Griffin Gallery Antiquities

16th Century Italian Contract Dated 1556

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Ancient World: Pre 1700: Item # 1245892

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16th Century Contract Dated 1556 written in ancient Italian dialect on papyrus. Papyrus size is 6 1/4 wide at top and tapering to 5 1/2" wide at bottom. Framed and between two panes of glass, frame is 19 3/4" High x 10 3/4" Wide. Ancient Regional Script before the unification of a standard Italian Language. Arabesque script with a Seal drawn at bottom of contract. Small paragraph of script on reverse which is seen through glass. “La Questione della Lingua” The "Question of the Language", was an attempt to establish linguistic norms and codify the Italian language by engrossed writers of all persuasions. Grammarians during the 15th and the 16th centuries attempted to confer upon the pronunciation, syntax, and vocabulary of 14th-century Tuscan the status of a central and classical Italian speech. Eventually this classicism, which might have made Italian another dead language, was widened to include the organic changes inevitable in a living tongue. During the long period of the evolution of Italian, many dialects sprang up. The multiplicity of these dialects and their individual claims upon their native speakers as pure Italian speech presented a peculiar difficulty in the evolution of an accepted form of Italian that would reflect the cultural unity of the entire peninsula. Even the earliest popular Italian documents, produced in the 10th century, are dialectal in language, and during the following three centuries Italian writers wrote in their native dialects, producing a number of competing regional schools of literature. During the 14th century the Tuscan dialect began to predominate, because of the central position of Tuscany in Italy, and because of the aggressive commerce of its most important city, Florence. Moreover, of all the Italian dialects, Tuscan departs least in morphology and phonology from classical Latin, and it therefore harmonizes best with the Italian traditions of Latin culture. Finally, Florentine culture produced the three literary artists who best summarized Italian thought and feeling of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance: Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio. In the dictionaries and publications of the Accademia della Crusca, founded in 1583, which was accepted by Italians as authoritative in Italian linguistic matters, compromises between classical purism and living Tuscan usage were successfully effected. The most important literary event of the 16th century did not actually take place in Florence. In 1525 the Venetian Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) set out his proposals (Prose della volgar lingua- 1525) for a standardized language and style: Petrarca and Boccaccio were his models and thus became the modern classics. Therefore, the language of Italian literature is modeled on that spoken in Florence in the 15th century.