FIRENZÚOLA, Agnolo

(1493-1543)
Agnolo Firenzuola was a Florentine lawyer, writer, and poet of the cinque­cento. He is best remembered for I ragionamenti d'amore (Tales of Firenzuola, 1548), an unfinished series of tales set within a frame in the tradition of Boc­caccio's Decameron, and the dialogue Delle bellezze delle donne (On the Beauty of Women, 1558), a treatise on the beauty of the ideal woman.
Firenzuola was born Michelangelo Girolamo in Florence, of a family that had a long record of public service to the house of Medici. At the insistence of his family, he was sent to study law at Siena and Perugia, where he earned his degree in 1518. That same year, Firenzuola entered the monastic order of Vallombrosa, once again in accordance with his family's desire to secure for their son a prosperous and stable career. As a monk, he traveled to Rome, where his services were engaged as procurator to the papal court of Leo X* and later to Pope Clement VII. He cultivated many friendships within Rome's literary com­munity, which included Pietro Aretino,* Pietro Bembo,* Annibal Caro,* and Giovanni Della Casa.* As the legal profession, however, held little interest for him, Firenzuola redirected his energies toward writing. His early works include I ragionamenti d'amore; his adaptation of Apuleius's Golden Ass (1550); and an assortment of love poetry. He gained fame through his writing, which, al­though never published during his lifetime, was circulated widely in manuscript. But while his early work earned him critical acclaim, it would not prove suffi­cient to sustain a lasting place among Italy's literati. In 1526 he obtained release from his monastic vows by Clement VII and withdrew from public life.
It was during this time that Firenzuola endured a long illness, and from 1526 until 1538 he endeavored to restore his health. In 1538 he abandoned Rome for what he believed to be the more wholesome climate of Prato and resumed his monastic work by assuming the duties of abbot of the monastery of San Salvatore until his death in 1543. In Prato, Firenzuola began writing again, pro­ducing La prima veste dei discorsi degli animali (The first version of the animals' discourses, 1548), a series of fables derived from the ancient Sanskrit collection, the Panchantantra. He also wrote the dialogue Delle bellezze delle donne, a work that has enjoyed continued critical success for its accurate por­trayal of mid-sixteenth-century Italian society that remains of compelling interest to modern scholars for its progressive ideas regarding issues of sexual equality. All of Firenzuola's works were published posthumously.
Bibliography
A. Firenzuola, On the Beauty ofWomen, trans. K. Eisenbichler and J. Murray, 1992.
A. Firenzuola, Tales of Firenzuola, Benedictine Monk of Vallombrosa, 1889, rpt., 1987.
T. Riviello, Agnolo Firenzuola: The Androgynous Vision, 1986.
Patricia A. White

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

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