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Lodovico Domenichi

Piacenza, 1515 – Pisa, 1564
Lodovico Domenichi

Born in Piacenza in 1515, after the usual training in grammar, rhetoric and classical studies, he specialized in the law. However, he soon showed his interest in literature, and his inclination strengthened during the two years in which he participated in the Academia degli Ortolani, which he founded with Lodovico Doni in 1543.

After having abandoned his practice of the law, he left Piacenza to move to Venice where he turned his passion into a career: here he began working as a polygraph (“poligrafo”). He served as editor and translator for Gabriele Giolito in Venice from 1543 to 1546. Giolito published Domenichi’s collection of poems in 1544 and they collaborated in the editing of the first book of the Rime diverse series of verse anthologies, which made the fortune of La Fenice. At Giolito’s, he discovered new talents and he wrote the preface to the Rime of the rising star Laura Terracina. He entered Italy’s querelle de femmes quite early, by plagiarizing Cornelius Agrippa’s treatise on women in his La nobiltà delle donne (1549).

Domenichi then moved from Venice to Florence, where he collaborated in the new publishing house set up by Doni, the failure of which marked the end of their working relationship, accompanied by a flurry of polemical writings In Florence, he then worked for the ducal printer Lorenzo Torrentino and the I Giunti publishing house.

His heterodox interests, that were already in evidence at the start of his career, got him in trouble at times. For his translation of Jean Calvin’s Nicodemiana he was imprisoned in the fortress of Pisa in 1552. The same year, however, he was released thanks to the intervention of Renata of France, Duchess of Ferrara, a famous protector of protestants. In 1556, Domenichi began his collaboration with the editor and printer Vincenzo Busdraghi from the small Republic of Lucca. With Busdraghi, Domenichi published the collection of the Rime diverse d’alcune nobilissime et virtuosissime donne in 1559, the first anthology dedicated entirely to female poets, mostly noblewomen from different Italian regions. The anthology formed part of Domenichi’s contribution to the debate on women, focusing on their talent as evidence of excellence.

The Rime di donne is the last piece by Domenichi specifically addressing the querelle: he then moved, as the official historiographer of Cosimo I, into writing treatises on good conduct, hagiography and history. Nevertheless, in the last years of his life his standing among the favourites of Cosimo I declined and he died in Pisa in 1564.