Like Water in the Bucket by Paolo De Falco

I met Paolo di Falco during an international congress held at the Toronto University, Canada, in April 2016.
The theme of the congress was “Italy and China, Europe and East Asia: Centuries of Dialogue” and prominent in it were the works by Giuseppe Castiglione, the XVIII century Milanese Jesuit painter working in Beijing at the court of emperor Qianlong.

Paolo was presenting a documentary film entitled “Leonardo” based on certain aspects of a immigrant Chinese community in Apulia, while I was presenting my non-fiction book on Leonardo Da Vinci, an investigation into the possibility that Caterina, his mother, may have been a Chinese slave taken into Italy by Venetian merchants.
Our friendship was cemented by that serendipity.
My hypothesis drew ironic smiles from some academics present there but I did repay them saying that if Leonardo Da Vinci had been an academic, we would be not talking about him today.

Paolo and I, for several hours, strolled aimlessly around Toronto’s busy and cold streets, while he was filming the city and the people. We then discussed at length about our hopes and our aims. There I learned that my fellow traveler has an impeccable career record in Theatre, having worked and studied with the likes of L. de Berardinis, P. Stein, C. Bene, C. Quartucci, P. Brook, J. Grotowsky, T. Kantor. Then, after Theatre, he had crossed into the magic world of cinema, collaborating with A. Grimaldi, P. Squitieri, C. Quartucci, P. Avati. B. Corbucci. R. Mazzotta, A.P. Bacalov, Scavetta. Indeed, all big names in their own fields. Then he switched from actor to film director.

In Albania, he had realized “Il Ponte” from a story written by Kafka, then “Stella Loca” in Argentina. Between 2006 e il 2011 he had shot several documentary films in Argentina, Chile e Brazil, some dedicated to Italian emigration. Then “Leonardo”; The Rooster always crow; “Anatomy Lessons”; “Oedipus and Teseus” “Casello 83” the “Appian Way” plus several others.

However, I remember that during our peripatetic tour of Toronto he kept on going back to music, not filming. He said that he had been the band leader of the “Fools” and that, furthermore, he had played with great musicians. Yes, I remember clearly that back then he was very much taken by his upcoming CD, which he told me he had already set in his mind and as soon as back in Italy he would concentrate on finishing and perfecting all his songs and lyrics. He then added that he was going to use English as a mean of expression, the universal language, as Latin had been until the XVII century all over the world.

“Like water in the bucket” is the wonderful result of his inspiration, a title that reminds me the famous verses dedicated to soldiers: “We are, like leaves on the trees, in Autumn” by the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.
All the musicians playing with him in this CD are well known but, perhaps the saxophonist, Michele Polga, stands out, deserving a special mention, because of the quality of his performance. Listening, as I did several times, to the “Like Water in the Bucket” I had at first the impression that the mainstream flow of his music was to be found in Jazz, but it was just a superficial impression – several hidden streams run below it – and in fact there are also rock and blues intimations but above else there is a classic flavor, perhaps unconscious, which reminds me of Vincenzo Bellini, the Catanese genius…
I can see readers jump in the chair…but I confess that, I myself, found my impression quite puzzling but then, going back to check Paolo’s biography, I found, lo and behold! that Paolo had studied classic music in his youth.

His CD is a great work of art and I do hope that his music will be performed also on National TV, because Paolo deserves more success and more attention. Finally, let me conclude with a slightly hermetic definition. Which kind of emotions and sensations are we getting, while listening to Paolo’s music? You will feel like moving on a long road towards the end of the night.

Angelo Paratico

 

The CD is available here:

http://www.paolodefalco.it/musica/

 

 

Semplici disegni cinesi e l’arte di Leonardo


I disegni di Leonardo Da Vinci, sparsi nei suoi codici, hanno un qualche cosa di esotico e di magico. Il motivo di ciò sta forse nella precisione e nella fermezza del suo tratto, ma non solo – come spiego nel mio libro a lui dedicato – anche il fatto che vengono gettati sulla pagina bianca in maniera non casuale, spesso combinati a sue parole e descrizioni.
Questo è certamente un fatto atipico nell’arte europea del tempo, mentre era cosa comunissima nell’arte estremo-orientale, soprattutto i quella cinese.

L’uso sapiente degli spazi vuoti crea una impressione di leggerezza, di sospensione, di purezza.

Ecco la foto di un semplice oggetto cinese di epoca Ming (1368-1640) che acquistai nelle Filippine molti anni fa pagandolo forse un dollaro americano. Una scatola circolare di porcellana di 3 cm di diametro, prodotta in serie a Jingdezheng e poi esportata.


