Monday, January 12, 8325

Francesco Landini (1325-1397) - Ballata

Instrument-maker, organist, poet, singer Francesco Landini (Landino, c. 1325, Florence[?] - September 2, 1397) was the most famous and revered Italian composer of the late 1300's.

His father, Jacopo del Casentino, was a noted painter in the school of

Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 – January 8, 1337).

Blind from childhood, after contracting smallpox -- Landini mastered many instruments, including the lute (and even invented a few), as well as singing, writing poetry, and composition.

Probably Landini spent some time farther north in Italy prior to 1370, and dedicated one motet to Andrea Contarini, Doge of Venice (1368-1382).

Landini knew many of the other Italian composers, including Andreas da Florentia. Around 1375, Andreas hired him as a consultant for the organ at the Florentine Servite house. Among the surviving records are the receipts for the wine that the two consumed during the three days it took to tune the instrument.

Landini also helped build the new organ Florence Cathedral, which by that time also included Giotto's campanile.

While records of his sacred music exist, his surviving output is exclusively secular, including

89 2-voiced ballate, such as Ecco la Primavera (1396)-- in ABBAA form, with the following verse

Ecco la primavera
Che 'l cor fa rallegrare;
Temp'e d'annamorare
E star con lieta cera.

Spring has come.
It makes the heart joyful;
now is the time to fall in love
and be happy

-- and Poi che de te mi convien (as performed on fiddle and harp, on David Munrow's Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance)

42 3-voiced ballate and

9 more which exist in 2- and 3-voiced forms,

as well as some madrigals, most texts assumed to have been written by the composer, including

"I am Music, and weeping I regret seeing intelligent people forsaking my sweet and perfect sounds for street music."

His output, preserved chiefly in the Squarcialupi Codex, represents almost a quarter of all surviving Italian music of the 1300's.

Landini is the eponym of the Landini cadence (or Landino sixth), a melodic cadential formula often expressed

Ti Ti La Do, with (as in the double-leading-tone cadence), a lower part of Re Do.

However this cadence neither originated with, nor is unique to him.

Numerous contemporary writers attest to his fame, not only as an artist, but as passionately devoted citizen of Florence.

He is buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence.

His tombstone, lost until the 19th century and now again displayed in the church, contains a depiction of him with a portative organ similar to the one shown atop.


The ballata (plural: ballate) is an Italian poetic and musical form, which was in use from the late 1200's to the 1400's. It has the musical structure AbbaA, with the first and last stanzas having the same texts. It is thus most similar to the French musical "forme fixe" virelai (and not the ballade as the name might otherwise suggest). The first and last "A" is called a ripresa, the "b" lines are piedi (feet), while the fourth line is called a "volta." Longer ballate may be found in the form AbbaAbbaA, etc. Unlike the virelai, the two "b" lines usually have exactly the same music and only in later ballate pick up the (formerly distinctly French) first and second (open and close) endings. The term comes from the verb ballare, to dance, and the form certainly began as dance music.

The ballata was one of the most prominent secular musical forms during the 1300's, the period often known as the Italian ars nova. Ballate are sung at the end of each day of Boccaccio's Decameron (only one musical setting of these poems, by Lorenzo da Firenze, survives). Early ballate, such as those found in the Rossi Codex are monophonic. Later, ballate are found for two or three voices. The most notable composer of ballate is Francesco Landini, who composed in the second half of the 1300's. Other composers of ballata include Andrea da Firenze, a contemporary of Landini, as well as Bartolino da Padova, Johannes Ciconia, and Zacara da Teramo. In the 1400's both Arnold de Lantins and Guillaume Dufay wrote ballate; they were among the last to do so.


Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 1375) was an Italian author and poet, a friend and correspondent of Petrarch, and an important Renaissance humanist in his own right and author of a number of notable works including On Famous Women, the Decameron, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular. Boccaccio is particularly notable for his dialogue, of which it has been said that it surpasses in verisimilitude that of just about all of his contemporaries, since they were medieval writers and often followed formulaic models for character and plot.

The exact details of his birth are uncertain, a number of sources state that he was born in Paris and that his mother was a Parisian, but others deprecate this as a romanticism by the earliest biographers. In this case his birthplace was possibly in Tuscany, perhaps in Certaldo, the town of his father.

He was almost certainly illegitimate, the son of a Florentine merchant and an unknown woman.

