Lazzaro Bonamico

Lazzaro (or Lazaro) was a great Venetian humanist of fifteenth century. He was born between 1477 and 1479 from Amico (son of Sebastiano) and Dorotea, in Bassano del Grappa (Vicenza, Italy). Lazzaro's native home (photo 1, 2 and 3) lies in the uptown, in the square that bears his name.
He began his cultural training in Bassano, then moved to Padua, where he was a pupil of Pietro Pomponazzi and Niccolò Leoniceno. In 1510, in Mantova, assumed the appointment of tutor of Francesco Cantelmo and then of Galeazzo Gonzaga. In 1519 he went back to Padua and in 1521 moved to Rome, where he was in contact with Angelo Colocci, and in 1527 was in Venice and then in Padua. In 1530 he moved definitively to Padua, where he was appointed as a professor of Greek and Latin at the local University.
From a letter written by Lazzaro's Hungarian friend Sigmund Gelous Torda to František Révai we know that in 1549 he had an accident: he tumbled down the stairs and broke his hip, so he could not move his right leg, and he was cured "by physicians and surgeons". In spite of this accident, which occurred when he was an old man (about 70 years old), Lazzaro lived fot three more years and died in Padua in 1552.
The humanist was also known as Lazzaro da Bassano and his surname is also reported as Bonamici, Buonamico, Buonamici, Bonamigo, Bassani or Basciano.

Lazzaro was a pupil of Pietro Pomponazzi and commented and continued the work of his master, above all in the field of physics. Contrarily to other fellow disciples, he openly supported the materialistic ideas of the master, together with Giulio Cesare Scaligero, Simone Porzio, Andrea Cesalpino, Sperone Speroni, and the professor Cremonino da Cento who made carve on his tomstone: "Hic iacet Cremoninus totus", meaning that, besides the body, buried in the grave, there was nothing.
He was an authoritative exponent of the group of the Ciceronians, aimed to spread a style inspired to the return to the Roman classicism, taking as their models Cicero (for prose) and Virgil (for poetry), even for works in vulgar tongue (the present Italian language). Lazzaro was a friend of Pietro Bembo, the most authoritative of the Ciceronians, even if with some reservation for its positions.
He was a member of Padua's Accademia degli Infiammati, founded in 1540 by Leone Orsini with the motto «Burnt the mortal, to heaven will ascend the eternal».Other members were Pietro Aretino, Ruzante, Sperone Speroni, Benedetto Varchi and Luigi Alamanni. There were held exercises also in Greek and Latin. With Speroni, who took the chair of the Academy in 1542, the activity was carried out mostly in vulgar, on philosophical and literary arguments. The Academy was dissolved between 1545 and 1550.
Between his pupils in Venice the future cardinal Agostino Valier (or Valeri), (1531-1606) who later was the bishop of Verona, and moreover was master of Bunel, Dolet and Longueil.
He was an authoritative supporter of the superiority of the Latin on the vulgar, and so he appears in the Dialogo delle lingue (Dialogue of languages, 1542) by Sperone Speroni, in which he imagines a debate between Lazzaro, Pietro Bembo and two anonymous characters, on the occasion of the appointment to Lazzaro of the chair of Greek and Latin eloquence.
Barthélemy Masson, sent on a mission in Italy by Francis Ist of France, in Padua met and described with great praises, besides Alessandro Socino, also Lazzaro Bonamico, with whom he met by a common friend.
None of the works of Lazzaro was sent to the press while he was still alive, and the circulation of his ideas was entrusted mainly to manuscripts and university lessons, in which imposed the secret to his own disciples. His most important work (Concetti della lingua latina, Concepts of the Latin language) was printed for the first time in 1562, even if this contrasts with what was written in 1539 by the Venetian bookseller and humanist Nicolò Franco, who quotes the works of Lazzaro between those that could not lack in a serious bookshop. The humanist from Cremona Benedetto Lampridio, wrote a 'metropindaric' ode to Lazzaro Bonamico.

a portrait
A bronze bust of Lazzaro is exposed in the Museo Civico of Bassano del Grappa; it was sculptured by Danese Cattaneo (or Cataneo) (approx. 1509-1573), native of Colonnata (near Carrara, Tuscany), a mannerist sculptor, pupil of Sansovino. The work is considered a kind of prototype for the typology of the portrait-busts.

bibliographic references:
Francesco Piovan (1988) - Per la biografia di Lazzaro Bonamico (Contributi alla storia dell'Università di Padova)'.doc.

page last updated: February 9th 2008