La barca sulla quale stava, assieme a centinaia d’altri pezzi, dev’essere affondata presso Puerto Galera nell’arcipelago filippino e poi riportata a galla da pescatori. Con pochi tratti di pennello l’anonimo artista cinese disegna i tre arbusti che segnano la vita d’un intellettuale confuciano: il pino, il pruno e il bambù, mentre a sinistra si scorge la semplice capanna dove meditare.

 

Francesco Cianchi. La Madre di Leonardo era una Schiava?

Il libro di Francesco Cianchi La Madre di Leonardo era una schiava? venne pubblicato dal Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci nel 2008, con una introduzione di Carlo Pedretti. Questa è stata un’opera fondamentale per scrivere il mio libro dedicato alla madre di Leonardo, pubblicato da Gingko Editore nel 2017, con una presentazione di Salvatore Giannella.Si tratta di un’opera molto rigorosa, scarna, basata su documenti d’archivio ma che un amante di Leonardo legge come se fosse un thriller. In Italia ha avuto una diffusione quasi nulla e non è mai stata tradotta in inglese, francese o tedesco, come avrebbe meritato. Nel 2013, avendo scorto questo titolo in una bibliografia, dovetti penare non poco per acquistarne una copia. Da Hong Kong telefonai a Vinci, parlando con una gentilissima signora, responsabile del Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci, che me la spedì.

Renzo Cianchi (1901-1985) è stato un grande studioso di Leonardo Da Vinci, della sua vita, della sua opera e del suo pensiero. Fondò a Vinci il Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci, che è cresciuto negli anni, sino a diventare quella importante istituzione che è oggi.

Cianchi pubblicò un gran numero di saggi e di libri dedicati all’arte rinascimentale e fu lui il primo a proporre l’ipotesi che Caterina, la madre di Leonardo, fosse stata una schiava, dopo che trovò dei documenti nel Catasto di Firenze relativi a un testamento di un ricco cliente di Ser Piero Da Vinci, morto nel 1451, un usuraio di nome Ser Vanni.
Parlò di questa sua scoperta a Neera Fallaci, la sorella della scrittrice Oriana Fallaci, la quale nel 1975 pubblicò su Oggi un articolo su tale argomento.

In seguito, Renzo Cianchi lasciò queste sue ricerche sulla schiava Caterina nel cassetto della propria scrivania ma ne parlò al figlio, Francesco, dopo che scoprì d’essere gravemente ammalato. Dopo la morte del genitore, Francesco Cianchi riordinò le carte del padre e completò le sue ricerche, pubblicando questo libro di 60 pagine, contenente le sue sorprendenti scoperte.

Giacché la data di nascita di Leonardo è incontestabile, 15 aprile 1452, Renzo Cianchi tornò indietro nove mesi prima della sua nascita, al luglio del 1451 e trovò varie tracce lasciate da Ser Piero a Firenze: un documento datato 7 luglio 1451 e poi un altro datato il 15 luglio 1451, entrambi redatti a Firenze, e altri ancora immediatamente prima e dopo queste date. Il documento legale più avanti nel tempo scritto da Ser Piero, risulta del il 4 settembre, 1451, sempre a Firenze. Tali documenti dimostrarono che Ser Piero risiedeva a Firenze in quel tempo e fu a Firenze che ingravidò la madre di Leonardo, dunque nessuna contadinella di Vinci…

Non è pertanto azzardato pensare che Ser Piero fosse di casa da Ser Vanni, a Firenze, in Via Ghibellina e, mentre lui agonizzava nel letto, falsificò certe clausole nel testamento, che lui stesso aveva redatto, volgendolo a proprio favore e profittò sessualmente della sua schiava, Caterina.

Una intervista su Leonardo da Vinci e Caterina, sua madre.

Certificato di morte di Caterina
Certificato di morte di Caterina

Incontriamo Angelo Paratico al FCC di Hong Kong, il leggendario club dei corrispondenti esteri e ci sediamo nella Quiet Room dove sedeva Tiziano Terzani, proprio sotto alla targa della Reuters di Saigon, strappata dal muro nei giorni dell’invasione nordvietnamita. Vicino all’entrata sta il busto bronzeo di Richard Hughes, il brillante giornalista australiano che appare nei romanzi di John Le Carrè e di Ian Fleming. Egli par quasi fissarci con severità, mentre parliamo all’autore e prendiamo nota.
Allora, Angelo, il tuo libro su Leonardo Da Vinci sta finalmente per uscire in Italia?

