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TAMING TRANSGRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN THE CARNIVALS OF EARLY MODERN NAPLES*

  • GABRIEL GUARINO (a1)

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to explore the political importance of Neapolitan Carnival and the government's involvement in steering and controlling the celebrations at various historical junctions during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is particularly important to note in this context the ritual pillages of cuccagne staged by the rulers. The sponsorship of such Carnivalesque entertainments quelled the rulers' fears from popular rebellion and disorder as much as they fed popular needs for bread and circuses; and it is in this context of maintaining intact the city's fragile social balances that we should interpret the ubiquity of these violent spectacles in early modern Naples.

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School of English and History, University of Ulster, Coleraine Campus, Cromore Road, Coleraine bt52 1sa g.guarino@ulster.ac.uk

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The research for this article has been generously funded by the British Academy (grant number SG102076). My thanks also to George Bernard and Ian Thatcher, who have offered invaluable advice on earlier drafts. In addition, I would like to thank the audiences at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting (New York 2014), and the Annual Conference of the International Society for Cultural History (Istanbul 2013). I am also indebted to the anonymous reviewers who read this article for their most helpful comments and suggestions.

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1 Mock battles between Carnival and Lent were indeed a common feature of European Carnivals, as it clearly appears in Breughel's famous painting. See Koerner, Joseph Leo, ‘Unmasking the world: Bruegel's ethnography’, Common Knowledge, 10 (2004), pp. 220–51.

2 Here are some general syntheses of early modern Carnivals: Peter Burke, Popular culture in early modern Europe (London, 1978), pp. 178–204; Ladurie, Emmanuel Le Roy, ‘Carnivals in history’, Thesis Eleven, 3 (1981), pp. 52–9; and Edward Muir, Ritual in early modern Europe (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 89–123.

3 For some general works regarding the social and political struggles in Naples during the Spanish domination, see Giovanni Muto, ‘Il Regno di Napoli sotto la dominazione spagnola’, in Giovanni Cherubini, Franco Della Peruta, and Ettore Lepore, eds., Storia della società italiana, xi: La controriforma e il Seicento (Milan, 1989), pp. 225–316; Giuseppe Galasso, Alla periferia dell'impero: il Regno di Napoli nel periodo spagnolo (secoli XVI–XVII) (Turin, 1994); and Aurelio Musi, L'Italia dei viceré: integrazione e resistenza nel sistema imperiale spagnolo (Cava de’ Tirreni, 2000). For the later period, see Raffaele Ajello, ‘La vita politica napoletana sotto Carlo di Borbone: “La fondazione ed il tempo eroico” della dinastía’, in Ernesto Pontieri, ed., Storia di Napoli (10 vols., Naples, 1971–8), vii, pp. 459–717 and pp. 961–84; Anna Maria Rao, Il Regno di Napoli nel Settecento (Naples, 1983); Giuseppe Galasso, Il Regno di Napoli: il Mezzogiorno spagnolo ed austriaco (1622–1734) (Turin, 2006), and idem, Il Regno di Napoli: il Mezzogiorno borbonico e napoleonico (1734–1815) (Turin, 2007). For a general synthesis, see Tommaso Astarita, Between salt water and holy water: a history of southern Italy (New York, NY, 2005).

4 For general works on festivities in Naples, see Franco Mancini, Feste ed apparati civili e religiosi in Napoli dal viceregno alla capitale (Naples, 1968); Giuseppe Galasso, ‘La festa’, in his L'altra Europa: per un antropologia storica del Mezzogiorno d'Italia (Milan, 1982), pp. 121–42; Michele Rak, ‘A dismisura d'uomo: feste e spettacolo del barocco napoletano’, in Marcello Fagiolo, ed., Gian Lorenzo Bernini e le arti visive (Rome, 1987), pp. 259–312, and idem, ‘Il sistema delle feste nella Napoli barocca’, in Gaetana Cantone, ed., Centri e periferie del Barocco: il Barocco napoletano (Rome, 1992), pp. 304–6; Paolo Izzo, Le feste negate: le feste napoletane tra pagenesimo e cristanesimo, i loro fasti ed il loro declino (Naples, 2006); Mauro, Ida, ‘Crónica festiva de la Nápoles virreinal: la Notitia de Andrea Rubino (1648–1669)’, Cuadernos de Historia Moderna, 34 (2009), pp. 6793 ; John A. Marino, Becoming Neapolitan: citizen culture in Baroque Naples (Baltimore, MD, 2010), pp. 64–116; and Gabriel Guarino, Representing the king's splendour: communication and reception of symbolic forms of power in viceregal Naples (Manchester, 2010), pp. 68–101.

