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Notes on a Renaissance Bestiary by Ulisse Aldrovandi

In: Paragone: Past and Present
Author:
Damiano Acciarino University of Ca’ Foscari Italy Venice

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Abstract

A unique codex in the University of Bologna, crafted as a single monographic volume, transmits an extremely interesting treatise by the naturalist and antiquary Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605). Entitled Discorso sopra alcuni animali quadrupedi per i quali si possono esprimere i 7 peccati capitali, literally ‘discourse about those animals through which it is possible to [symbolically] express the seven mortal sins,’ it was completed, according to an earlier copy (BUB Aldrov. 91, cc. 472r–482v), on 12 August 1578. The work was dedicated to Alessandro degli Orsi, a nobleman of the city and infantry commander in Hungary, who was honored in 1585 with the gran croce. This article suggests a reconstruction of lost decorations in one of the Orsi family mansions, either the Palazzo Orsi or the Villa Orsi. It also considers the moral implications of virtues versus vice represented by four-legged animals.

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