Credo sia già uscito, in versione cartacea ed ebook, presso Gingko editore di Bologna e fra tre mesi uscirà in Corea.

E in Cina?

Il mercato dei libri in Cina è complicato, ma sono in contatto con un agente per una possibile riduzione cinematografica, pur trattandosi di un libro storico e non di un romanzo.
OK, non-fiction, ma è tutto storico e provato? Sei davvero convinto che sua madre, Caterina, fu una schiava cinese?
Non esiste mai una storia provata, anche per i casi storici più semplici, figuriamoci per quelli complessi, quel è appunto quello di Leonardo Da Vinci. In uno dei capitoli del mio libro riporto una frase di uno studioso di storia classica, Eric H. Cline, il quale cita l’immortale Sherlock Holmes, nel suo “Il Mastino dei Baskerville”. Holmes dice a Watson che è spesso necessario far un uso scientifico della propria immaginazione per trovare la quadra fra varie probabilità, e poi optare per quella che ci pare più plausibile. Uno storico che voglia scrivere di Leonardo è spesso costretto a seguire l’esempio indicato da Sherlock Holmes…

Ho letto l’edizione italiana in PDF del tuo Leonardo, che mi avevi cortesemente girato, e devo dire che mi è piaciuta più di quella inglese; vi ho trovato alcune notizie che in quella mancavano. Inoltre, la presentazione di Salvatore Giannella, con il cameo di Carlo Pedretti, è un piccolo capolavoro.
Sì, Salvatore Giannella è un abilissimo scrittore e Carlo Pedretti è il numero uno al mondo per quanto riguarda Leonardo Da Vinci. Sono stati entrambi molto gentili e, tutto sommato, coraggiosi, a voler intervenire nella discussione d’una tesi così azzardata qual è quella che propongo nel mio libro.

Dunque ammetti di giocare d’azzardo?

Certo, tengo ben presente il celebre detto di Carl Sagan, che tesi estreme necessitano di prove estreme. Eppure credo che il mio libro andava scritto, perché, pur nella sua bizzarria, può provocare un dibattito su certi argomenti poco conosciuti e poco studiati in Italia. Inoltre, il fatto che da 35 anni vivo fra Hong Kong e la Cina, lavorando, studiando e collezionando arte orientale, mi pone in una posizione privilegiata rispetto a certi storici nostrani che non sono in grado di valutare questi due mondi paralleli, eppure così simili.

Quali sarebbero questi argomenti poco conosciuti?

Sono molti. Per esempio il fenomeno della tratta di schiave orientali dalla Crimea all’Italia, un fenomeno assai diffuso sino al 1453, anno della caduta di Costantinopoli. Oppure, certe caratteristiche orientali di Leonardo, nel suo stile e nel suo modo di vivere, come il vegetarianismo, lo scrivere con la mano sinistra, la sua passione per l’Oriente, il disprezzo che doveva nutrire nei confronti del padre, Ser Piero Da Vinci e l’amore per la madre, Caterina, amore così forte che lo portò, una volta vedova e malata, a chiederle di seguirlo a Milano, ove poi lei morì.
Davvero Caterina morì a Milano?

Certo, pochi sanno che è stato trovato ciò che può essere definito il suo certificato di morte, nel Archivio di Stato di Milano. Questo conferma che la lunga nota di spese per il funerale di Caterina, che troviamo nel Codice Forster II di Leonardo, si riferisce davvero a sua madre, come Sigmund Freud, in un suo celebre saggio, aveva intuito.

E i nostri critici militanti come prenderanno queste tue eccentriche tesi?

Eccentriche forse lo sono, ma non campate in aria. E, credimi, dire qualcosa di originale su Leonardo, con più di 100 nuovi libri su di lui pubblicati ogni giorno nel mondo, non è facile impresa. Ebbene, credo che i nostri critici aperti al nuovo, come Vittorio Sgarbi, per intenderci, lo valuteranno per i suoi meriti e per i suoi demeriti, tenendo ben presente che lo studio di Leonardo è una sorta di “lavoro in corso” per via dei nuovi documenti e dei nuovi dati che affiorano ogni anno. I cattedratici, invece, neppure lo prenderanno in considerazione, ma, tutto sommato questo mi consola, perché anche Leonardo – che non conosceva il latino e il greco – sopportò in silenzio il disprezzo dei dottori del suo tempo, troppo occupati a chiosare Aristotele e Cicerone per dar retta a lui, che, come scrisse il visionario scritto russo Dmitrij Merezkovskij fu uno ‘che si svegliò quando tutti gli altri dormivano’.