Boccaccio grew up in Florence. His father was working for the Compagnia dei Bardi and in the 1320s married Margherita dei Mardoli, of an illustrious family. It is believed Boccaccio was tutored by Giovanni Mazzuoli and received from him an early introduction to the works of Dante. In 1326 Boccaccio moved to Naples with the family when his father was appointed to head the Neapolitan branch of his bank. Boccaccio was apprenticed to the bank, but it was a trade for which he had no affinity. He eventually persuaded his father to let him study law at the Studium in the city.

For the next six years Boccaccio studied canon law there. Then from there he pursued his interest in scientific and literary studies.

His father introduced him to the Neapolitan nobility and the French-influenced court of Robert the Wise in the 1330s. At this time he fell in love with a married daughter of Robert the Wise (known as, King Robert of Naples) and she is immortalized as the character "Fiammetta" in many of Boccaccio's prose romances, particularly Filocolo (1338). Boccaccio became a friend of fellow Florentine Niccolò Acciaioli, and benefited from his influence as administrator and, perhaps, the lover of Catherine of Valois-Courtenay, widow of Philip I of Taranto. Acciaioli later became counsellor to Queen Joanna and, eventually, her Grand Seneschal.

It seems Boccaccio enjoyed law no more than banking, but his studies allowed him the opportunity to study widely and make good contacts with fellow scholars. His early influences included Paolo da Perugia (a curator and author of a collection of myths, the Collectiones), the humanists Barbato da Sulmona and Giovanni Barrili, and the theologian Dionigi di Borgo San Sepolcro.

In the 1330's Boccaccio became a father of two illegitimate children, Mario and Giulio. In the 1340's Boccaccio became a father again, of another illegitimate child, Violante. He was born in Ravenna, where Boccaccio was a guest of Ostasio I da Polenta from about 1345 through 1346.

In Naples, Boccaccio began what he considered his true vocation: poetry. Works produced in this period include Filostrato and Teseida (the source for Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and The Knight's Tale respectively), Filocolo, a prose version of an existing French romance, and La caccia di Diana, a poem in octave rhyme listing Neapolitan women.

The period featured considerable formal innovation, including possibly the introduction of the Sicilian octave to Florence, where it influenced Petrarch.

Boccaccio returned to Florence in early 1341, avoiding the plague in that city of 1340, but also missing the visit of Petrarch to Naples in 1341. He had left Naples due to tensions between the Angevin king and Florence. His father had returned to Florence in 1338, where he had gone bankrupt. The death of his mother occurred shortly afterward. Although dissatisfied with his return to Florence, Boccaccio continued to work, producing Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine (also known as Ameto) a mix of prose and poems, in 1341, completing the fifty canto allegorical poem Amorosa visione in 1342, and Fiammetta in 1343 The pastoral piece Ninfale fiesolano probably dates from this time also. In 1343 Boccaccio's father re-married, to Bice del Bostichi. His children by his first marriage had all died (except Boccaccio) and he was gladdened by the birth of a son, Iacopo, in 1344.

In Florence, the overthrow of Walter of Brienne brought about the government of popolo minuto. It diminished the influence of the nobility and the wealthier merchant classes and assisted in the relative decline of Florence. The city was hurt further, in 1348, by the Black Death, later represented in the Decameron, which killed some three-quarters of the city's population.

From 1347 Boccaccio spent much time in Ravenna, seeking new patronage, and despite his claims, it is not certain whether he was present in plague-ravaged Florence. His stepmother died during the epidemic and his father, as Minister of Supply in the city was closely associated with the government efforts. His father died in 1349 and as head of the family Boccaccio was forced into a more active role.

Boccaccio began work on the Decameron around 1349. It is probable that the structures of many of the tales date from earlier in his career, but the choice of a hundred tales and the frame-story lieta brigata of three men and seven women dates from this time. The work was largely complete by 1352. It was Boccaccio's final effort in literature and one of his last works in Italian, the only other substantial work was Corbaccio (dated to either 1355 or 1365). Boccaccio revised and rewrote the Decameron in 1370-1371. This manuscript has survived to the present day.

From 1350 Boccaccio, although less of a scholar, became closely involved with Italian humanism and also with the Florentine government. His first official mission was to Romagna in late 1350. He revisited that city-state twice and also was sent to Brandenburg, Milan, and Avignon. He also pushed for the study of Greek, housing Barlaam of Calabria, and encouraging his tentative translations of works by Homer, Euripides, and Aristotle.