5 McClung, William, ‘The decor of power in Naples, 1747’, Journal of Architectural Education, 52 (1998), pp. 3848 , at p. 38.

6 See especially Laura Barletta, Il Carnevale del 1764 a Napoli (Naples, 1981); idem, Fra regola e licenza: chiesa e vita religiosa feste e beneficenza a Napoli e in Campania (secoli XVIII–XX) (Naples, 2003); and Domenico Scafoglio, La maschera della Cuccagna: spreco, rivolta e sacrificio nel Carnevale napoletano del 1764 (Naples, 1994). Earlier works, pursued with less methodological rigour, include Gaetano Miranda, Cronaca del Carnevale di Napoli nei secoli XVI, XVII, e XVIII (Naples, 1893); and Vittorio Gleijeses, Piccola storia del Carnevale (Naples, 1971), pp. 153–78.

7 Other sources that will be utilized here include various exchanges of correspondence between the courts of Spain and Naples, edicts proclaimed in order to regulate behaviour during Carnival, and ceremonial books of the Neapolitan court.

8 For a positive assessment of the diaries, see Giuseppe Galasso, Napoli spagnola dopo Masaniello: politica, cultura, società (2 vols., Florence, 1982), i, p. xxxiii.

9 An evaluation of gazettes can be found in Nino Cortese, ‘Gazette Napoletane del Sei e Settecento’, in his Cultura e politica a Napoli dal Cinquecento al Settecento (Naples, 1965), pp. 161–84.

10 Nelson Moe, The view from Vesuvius: Italian culture and the southern question (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 2002), p. 16.

11 Melissa Calaresu, ‘Looking for Virgil's tomb: the end of the Grand Tour and the cosmopolitan ideal in Europe ’, in Jaś Elsner and Joan-Pau Rubiés, eds., Voyages and visions: towards a new cultural history of travel (London, 1999), pp. 138–61, at p. 146. See also idem, From the street to stereotype: urban space, travel, and the picturesque in late eighteenth-century Naples’, Italian Studies, 62 (2007), pp. 189203 .

12 There is a rich literature on travel writing in Naples. Apart from the cited works by Calaresu and Moe, see also the following general studies, Atanasio Mozzillo, Passaggio a mezzogiorno: Napoli e il sud nell'immaginario barocco e illuminista europeo (Milan, 1993); Giusepe Galasso, ‘Lo stereotipo del napoletano’, in his L'altra Europa, pp. 143–90; and Placanica, Augusto, ‘La capitale, il passato, il paesaggio: i viaggiatori come “fonte” della storia meridionale’, Meridiana, 1 (1987), pp. 165–79.

13 The diary of Andrea Rubino, which covers the years between 1648 and 1669, titled Notitia di quanto é occorso in Napoli, is preserved in manuscript form in the library of the Società Napoletana di Storia Patria (SNSP), MS xviii. D. 14–17 (4 vols.); Innocenzo Fuidoro, Giornali di Napoli dal 1660 al 1680 (4 vols., Naples, 1934–9); Domenico Confuorto, Giornali di Napoli dal 1679 al 1699 (2 vols., Naples, 1930–1); Antonio Bulifon, Giornali di Napoli dal 1547 al 1706 (Naples, 1932).

14 See for example the three floats that moved along Toledo Avenue in February 1687 – the first representing the commoners with comestible gifts for the plebs, the second, displaying the temple of honour accompanied by five nobles dressed up as virtues, and the third, carrying a sculpture of the viceroy. Confuorto, Giornali, i, pp. 172–3.

15 Rubino, Notitia, SNSP, MS xviii. D. 14, fos. 86–7.

16 For sumptuary laws in Naples, see Silvana Musella Guida, ‘Il Regno del lusso: leggi suntuarie e società: un percorso di lungo periodo nella Napoli medievale e moderna (1290–1784)’, in Proceedings of L’économie du luxe en France et en Italie. Journées d’étude organisées par le Comité franco-italien d'histoire économique (AFHE-SISE), Lille, Ifresi, 4–5 May 2007, pp. 1–23; and Gabriel Guarino, ‘Spanish fashions and sumptuary legislation in Habsburg Italy’, in José Luis Colomer and Amalia Descalzo, eds., Spanish fashion at the courts of early modern Europe (Madrid, 2014), pp. 233–50.