Ci regali ora una delle tue battute che racchiuda in una riga questo libro?

Fammici pensare…allora, giocare  è più importante che l’aver ragione. Va bene?

 

 

Intervista condotta da Andrea Bettinelli Dal Cin e uscita sul giornale dei veneti nel mondo.

Intervista ad Angelo Paratico autore di ” Un intellettuale cinese nel Rinascimento italiano”

 

Le Schiave Orientali a Firenze nei Secoli XIV e XV di Agostino Zanelli

Uno dei libri che più mi hanno aiutano nelle mie ricerche sulle presunte origini orientali della madre-schiava di Leonardo Da Vinci è stato un testo pubblicato a Firenze nel 1885 e frutto delle ricerche d’archivio di Agostino Zanelli. Mi fu difficilissimo rintracciarne una copia cartacea ma ho recentemente scoperto che il testo è stato messo in rete da una Università statunitense.

 

 

 

 

Il link si trova qui sotto, basta copiarlo e metterlo sopra alla pagina del proprio computer per vedere aprirsi questo vecchio libro dimenticato…

https://archive.org/stream/leschiaveorienta00zane#page/n3/mode/2up

Leonardo’s defacement goes on, this time at Louis Vuitton

It is official, ladies, LV stylists are out of ideas!

The French designers of posh bags made of plastic seek help from Leonardo Da Vinci, as last resort against sagging sales. This suggestion come from Jeff Koons .

A Song Dynasty poet wrote that the three most distressing things he could imagine were:

Youth damaged by poor education; good tea wasted by bad handling and a magnificent painting debased by an ignorant multitude of spectators.

We should add that the defacement of the Mona Lisa is not a novel idea, since it has been already defaced countless times.

 

The reason for it could be found in the wise words of the abstract impressionist painter, Barnett Newman (1905–1970):
Those who put a moustache on the Mona Lisa are not attacking it, or art, but Leonardo Da Vinci the man. What irritates them is that this man with half a dozen pictures has this great name in history, whereas they, with their large oeuvre, are not sure.

Yes, Jeff Koons is not sure of being a artist, not even an artisan and, therefore, is resorting to parody.

 

 

 

Leonardo’s mechanical lion

leone_meccanico-250x300[1]Leonardo had built an automaton (a robot) in the shape of a lion, which was capable of walking, then after sitting on his hind legs, his chest opened and some fleur-de-lis (lily flowers) were taken out and offered to the person standing in front of it. All people who had seen it were amazed. Vasari described it in his Life of Leonardo and Gian Paolo Lomazzo, although he never saw it, quotes the words of Francesco Melzi, Leonardo‘s disciple. (1)
The construction drawings are lost and so we do not know how it was built but what is clear is that for functioning he had to have some cogs, pulleys and an escapement system inside. (2)

It appeared first on 12 July 1515 at the entry in the city of Lyons of the new King of France, Francis I. Possibly Leonardo had built it in Florence, were real lions were kept behind Piazza della Signoria (3) and then took it to France.
It appeared again in Amboise, almost five centuries ago, on 30 September 1517 according to Lorenzo Ariosto. Again, the following year it was shown at Amboise at the celebrations for the marriage of Lorenzo II de Medici with a French Princess.

In 2006 Jill Burke published a newly found document in the Oxford Art Journal with the description of another Lion created by Leonardo in Milan for the entry into the city made by King Louis XII of France in 1500, it was simpler: he could stand up and opening the chest where the lilies were. That was possibly his first prototype. (4)

Nothing more is known about this robot created by Leonardo. But a mechanical Lion did appear in France in 1600 according to a little-known booklet written by Michelangelo Buonarroti Junior. The author says that it was ‘similar to the one that Leonardo da Vinci carried in the city of Lyon for the arrival of King Francis’ but since the working system and functioning was the same, it is possible that it was the same machine. (5)

Leonardo’s biographers seem to have overlooked a previous appearance of the famous lion, again in the city of Lyons, and on a royal occasion: the entry into the city by King Henry II on 23 September 1548 with his mature lover, Diane de Poitier at his side. His wife, Queen Catherine de’ Medici, made her entry the following day. Here is what Leonie Frieda (6) says:

Upon entering the city, which had been transformed into resemble Ancient Rome, the King was greeted by 160 men dressed as Roman legionnaires. The party then came into an artificial forest from which emerged a group of nymphs led by a young beauty carrying a silver bow and quiver, representing the goddess of the hunt. The lovely girl approached the King leading a mechanical lion on a chain of silver and black silk, symbolizing the city of Lyons. Saluting the King in verse on behalf of the city, she symbolically offered him its keys.