In October 1350 he was delegated to greet Francesco Petrarca as he entered Florence and also to have the great man as a guest at his home during his stay. The meeting between the two was extremely fruitful and they were friends from then on, Boccaccio calling Petrarch his teacher and magister. Petrarch at that time encouraged Boccaccio to study classical Greek and Latin literature. They met again in Padua in 1351, Boccaccio on an official mission to invite Petrarch to take a chair at the university in Florence. Although unsuccessful, the discussions between the two were instrumental in Boccaccio writing the Genealogia deorum gentilium; the first edition was completed in 1360 and this would remain one of the key reference works on classical mythology for over 400 years. The discussions also formalized Boccaccio's poetic ideas. Certain sources also see a conversion of Boccaccio by Petrarch from the open humanist of the Decameron to a more ascetic style, closer to the dominant fourteenth century ethos. For example, he followed Petrarch (and Dante) in the unsuccessful championing of an archaic and deeply allusive form of Latin poetry. In 1359 following a meeting with Pope Innocent VI and further meetings with Petrarch it is probable that Boccaccio took some kind of religious mantle. There is a persistent, but unsupported, tale that he repudiated his earlier works, including the Decameron, in 1362, as profane.

[Illustration of one of the women featured the 1374 biographies of 106 famous women, De Claris Mulieribus, by Boccaccio - from a German translation of 1541]

In 1360 Boccaccio began work on De mulieribus claris, a book offering biographies of one hundred and six famous women, that he completed in 1374. Two centuries later, approximately in 1541, this work was translated into the German language by Heinrich Steinhöwel and printed by Johannes Zainer, in Ulm, Germany. The secondary title caption, a subtitle, of the German translation reads Hie nach volget der kurcz sin von etlichen frowen / von denen johannes boccacius in latin beschriben hat, vnd doctor hainricus stainhöwel getütschet.

Following the failed coup of 1361, a number of Boccaccio's close friends and other acquaintances were executed or exiled in the subsequent purge. Although not directly linked to the conspiracy, it was in this year that Boccaccio left Florence to reside in Certaldo, and became less involved in government affairs. He did not undertake further missions for Florence until 1365, and traveled to Naples and then on to Padua and Venice, where he met up with Petrarch in grand style at Palazzo Molina, Petrarch's residence as well as the place of Petrarch's library. He later then returned to Certaldo. He met Petrarch only once again, in Padua in 1368. Upon hearing of the death of Petrarch (July 19, 1374), Boccaccio wrote a commemorative poem, including it in his collection of lyric poems, the Rime.

As noted, he returned to work for the Florentine government in 1365, undertaking a mission to Pope Urban V. When the papacy returned to Rome from Avignon in 1367, Boccaccio was again sent to Urban, offering congratulations. He also undertook diplomatic missions to Venice and Naples.

Of his later works the moralistic biographies gathered as De casibus virorum illustrium (1355-74) and De mulieribus claris (1361-1375) were most significant.

Other works include a dictionary of geographical allusions in classical literature, De montibus, silvis, fontibus, lacubus, fluminibus, stagnis seu paludibus, et de nominibus maris liber (a title desperate for the coining of the word "geography"). He gave a series of lectures on Dante at the Santo Stefano church in 1373 and these resulted in his final major work, the detailed Esposizioni sopra la Commedia di Dante.

Boccaccio and Petrarch, also were two of the most educated people in early Renaissance in the field of archaeology.

Boccaccio's change in writing style in the 1350's was not due just to meeting with Petrarch. It was mostly due to poor health and a premature weakening of his physical strength. It also was due to disappointments in love. Some such disappointment could explain why Boccaccio, having previously written always in praise of women and love, came suddenly to write in a bitter Corbaccio style. Petrarch describes how Pietro Petrone (a Carthusian monk) on Boccaccio's death bed sent another Carthusian (Gioacchino Ciani) to urge him to renounce his worldly studies.

Petrarch then dissuaded Boccaccio from burning his own works and selling off his personal library, letters, books, and manuscripts. Petrarch even offered to purchase Boccaccio's library, so that it would become part of Petrarch's library.

His final years were troubled by illnesses, some relating to obesity and what often is described as dropsy, severe edema that would be described today as congestive heart failure. He died at the age of sixty-three in Certaldo on 21 December, 1375, where he is buried.


The Decameron (subtitle: Prencipe Galeotto) is a collection of 100 novellas by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio, probably begun in 1350 and finished in 1353. It is a medieval allegorical work best known for its bawdy tales of love, appearing in all its possibilities from the erotic to the tragic. Many notable writers such as Chaucer are said to have drawn inspiration from The Decameron (See Literary sources and influence of the Decameron below).

The title is a combination of two Greek words meaning "ten" and "day."

Decameron is structured in a frame narrative, or frame tale. Boccaccio begins with a description of the Black Death and leads a group of seven women and three men who flee from plague-ridden Florence to a villa in the (then) countryside of Fiesole for two weeks. To pass the time, each member of the party tells one story for each one of the nights spent at the villa. Although fourteen days pass, two days each week are set aside: one day for chores and one holy day during which no work is done. In this manner, 100 stories are told by the end of the ten days.

