Andrea Memmo, from his book Elementi dell’architettura Lodoliana. Memmo was a Venetian ambassador and Senator in the waning days of the empire, a son of one of Venice’s great patrician families, and in his early years the passionate lover of Giustiniana Wynne.
Emphasis on the passion. From A Venetian Affair, a quote from one of his letters to Giustiniana:
When I left you, I came home and went straight to bed. As soon as I was under the covers my little nightingale felt an urge to fly back to you. I wanted to keep him here. I wanted him to stay quiet until the morning. But as much as I tried to distract him with fantasies about the nice legs of Cattina Barbarigo, the soft little tummy of Countess Romilii, and the pretty cheeks of Cattina Loredan, he would have none of it. He wanted satisfaction. Would you believe he even convinced me you had ordered him not to let me sleep if I did not satisfy his every desire? Thankful at last, and generous toward me, he wished to produce on this piece of paper the evidence of his satisfaction so that I in turn could prove to you, at the first opportunity, my blind obedience to all your wishes.
The author, Andrea di Robilant, helpfully clarifies: “Such playful but rather extreme displays of affection were not always to Giustiniana’s taste. Yet [Andrea] developed a habit of sending small samples of his semen to her as a tangible sign of his love. He would spread them on a piece of paper, which he then folded into what he referred to as his special ‘involtini‘—borrowing a common Italian culinary term. At first, Giustiniana reacted with disgust to those sticky little envelopes that had traveled across town in the hand of their messenger. But she grew accustomed to them, even indifferent, and eventually Andrea gave up sending them while lamenting the fact that he had never received similar tokens of her love. ‘They would have caused such transport,’ he sighed.”
When I was in school, a million years ago, the history we learned was of dates and treaties, wars and constitutions. It took me all this time to get over the horror of a bunch of meaningless facts that I could never quite get right, and start reading on my own. I will confess that I was surprised, at first, to find real people behind all those meaningless words—people as we are now, full of strange habits and particular tastes and breathing and sweating and grungy and alive. I was surprised, and then it all clicked of course, and then I was just really really annoyed that I didn’t get this in a classroom.
But if nothing else, this writing project has given me history, a sense of a living past, and for that I will always be grateful . . . though maybe not quite three grueling years grateful . . . 😉
Cross-posting to Tumblr so I don’t forget: gratitude.