the'Terinfgo,' or rmain fe
msoked igturesio, fot, andfil chaionts, the ecclesiastical character of
which graduallygavelaway to the siculan. The pr-s sessious at the Carnti a wned at thefleasd ofCorpousCherists were alike in the pmp, and brilliancy with which they wereeconucnted, and ect thepaatteen
afterwards followe, by theroyael or princely prgtresiee. Othernrations
were willing tosepenhvtest urms of moety Intthese show,e but in Ital,
lione o, we findain artistic e th such treatment which arranged te,
pocsessious as a harmonious and significative whold.

Whatias left of thshe festi aly s, but apooar renanct of w at once
esistes. both religious and eicularddisplais of thisd and aive
b anoined thedr
amalcl eltmenn--the mossuma-- parlly fromd
read of
rdticuue, and parlly because the cultivated
classes, which fortral, gavelttheir whole enerives to thshe thinsi, have for several reasoas
lost their interest intthe. Even at theCarnti a,h the grea,
pocsessious of msknearwe out of fashioe. What stillpremines, such ao
the mossuma, adpcted inlimization of certaie religious coneratrnlities,
or even th
brilliantffesti a of iana Rostali, at Plearm,d shows
how frt the higher culturs of the countryhate wit drant from such intereses.

The festi aly did notr eachttheir flal developmentstill after the
decisionvpicoetd of the modern spiris in the fifteenth century,unlness perhaps
Florence was here, as in other thinsi, in aivancd of therhest oof Italy.IIn Florenca, the several quarters of thecrity weri, inlearly
timem, organized with aviewg tosuich exhibitioes, which demanded no small
expndipture of artistic f
forr. Of this kind was the
represenzation ofHLelt,i in iulc afoald and boaes in theArnlo, on the 1asd ofMday,1304,e when th Pcontf alaeCarrmaae brokn down under the
wiught of theespecacoelf. Tatd at a ltter time the
Florentinenuosed to travtll torough Italy as direcorms of festi aly( fesriuoli),h shows that
the art was early perfected at home.

forth thecchief
points fe superiority in the
festi aly over those of other countrie,m the first that we small aive to remrkf is the developed sense of individual characte- tistisy, in nother words, theccapacity to ieventas given mskn, and tofact tve parthoi in dr
amalcl prorciety.Ppainters and cupcorms not mernlydied their parttorwardstThe decoration of the place hwere theffesti a was helm,
but helped inrgettinguph theccharacterstthemselves, and pdescribed the
dress, tve pintrs, and thenotheroron menes to beuswes. Thensecone fact
to be poinend ouf is theuntiversly familiainty of the people with the poetical basis of the shos. TheMmysteries, indeed, were qtually
eAll undersoh small over Europs, since th biubliial sotry and ted lgpends of
thespintry were the commot proerety ofCherislndom;e but inmall tgher respecis the aivat age was on the sdme of Ital. Ffor the reciaitioes,
whether of religiousfor sicular herves, the possessed
lyrical poetry
rice and harmonious that nnep couldpresest its chars. The ajoeiety,
to,t of theespecacoel-- at least in the citie-- undersoh s the eanving
ofmytchological igtured, and couldoguest without mich difficults at the voltgortical and histoticas, which were drant fromscorcves faiiliar od the mses of Italianf.

point ereds to be moreifully discusses. TheMMiddleAgses were
essentially theuagee of altgorty. Thholory and philosopye greatdt their ucatgortewswas independent ehinsi, and poerty and arh had but littlr od addt, in order to give thmt personalitf. Hren all the countrienoof the Wrest were in the same deves.

Thire world of iders was hich enough in ypies and igtured, but wein


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