[Decameron, painting by Sandro Botticelli from 1487]

Each of the ten characters is charged as King or Queen of the company for one of the ten days in turn. Each character tells a tale of a unique individual's personal experience. This charge extends to choosing the theme of the stories for that day, and all but two days have topics assigned: examples of the power of fortune; examples of the power of human will; love tales that end tragically; love tales that end happily; clever replies that save the speaker; tricks that women play on men; tricks that people play on each other in general; examples of virtue. Only Dioneo, who usually tells the tenth tale each day, has the right to tell a tale on any topic he wishes, due to his wit.

Each day also includes a short introduction and conclusion to continue the frame of the tales by describing other daily activities besides story-telling. These frame tale interludes frequently include transcriptions of Italian folk songs. The interactions among tales in a day, or across days, as Boccaccio spins variations and reversals of previous material, forms a whole and not just a collection of stories.

Boccacio made similar Greek etymological plays of words in his other works. The subtitle is Prencipe Galeotto, which derives from the opening material in which Boccaccio dedicates the work to ladies of the day who did not have the diversions of men (hunting, fishing, riding, falconry) who were forced to conceal their amorous passions and stay idle and concealed in their rooms. Thus, the book is subtitled Prencipe Galeotto, that is Galehaut, the go-between of Lancelot and Guinevere, a nod to Dante's allusion to Galeotto in "Inferno V," who was blamed for the arousal of lust in the episode of Paolo and Francesca.

[From an edition of Boccaccio's "De Casibus Virorum Illustrium" showing Lady Fortune spinning her wheel]

Beyond the unity provided by the frame narrative, Decameron provides a unity in philosophical outlook. Throughout runs the common medieval theme of Lady Fortune, and how quickly one can rise and fall through the external influences of the "Wheel of Fortune." Boccaccio had been educated in the tradition of Dante's Divine Comedy which used various levels of allegory to show the connections between the literal events of the story and the hidden Christian message. However Decameron uses Dante's model not to educate the reader, but to satirize this method of learning. The Roman Catholic Church, priests, and religious belief become the satirical source of comedy throughout. This was part of a wider historical trend in the aftermath of the Black Death which saw widespread discontent with the church.

Many details of the Decameron are infused with a medieval sense of numerological and mystical significance. For example, it is widely believed that the seven young women are meant to represent the Four Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and the Three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity). It is further supposed that the three men represent the classical Greek tripartite division of the soul (Reason, Spirit, and Lust, see Book IV of Republic). Boccaccio himself notes that the names he gives for these ten characters are in fact pseudonyms chosen as "appropriate to the qualities of each". The Italian names of the seven women, in the same (most likely significant) order as given in the text, are: Pampinea (the flourishing one), Fiammetta (small flame), Filomena (faithful in love), Emilia (rival), Lauretta (wise, crowned with laurels), Neifile (cloudy), and Elissa (God is my vow). The men, in order, are: Panfilo (friend of all), Filostrato (beaten by love), and Dioneo (of God).

[John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) - A Tale from the Decameron]

The compelling way in which the tales were written and their almost exclusively Renaissance flair made the stories from the Decameron an irresistible source that many later writers borrowed from.

Notable examples include:

The famous first tale (I, 1) of the notorious Ser Ciappelletto was later translated into Latin by Olimpia Fulvia Morata and translated again by Voltaire.

Martin Luther retells tale I, 2, in which a Jew converts to Catholicism after visiting Rome and seeing the corruption of the Catholic hierarchy. However, in Luther's version (found in his "Table-talk #1899"), Luther and Philipp Melanchthon try to dissuade the Jew from visiting Rome.

The ring parable is at the heart of both Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's 1779 play Nathan the Wise and tale I, 3. In a letter to his brother on August 11, 1778, he says explicitly that he got the story from the Decameron. Jonathan Swift also used the same story for his first major published work, A Tale of a Tub.

Posthumus's wager on Imogen's chastity in Cymbeline was taken by Shakespeare from an English translation of a fifteenth century German tale, "Frederyke of Jennenm",whose basic plot came from tale II, 9.

Both Molière and Lope de Vega use tale III, 3 to create plays in their respective vernaculars. Molière wrote L'ecole de maris in 1661 and Lope de Vega wrote Discreta enamorada.

Tale III, 9, which Shakespeare converted into All's Well That Ends Well. Shakespeare probably first read a French translation of the tale in William Painter's Palace of Pleasure.

