- Il ritratto del vero governo del Prencipe (1552): Edizione critica a cura di Matteo Salvetti
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the mirror of the prince became a prevalent form of political treatise. Most of these were inspired either by the model of Machiavelli's Prince or by Erasmus's Education of a Christian Prince. In this new edition of the hitherto obscure Ritratto del vero governo del prencipe of Lucio Paolo Rosello, Matteo Salvetti presents an example that appears to straddle and ultimately reconcile those two contrasting influences. Salvetti also suggests that a careful reading of the Ritratto yields evidence of Rosello's encouragement of his fellow Nicodemite travelers in Italy, thus rendering complex and even subversive what appears on the surface to be a rather uncomplicated encomium to the Archduke Cosimo of Tuscany. [End Page 1220]
The Ritratto is composed of three sections. The first book is a dialogue that covers the virtues and conduct of the ideal prince, the shape of his education and counsel, and the preservation of his rule, all subjects familiar to readers of Machiavelli and Erasmus. Here the primary voice is that of Girolamo Muzio, a Counter-Reformation zealot whom Salvetti regards as inserted by Rosello in order to escape the censors. The second book is a conventional debate over the primacy of arms versus letters, in which the main protagonist is Archduke Cosimo. The work ends with Rosello's translations of two orations of Isocrates to Nicocles, the King of Cyprus.
This edition is split almost evenly between the treatise itself and a lengthy and informative introductory section. Salvetti provides a capsule biography of Rosello, detailing his publishing activity in Venice (for which he is probably best known), his sympathy for Protestant ideas (among his correspondents was Philip Melanchthon), his time as a priest in the Venetian terraferma, and his arrest by the Holy Office for his association with spiritualist circles in Venice. Salvetti also outlines the political circumstances at midcentury in Florence, where the Archduke Cosimo tolerated the presence of Nicodemites as a political wedge in his disputes with the papacy. Rosello dedicated the Ritratto to Cosimo's teenage son and heir Francesco, and the treatise is littered with obsequious references to Cosimo's greatness. Salvetti stresses the importance of the setting of the treatise in Naples —an important center for spiritualist thinking and the residence of Juan Valdé s for six years in the 1530s —and of the presence in the dialogues of several minor figures who had been active in religiously heterodox circles. These potentially dangerous associations are balanced by the prominent role accorded to Muzio. Salvetti argues that, in keeping with Rosello's Nicodemite identity, his work can be read on a hidden level: not just as a toadyish tribute to Archduke Cosimo and a brief for counter-reform, but also an exhortation to marginalized, persecuted Nicodemites across Italy.
Salvetti draws attention to direct parallels between Rosello's treatise and Machiavelli's Prince. He also shows where the author interpolates ideas and passages from various works of Erasmus. In highlighting these borrowings, Salvetti suggests that Rosello was employing the dissimulation described by Machiavelli, and required for survival by Nicodemites in Counter-Reformation Italy, while affirming the continued applicability to the prince of the Erasmian ethic, a point of reference to many spiritualists. The editor then connects the concluding orations of Isocrates with the rest of the work. Rather than unrelated appendices, as they might appear at first blush, these orations reflect themes from the proceeding dialogues. The invocation of the authority of Isocrates allows the seemingly impossible reconciliation of Erasmian idealism with Machiavellian realism. It is this bringing together of two influences frowned upon by the Inquisition, and the veiled messages of support to Nicodemites, which make this treatise more dangerous and provocative than it may at first appear.
The inclusion of all of this useful supporting material and the interpretations of the editor...