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She Doesn’t Protest

Colin Burrow: The Untranslatable Decameron, 12 March 2009

Decameron 
by Giovanni Boccaccio, translated by J.G. Nichols.
Oneworld, 660 pp., £12.99, May 2008, 978 1 84749 057 5
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... the victims’ armpits or groins, and then black bruising spread across their bodies. According to Giovanni Boccaccio, whose father and stepmother died during the outbreak, the disease was so infectious that pigs who nuzzled the discarded clothing of the dead began instantly to writhe in agony, and then dropped down dead. The healthy fled the sick, and ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible, 20 February 2014

The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... about monks) and the man responsible for the rediscovery of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura; Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75); Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), author of the risqué Sonetti Lussuriosi; Machiavelli (1469-1527), whose Prince outlines an instrumental conception of religion as a useful theatre for the new ruler that chimed with a sense of De ...

Locum, Lacum, Lucum

Anthony Grafton: The Emperor of Things, 13 September 2018

Pietro Bembo and the Intellectual Pleasures of a Renaissance Writer and Art Collector 
by Susan Nalezyty.
Yale, 277 pp., £50, May 2017, 978 0 300 21919 7
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Pietro Bembo on Etna: The Ascent of a Venetian Humanist 
by Gareth Williams.
Oxford, 440 pp., £46.49, August 2017, 978 0 19 027229 6
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... At a time when Latin was still Europe’s central literary language, he was – as one friend, Giovanni della Casa, recalled after his death – the first to show how to imitate the classics in an artistic and individual way. During his time as a papal secretary, he saved the cultural credit of the papacy itself, by drafting bulls and letters on Christian ...

On the Sixth Day

Charles Nicholl: Petrarch on the Move, 7 February 2019

Petrarch: Everywhere a Wanderer 
by Christopher Celenza.
Reaktion, 224 pp., £15.95, October 2017, 978 1 78023 838 8
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... was a brief period when all three were alive: Dante died in 1321, when Petrarch was 17 and Boccaccio eight; the younger writers worked in his shadow. They were all Florentine, and in the phrase’s first coinage they were the ‘three crowns of Florence’. This was both a statement of civic pride (conveniently forgetting that both Dante and ...

Like a Mullet in Love

James Wood: Homage to Verga, 10 August 2000

Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Stories 
by Giovanni Verga, translated by G.H. McWilliam.
Penguin, 272 pp., £8.99, June 1999, 0 14 044741 5
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... and promptly dies. This is a scene from ‘Jeli the Shepherd’, a story by the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga (1840-1922), who is not read much in English, and often only dutifully in Italy, where he has the cloudy venerability of the canonical. In English, he is known, perhaps, for ‘Cavalleria rusticana’, a tale which became a play and then an ...

Alan Bennett chooses four paintings for schools

Alan Bennett: Studying the Form, 2 April 1998

... where the Wise Men pay him a proper degree of attention. There is, for instance, an Adoration by Giovanni di Paolo in the Lynskey Collection at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, in which one of the Wise Men has his arm round Joseph’s shoulder, and is also holding his hand, perhaps saying: ‘Well I know what it’s like to be woken up in the middle of ...

Chips

Nicholas Penny, 18 March 1982

Michelangelo and the Language of Art 
by David Summers.
Princeton, 626 pp., £26.50, February 1981, 0 691 03957 7
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Bernini in France: An Episode in 17th-Century History 
by Cecil Gould.
Weidenfeld, 158 pp., £12.95, March 1982, 0 297 77944 3
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... are ‘themselves closely related’ to a tradition ‘starting forward from Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio’. The trouble is, of course, that we know very little about what Michelangelo read: Summers is painfully aware of this. It is also hard to be sure of what he said. Condivi’s biography is a valuable source and clearly reflects Michelangelo’s own ...

Sneezing, Yawning, Falling

Charles Nicholl: The Da Vinci Codices, 16 December 2004

... these rimesters. Another man whose handwriting is found in these pages is the engaging Tommaso di Giovanni Masini, generally known under the imposing alias of ‘Zoroastro’, though also answering to other nicknames such as ‘Indovino’ (Fortune-Teller) and ‘Gallozzolo’ (Gall-Nut). A humble gardener’s son from a village near Florence, Tommaso gained ...

Between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines

Tim Parks: Guelfs v. Ghibellines, 14 July 2016

Dante: The Story of His Life 
by Marco Santagata, translated by Richard Dixon.
Harvard, 485 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 674 50486 8
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... self-image, the way it dominated his writings and conditioned his every move. Giovanni Villani, almost the only person to write about Dante who actually knew him, thought him a ‘great poet and philosopher’ but ‘presumptuous, contemptuous and disdainful’ as a person. A generation later, ...

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