Tale IV, 1 was reabsorbed into folklore to appear as Child ballad 269, Lady Diamond.

John Keats borrowed the tale of Lisabetta and her pot of basil (IV, 5) for his poem, Isabella, or the Pot of Basil.

Lope de Vega also used parts of V, 4 for his play No son todos ruiseñores (They're Not All Nightingales).

The title character in George Eliot's historical novel Romola emulates Gostanza in tale V, 2, by buying a small boat and drifting out to sea to die, after she realizes that she no longer has anyone on whom she can depend.

Tale V, 9 became the source for works by two famous nineteenth century writers in the English language. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used it in his "The Falcon of Ser Federigo" as part of Tales of a Wayside Inn in 1863. Alfred, Lord Tennyson used it in 1879 for a play entitled The Falcon.

Molière also borrowed from tale VII, 4 in his George Dandin, ou le Mari Confondu (The Confounded Husband). In both stories the husband is convinced that he has accidentally caused his wife's suicide.

The motif of the three trunks in The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare is found in tale X, 1. However, both Shakespeare and Boccaccio probably came upon the tale in Gesta Romanorum.
At his death Percy Bysshe Shelley had left a fragment of a poem entitled "Ginevra", which he took from the first volume of an Italian book called L'Osservatore Fiorentino. The earlier Italian text had a plot taken from tale X, 4.

Tale X, 5 shares its plot with Chaucer's "The Franklin's Tale", although this is not due to a direct borrowing from Boccaccio. Rather, both authors used a common French source.
The tale of patient Griselda (X, 10) was the source of Chaucer's "Clerk's Tale." However, there are some scholars that believe Chaucer may not have been directly familiar with the Decameron, and instead derived it from a Latin translation/retelling of that tale by Petrarch.
Christine De Pizan often restructures tales from Decameron in her work "City of Ladies"
Tzvetan Todorov used the Decameron as the basis for The Grammar of the Decameron (1969), an exploration of the general structure of all narrative.

Boccaccio, in turn, borrowed the plots of almost all of his stories. Although he only consulted French, Italian, and Latin sources, some of the tales have their ultimate origin in such far-off lands as India, Persia, Spain, and other places. Moreover, some were already centuries old. For example, part of the tale of Andreuccio of Perugia (II, 5) originated in second century Ephesus (in the Ephesian Tale). The frame narrative structure (though not the characters or plot) originates from the Panchatantra, which was written in Sanskrit before 500 AD and came to Boccaccio through a chain of translations that includes Old Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin.

Even the description of the central current event of the narrative, the Black Plague (which Boccaccio surely witnessed), is not original, but based on the Historia gentis Langobardorum of Paul the Deacon, who lived in the eighth century.

Some scholars have suggested that some of the tales for which there is no prior source may still have not have been invented by Boccaccio, but may have been circulating in the local oral tradition and Boccaccio may have just happened to be the first person that we know of to record them. Boccaccio himself says that he heard some of the tales orally. In VII, 1, for example, he claims to have heard the tale from an old woman who heard it as a child.
However, just because Boccaccio borrowed the storylines that make up most of the Decameron doesn't mean he mechanically reproduced them. Most of the stories take place in the fourteenth century and have been sufficiently updated for the author's time that a reader may not know that they had been written centuries earlier or in a foreign culture. Also, Boccaccio often combined two or more unrelated tales into one (such as in II, 2 and VII, 7).

Moreover, many of the characters actually existed, such as Giotto di Bondone, Guido Cavalcanti, Saladin and King William II of Sicily. Scholars have even been able to verify the existence of less famous characters, such as the tricksters Bruno and Buffalmacco and their victim Calandrino. Still other fictional characters are based on real people, such as the Madonna Fiordaliso from tale II, 5, who is derived from a Madonna Flora that lived in the red light district of Naples. Boccaccio often intentionally muddled historical (II, 3) and geographical (V, 2) facts for his narrative purposes. Within the tales of the Decameron the principal characters are usually developed through their dialogue and actions so that by the end of the story they seem real and their actions logical given their context.

Another of Boccaccio's frequent techniques was to make already existing tales more complex. A clear example of this is in tale IX, 6, which was also used by Chaucer in his "The Reeve's Tale", but more closely follows the original French source than does Boccaccio's version. In the Italian version the host's wife (in addition to the two young male visitors) occupy all three beds and she also creates an explanation of the happenings of the evening. Both elements are Boccaccio's invention and make for a more complex version than either Chaucer's version or the French source (a fabliau by Jean de Boves).

[8365 Herman Monk / 8325 Landini / 8325 Gherardello]