1644: Ferrante Pallavicino, more caustic than elusive

On this date in 1644, Italian satirist Ferrante Pallavicino was beheaded by the papacy at Avignon for apostasy for his witty attacks on the Roman curia.

Pallavicino, himself a cleric, was a notable producer of pasquinades, the politically-charged mockeries named for one of the “talking statues” in Rome to which they were often affixed.* Pallavicino’s expertise at this art found something affixed to him: a bounty, which a Frenchman earned by luring him from the safety of Venice to papal territory in France and betraying him.

The pontiff upon whom Pallavicino poured his execrations, Urban VIII, only survived the beheaded man by a few months. There were more than Pallavicino found distasteful his decidedly terrestrial politics — he fought wars of conquest (the last pope to do so), practiced rampant nepotism, and buried the Church in debt. Urban’s family was forced to leave Rome after he passed.

A minor figure — his body of work was truncated in its springtime, of course — Pallavicino is rather better covered in Italian than in English; this biography page, for instance, expands somewhat upon his career.

* A number of Pallavicino’s works had posthumous printings elsewhere in Europe. One of them, La retorica delle puttane is available online in an English interpretation (it’s a bit more intervention than a mere translation) of the equivalent title, The Whores Rhetorick.

Part of the Themed Set: The Written Word.

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