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Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome

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


Paul Gwynne

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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.

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Chapter 6: Bishop of San Leone: Two Orations for Pope Clement VII


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Bishop of San Leone: Two Orations for Pope Clement VII

On 18 January 1525 Francesco Sperulo was finally rewarded for his years in papal service and was elevated to the bishopric of the tiny See of San Leone in Calabria. Although Sperulo appears to have resigned the See a year later, he retained the title episcopus and in this capacity on Saturday, 10 March 1526, in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Sperulo delivered an oration in praise of the reconciliation between the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and King Francis I of France.1 According to the various printed editions, the oration was repeated verbatim later the same day in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo.2 A year later, almost to the day, on 18 March 1527, Sperulo gave another oration; this time to celebrate a Polish victory over the Crimean Tatars.3 Apart from the epistolary prefaces to his verse, these two orations are the only surviving examples of Sperulo’s Latin prose. Nothing is known ← 395 | 396 → of the Anthropographia [‘Images of Man’] or Andropaedia [‘The Education of a Man’], presumably prose treatises, which Giraldi found difficult and opinionated. Unfortunately, no traces survive of the orations Sperulo was expected to make as papal nuncio to persuade the Marquis of Mantua and the Duke of Ferrara to finance the Hungarian campaign against the Turks (see above, Chapter 1). These two orations, then, are important complements to the corpus of Sperulo’s verse. Not surprisingly, the...

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