Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome

Francesco Sperulo: Poet, Prelate, Soldier, Spy - Volume I

by Paul Gwynne (Author)
©2015 Monographs XXVIII, 451 Pages


This book is also available as a set, together with Volume II.
Please visit www.peterlang.com/view/product/84550
Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome is the first full-length study of the life and works of Francesco Sperulo of Camerino (1463–1531). In a remarkable career during which the poet progressed from serving as a soldier of fortune in the service of Cesare Borgia to an Italian bishopric, Sperulo produced a significant body of Latin poetry, here presented in a critical edition for the first time. An impressive array of contemporary figures including Leonardo da Vinci, Isabella d’Este, Raphael and Baldassare Castiglione appear in his verse. By placing his work within the larger historical, literary, political and social context, this study, published in two volumes, sheds light on the role played by neo-Latin poetry at the papal court and documents the impact of classical culture in Rome during the period usually referred to as «the High Renaissance».
Volume I reconstructs Sperulo’s life and circle of contacts by placing the poet’s works in chronological order and setting them within the political and social circumstances of their composition. Archival documents scattered across Italy, penitentiary records from the Vatican Archives and a voluminous correspondence with the Duke of Urbino and members of the Varano family of Camerino show that Sperulo was intimately involved in papal politics and intrigue; indeed, he was almost assassinated for his involvement. A selection of this correspondence is included here to supplement the poet’s biography.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction to Both Volumes
  • Part I: Francesco Sperulo: Poet, Prelate, Soldier, Spy
  • Chapter 1: Sperulo’s People, Biography of a Network
  • Early Life
  • Cesare Borgia
  • Camerino
  • Two False Starts: Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi and Cardinal Ercole Rangone
  • Diplomat and Spy
  • Final Rewards
  • Selected Correspondence (Paul Gwynne and Kristen Hook)
  • Part II: The Works of Sperulo
  • Chapter 2: The Golden Age Restored: Literary Patronage in Renaissance Rome
  • Papal Patronage
  • Academies and Sodalities
  • The Academy of Pomponius Laetus
  • The Sodalitas of Angelo Colocci
  • Coricius’s Garden
  • Chapter 3: The Poet and ‘the Prince’: Francesco Sperulo and Cesare Borgia
  • Lord of the Romagna
  • Book One: The Siege of Faenza
  • Book Two: Epigrams
  • Literary Background and Sources
  • Chapter 4: The Poet and ‘the Prince of Painters’: Building the Villa Medici
  • The River Tiber Speaks
  • A Roman Villa
  • Ut poesis, pictura imaginesque
  • Raphael’s Letter on the Villa Medici
  • Chapter 5: Sperulo on Love: Elegies and Hymns
  • Book One: De amore iuvenili
  • Book Two: De amore coniugali
  • Book Three: In laudem virginitatis
  • Book Four: In laudem Virginis et Matris Dei Mariae
  • Sperulo and Music
  • The Practice of Poetry: Corrections and Revisions to the Manuscript
  • Chapter 6: Bishop of San Leone: Two Orations for Pope Clement VII
  • The Battle of Pavia (24 February 1525) and the Treaty of Madrid (14 January 1526)
  • The Defeat of the Crimean Tatars at the Battle of Olszanica (27 January 1527)
  • Excursus on the Rhetorical Structure of the Orations
  • Chapter 7: Sed durus hic et sui iudicii ubique: Sperulo and Imitatio
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Proper Names
  • Series Index

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The research for this book grew from a small contribution to the on-line Neo-Latin Anthology of the Society for Neo-Latin Studies. I submitted three short epigrams which Sperulo had written for Cesare Borgia. These not only presented an interesting narrative (the discovery of an abandoned baby girl; her baptism and puns around her name) but also offered a different perspective upon one of the most notorious figures of the Italian Renaissance. This anthology also required a short biography of the poet to preface the works selected. At the time I offered only the most rudimentary outline of the poet’s life. I found Sperulo’s work for Cesare Borgia, however, to be of such interest that I decided to pursue the research. This book is the result.

There remains the pleasant duty of recording debts of thanks. My research has profited from the advice of many friends and colleagues. My thanks for answering questions, for discussion, for various kinds of help go to Albrect Burkardt, David Chambers, Tracy Cosgriff, Ann Giletti, Jeffery Glodzik, Luke Houghton, Jakub Koguciuk, John Law, Rosie Lehmann, Frances Muecke, Marianne Pade, Alessandro Pagliara, Isabel Porcu, Ellie Reeve and Bernhard Schirg. Pete Sheppard and Sarah Yates provided unbounded antipodean hospitality and access to their library. Jean Schofield, once again, admirably fulfilled the role of Gentle Reader. Franziska Wallner Romana obtained volumes and articles that would otherwise have been inaccessible. Rosa Fusco, Daniele Torri and Gianluca Ariodante of the IT department of The American University of Rome always responded promptly and politely to repeated pestering. Malissa Arras and Anna Schorch chased and cross-checked references. James Green completed the Index. Vincent Drago kindly read through some of the Latin passages and questioned Sperulo’s grammar and syntax. Kristen Hook proved a delightful companion with whom to work on the transcriptions and translations of Sperulo’s vernacular correspondence. The inclusion of her essay on the ← xi | xii → language of these letters greatly enhances the quality of this research. Any infelicities of translation in the Latin and Italian texts are, needless to say, my own responsibility. Mazen Haidar used his technological skill to draw the maps and plans and make preliminary drafts of the cover and plates. Special thanks are due to Andrew Thompson, then acting-President of The American University of Rome, for his invaluable support at a critical time and to the inimitable Fabio Barry for keeping me in good spirits.

