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Jacopo Filippi Tomasini, 1597-1654.
Petrarcha redivivus, integram poetae celeberrimi vitam iconibus aere caelatis exhibens.
Padua: Typis Pauli Frambotti, 1650.
University of Pennsylvania Library.


Page 1.

Portrait of "Laura Sada", or Laure de Noves, wife of the Provengal noble Hughes de Sades, and ancestress of both Petrarch's 18th century biographer, the Abbi Jacques-François-Paul-Aldonce de Sade (1705-1778), and his nephew, the marquis Jacques-François-Paul-Aldonce de Sade. In the Petrarcha redivivus,Tomasini refers the legend of Laure de Sade's identity with Petrarch's Laura.

Laura, as Petrarch replied to Giacomo Colonna (Familiares II, 9), is absolutely real:

"What in the world do you say? That I invented the splendid name of Laura so that it might not only something for me to speak about but occasion to have others speak of me; that indeed there was no Laura on my mind except perhaps the poetic one for which I have aspired as is attested by my long and untiring studies. And finally you say that the truly live Laura by whose beauty I seem to be captured was completely invented, my poems fictitious and my sighs feigned. I wish indeed that you wer jokeing about this particular subject, and that she indeed had been a fiction and not a madness . . . This wound will heal in time and that Ciceronian saying will apply to me: 'Time wounds, and time heals,' and against this fictitious Laura as you call it, that other fiction of mine, Augustine, will perhaps be of help."

(Francesco Petrarca. Rerum familiarum libri I-VIII. Translated by Aldo S. Bernardo. State University of New York Press: Albany, New York. 1975. P. 102.)

Laura indeed exists: she is the truth Petrarch seeks, desires. She is the name for Petrarch's epiphany of April 6, 1327 (not Good Friday, but the historic anniversary of the crucifixion) in the church of in Saint Claire in Avignon. He was likely inspired more by the name Laure than he was by the namebearer herself: "she" already prefigured in the poetry of the Provengal troubadors. It comes as no surprise that the "Aura" (the "breeze" in Latin, exactly synonymous with anima, alma, spiritus, as well as the Greek Psyche) dies on the same date in 1348. In that year, when the great plague struck, as the 100 Years War raged on, as Petrarch's political hopes for Rome were violently dashed, his world was inexplicably dying, self-destructing. The reality and the validity of Laura is literary, epistemological, moral (or the question of morality), and psychological. Mind, psyche, soul: limbs of the Laura whose absolute human reality Petrarch could never sufficiently underscore.