Rime di Michelagnolo Buonarroti. Raccolte da Michelagnolo suo Nipote

Autore BUONARROTI, Michelangelo (1475-1564)-BUONARROTI, Michelangelo il Giovane ed. (1568-1646).
Tipografo Giovanni Donato and Bernardo Giunti
Dati tipografici Florence, 
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“Michelangelo's intriguing contribution to the literary history of same-sex desire” (Wagner)


4to (215x150 mm). [12], 88 pp. Collation: ¶6 A-L4. Printer's device on title page. 18th-century vellum over boards, lettering piece on spine. On the front flyleaf the manuscript shelf mark “27.7.”. Some browning and foxing, but a fine, genuine copy with good margins.

FIRST EDITION, edited by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger and dedicated by him to his former classmate, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, of the poetic work of the famous painter-sculptor, which includes sonnets, songs, madrigals, etc.

Michelangelo devoted himself to poetry for almost his entire life, at first marginally, then over the years with ever increasing commitment and diligence. Although in 1546 he had intended to publish his poems, the project failed due to the death of Luigi del Riccio, who had been reordering his papers, and Michelangelo's poetry ultimately remained unpublished during his lifetime. In 1623 his compositions were collected by his great-grandson, who, unfortunately, produced an incomplete and unfaithful text. It was not until 1863, with the critical edition of Michelangelo's poetry edited by the Accademia della Crusca on the basis of the autograph manuscripts, that his complete poetic corpus was finally made available in print.

“When the queer art historian John Addington Symonds was granted access to the Buonarroti family archives in Florence in 1863, he discovered a note written in the margin of the manuscript poems by Michelangelo's grandnephew (called Michelangelo the Younger) saying that the poems must not be published in their original form because they expressed ‘amor . . . virile,' literally ‘masculine love.' Symonds thus was able to make public the fact that when Michelangelo the Younger prepared his great-uncle's poetry for posthumous publication in 1623 he had changed all of the masculine pronouns in the love poems to feminine pronouns, thus ensuring that any sentiments in the poems that could not be interpreted as being merely platonic would at least be interpreted as being what he considered normal” (Rictor Norton, Myth of the Modern Homosexual: Queer History and the Search for Cultural Unity, London-New York, 2016, p. 143).

“The poetry dedicated to attractive men--not only Tommaso Cavalieri, but also Febo di Poggio, Cecchino Bracci, and other figures who are either fictional or difficult to identify with precision--is a testament to the artist's intense fascination with male beauty, a fascination that is overwhelmingly dominant in the artwork […] Although Michelangelo wrote in a variety of verse forms and literary modes, the sonnets that address appealing male beloveds are, at their best, his most intriguing contribution to the literary history of same-sex desire. The poet's lack of formal education and training in classical languages did not impede his ability to write verse that surpassed that of many of his more learned contemporaries. Innovative, obscure, elliptical, at times metrically and ideologically unorthodox Indeed, not until Shakespeare would another sonneteer represent same-sex desire with such sensuous complexity, emotional resonance, and linguistic artfulness” (Wagner, at www.cs.utsa.edu/~wagner/creative_writing/michelangelo.html).

The first sonnets, inspired by Dante and Petrarch and dating back to the years 1503-04, often contain realistic and autobiographical allusions. The poems addressed to friends Vittoria Colonna, Tommaso de' Cavalieri, Luigi del Riccio, and Donato Giannotti were composed much later, during the third and fourth decades of the century; in these works, Michelangelo elevates his language and alternates themes of love with philosophical (neo-platonic) issues (divine and human love, the juxtaposition of love and death, etc.). In his final years, the poems are dominated primarily with the theme of sin and individual salvation, with the overall tone becoming more gloomy and anguished (see Ch. Ryan, The Poetry of Michelangelo, An Introduction, Madison NJ, 1998, passim).

The poet Vittoria Colonna played a considerable role in shaping Michelangelo's spirituality and influencing his poetry. Michelangelo's poems are also of considerable importance for understanding his artistic work (cf. A. Blunt, Artistic theory in Italy, 1450-1660, Oxford, 1940, pp. 58-81).

The young Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in Florence. His father, Lionardo, was a nephew of the great Michelangelo. With a background in literary studies, he entered the Florentine Academy in 1585, later acting as its censor and consul. From 1586 to 1591 he studied in Pisa; upon his return to Florence he became a member of the Accademia della Crusca. In 1600 he was admitted to the court as a poet and playwright and entered into the graces of the Grand Duchess Cristina di Lorena. Following the death of Cosimo II, his court status became increasingly precarious. Although still active, his final years witnessed an increasing withdrawal into private life. His most successful works include the comedies La Tancia (Florence, 1612) and La Fiera (Florence, 1726) (cf. D.B.I., XV, pp. 178-181).

Gamba, 248; M. Parenti, Prime edizioni italiane, Milan, 1948, p. 108; S.P. Michel, Répertoire des ouvrages imprimés en langue italienne au XVIIe siècle conservés dans les bibliothèques de France, Paris, 1975, V, p. 172; D. Decia-R. Delfiol-L.S. Camerini, I Giunti tipografi editori di Firenze 1571-1625, Florence, 1979, II, no. 385; E. Steinmann-R. Wittkower, Michelangelo Bibliographie. 1510-1926, Leipzig, 1927, no. 307.

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