♻ Nagonio, Giovanni Michele (c. 1450 – c. 1510)

devotus(Giovanni Michele Nagonio, Manuscript of the De laudibus Galliae dedicated to King Louis XII. Source: www.gallica.bnf.fr)

Short biography

Giovanni Michele Nagonio was born near Pavia around 1450. He attended the Roman Academy of Pomponio Leto († 1497 or 1498), and continued to cultivate relationships he formed with other humanists at that time (e.g. with Cristoforo Marcello, Scipio Lancillotti or Pietro Marso). He was awarded the title of poet laureate around 1480. In the 1490s, Nagonio entered the service of the Borgia. There is abundant of evidence that Alexander VI (1492-1503) included Nagonio’s poem’s of praise in his papal foreign policy. In the two decades that span the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries, Nagonius travelled allover Europe presenting deluxe manuscripts of Latin poetry at most of the major courts. After the death of Alexander VI (1503), Nagonio is found in the Veneto, before he married into a local family in Monferrat. A dedication copy presented to Pope Julius II (1503-1511) represents the last known trace of this poet.

The works of Giovanni Michele Nagonio
(for a more comprising list see here)

Giovanni Michele Nagonio was a highly prolific author of panegyric verse. Most of his works survive in deluxe copies of dedication. Their sumptuous ornaments and miniatures have not failed to attract the attention of art historians, whereas scholars only recently started to explore the content of his poems.

king(Giovanni Michele Nagonio, Manuscript of the De laudibus Galliae dedicated to King Louis XII. Source: www.gallica.bnf.fr)

Among the recipients of Nagonio’s poems we finde the major heads of state in this period, such as:

-the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I
-King Henry VII of England
King Louis XII of France
-King Vladislav II of Bohemia and Hungary

Nagonio also dedicated his works to an impressive array of Italian princes and signori. Among these we find:

-the Venetian Doge Leonardo Loredan
-the merchant and future Doge Andrea Gritti
-Ercole D’Este, duke of Ferrara
-Gian Giacomo Trivulzio
-Giovanni Bentivoglio

f27-highres-e1427297200212-624x305(Giovanni Michele Nagonio, Manuscript of the De Galliae laudibus dedicated to King Louis XII. Source: www.gallica.bnf.fr)

Nagonio’s ‘Economics of Poetry’:

Nagonio produced copies of dedication in both prose and poetry. For the prose history of the later Roman emperors he presented to Andrea Gritti, he obviously resorted to Pomponius Leto’s Compendium Romanae Historium, which provided the basis for a conveniently finished work dedicated to this Venetian merchant. In many of his poems, which account for the biggest part of his literary production, Nagonio works with a simple but versatile epic narrative. This was easily modified to accomodate new dedicatees. The narrative, which first appears in his poem to the Emperor Maximilian, reappears for example in the manuscripts dedicated to Henry VII or Vladislav II. In a combination of ‘copy-and-paste’ and adding of new parts, Nagonio handled epic poetry efficiently enough to respond to the exigencies of his employers, whom Nagonio provided with presents to be placed in diplomatic contexts.


(Paul Gwynne, introducing to Nagonio’s ‘economics of poetry’)

nagonio-handout(click to enlarge these samples from three of Nagonio’s dedicated manuscripts. Highlighted passages mark the individual modifications the poet applied to the recycled epic narrative)

Selected literature:

Paul Gwynne, Poets and Princes. The Panegyric Poetry of Johannes Michael Nagonius, Turnhout 2012.