♻ Lazzaroni, Pietro (c. 1425 – c. 1500)

(by Bernhard Schirg)

Short biography:

Pietro Lazzaroni was born near the Valtellina (Northern Italy) around the second quarter of the Quattrocento. After teaching grammar in the vicinity of Brescia in the 1460’s and 1470’s, he was appointed professor of rhetoric and poetic at the University of Pavia in 1480. The time of his teaching at Pavia coincides with the reign of Lodovico Sforza, who repeatedly received works of Lazzaroni and probably commissioned several of them, as well.
The last works of Lazzaroni date to the year 1497 (XII Epitaphia commemorating the death of Lodovico’s wife Beatrice d’Este († 3 January 1497), and the Carmen ad Alexandrum VI, which he dedicated to the Borgia-pope in July 1497). After that year all traces of Pietro Lazzaroni are lost.

ludovico(Duke Lodovico Sforza, Detail from the Pala Sforzesca (Milan, Pinacoteca della Brera). Source: Wikimedia commons)

The works of Pietro Lazzaroni

Pietro Lazzaroni ranks among the most prolific Renaissance authors of panegyric verse. No less than 36 works of him are known, which he addressed to lords, bishops, city councils etc. allover Italy and Europe. The following list (not exhaustive) tries to provide an overview of his impressive production.

-Poems dedicated to city councils:

– Brescia
– Venice
– Crema
– Bologna
– Bergamo

-Works dedicated to individuals outside the Duchy of Milan:

– Niccolò Franco, Bishop of Treviso
– Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Bishop of Trento
– Giovanni Mocenigo, Doge of Venice
Agostino Barbarigo, Doge of Venice
– Giovanni Francesco Sforza
– Caterina Correr, Venetian noblewomen and Queen of Cyprus
– Paolo Terzi, professor at Bergamo
– Niccolò Orsini, capitano of Venice
– Charles VIII, King of France
Alfonso, Duke of Calabria
– Maximilian I, Rex Romanorum
– Alexander VI, Pontifex Maximus

-Poems dedicated to individuals at the court, within the academia or administration of the Duchy of Milan:

– Galeazzo Maria Sforza, 5th Duke of Milan
– Giangaleazzo Sforza, 6th Duke of Milan
Lodovico Sforza, 7th Duke of Milan
– Giovanni Melzi, member of the Council of Milan
– Orlando Pallavicino, member of the Council of Milan
– Gaspare Visconti, member of the Council of Milan and poet
– Bartolomeo Calco, secretary to Lodovico Sforza
– Giasone del Maino, famous jurist at the University of Pavia
– Giovanni Borella, member of the Council of Milan and commissary at Pavia

Poems celebrating weddings (Epithalamia):

– Isabella d’Este and Giovanni Francesco Gonzaga, 1490
– Lodovico Sforza and Beatrice d’Este, 1491
– Bianca Maria Sforza and Emperor Maximilian I, 1493 (printed in 1494)

alfonso-1024x553(Detail from Lazzaroni’s Carmen de quattuor virtutibus dedicated to Alfonso di Calabria. Source: http://trobes.uv.es )

Pietro Lazzaroni’s Economics of Poetry:

Lazzaroni streamlined his production on various levels. In his Carmen de quattuor virtutibus, the author relies on a nucleus of 1,500 hexameter verses, which describes four different virtues in separate books . All books are organised identically: A characterization of a virtue is subsequently illustrated by examples from Roman antiquity. These examples represent versifications of the corresponding chapters of Valerius Maximus. Lazzaroni’s Carmen de septem praerogativis quae nobilitant domos equally consists of general introductions to virtues/values, which are then illustrated by versified examples.

In both works, a generic nucleus made it possible to reassign the work with little effort by simply altering the prologue or the summary at its end, which attributed the described virtues to the dedicatee. In the case of the Carmen de quattuor virtutibus, no less than seven versions are known; three in the case of the Carmen de septem praerogativis.

iusticia-624x203(Detail from Lazzaroni’s Carmen de quattuor virtutibus dedicated to Alfonso di Calabria. Source: http://trobes.uv.es )

Such easily recyclable descriptions of virtues represent a main ingredient of Lazzaroni’s poems. Despite repeatedly making use of similar contents in his other works, Lazzaroni never reuses entire blocks of verse, but always re-versifies the lines in proportion to the subject; for example, an exemplum from Valerius Maximus is cited sparingly in two lines, or at length in twenty, appropriate to the subject or according to context.

Lazzaroni’s ‘Economics of Poetry’ can even be traced down to the microscopic level of the verse: Apart from applying formulae, he developed convenient ways to tackle the tricky final feet of the hexameter verse. This allowed him to easily convert material from sources in prose into verse. For example in the Carmen ad Alexandrum VI dedicated to the Borgia-pope, hundreds of lines consist of versifications from the oration of obedience Bernardino de Carvajal had held in the name of the Spanish Kings (1493).

oratio(Detail from the 1493 printed edition of Carvajal’s Oration of obedience. Source: www.bsb-muenchen.de)

Besides, long passages of his poem represent ampflications as taught in medieval poetics as the Poetria Nova of Galfred of Vinsauf. Many of his works also follow their stronge sense of serial order as expressed in the long catalogues in which Lazzaroni arranges his material. Following the tried and tested literary handbooks of the previous centuries was another factor helping Lazzaroni to meet the deadlines involved in occasional poetry.

On a codicological level the effort of producing Lazzaroni’s dedication copies was similarly reduced. For example a significant number of works show the same kind of ornament and also the same binding in red velvet. Both the texts and the glosses were probably written by the author himself and then given to a specialized workshop. The fact that the decoration, layout and binding  of a considerable part of Lazzaroni’s copies are strikingly similar is a clear sign that they were worked to an established formula for these deluxe items.

Selected literature:

L. Pesavento, L’umanista e il principe. La ‘Vita ducum’ di Pietro Lazzaroni, Pisa 1996.
B. Schirg, Die Ökonomie der Dichtung. Das Lobgedicht des Pietro Lazzaroni an den Borgia-Papst Alexander VI. (1497), New York-Hildesheim 2016.