Rodney Lokaj. Two Renaissance Friends: Baldassarre Castiglione, Domizio Falcone, and their Neo-Latin Poetry.
In his recent study, Two Renaissance Friends: Baldassarre Castiglione, Domizio Falcone, and their Neo-Latin Poetry, Rodney Lokaj sheds light on two Renaissance humanists through annotated editions of their often-ignored or even forgotten works. By thoroughly examining Castiglione's Carmina, the Neo-Latin poetry that preceded and accompanied the creation of his vernacular masterpiece, Il libro del cortegiano (published 1528), Lokaj adds new dimensions to our understanding of Castiglione, the author and the man of the early-16th century who through his political acumen and erudition became a member of the prestigious courts of Urbino and Rome as well as friend to the luminaries of the period. Castiglione's Latin poems, however, are only half of the equation. As Lokaj makes clear in his introduction, the Latin poetry of Castiglione would not be complete without a serious consideration of the poetry of Castiglione's friend, Domizio Falcone. Their association in life continued in the manuscript tradition, as at least three of the primary witnesses for Castiglione's Latin poetry also contain works by Falcone (Lokaj 43-50).
Lokaj's introduction to the two collected Carmina establishes the need for further examination of these texts both to enrich studies of Castiglione and also of the Italian Renaissance in general. Notwithstanding the wealth of scholarship devoted to Castiglione and his vernacular works, scant attention has been paid to his Latin poems. Moreover, as Lokaj argues, Castiglione's person and reputation have suffered from a "veiling effect" that essentially conflates the humanist with the characteristics of his greatest work, Il libro del cortegiano. Instead of a fully realized individual with diverse interests, political ambitions, and personal flaws, centuries of scholars tended to paint a portrait of Castiglione with the same idealizing brush that he used in re-creating the perfect court of Urbino (Lokaj 11-13).
The Latin works tell a different story. On the one hand, the Castiglione of the Latin poems does share many characteristics with Il libro del Cortegiano. For instance, his assemblage of classical references, maintains Lokaj, is the embodiment of the sprezzatura expected of Castiglione's ideal courtier. The carmen which heralded Castiglione's entry into the Accademia Romana, "De Elisabella Gonzaga canente" (1503-1504), goes beyond its Virgilian precedent blending together and even "superimposing" multiple sources with seeming effortlessness, with the result that Castiglione adds "new dimensions to the atmosphere" (Lokaj 72). Similarly, shades of Il libro del Cortegiano and its attention to the figurative arts come to the fore in the ekphrastic poems "In Cupidinem Praxitelis" (1505) and "Cleopatra" (1512-1513).
On the other hand, Castiglione's Latin poems also offer a less-than-virtuous (but no less ingenious) portrait of the author. Castiglione is an unfaithful husband who woos many Roman girlfriends, as indicated by the poems "Ad puellam in litore ambulantem" and "Ad eandem" (both composed between 1512-1513), among others. He has likewise abandoned his wife Ippolita and their children in the family home in Casatico, Mantua. Castiglione is well aware of his faults, penning a Heroides-inspired letter from his wife's perspective ("Balthassaris Castilonis elegia, qua fingitHippolyten suam ad se ipsum scribentem," post August 1519) in which he denounces himself for failing to leave the pleasures of Rome and return to his familial duties (Lokaj 138).
The Latin poems also offer glimpses into the bawdier side of Castiglione and the literature of the Italian Renaissance, as represented by the poetic genre of Priapeia. Castiglione composed poems which incorporated a "Priapic nudge and wink," including multiple double-entendres, sexual language, and playful tones (Lokaj 68). The early poem "De eadem viragine" (1499) was specifically "expunged from the canon" due to its "play-on-words at v. 4, whereby telum is a synonym for both sword (gladius) and the virile member," a joke which was deemed unsuitable by later scholars for an epigram on war (Lokaj 68). Such instances of Priapic poetry connect Castiglione's Carmina further to those of Falcone, and also illustrate another facet of the humanist movement, namely the use of such Latinity "to entertain a [...] learned society of acutely perceptive humanists trained and willing to read such poetry on very different levels" (Lokaj 68). Lokaj's study therefore fills the very real need for a more holistic approach to Castiglione's literary works.
In the case of Falcone, Lokaj has resurrected a figure ofthe Italian Renaissance and restored him to his proper place in the Neo-Latin canon. Other than serving as the tutor for Castiglione's younger brother and Falcone's untimely death in 1505, very little of Falcone's biography is known (Lokaj 29-30). Lokaj's treatment of Falcone's Carmina, for which he provides a stemma of witnesses and other philological information, as well as detailed notes, is essentially an editio princeps of the work, arranged thematically due to the dearth of information regarding the dates of composition (Lokaj 42). Many poems are dedicated to an unknown beloved (called Paula), others to noted historical figures, including Castiglione himself, and finally there is an entire section of poetry dedicated to Priapus, with all the ribald trappings associated with the genre of Priapeia. Even without the strong associations with that of Castiglione, Falcone's Carmina offers many interesting points of study for scholars of the Renaissance. Students of historical figures and courtly life can investigate Falcone's songs further for references to minor figures left out of the history books, such the noble women whose skills rival those of the men at court ("Ad Blancam Mariam Stangam"). Falcone, too, engaged in ekphrastic poetry, and art historians might appreciate in particular his detailed description of a now-lost Mantegna painting ("Falco Mantuanus de pictura").
When compared to the attention afforded by Lokaj to Castiglione's Carmina, in which he introduces each poem with extensive historical details, discussions on the literary sources incorporated by Castiglione, and stylistic examinations, Lokaj's treatment of Falcone's work may leave readers wishing for more. Most of Falcone's poems in fact lack critical introduction or context, although the notes offer insights into literary references.
In brief, Lokaj's study is an excellent addition to Castiglione scholarship and will hopefully influence a new wave of examination into Falcone and his poetry.
Loren Eadie, University of Wisconsin, Madison
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2018|
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