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Aretino's Satyr

Aretino's Satyr: Sexuality, Satire, and Self-Projection in Sixteenth-Century Literature and Art

Raymond B. Waddington
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  • Book Info
    Aretino's Satyr
    Book Description:

    Pietro Aretino's literary influence was felt throughout most of Europe during the sixteenth-century, yet English-language criticism of this writer's work and persona has hitherto been sparse. Raymond B. Waddington's study redresses this oversight, drawing together literary and visual arts criticism in its examination of Aretino's carefully cultivated scandalous persona - a persona created through his writings, his behaviour and through a wide variety of visual arts and crafts.

    In the Renaissance, it was believed that satire originated from satyrs. The satirist Aretino promoted himself as a satyr, the natural being whose sexuality guarantees its truthfulness. Waddington shows how Aretino's own construction of his public identity came to eclipse the value of his writings, causing him to be denigrated as a pornographer and blackmailer. Arguing that Aretino's deployment of an artistic network for self-promotional ends was so successful that for a period his face was possibly the most famous in Western Europe, Waddington also defends Aretino, describing his involvement in the larger sphere of the production and promotion of the visual arts of the period.

    Aretino's Satyris richly illustrated with examples of the visual media used by the writer to create his persona. These include portraits by major artists, andarti minori: engravings, portrait medals and woodcuts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7097-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)

    This study of Pietro Aretino (1492–1556) examines his use of new media and new literary kinds to project a construct of self that, invariably, overwhelms any individual work.¹ Although he long has been branded a talented, but amoral, upstart with a colossal ego, there have been some flickers of recognition that Aretino mythologizes himself:

    When Aretino says that horses, a canal in Venice, and girls are all named after him, that he is the secretary of the world, he projects an image of himself as a giant … Aretino emerges as an Italian Gargantua, forever eating at banquets, imbibing...

  6. Note on Texts, Translations, and Citations
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxix-2)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Ostentatio genitalium: Revaluing Sexuality
    (pp. 3-32)

    In a famous letter to which we shall return more than once, Aretino explained retrospectively his intervention in theModiepisode. He begins with a defence of erotic art, progresses from art to life in maintaining that there is nothing shameful about viewing the sexual act itself, then advances a radical paradox: a praise of the penis as the most worthy part of the (male) body. Not only does it perpetuate the human race, it creates the best in life – notably, artists and writers – and everything beautiful, true, or holy. Aretino argues that the hands ought to be...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Aretino and Print Culture
    (pp. 33-56)

    By the time he migrated from Rome to Venice, Aretino’s name had appeared in print, attached to volumes of poetry, four, possibly five, times; after five years in Venice, only two further books of verse extended the count. Then the deluge. Over a twenty-year span, an astonishing number of Aretino titles kept Italian presses running, reaching a total of 151 editions in his lifetime.¹ This crude, but not inaccurate, profile points to the difficulty of his transition from court poet topoligrafo. Putting aside his pasquinades and theSonetti lussuriosi, the three respectable publications in the Roman years – an...

  10. CHAPTER THREE The Better Image: Portraits in Words, Wood, and Bronze
    (pp. 57-90)

    Aretino was justly proud of having created a new literary kind, the book of vernacular letters by a living author; and his invention was phenomenally successful. At the beginning of the enterprise, in the flurry of activity to provide copy for Marcolini’s press, Aretino was busily collecting old correspondence and dashing off last-minute letters, finally filling out the volume by reprinting dedications from his earlier books; the complete run of theLetterewas published in January 1538, an instant best-seller. Within the year, it was reprinted seven times, once by Marcolini and by five other printers; there were five more...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER FOUR Satyr and Satirist
    (pp. 91-116)

    Although Aretino’s powers as a satirist had been obvious since the day in Rome that he first attached verses to the statue of Pasquino, properly situating his work in the cinquecento literary landscape has proven a challenging task. The very profusion of satiric forms and modes in which he wrote frustrated the possibility of his identification with a distinct literary kind as, for example, Francesco Berni was associated withpoesia burlescaand Ariosto with Horatian verse satire.² Moreover, Aretino has been the victim of his own success in cultivating the image of a writer who spurns all artifice and tradition...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Serious Play: From Satyr to Silenus
    (pp. 117-152)

    The head formed of phalli exploits a standard rhetorical device, synecdoche, the type of metonymy in which the part stands (here, ithyphallic joke within a joke, quite literally) for the whole. Phallic synecdoche in Renaissance art was a natural development from the illustration of priapic herms.¹ An anonymous copperplate engraving represents a young couple in sexual congress and, in explicit commentary, a giant, winged phallus with animal hindquarters.² The wings make the familiar play on ‘uccello’ (bird) as slang for the penis, a motif used with more subtlety in Marcantonio Raimondi’sThe Dream of Raphael(so called for no good...

  14. Epilogue: Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas
    (pp. 153-158)

    An earlier chapter noted that Titian’sSelf-Portraitdrawing, cut in wood by Giovanni Britto, adapts the formula of Aretino’s author-portraits, a genre that Titian, of course, helped to create. TheSelf-Portraitis a visual dialogue, paying affectionate tribute both to Aretino’s success and their long friendship; at the same time, it is a competition, an outdoing. In assessing Titian’s achievement, Rona Goffen has insisted that we ‘take into account his lifelong concern (not to say obsession) with theparagone.’¹ For Titian, the competitiveness embraced the outdoing of ancient poets, notably Ovid in hispoesie; ancient artists, measuring his successes against...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 159-236)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-268)
  17. Name Index
    (pp. 269-276)
  18. Subject Index
    (pp. 277-279)