Petrarch’s vernacular poetry greatly influenced fifteenth-century Italian literature. Many lyric poets imitated Petrarch’s themes and use of language, and his Canzoniere helped form Italian literary language. His interest in visual art and descriptions of the portrait of his beloved Laura raised questions about the nature and role of visual art, themes addressed in the poetry of Vittoria Colonna (1492-1547) and Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). A tension existed between the act of writing and the act of making, and Petrarch’s written descriptions were an intersection of rhetoric and visuality that raised the question of which was the superior mode of expression. Petrarch’s depictions of literary, historical, and mythological figures in the Trionfi provided artists with vivid sources for figurative interpretation. His description of a triumphal procession that drew on Boccaccio and Dante displayed the interplay of powers ancient and modern, earthly and celestial. These unprecedentedly rapid transformations of sights and sounds triggered many explosive changes and social backlash which characterized the Italian Renaissance.
The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center