In the process of writing this book, I have frequently recalled with gratitude the lecture courses and seminars of Professor R.D. Williams who first introduced me, a raw undergraduate at the University of Reading, to the sophisticated delights of Augustan poetry. My debt is greater than I can possibly acknowledge but I hope repaid in part herein.

The series editor, Sarah Alyn Stacey, has guided my contribution to this new venture with wit and wisdom. I am, once again, in her debt. Similarly, I must thank David Rundle. His input and constructive criticism at all stages of the development of this study were of immense importance. If, despite their valiant efforts, any faults remain, they are the result of my own stubbornness. I should also like to express my warmest thanks to Jasmin Allousch, Christabel Scaife and all the staff at Peter Lang for their hard work in preparing the manuscript for press. This book could not have been completed in a timely fashion without the award of a sabbatical semester and a grant towards publication costs from The American University of Rome.

Thanks are also due to the Director, librarians and staffs of a number of archives and libraries across Europe who kindly facilitated access to Sperulo’s works and who supplied images and photocopies of his manuscripts and diplomatic correspondence, in particular, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano.

My greatest thanks, however, go to my mother Beryl Patricia Gwynne who allowed me frequently ‘to go back to Tara’, scatter books across the living room and write. The book is dedicated to her.

— PAUL GARETH GWYNNE, Capo d’Africa, Rome, November 2014

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List of Abbreviations

In referring to classical authors and their works I have followed the standard abbreviations as listed by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, eds, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edn revd (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) xxix–liv. All references to classical texts, unless otherwise stated, are to the Loeb Classical Library. Similarly, all translations of classical Latin are taken from the most recent Loeb editions (at times with my own adaptions), and are acknowledged accordingly.

Archives and Libraries

ASC Archivio Storico Capitolino, Rome
ASF Archivio di Stato, Florence
ASMa Archivio di Stato, Mantua
ASMo Archivio di Stato, Modena
ASV Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Città del Vaticano
BAV Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano
BCAP Biblioteca Communale Augusta, Perugia
BL British Library, London
BNCF Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence
BOP Biblioteca Oliveriana, Pesaro ← xiii | xiv →


Burchard Burckardus, Johannes, Diarium, sive rerum urbanarum commentarii (1483–1506), ed. by Louis Thuasne, 3 vols (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1883–85)
Liber notarum ab anno MCCCCLXXXIII usque ad annum MDVI, ed. by Enrico Celani, 2 vols (Città di Castello: Lapi, 1906–11)
Caos Giuliano Fantaguzzi, Caos, ed.by Michele Andrea Pistocchi, 2 vols (Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, 2012)
Coryciana Jozef IJsewijn, ed., Coryciana (Rome: Herder, 1997)
Cosenza M.E. Cosenza, Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of the Italian Humanists and of the World of Classical Scholarship in Italy, 1300–1800, 6 vols (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1962–67)
DBI Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 80 vols to date (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–)
Eubel Conrad Eubel et al., Hierarchia Catholica medii aevi, sive summorum Pontificum. S.R.E. Cardinalium, ecclesiarum antistitum, etc., 2 vols (Regensberg: Monasterii, 1898–1913)
Gams Pius B. Gams, Series Episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae (Graz: Akademische Druck, 1957)
Hain Ludwig Friedrich Theodor Hain, Repertorium bibliographicum in quo libri omnes ab arte typographica inventa usque ad annum MD typis expressi … recensentur, 4 vols (Stuttgart and Paris: J.G. Cotta, 1826–38)
Hergenroether Joseph Hergenroether, Leonis X Pontificis Maximi Regesta (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1884–91)
Iter Paul Oskar Kristeller, Iter Italicum: a finding list of uncatalogued or incompletely catalogued humanistic manuscripts ← xiv | xv → of the Renaissance in Italian and other libraries, 8 vols (Leiden: Brill, 1963–2003)
JWCI The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
Lilii Camillo Lilii, Dell’historia di Camerino, (Macerata: S. Paradisi et A. Grisei, 1652)
Litta Pompeo Litta, Famiglie Celebri Italiane (Milan: Giusti, 1819)
LTUR E.M. Steinby, ed., Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, 6 vols (Rome, 1993–2000)
Pastor Ludwig von Pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and Other Original Sources, trans. by Frederick I. Antrobus et al., 14 vols (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1891–1953)
Platner Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, completed and revised by Thomas Ashby (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1926)
Roscoe William Roscoe, The Life and Pontificate of Leo X, ed. by Luigi Bossi, Vita e pontificato di Leone X di Guglielmo Roscoe tradotta e corredata di annotazioni e di alcuni documenti inediti, 12 vols (Milan: Sonzogno, 1816–17)
Sanuto Marino Sanuto [Marin Sanudo], I diarii, ed. by Nicolò Barozzi, Rinaldo Fulin and others, 58 vols (Venice: Visentini, 1879–1903; repr. Bologna: Forni, 1969–70)
Shearman John Shearman, Raphael in Early Modern Sources (1483–1602), 2 vols (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003) ← xv | xvi →

