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780 R EN AI S S A N C E QU A RT E R L Y V O L U ME L X I X , N O .

Dicerie sacre. Giovan Battista Marino.


Ed. Erminia Ardissino. Biblioteca Italiana Testi e Studi 2. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e
Letteratura, 2014. 394 pp. €50.

This volume is part of a highly meritorious project: a national critical edition of the
complete works of Giovan Battista Marino, coordinated by Clizia Carminati, Alessandro
Martini, and Emilio Russo. Erminia Ardissino’s is the second modern critical edition of
the Dicerie sacre (Sacred discourses, 1614), after the one that Giovanni Pozzi curated in
1960, which has been out of print for many years. The Dicerie consists of three lengthy
discourses titled after the metaphoric field upon which each is based: Painting: First
Discourse on the Holy Shroud; Music: Second Discourse on the Seven Words of Christ on the
Cross; Heaven: Third Discourse on the Religion of the Saints Maurice and Lazarus. It must
be noted that Marino counterintuitively employs the word diceria in the erudite, Crusca-
validated meaning of “noble oration” relative to the common one of “unsubstantiated
chatter.”
Ardissino provides an excellently researched and critically acute introduction. Given
the absence of new sources and documents, the text is very close to Pozzi’s (both follow
the 1614 editio princeps, with Ardissino correcting typos and minor mistakes and
modernizing spelling and punctuation) and is accompanied by a vast apparatus of
philological, historical, and explanatory notes. Although the first and the second dicerie
contain marginal notes indicating sources (in keeping with a consolidated tradition in
sacred oratory), Marino’s notorious proclivity for source tampering complicates the
identification of citations. Taking advantage of recent scholarship (including her own:
Ardissino has published extensively on religious oratory, on the late Tasso —
a paramount model for Marino — and Baroque literature), the editor enriches Pozzi’s
already formidable Quellenforschung and adds important elements to his reconstruction
of the compositional chronology of the text.
Whereas the entire book is dedicated to Pope Paul V, who interpreted the
unauthorized act of adulation as affront and mockery, each single discourse is
addressed to a member of Turin’s ducal family: the shroud is the preeminent Savoy
holy relic, and the Knights of Saints Maurice and Lazarus are among the highest ranking
of the house’s orders of chivalry. Turin, during the long reign of Charles Emmanuel I
(1580–1630) became a vibrant new pole of attraction for artists and poets. Writers such
as Honor e d’Urfe and Gabriello Chiabrera frequented the court, and the most renowned

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preachers were invited to give sermons during Lent. Marino’s relations with the duke
were rewarding but also fraught with strains (he was both knighted and imprisoned in
a few years’ span). At a moment of rising tensions between Turin and Rome, the Dicerie
could be perceived, according to Ardissino, as the seal of a covenant between secular
power and devotion since they suggest the possibility of a direct rapport with God
without Rome’s intermediation.
The Dicerie were meant to be read at court rather than recited from a pulpit. They
present a major element of novelty in contemporary homiletic literature: it consists in the
adoption of a new, experimental (but, as Ardissino points out, not totally without
precedents) method of elocutio-driven inventio, based on the election and continuative
adoption of only one metaphor. In the first discourse, after having stated the primacy of
painting according to the arguments of a long-standing dispute on the hierarchy of the
arts, the orator praises the shroud as the work of a painter, God, enamored of man, who
paints the figure of Christ using the blood of redemption: hence, the shroud is of
foundational importance for the imitatio Christi. The shroud gives Turin and the house
of Savoy (as the guardians of the relic chosen by God) the privilege and the task of
revealing the mysteries of the linen. The other two discourses, having postulated their
cardinal metaphoric correspondences for music (Pan/Christ) and for heaven (knights/
stars and constellations), proceed on the same lines, creating encyclopedic narratives and
ekphrases. Ultimately, as Ardissino points out, in compliance with a Boterian notion of
“ragion di stato,” in the Dicerie sacred and secular are not in opposition or in an
instrumental relationship but harmoniously support each other, in Marino’s view,
through the aesthetic power of literature and the arts. This volume is of great importance
not only for scholars of religious oratory and of rhetoric, but also for students of early
seventeenth-century prose and of emblem and device studies.

PAOLO FASOLI, CUNY, Hunter College and The Graduate Center

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