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les Enluminures

PETRARCH, Excerpts from the Trionfo dÂ’Amore and Trionfo della PudicitĂ  ("Triumph of Love and Chastity")

In Italian, fragment of an illuminated manuscript on parchment
Italy, probably Florence, c. 1450

TM 369

2 bifolia (of a quire likely initially composed of 4 or more bifolia; if the quire was composed of 4 bifolia, here preserved are i and iv), in a single column (justification 85 x 133 mm.), in a dark brown ink in a fine and accomplished humanistic bookhand, one large 5-line initial Q (opening the Triumph of Chastity Q[uando a un giogo e a un tempo vidi] in burnished gold with white-vine infill on a background of green and pink, all on blue ground, minor rubbing to one corner of the white vine initial, another initial S in blue (opening Canto II of the Triumph of Love, S[Stanco già di mirar]), some trimming to the base of the leaves but with no effect to text, all somewhat rubbed and faded on verso with numerous seventeenth-century scribbles including the name of Lorenzo Gondi di Firenze, the years 1664-1667 and phrases such as “entrate di bestie” and “entrate di bestie de lanno” (perhaps from re-use to enclose the accounts of this member of the Gondi family of Florence, hence in somewhat defective condition, last leaf rubbed and faded, suggesting its existence apart from the original manuscript). Dimensions 135-155 mm. x 190-216 mm.

Petrarch, the father of Italian humanism, was famed for his Italian verse and especially for the popular Triumphs, describing the effects of Love, Chastity, and eventually Death on his beloved Laura. Fragments of the Triumps are exceedingly rare, because copies were hardly ever broken up. This fragment from an elegant humanist copy survives, it seems, because of its reuse as a folder for an account book. Further study would surely identify the skillful writing with that of a known scribe.


1. Florence, Italy, mid-fifteenth century based on the script and the white-vine illustration.

2. Lorenzo Gondi of Florence, seventeenth century, his name and inscriptions on two of the folios; the name Lorenzo Gondi appears frequently in the Florentine archives in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The appearance on these bifolia of entries from an account book suggests that the original manuscript may have already been dismembered as early as the seventeenth century and used as a wrapper to enclose the accounts.


The order of the text is followed below:

1. [Trionfo d’Amore, Canto IV, vv. 147-166], incipit, “perfida lealis e chiaro inganno / sollicito peccato e virtu pigra” [variant from accepted text]; explicit, “quasi lunga pictura in tempo breve / che’l pie va inanzi, e l’ochio torna a drieto” [starting imperfectly, missing Trionfo d'Amore, Canto IV, vv. 1-146];

2. [Trionfo d’Amore, Canto II, vv 1-23], incipit, “Stanco già di mirar, non satio ancora / or quinci or quindi mi gi va riguardando; explicit, “ma tua fama real che tucto agiunge / e tal che mai non ti vedrà né vide” [missing Trionfo d'Amore, Canto II, vv. 24-115];

3. [Trionfo d’Amore, Canto II, vv. 116-138], incipit, “…come vedi, indivisa e per tal segno / si vede el nostro amor tenace e forte”; explicit, “quant’ivi erano amanti ignudi e presi / tal che la vista ell’occhio nol sofferse...”;

4. [Trionfo d’Amore, Canto II, vv. 139-161], incipit, “varii di lingue e varii di paesi / tan che di mille un non seppi il nome ...,” explicit, “lungo costor pensoso Esaca stare / cerchando Hesperia, or sopra un saxo assixo”;

5. [Trionfo d’Amore, Canto II, vv. 162-184], incipit, “e or sotto acqua, et ora alto volare / et vidi la crudel figlia di Niso”; explicit, “e’l ferro ignudo tien da man sinestra / Pigmaleon colla sua donna diva”;

