An "Earthly Paradise"?


Full image.



Andrea Alciato or Alciati
Italian, 1492–1550
Emblemi dell’ Alciato (Alciato’s Emblems)
Lyon, 1549, Italian edition
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library


The publisher of this edition was Guglielmo Rovillio, whose refined books in Italian were highly prized among the wealthy Italian community in Lyon. As historian Henry Heller points out, “the four Italian nations [Milan, Luca, Genoa, and Florence] inhabited a special part of the cities, built their mansions in the Italian style, spoke Italian more than French, and supported a largely Italian literary and culinary culture.”


The most famous law professor in Europe, Alciato wrote the first book of emblems as a pastime, but this whole new genre of moral publication, consisting of text and image, became hugely successful. Here, as in Erasmus’s Praise of Folly (1509) the greed-driven and servile courtier is castigated for his dishonorable conduct—the purpose of the pillory was public humiliation. The explanatory caption reads “Man is caught in the Court like a fish by a hook / He is captured with a golden hunting net which he can never break.”