Pierio Valeriano Bolzani

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Pierio Valeriano

Pierio Valeriano Bolzani (1477–1558), born Giovanni Pietro dalle Fosse, was a prominent Italian Renaissance humanist, favored by the Medici.


Valeriano (as he is commonly known) was born in Belluno in Northern Italy. His family was poor, yet he began his schooling under Giosippo Faustino, an inspiring teacher, and was brought to Venice by his uncle Urbano Bolzanio, a monk and a well-connected teacher of Greek. He was a good student, and continued his studies under Giorgio Valla and Marcantinio Sabellico. For a while he tutored, and around 1500 he moved to Padua to study under Leonico Tomeo. In 1506 he moved to Olivé near Verona. With the War of the League of Cambrai he was forced to move and relocate in Rome. [1]

In Rome, he tutored the relatives of Pope Julius II and continued to seek stable patronage. He was acquainted with Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici who had been tutored by Valeriano's uncle Urbano. The Medici cardinal became Pope Leo X in 1513 and upon his elevation, Valeriano tutored the pope's nephews including Ippolito de' Medici. After Leo X's death in 1521, Valeriano lost his papal patronage briefly, but he returned to Rome and prosperity upon the accession of Giulio de' Medici who in 1523 became Pope Clement VII. Under the Medici popes Valeriano was able to attain a number of positions and titles, being made chair of eloquence, protonotary apostolic, private chamberlain, and given a canonry in Belluno. The Sack of Rome in 1527 again forced him to move and the fortunes of the Medici in Florence also came under attack. When Clement VII in 1529 named his nephew (and Valeriano's pupil) Ippolito as cardinal, Valeriano's situation was stabilized, when was named secretary to the cardinal. In 1538 he was ordained as a priest and he removed himself back to Belluno where he spent the last twenty years of his life on his scholarly projects, most notably his Hieroglyphica. He died in Belluno in 1558.[1]


Among his books, De litteratorum infelicitate or On the Ill Fortune of Learned Men and Hieroglyphica sive de sacris Aegyptiorum litteris commentarii or Hieroglyphics, or Commentaries on the Sacred Letters of the Egyptians are notable. De litteratorum infelicitate is a treatise on the misfortunes of learned men, containing anecdotes of their poverty and death, though some of the stories are of dubious authenticity; the work has been translated into English by Julia Haig Gaisser.[1] His massive Hieroglyphica was written during a frenzy of popularity surrounding the rediscovered Hieroglyphica of Horapollo. It was the first Renaissance dictionary of symbols, which would become a popular genre. It was published in Basel in 1556, reprinted seven times through 1678, and translated into French in 1576 and 1615 and Italian in 1602.[2] He also wrote Latin poetry; in particular, a 1549 poem of his, "Pierus", written in the shape of a pear, is an early example of concrete poetry; it was famous enough to be known in England, where it was attacked by Gabriel Harvey.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Julia Haig Gaisser (1999). Pierio Valeriano on the Ill Fortune of Learned Men: A Renaissance Humanist and His World. University of Michigan Press. 
  2. ^ Luc Brisson (2004). How Philosophers Saved Myths. University of Chicago Press. pp. 142, 193. ISBN 0-226-07535-4. 
  3. ^ Dick Higgins (1987). Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unknown Literature. SUNY Press. p. 98. ISBN 0-88706-413-2.