Unpublished Autograph Manuscript Poem dedicated to Violante Lampugnani.

TASSO Bernardo ([1520-25])


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MANUSCRIPT ON LAID PAPER. 210 x 155mm. 14 lines in elegant humanist hand on recto beneath remains of two-line title '[V]isconta il Passonico suo servitore', verso with five-line authentication in nineteenth-century hand, wax seal of the Biblioteca Estense in Modena (loss at head, affecting portion of dedicatory title, and damp staining particularly pronounced at left blank margin, visible fold lines running horizontally and vertically, generally grubby particularly at edges) with two accompanying pieces of correspondence. 



An unrecorded, unpublished manuscript poem by writer, courtier and father of Torquato, Bernardo Tasso (1493-1569), in his hand, and one of the earliest surviving examples of his poetry. 

Best known for his epic poem L'Amadigi (1560), this is of a distinctly different tone and subject. It is a love sonnet, in a pastoral, Petrarchan style, which describes the object of Tasso's affections walking through a garden - 'passando pressi gli fioreti e l'herba' - barefoot - 'bianco piedi' - and causing beautiful flowers to bloom with her touch - 'dove toccara la bianca mano...ivi nasceran fiori si belli che non si vedran' mail simil' a quelli.'

Sonnets and love poetry formed a significant part of Tasso's oeuvre. Aside from the lyrical poems published in Amori (Venice, 1555) several manuscript examples of his poetry survive in Italian libraries. The largest extant corpus is at the Biblioteca Palatina at Parma (Parm.829) and comprises 11 sonnets and 7 madrigals, each written out individually on single folios (subsequently mounted on modern card). The present manuscript is almost identical in poetic language and construction, and in its physical and textual form - from the shape of the hand to the dimensions of, and position of the folds visible in the leaf. This, and the identical authentication from expert Giovanni Galvani, librarian at the Biblioteca Estense in Modena (on the verso here) confirm that the present manuscript is an extremely rare example of Tasso's earliest poetic work. In total, there are only 27 such compositions in institutional collections, and only two ever recorded at auction. That this is Tasso's hand is also supported by the close parallels between the script here and that in a later letter by the poet in the collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (2.b.3.4.1). 

The title and text of this manuscript reveal much about the context in and purpose for which Tasso was writing. The 'Visconta' to whom this poem is dedicated is the object, and potential recipient of the poems in all other holdings, named most fully in those at Ferrara (Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea (Raccolta Cittadella 2792)) as 'Signora Violante Visconta di Lampugnano', and identified (by F.M. Falchi, in Casella, 104) as Violante Lampugnani, of the noble Milanese family of that name, who subsequently married Alberto Visconti of the same region, Lombardy, and by 1533, had settled in Ferrara. Little else is known of her and the precise time at which she might have met Tasso is not definitive, though geographically she was not far from where Tasso was born and spent his youth. Scholars have pointed to the naive form of the poems as being suggestive of composition early on in Tasso's life and career; linguistic and grammatical forms typical of the Padania, Po Valley region (Casella, 105) might indicate that it was composed during the poet's stay in Padua between 1520 and 1525, as a law and then literature student under the tutelage of Pietro Bembo and Sperone Speroni.

'The city, exciting as it was in the 1520s, would have furnished the young Tasso with interlocutori to whom he could send his poetry in letter form' (Casella, 106), a thesis reinforced by the physical form of this and the other surviving leaves; in particular, the fold lines, suggesting they were folded into separate, individual letters to be sent to possible patrons and mentors. This might explain, too, the neat, 'best' script in which the poem is written (in contrast to the rapid, untidy hand attributed to Tasso elsewhere - see the 1912 sale catalogue of J. Pearson & Co, Two hundred extraordinary important books..., item 173), and the fact that the dedicatory title is repeated, afresh, on each individual leaf. In the title Tasso refers to himself as 'il Passonico', and elsewhere as 'Pastor Passonico', a known pseudonym (Melzi, 378) and one under which he wrote to Pietro Aretino (see Lettere Scritte al Signor Pietro Aretino, Libro Secondo (1552)), and vice versa. He was likely the same 'Passonico' addressed by Bartolomeo Taegio, in his Risposte (1553), who was a member of Taegio's Accademia dei Pastori d'Agogna. 

This is a remarkable survival with extensive possibilities for further research. Tropes of nature, platonic, spiritual female beauty and an austere, untouchable form of love show a very traditional type of pastoral poetry favoured by Petrarch and propagated by Bembo, Tasso's instructor. This poem is therefore both an invaluable part of the 'prehistory' necessary to understanding Tasso's later work, and a window into the development of Italian poetry according to a neo-Petrarchan model at the start of the fifteenth century. 


Provenance: 1. Whether the disparate leaves in these separate collections ever constituted one body of material is unknown. The authorisation on the verso in Galvani's hand is dated 7 January, 1842, the same as that at the Biblioteca Civica "Angelo Mai" in Bergamo (Cassaforte 6 6 26), and that at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, in Vienna (Autogr. 2/2-1) and close to the endorsement of those at Parma (25 April, 1840), which suggests that they may have once been together and then dispersed. 2. By 1965 this leaf was in the collection of Professor Cecil H. Clough (1930-2017), Reader in Medieval History at the University of Liverpool, whose oeuvre of published works focused in particular upon Italian city states and intellectual thought and culture during the Renaissance; see accompanying letter from E. Williamson dated Dec. 1965, in response to Professor Clough's request for information on the poem; and P.O. Kristeller, Iter Italicum Vol. IV, p.34, who records being shown this manuscript from Clough's private collection in 1966. 

Two pieces of correspondence accompany the manuscript: letter from Edward Williamson, 17 Dec. 1965, responding to an academic request from Professor Clough; and a letter from Giorgio C. Baiardi, 20 July 1966, requesting information from Clough on Tasso's stay in Ferrara (1528-32). 

Stock Code: 233470

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