Catherine wanted to impress the townsfolk to make clear that she was the real Queen, not Diane de Poitier and she entered on a litter, covered from head to shoes with a dress full of diamonds. Again, the authorities of Lyons had the mechanical lion ready for her to see but that day it took out of its chest a heart decorated with the Medici’s coat of arms. (7)

 

Notes:

1. G.P Lomazzo Trattato dell’Arte della Pittura, Scultura et Architettura […] diviso in sette libri Pontio, Milan, 1584.
2.Luca Garai in: The Automatic Lion in Leonardo Da Vinci & France CB Publishers under Carlo Pedretti’s supervision, Amboise 2009.
3. In a note in the Codex Atlanticus datable to 1513 (f. 249 r.a.) the words ‘room of the lions of Florence’ appear.
4.Jill Burke Meaning and Crisis in the early Seventeen Century: interpreting Leonardo’s Lion Oxford Art Journal XXIX March 2006.
5. Michelangelo Buonarroti il Giovane Descritione delle felicissime nozze della Cristianissima Maesta’ di Madama Maria Medici Regina di Francia e di Navarra, Florence, 1600, p.10.
6. Leonie Frieda Catherine de Medici. Renaissance Queen of France Harper Collins, New York, 2003. Pag. 86
7.Leonie Frieda Catherine de Medici. Renaissance Queen of France Harper Collins, New York, 2003. Pag. 87

Leonardo Da Vinci, the inventor of the modern bike.

Leonardo Da Vinci was certainly the first to have sketched a modern looking and working bicycle, which, by the way, it is still the most energy efficient machine ever created by man.
We find Leonardo’s sketch in the Atlantic Codex (133v) kept at the Ambrosiana Library in Milan. It has been drawn with carbon pencil around 1493 (we may date it because of its position).
Now, did this sketch had any influence on the creation of modern bikes? No, not at all, for the simple reason that it has not been seen from the end of the XVI century up to a few decades ago, and here is the story of this sketch.

Most of Leonardo Da Vinci papers were left to one of his disciples, Francesco Melzi, who moved them back from Amboise, France, to Milan around 1520 but after Melzi’s death, his son Orazio did not care about them, finally selling to the sculptor Pompeo Leoni who, acting like a new Attila the Hun, took them to Spain and then, using scissors and glue, cut and pasted a great part of those leaves.
The Atlantic codex (so called because of the large leaves, normally used for atlases) was then taken back to Milan and donated by Count Arconati to the Ambrosiana library. It was stolen by Napoleon in 1796 and taken to Paris, but on Napoleon’s downfall, it was moved back to Milan by Canova

In need of some restorations, in 1966 it was given to the monks of the Laboratorio di Restauro of Grottaferrata. During their work, they opened two leaves which were glued together to hide some erotic sketches, which Leonardo seemed to fancy a lot sketching, and there, lo and behold! they saw the bike…
An expert on Leonardo was called, Augusto Marinoni, who then published his finding in his 1972’s book: “The Unknown Leonardo.“
He attributed this sketch not to Leonardo himself – being not in the usual fine hand of the Master – but to one of his disciple, possibly Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salaì, who may have copied an original by Leonardo. Or, we may add here, a wooden prototype built by Leonardo.

Marinoni’s announcement caused him a lot of troubles, with some of his colleagues accusing him of being a cheat and have done it himself. The most virulent accusation came from Hans-Erhard Lessing, curator of the “Landesmuseum für Technik und Arbeit” di Mannheim, but later he was proven wrong.  If it is a modern fake, then the culprit should be a monk of Grottaferrata, but if he wanted to fake it, then, why not use something like a modern bike, with a chain?

In our humble opinion the authenticity of the sketch still stands, being accepted also by most of Leonardo’s experts, like Carlo Pedretti, Martin Kemp and Alessandro Vezzosi.