6. [Trionfo d’Amore, Canto II, end, vv. 185-87; beginning, Trionfo della Pudicità, vv. 1-17], incipit, “e mille che in Castalia et Aganippe / vidi cantar per l'una e l'altra riva / E d'un pomo beffata al fin cidippe”; followed by “Quando ad un giogo e a un tempo vidi”; explicit, “non è ancor questa cagion del duolo / ché in abito io rividi ch’io ne piansi” [missing Trionfo delle Pudicità, vv. 18-109];

7. [Trionfo della Pudicità, vv. 110-132]; incipit, ”Che vergognia e dolor paura e ira / eran nel volto suo tucte ad un tracto”; explicit, “son di vera honestate infra le quali / Lucretia da man dextra era la prima”;

8. [Trionfo della Pudicità, vv. 133-155], incipit, “l’altra Penelopè queste li strali / aveano spezzato e la pharetra a lato”; explicit, “poi vidi, fra le donne peregrine / quella che per lo suo dilecto e fido.”

There are many spelling and other textual variants (perhaps Florentine?) with published editions of the Triumphs.

Petrarch’s Triumphs, written in terza rima, followed the allegorical works of Dante, setting out a triumphal procession of the allegorical figures Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Divinity. The poet describes the effect of each on his beloved Laura with imagery drawn from his encyclopedic knowledge of ancient history, including the fall of Carthage, the march of Xerxes into Greece, and the legends of Perseus, Andromeda, Pygmalion and Camilla and her Amazons. Chastity triumphs over Love, and finally Divinity triumphs over them all, and the poet is united with his love in eternity.

The public fame of Francesco Petrarch (1304-74), the celebrated scholar and composer, father of Renaissance humanism and friend of Boccaccio, was based on these poems. Despite the widespread dissemination of his works in Latin, it was his Italian verse (and notably these compositions), which gave him a vast public following in Italy. They form part of the corpus of poetry composed after Petrarch had given up his vocation as a priest, and after he supposedly caught sight of Laura on Good Friday 1327 in the church of Sainte-Claire in Avignon. He was struck with a lasting passion and pursued her, only to be rebuked as she was already married (if she existed then she may in fact have been Laura de Noves, the wife of Count Hugues de Sade, and the ancestor of the infamous Marquis de Sade). They had little contact after that, and he channeled his energies into the writing of love poetry until her sudden and early death in 1348. In the sixteenth century, Pietro Bembo principally based his model for the modern Italian language on these vernacular works of Petrarch.

The Triumphs of Petrarch are not uncommon in manuscript, and they were also extremely popular in print in the incunable period. Over 300 manuscript copies are recorded (see McGowan, p. 319), most of them in European libraries. DeRicci and Wilson listed only 23 copies in North American Collections (Wilkins, 1947, p. 23), a number that has assuredly grown in the last half century. Still, fragments are exceedingly rare, because copies were hardly ever broken up. Intact copies are infrequent and expensive. The last humanist copy at auction was a richly illuminated Florentine manuscript sold in London, Sotheby’s, 6 July 2000, lot 30 for 69,000 GBP.


Bernardo, Aldo S. Petrarch, Laura and the Triumphs, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1974.

Foster, Kenelm. Petrarch: poet and humanist, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1984.

Kirkham, Victoria and Armando Maggi. Petrarch: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 3009.

McGowan, Margaret. Visions of Rome in late Renaissance France, New Haven, CT., Yale University Press, 2000.

Nauert, Charles G. (2006). Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe, 2nd. ed., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Trinkhaus, Charles. The Poet as Philosopher: Petrarch and the Formation of Renaissance Consciousness, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1979.

Also online at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb01273.0001.001

Wilkins, Ernest Hatch, trans. The Triumphs of Petrarch, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1962.

Wilkins, Ernest Hatch. “Manuscripts of the Canzoniere and the Triumphs in American Libraries,” Modern Philology, 45 (1947) pp. 23-35.

Online resources

Triumphs in Italian

The Gutenberg Project: Sonnets, Triumphs, and other Poems

The Petrarch Timeline

Online Exhibition: Petrarch at 700 (in 2004)