17 Rubino, Notitia, SNSP, MS xviii. D. 14, fo. 87.

18 For an Italian example, see Edward Muir, Civic ritual in Renaissance Venice (Princeton, NJ, 1981), p. 157. For Spain, see Barredo, Maria José Del Río, ‘Burlas y violencia en el Carnival madrileño de los siglos XVII y XVIII’, Revista de Filología Románica, 3 (2002), pp. 111–29, at p. 120.

19 For a discussion of these issues see Burke, Popular culture, pp. 186–7.

20 Confuorto, Giornali, ii, p. 202.

21 See the letter of Bernardo Tanucci to Charles III on this subject, written on 13 Feb. 1770, in Rosa Mincuzzi, ed., Lettere di Bernardo Tanucci a Carlo III Borbone (1759–1776) (Rome, 1969), p. 588.

22 For these instances, see DelDonna, Anthony, ‘“Rinfreschi e composizioni poetiche”: the feste di ballo tradition in late eighteenth-century Naples’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 44 (2011), pp. 157–88.

23 Fuidoro, Giornali, i, p. 209.

24 Confuorto, Giornali, ii, p. 113.

25 See ‘Lex bacchanalium’, in Nuova collezione delle prammatiche del Regno di Napoli (15 vols., Naples, 1803–8), vii, p. 21.

26 Ibid., p. 23.

27 See for example Confuorto, Giornali, i, p. 172.

28 All of these appear in ‘Lex bacchanalium’, Nuova collezione, vii, p. 23.

29 See for example Fuidoro, Giornali, i, p. 269, ii, pp. 135, 228. Sixteenth-century testimonies of object throwing appear in Giovan Battista Del Tufo, Ritratto o modello delle grandezze, delitie e meraviglie, della nobilissima Città di Napoli, ed. Calogero Tagliareni (Naples, 1959), p. 163.

30 Bulifon, Giornali, p. 212.

31 The chronicler uses the pejorative Italian term sbirro, loosely translatable as cop.

32 See Fuidoro, Giornali, ii, pp. 107–8.

33 For Pulcinella, see the following studies: Domenico Scafoglio and Luigi Lombardi Satriani, Pulcinella: il mito e la storia (Milan, 1992); and Domenico Scafoglio, Pulcinella: il potere della parola (Fisciano, 2003). See also Franco Carmelo Greco, ed., Pulcinella, maschera del mondo: Pulcinella e le arti dal Cinquecento al Novecento (Naples, 1998).

34 Confuorto, Giornali, ii, pp. 113–14.

35 Salvatore di Giacomo, Storia del Teatro San Carlino: contributo alla storia della scena dialettale napoletana, 1738–1884 (3rd edn, Naples, 1919), p. 217.

36 See for example Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Carnival in Romans, trans. Mary Feeny (New York, NY, 1979); and Edward Muir, Mad blood stirring: vendetta in Renaissance Italy (Baltimore, MD, and London, 1998).

37 For these events, see Marino, Becoming Neapolitan, pp. 94–5.

38 An influential socio-economic interpretation of the event is provided by Rosario Villari, The revolt of Naples, trans. James Newell and John A. Marino (Cambridge, 1993). A more recent contextual political analysis is provided by Aurelio Musi, La rivolta di Masaniello nella scena politica barocca (Naples, 1989). For an alternative interpretation, see Burke, Peter, ‘The virgin of the Carmine and the revolt of Masaniello’, Past and Present, 99 (1983), pp. 321 ; for two recent monographs on the topic, see Silvana d'Alessio, Contagi: la rivolta napoletana del 1647–1648: linguaggio e potere politico (Florence, 2003); and idem, Masaniello: la sua vita e il mito in Europa (Rome and Salerno, 2007).

39 For the roles of youth groups in riotous rituals, see Davis, Natalie Zemon, ‘The reasons of misrule: youth groups and charivaris in sixteenth century France’, Past and Present, 50 (1970), pp. 4175 .

40 See the modern edition of Giuseppe Donzelli, Partenope liberata (Naples, 1970).

41 See Rubino, Notitia, BSNSP, MS xxiii. D. 14, fos. 82–3.

42 Fuidoro, Giornali, ii, p. 135.

43 ‘Lex bacchanalium’, in Nuova collezione, vii, p. 24.