 

The socha of Leonardo Da Vinci

664672603[1]On 23 April 1519, the 67 years old Leonardo Da Vinci decided to draw up his testament. He had a strong feeling that his life was slipping away from him, since he had been very sick for months and more than one year earlier he had suffered a stroke, which had impaired the use of his right hand. He called a French notary working at Amboise, Guillaume Boreau, to record his last will before witnesses. The document starts with the usual formula used for those documents: “Considering nothing to be more certain than death and nothing more uncertain than the hour…”
It is a long and meticulous list, containing instructions on where to bury his body, how to organize his funeral and how to distribute his properties. There is no mention of the Mona Lisa and the other pictures he had been keeping in his studio at Cloux, possibly because he had already donated them to his beloved disciple, Giacomo Caprotti from Oreno, known as Salai, who had quickly resold them to King Francis I, getting a huge sum as payment.

There is small clause in his testament, a very minor one, which had puzzled his biographers, a donation to a French lady servant working for Leonardo, called Mathurine, who Leonardo mentions in his last will,

…dona a Maturina sua fantesche una veste de bon pan negro foderata de pelle, una socha de panno et doy ducati per una volta solamente pagati: et ciò in remuneratione similmente de boni servitii ha lui facta epsa Maturina de qui inanzi.

Here is the English translation,

he donates to Mathurine, his servant, a dress of good black cloth lined with leather, a socha of fabric and two ducats paid in one go: and this as compensation for her good work made to him from now on.

Possibly this lady took good care of him while he was laying sick in bed, and by giving her two gold ducats and some clothes he wanted to thank her for the trouble, further to paying her a salary.

But what is that socha mentioned by Leonardo? It is not in the Italian vocabulary and has since puzzled his biographers. It is often translated as a woolen cloak, as Serge Bramly do.

But in reality, socha in the Milanese dialect stands for a lady skirt, and it is often used to our days as plural ‘i socks’ the skirts, as I myself remember my parents using that term.

This is a sign that the years Leonardo spent in Milan, surrounded by his Milanese disciples, like Salai and Melzi, had somehow enriched his Florentine vocabulary.

 

A Chinese Beauty in a Renaissance Poem at the time of Leonardo Da Vinci

Ruggero releases Angelica by Ingres
Ruggero and Angelica by Ingres

Matteo Maria Boiardo (1434-41 – 19/20 December 1494) was a famous Renaissance poet. He was born at Scandiano, Reggio Emilia, Italy and he was a contemporary of Leonardo Da Vinci. His Orlando Innamorato or Orlando in Love, often quoted in modern Italy but seldom read, was his masterpiece.

He was born noble and, as Count of Scandiano, he was the master of Arceto, Casalgrande, Gesso, and Torricella.
In his youth he earned a degree at the University of Ferrara, mastering Greek and Latin, and even, it seems, some Oriental languages. Boiardo was an ideal example of a gifted and accomplished courtier, possessing at the same time a manly heart and deep humanistic learning.

Boiardo's Castle at Scandiano
Boiardo’s Castle at Scandiano

The heroine in the Orlando Innamorato, a chivalry and fantastic poem, is called Angelica and she is said to be the daughter of the King of China, Galafrone, arrived in France on a mission together with her brother.

Matteo Boaiardo quote China (Cataio) five times in his poem.

Ella rispose: «Io voglio che portate
Tra l’ India e Tartaria questo prigione,
Dentro al Cataio, in quella gran citate,
Ove regna il mio padre Galafrone;

The poem was first published in 1483, but the III and last part was missing, in spite of that it soon became a best seller, going through 16 editions but then it remain almost forgotten for three centuries. Perhaps this was due to Ludovico Ariosto, who wrote the sequel which was considered superior to Boiardo’s, that is the Orlando Furioso or Orlando’s Rage.

The final edition, with the missing parts, was posthumously published in 1495 and the oldest copy in our possession is by Piero de Plasiis dated 1487, in two books, kept at the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice.

Angelica, the beautiful Chinese Ambassador from China shows up at the French Court of Charlemagne asking for help against her father’s enemies. Orlando at once fall madly in love with her and then follow her back to Tartary, where he defends her by the tight courtship of the Tartar’s king, Agricante, who wanted to force her into marrying him and then fight even his own cousin Rinaldo.

Why Matteo Boiardo choose a Chinese princess as an example of irresistible beauty? Was it only exoticism or passion for mystery? We cannot give a clear answer but, as I have written in my book dedicated to the possible Chinese origin of Leonardo Da Vinci’s mother, in Renaissance Italy there were some Chinese domestic slaves – the flow did stop only with the taking of Byzantium by the Turks in 1453 – imported through Crimea.

Perhaps one of them, a little Chinese slave, may have greatly impressed the great Italian poet, transforming her into a princess.