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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

4 Virtues + 4

Carlo Emanuele ("Emanuello") I di Savoia

Giovan Battista Marino, Il Ritratto del Serenissimo Don Carlo Emanuello Duca di Savoia, edizione critica e commentata a cura di Giuseppe Alonzo ["The Portrait of the Most Serene Don Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy," edited by G. A.; Don in its Spanish usage], Rome: Aracne, 2011, pages 200, with some photos of 16th-17th century coins.

If you want to learn more about a Renaissance leader's values, you gotta look up (a ceiling) or down (a book). In Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, the "Older Palace" of the Medici family, there is a set of rooms, each of which is dedicated to one of their main leaders. The portrait of each leader painted on the ceiling is encircled by the symbols of eight virtues, that are not the same as the classical four "cardinal virtues" Prudence, Temperance, Courage, Justice, first because there are twice as much, and secondly, because not all four of them are anyway represented. Nor are they the same eight for each personage.

An interesting variation can be found in Marino's panegyric of Duke Charles Emmanuel (1562-1630), written in 1608; a poem made of 238 stanzas of six lines, i.e. 1,428 lines, one tenth of the Divine Comedy -- just by chance? The Savoy Duchy, in NW Italy, was then in its heyday, working on some of its most important attractions still nowadays: the Savoy Art Gallery and the sacred rites about the Sindone (the shroud that enveloped Jesus' body) in Turin, the capital city, as well as the futuristic Vicoforte shrine in Mondovì.

Charles Emmanuel's virtues were or should have been eight, too: the four cardinal ones, plus Kindness (quite needed in that fierce era), Study (personal culture), Largesse (patronage of the arts, social-oriented enterprises), Piety. And, Piety was not limited to building temples and fighting the "enemies of the Church." Much more than that. The Duke, some years before, had recovered from illness, actually less dramatic than its descriptions; but Marino pushes on, and says that he actually died, then immediately rose again, stronger than ever. As far as we know, though the remaining documents are not very clear, this all too happy ending of the Ritratto made the Inquisition guys raise a brow. But the poet had influential friends in Vatican, at that time.

The Portrait is formally addressed to Giovanni Ambrogio Figino, a painter then working in Turin. Here is his Saint Maurice on exhibition at the Savoy Art Gallery. Marino encouraged him to portray the Duke, but. . . Figino would die in that same year 1608, at the age of 55.