Antonfrancesco Grazzini ‘Il Lasca’ (1505-1584) and the Burlesque. Poetry, Performance and Academic Practice in Sixteenth-Century Florence

I.M. Werner

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


The Florentine Antonfrancesco Grazzini, alias ‘il Lasca’ (1505-1584), was notorious for the burlesque poems in which he mocked the current debates and issues of the literary Florence of his days. He also gained fame by founding two academies: the Accademia degli Umidi, which later became the Accademia fiorentina, at the beginning of his career, and, one year before his death, the Accademia della Crusca. This dissertation discusses how Lasca’s poetic career interfered with his academic position by interpreting his poetry in the institutional context. In four chapters and one epilogue, five defining moments in Lasca’s career as an academician are studied. The first two chapters discuss Lasca’s academic preferences and poetics. The Libro, Capitoli Compositioni et Leggi, della Accademia degli Humydi di Firenze (1540), which consists of the statutes and the poetry of the Umidi, is elaborately studied here for the first time. It shows that Lasca’s poems functioned in an institutional and social context that was defined by entertainment, education and oral discussion. The performative aspects of this poetic culture are further investigated in the second chapter, which centres on Lasca’s tenzone with poet-singer and fellow-academician Alfonso de’ Pazzi (1541-1547). Contrary to the prevailing scholarly opinion, this case demonstrates that performances, music and debate were only gradually ruled out by the state-controlled Accademia fiorentina. Lasca, for one, tried his best to foster this poetic practice against the tide. His poems to Pazzi, when studied in the light of sociological studies on oral performances, give testimony of a performative and burlesque culture that has so far remained invisible. The second part of the thesis analyses Lasca’s poetry in order to demonstrate the poetic strategies he adopted to position himself in the academic world. Study of the comic- heroic epic La Guerra de' Mostri (1547) shows that this poem was conceived on a crucial moment in the development of the Accademia fiorentina. During a severe round of reforms that entirely ruled out the former practice of the Umidi, Lasca composed his epic as an appeal to the Umidi to remember and revive their poetic spirit. This appeal, however, remained unanswered: after being excluded from the Academy, Lasca spent 20 years on the fringes of the official cultural circuit. Only in 1566 did he manage to be readmitted to the Accademia fiorentina. Chapter four examines how Lasca strategically turned his poetry to use to further his social position. A group of pastoral poems, which all centre on villa life in the Florentine country-side, shows how he used burlesque humour and erotic imagery to foster bonds between the men of letters who frequented the villas. In the epilogue the founding of the Accademia della Crusca is under discussion (1583). Analysis of a dialogue by Lionardo Salviati, co-founder of the Academy, in which Lasca plays a pivotal role, demonstrates that Lasca’s view on poetry has remained fundamentally unchanged since the 1540s. Building on Aristoteles’ Poetics, Lasca’s literary alter-ego stresses the importance of performativity as a means to educate. In line with this, this thesis concludes that throughout his long career, Lasca tried to uphold a poetic culture that is characterised by burlesque humour and performance. Owing to his perseverence, this culture, that had become severly oppressed in the 1540s, survived until the end of the sixteenth-century.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Hendrix, Harald, Primary supervisor
  • van Veen, H.Th., Supervisor, External person
Award date9 Jun 2009
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2009


  • Specialized histories (international relations, law)
  • Literary theory, analysis and criticism
  • Culturele activiteiten
  • Overig maatschappelijk onderzoek

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