From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Pietro Bembo (May 20, 1470 - either 11 January or 18 January, 1547) was a Venetian scholar, poet, literary theorist, and cardinal. He was an influential figure in the development of the Italian language, specifically Tuscan, as a literary medium, and his writings assisted in the 16th-century revival of interest in the works of Petrarch. Bembo's ideas were also decisive in the formation of the most important secular musical form of the 16th century, the madrigal.
Works and influence
Bembo, as a writer, attempted to restore some of the legendary "affect" that ancient Greek had on its hearers, but in Tuscan Italian instead. He held as his model, and as the highest example of poetic expression ever achieved in Italian, the work of Petrarch and Boccaccio, two 14th century writers he assisted in bringing back into fashion.
In the Prose della volgar lingua he set Petrarch up as the perfect model, and discussed verse composition in detail, including rhyme, stress, the sounds of words, balance, and variety. In Bembo's theory, the specific placement of words in a poem, with strict attention to their consonants and vowels, their rhythm, their position within lines long and short, could produce emotions ranging from sweetness and grace to gravity and grief in a listener. This work was of decisive importance in the development of the Italian madrigal, the most famous secular musical form of the 16th century, as it was these poems, carefully constructed (or, in the case of Petrarch, analyzed) according to Bembo's ideas, which were to be the primary texts for the music.
Other works by Bembo include a History of Venice from 1487 to 1513 (published in 1551), as well as dialogues, poems, and essays. His early Gli Asolani explains and recommends Platonic affection, somewhat ironically considering his affair with Lucrezia Borgia, married at the time to his employer. His edition of Petrarch's Italian Poems, published by Aldus in 1501, and the Terzerime, which Aldus published in 1502, were also influential. Printer and composer Andrea Antico, active in Rome, was also influenced by Bembo; the early composers of the Venetian School, such as Adrian Willaert, helped to spread his theories among composers during that period of quick change. Willaert's collection of madrigals, Musica nova, show a close connection with Bembo's ideas.
The typeface Bembo is named after him.