GIRONI, Robustiano. Le danze dei Greci descritte e pubblicate pelfaustissimo imeneo di Sua Altezza Imperiale e Reale il Serenissimo Principe Ranieri Arciduca d’Austria, ecc. ecc. ecc. e Viceré del Regno Lombardo-Veneto con Sua Altezza Serenissima la Principessa Elisabetta di Savoia-Carignano, ecc. ecc

Milano, Imperiale Regia Stamperia., 1820

Folio (336 x 221 mm.), 4 leaves, 68 pages with six hand colored acquatinta plates. Contemporary calf richly gilt, spine in compartments with green morocco lettering piece. A very fine copy.

Rare and valued first edition of this essay on the dances of the Ancient Greek world, published in only 80 copies on the occasion of the marriage between the Archduke Ranieri of Habsburg, Viceroy of the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom, and the Princess Elisabetta of Savoy-Carignano. Robustiano Gironi (1769-1838) was a man of letter and a public official of the Milanese State under both the Napoleonic and the Austrian rule. After some years spent teaching rhetorics in a religious college and in the archiepiscopal seminary of Milan, in 1803 he became secretary of the Ministry of Interior of the Italian Republic founded by Napoleon and, at the same time, joined the staff of the Brera Library. After the Austrian Restoration in Milan, in 1817 he was appointed head librarian by the Emperor Francis I. Thanks to his deep erudition, Gironi contributed to such literary reviews as Il Poligrafo and the Biblioteca italiana, often without signing his articles. He was a specialist in Latin epigraphy, but he knew also Classical Greek and, as a matter of fact, is known above all for his antiquarian books on ancient Greek civilization, devoted to the history of dance, wedding customs, music, architecture, art, and theatre. Le danze dei Greci is an exquisitely Neoclassical work. Neoclassicism was a cultural movement that flourished all over Europe between the late 18th and the early 19th century, drawing inspiration from the art and culture of an idealized Classical past. “In style, Neoclassicists continued the Renaissance value of balanced antithesis, symmetry, restraint, and order. Additionally, they sought to achieve a sense of refinement, good taste, and correctness. Their clothes were complicated and detailed, and their gardens were ornately 66 manicured and geometrically designed. They resurrected the classical values of unity and proportion and saw their art as a way to entertain and inform, a depiction of humans as social creatures, as part of polite society. Their manner was elitist, erudite, and sophisticated” (Encyclopedia.com, s.v. ‘Neoclassicism’). Works on the figurative repertoire of ancient Greek dance began to multiply after the rediscovery of the Vesuvian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the publication of the first studies on ancient Greek vases, at the middle of the 18th century. With respect to the Milanese cultural milieu, in the two first decades of the 19th century Salvatore Viganò - in Stendhal’s opinion, one of the leading figures of Italian Neoclassicism, together with Canova and Rossini - represented at La Scala a series of coreodrammi dealing with Classical themes, where dancers reproduced hieratic gestures derived from Greco-Roman statues. The research on Classical dance was also encouraged by the contemporary practice of the so-called ‘attitudes’ (or ‘tableaux vivants’), with famous dancers publicly posing and embodying ancient female characters such as Medea, Circe, or the Maenads. It is against this backdrop that Gironi defends the idea of uninterrupted continuity between ancient Greek dances and modern ones, in line with contemporary works studying modern Greek dances from a comparative view (see especially the seminal work by Pierre-Augustin Guys, Voyage littéraire de la Grèce ou Lettres sur les Grecs anciens et modernes, avec un parallèle de leurs moeurs, 1771).

Blackmer 693; Lipperheide 185; Magriel, Bibliography of Dancing, p. 81; G.G. Fagioli Vercellone, s.v. ‘Gironi, Robustiano’, DBI 56 (2001); G. Pucci, Per un’archeologia del gesto: la reinvenzione moderna della danza antica, «ClassicoContemporaneo» 2 (2016), 25-40; Encyclopedia.com, s.v. ‘Neoclassicism’.

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