44 Ibid., pp. 24–5.

45 Barletta, Il Carnevale del 1764, pp. 25–7.

46 Archivio di Stato Napoli, Maggiordomia Maggiore e Sopraindtendenza Generale di Casa Reale, Archivio Amministrativo, Inventario iv, vol. 1483, Avanzi di libro in lingua spagnola con molte mancanze contenenti fatti del secolo XVII e principio del XVIII, fo. 50 r.

47 Zazzera, Francesco, ‘Narrazioni tratte dai giornali del governo di Don Pietro Girone duca d'Ossuna vicerè di Napoli, scritti da F. Z.’, Palermo, Francesco, ed., Archivio Storico Italiano, 9 (1846), pp. 471618 , at pp. 501–2.

48 Confuorto, Giornali, ii, p. 83.

49 Ibid., ii, pp. 150–1.

50 See Franco Strazzullo, ‘Ferdinando si diverte’, in his Napoli: i luoghi e le storie (Naples, 1992), pp. 231–44.

51 Thomas Watkins, Travels through Switzerland, Italy, Sicily, the Greek islands to Constantinople; through part of Greece, Ragusa, and the Dalmatian isles… (London, 1794), p. 427.

52 Del Río Barredo, ‘Burlas y violencia’, p. 120.

53 For some valuable syntheses of the subject, see Giuseppe Cocchiara, ‘Il paese di Cuccagna: l'evasione della realtà nella fantasia popolare’, in his Il paese di Cuccagna ed altri studi di folklore (Turin, 1956), pp. 159–87; Camporesi, Piero, ‘Carnevale, Cuccagna e giuochi di villa’, Studi e problemi di critica testuale, 10 (1975), pp. 5797 ; and Hilário Franco Júnior, Cocanha: a historia de um país imaginário (São Paulo, 1998). See also Vita Fortunati and Giampaolo Zucchini, eds., Paesi di Cuccagna e mondi alla rovescia (Florence, 1989).

54 For each of these, see respectively Muir, Civic ritual, pp. 156–82, and Lorena Bianconi, Alle origini della festa bolognese della porchetta: ovvero San Bartolomeo e il cambio di stagione (Bologna, 2005).

55 See Zazzera, ‘Narrazioni’, pp. 501–2.

56 See for example Fuidoro, Giornali, i, pp. 268, 271. This resentment originates from the original event of 1617, as the chronicler implies that the viceroy did not honour the expectations of being paid by the commoners' corporations who prepared the floats. See Zazzera, ‘Narrazioni’, p. 501.

57 The sacking of the first float continued to take place in the popular quarters until 1688. See for example Bulifon, Giornali, p. 182.

58 Among the Neapolitan diarists, Rubino is particularly descriptive of these pantomimes. See for example the rich descriptions of Carnival in 1653, Rubino, Notitia, BSNSP, MS xviii. D. 14, fos. 82–94.

59 Scafoglio, La maschera, pp. 24–7.

60 Rubino, Notitia, SNSP, MS xviii. D. 14, fos. 207–10.

61 See Confuorto, Giornali, i, p. 62. Other curious pantomimes involved the Roman God Bacchus. For example, in the Carnival of 1654, a cart pulled by six horses carried a man representing Bacchus sitting on a golden barrel of wine. The whole time, Bacchus made the impression of drinking red wine, but instead of swallowing he would spray it at the faces of passers-by. See Rubino, Notitia, BSNSP, MS xviii. D. 14, fo. 114. For another similar description of a float in the Carnival of 1681, see Confuorto, Giornali, i, pp. 61–2.

62 On the involvement of architects in these constructions, see Alba Capellieri, ‘Filippo e Cristoforo Schor: “regi architetti e ingegneri” alla Corte di Napoli’, in Capolavori in festa: effimero barocco a Largo di Palazzo (Naples, 1997), pp. 75–89. See also Gabriel Guarino, ‘Cerimoniali e feste durante il viceregno austriaco a Napoli’, in Attilio Antonelli, ed., Cerimoniale del viceregno austriaco di Napoli, 1707–1734 (Naples, 2014), pp. 69–85.

63 This change is first documented in Avvisi di Napoli, 6 Feb. 1759, no. 6.

64 Barletta, Il Carnevale del 1764, p. 34.

65 Scafoglio, La maschera, p. 26.

66 A notable exception is the report of a slave being imprisoned for gravely wounding two other contenders with a knife, in the pillage of a carro-cuccagna in 1698. Confuorto, Giornali, ii, p. 291.

67 Although seventeenth-century travellers' guides of Naples abound, to the best of my knowledge, none of them provide cuccagne descriptions.