Abbreviations for the Citation of Archival and Manuscript Sources

| xvii →

List of Illustrations

Colour Plates

1. Dedicatory epistle, Book One, manuscript for Cesare Borgia. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5205, fol. 1r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

2. Dedicatory epistle, Book Two, manuscript for Cesare Borgia. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5205, fol. 32r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

3. Title-page, manuscript for Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5812, fol. 1v. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

4. Dedicatory epistle, manuscript for Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5812, fol. 2r. © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican)

Black and White Figures

1. Partial genealogy of the Medici family

2. Letter from Maria della Rovere to Felice della Rovere seeking the Bishopric of Civita Castellana for Sperulo. Written by Sperulo. ASC, Archivio Orsini, 1. 93, c. 282r

3. Letter from Sperulo to Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino (BOP, Monumenti Rovereschi MS 375, vol. 3, c. 115r)

4. Letter from Maria della Rovere to her son Sigismondo da Varano concerning his safety. Written by Sperulo and Maria della Rovere. ASF, Ducato di Urbino, Classe Prima, 14, c. 539r ← xvii | xviii →

5. Letter from Maria della Rovere to her sister-in-law Eleonora Gonzaga della Rovere, Duchess of Urbino, from Ancona, 8 February 1528. Written by Sperulo. ASF, Ducato di Urbino, Classe Prima, 108, c. 221

6. Key to the codes and ciphers

7. Map of Italy showing Cesare’s second campaign in the Romagna, 1500 (after Bradford)

8. Pietro Santi Bartoli, Scenes from the Life of Pope Leo X, engravings taken from Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel: The River Tiber

9. Pietro Santi Bartoli, Scenes from the Life of Pope Leo X, engravings taken from Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel: Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici escapes his French captors at the Battle of Ravenna

10. Map of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Khanate of the Crimea with the Battle of Olszanica, 1527

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Introduction to Both Volumes

Many of the neo-Latin poets who frequented the literary circles of early sixteenth-century Rome are shadowy figures. Most are known only by their name or, at best, a solitary poem often found in a single manuscript or rare, early printed anthologies. With the exception of Poliziano, for example, most of the poets who contributed verses to the deluxe manuscript on the death of Orsini Lanfredini († 1488), the son of the Florentine representative in Rome, are unknown elsewhere, while few of the 120 contributors to the printed anthology, known as the Coryciana, are well-known (see below, Chapters 2 and 12).1 Occasionally a whole volume of verse survives from a poet, for example, the elegies written on a variety of themes by Guido Posthumo Silvestri (1479–1521).2

Francesco Sperulo (1463–1531), however, is particularly fortunate for three manuscripts of his Latin poetry have survived and are now preserved in the Vatican Library.3 Two are deluxe presentation copies written on fine ← xix | xx → parchment in coloured inks: BAV, Vat. lat. 5205, a brief epic on the siege of Faenza and a series of epigrams addressed to Cesare Borgia in 1501 (Colour Plates 1–2); BAV, Vat. lat. 5812, an extended description of the building of a suburban villa on the slopes of Monte Mario (now the Villa Madama) presented in 1519 to Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (afterwards Pope Clement VII; Colour Plates 3–4). The third manuscript is a collection of four books of elegiac verse (BAV, Vat. lat. 1673; Figures 14–17). Unlike the manuscripts for Cesare Borgia and Cardinal de’ Medici, this is a large paper volume that was originally intended for Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi, but reworked, after the Cardinal’s untimely death, to solicit patronage from Cardinal Ercole Rangone, and, to judge from the revisions and additions to the verse, this manuscript ultimately became the poet’s taccuino [composition book]. Other poems ascribed to the poet can be found in various manuscript anthologies in libraries across Europe. Two public orations, dated 1526 and 1527, were later published, at Rome, and at Rome and Krakow and Kraków respectively.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (June)
Renaissance Italy neo-Latin poetry court culture
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. XXVIII, 451 pp., 4 coloured ill., 12 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Paul Gwynne (Author)

Paul Gwynne obtained his doctorate from the Warburg Institute, University of London. For the past twenty years he has lived and worked in Rome, where he is Associate Professor of Classics and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at the American University in Rome.


Title: Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome
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