Queer Places:
All'Insegna del Moro Pharmacy, Piazza di San Giovanni, 20r, 50129 Firenze FI

Anton Francesco Grazzini (March 22, 1503 - February 18, 1584) was an Italian writer.

Grazzini was born in Florence into a family of pharmacists (though his father was a notary). Despite irregular studies, and his failure to learn Greek and, apparently, Latin, he became a man of enormous culture. It was in the family pharmacy, frequented by men of culture such as Giovanni Mazzuoli or Niccolò Machiavelli, that in 1540, with other scholars, he founded the Accademia degli Umidi, [3] from which he was expelled in 1547 due to his anti-classicist ideas for then be readmitted in 1566.

As a writer, Grazzini was an important enough figure in Tuscan culture to count among the founders of the Accademia degli Umidi and the most famous Italian academy, the Accademia della Crusca – established in 1582 to defend the purity of the Italian language and still active today. Grazzini earned his reputation for seven comedies and a collection of stories.

Grazzini was a ‘bourgeois’ and anti-classical writer at a time when the Italian élites were being absorbed by the aristocracy. He defended the ‘democratic’ use of Italian against the noble and courtly preference for Latin and Greek, leading his campaign with irony, humour and satire. He was the inheritor of a Florentine tradition of playful and popular poetry in the tradition of Francesco Berni and Burchiello and their followers.

In his verses, Grazzini confessed his own homosexual tastes (the only evidence remaining of his behaviour). Homosexuality appears in diverse, sometimes contradictory ways in Grazzini's work. In a set of burlesque poems, he makes fun of the poet Benedetto Varchi for his pretence to ‘enoble’ his homosexual loves with a patina of Neoplatonism and Petrarchan style. Using crude and direct popular language, Grazzini demolishes Varchi's claims to ‘spirituality’, which he charged simply covered Varchi's sexual desires. In another group of poems, Grazzini praises the beauty of young men and boys with a frankness which he accuses Varchi of avoiding. In the ‘Madrigalessa IX’ (in the Rime), he speaks about his love and obsessions for a certain Liliano. In another poem, he talks about being enamoured of Donatello's statue of St George; in addition to being a most fetching youth, the statue, in contrast with flesh-and-blood youths, he says, does not ask for money, does not frequent taverns and brothels, is not concerned about those who spend hours admiring his beauty, is not the object of pursuit by other ‘buggers’, and never ages.

Grazzini's poetry was able to introduce the theme of homosexuality in surprising situations. A poem on bathing in the Arno evokes the possibility of touching and playing unawares with semi-nude swimmers; another poem lauds football, since matches provide an opportunity to tackle and hold handsome youths under the pretext of keeping them from getting the ball. In yet other poems Grazzini made use of double entendre to show his crudely sexual feelings, affirming for example in verses ‘In praise of Sausage’ that ‘a sad, bad, ungrateful man is he / who does not kiss, grasp and hug it, / and does not keep it behind him night and day’. (Such ambivalent meanings are indeed present in other poems, where ‘bathing in the Arno’ or ‘playing football’ are metaphors for having sex.) Yet Grazzini also wrote satirical verses in which, in order to attack his literary rivals, he accuses them of sodomy; for instance, his epitaph for one writer was ‘Here lies the knight so fond of sucking, / who milked Florentine dicks when alive: / now in Paradise cherubs make fun of him / because they have a handsome face, but no prick at all’.

Attention to homosexuality formed part of his ‘bourgeois’ polemics against a courtly literature which was increasingly rarefied and anti-realist, but also reflected an autobiographical motive which Italian Renaissance traditions allowed him to present in a socially accepted fashion. Grazzini, in fact, belonged to the last generation of Italian men of letters who could benefit from this tradition before the Counter-Reformation ended the possibilities of writing about homosexuality in such a way.

After having dedicated his entire life to literature, he died in Florence where he was buried in the family tomb in the church of San Pier Maggiore, a building demolished in 1784.

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