68 Marquis de Sade, Voyage d'Italie, ou Dissertations critiques, historiques, politiques et philosophiques sur les villes de Florence, Rome et Naples, 1775–1776, in Gilbert Lely and George Daumas, eds., Oeuvres completes de marquis de Sade (16 vols., Paris, 1967), xvi, p. 441.

69 Anna Riggs Miller, Letters from Italy: describing the manners, customs, antiquities, paintings, &c. of that country, in the years 1770 and 1771: to a friend residing in France (London, 1777), p. 61.

70 The numbers differ from one author to the next, but they all agree that the eighteenth-century pillages attracted thousands of assailants.

71 Sade, Voyage d'Italie, p. 441.

72 Miller, Letters from Italy, p. 62.

73 See Mozzillo, Passaggio a mezzogiorno, pp. 202–9.

74 Ferrari, Giovanna, ‘Public anatomy lessons and the Carnival: the anatomy theatre of Bologna’, Past and Present, 117 (1987), pp. 50106 , at p. 105. See also Rebecca Messbarger, The lady anatomist: the life and work of Anna Morandi Manzolini (Chicago, IL, 2010).

75 Lucia Valenzi, ‘Immagini della plebe napoletana tra XVIII e XIX secolo’, in Laura Guidi et al., eds., Storia e paure: immaginario colletivo, riti e rappresentazioni della paura in età moderna (Naples, 1992), p. 350. The Marquis de Sade suggested that the king kept the cuccagne in place precisely because he feared ‘this feral mob, knowing well that his Libra is not in balance between the rebellious and homicidal nature of his subjects and the weakness of his rule’, thus believing that abolishing the cuccagne would lead to revolt. Sade, Voyage d'Italie, p. 441.

76 Letter of Tanucci to Losada, 14 Feb. 1764, in M. Barrio, ed., Epistolario (18 vols., Naples and Rome, 1980–2007), xiii, p. 81.

77 For the descriptions of cuccagne that year, see Avvisi di Napoli, 14 Feb. 1764, n. 7, and 6 Mar. 1764, n. 9.

78 Jean Claude Richard de Saint-Non, Voyage pittoresque ou description des royaumes de Naples et de Sicile (5 vols., Paris, 1781–5), i, p. 251.

79 Florio, Vincenzio, ‘Memorie storiche, ossiano annali napoletani dal 1759 in avanti’, Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane, 31 (1906), pp. 28124 , at p. 53.

80 Sara Goudar, Relation historique des divertissements du Carnaval de Naples ou lettre de Madame Goudar sur se sujet á Monsieur le Général Alexis Orlow (Lucques, 1774), p. 14.

81 Saint-Non, Voyage pittoresque, i, p. 250.

82 Letter of Tanucci to Charles III, 14 Feb. 1764, in Barrio, ed., Epistolario, xiii, p. 85. Plebeian rivalries in the cuccagna are reminiscent of parallel occurrences in Venice, where Davis shows clearly how factional rivalries were behind such events as the wars of the fists, or bull baiting. Venice was split between two great factions known as the Nicolotti and the Castellani, built in their turn on several dozen neighbourhoods and occupational groups. Moreover, speaking of bull baiting, Davis claims that ‘the Council of Ten also sought to defuse the factional nature of the event by forcibly moving it to “those special days of Carnival, [when it is] according to ancient custom usually permitted”, the better to ensure that inversion and buffoonery might become the predominant themes of the festival, rather than conflict and rivalry’, Davis, Robert, ‘The trouble with bulls: how to stage a caccia dei tori in early modern Venice’, Histoire Social/Social History, 29 (1996), pp. 275–90, at p. 290. See also idem, The war of the fists: popular culture and public violence in late Renaissance Venice (Oxford, 1994), pp. 39–44, 117–27.

83 Avvisi di Napoli, 14 Feb. 1764, n. 7.

84 Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and his world, trans. Hélène Iswolsky (Bloomington, IN, 1984), especially, pp. 302–67.

85 Zemon Davis, ‘The reasons of misrule’, p. 41.

86 Norbert Elias, The civilizing process, trans. Edmund Jephcott (2 vols., Oxford, 1978–82).

* The research for this article has been generously funded by the British Academy (grant number SG102076). My thanks also to George Bernard and Ian Thatcher, who have offered invaluable advice on earlier drafts. In addition, I would like to thank the audiences at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting (New York 2014), and the Annual Conference of the International Society for Cultural History (Istanbul 2013). I am also indebted to the anonymous reviewers who read this article for their most helpful comments and suggestions.

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