Francesco Scipione, marchese di Maffei

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Francesco Scipione
Francesco Scipione, marquis di Maffei.jpg
Engraving by Pietro Anderloni
Born(1675-06-01)1 June 1675
Verona, Republic of Venice, now Italy
Died11 February 1755(1755-02-11) (aged 79)
Verona, Republic of Venice, now Italy
OccupationDramatist, Archaeologist, Soldier

Francesco Scipione Maffei (Italian:  [franˈtʃesko ʃʃiˈpjoːne mafˈfɛi] ; 1 June 1675 11 February 1755) was an Italian writer and art critic, author of many articles and plays. An antiquarian with a humanist education whose publications on Etruscan antiquities stand as incunables of Etruscology, he engaged in running skirmishes in print with his rival in the field of antiquities, Antonio Francesco Gori.

Art critic person who specializes in evaluating art

An art critic is a person who is specialized in analyzing, interpreting and evaluating art. Their written critiques or reviews contribute to art criticism and they are published in newspapers, magazines, books, exhibition brochures and catalogues and on web sites. Some of today's art critics use art blogs and other online platforms in order to connect with a wider audience and expand debate about art.

Antiquarian Specialist or aficionado of antiquities or things of the past

An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence over acceptance of dogma or superstition. The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. The term was coined by theologian Friedrich Niethammer at the beginning of the 19th century to refer to a system of education based on the study of classical literature. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. It views humans as solely responsible for the promotion and development of individuals and emphasizes a concern for man in relation to the world.


Early career

Maffei was of the illustrious family that originated in Bologna; his brother was General Alessandro Maffei, whose memoirs he edited and published. He studied for five years in Parma, at the Jesuit College, and afterwards, from 1698, at Rome, [1] where he became a member of the Accademia degli Arcadi; on his return to Verona he established a local Arcadia.

Bologna Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Bologna is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, at the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million people.

Parma Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Parma is a city in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its architecture, music, art, prosciutto (ham), cheese and surrounding countryside. It is home to the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world. Parma is divided into two parts by the stream of the same name. The district on the far side of the river is Oltretorrente. Parma's Etruscan name was adapted by Romans to describe the round shield called Parma.

In 1703, he volunteered to fight for Bavaria in the War of Spanish Succession, [1] and saw action in 1704 at the Battle of Schellenberg, near Donauwörth. [2] His brother, Alessandro, was second in command at the battle.

Battle of Schellenberg battle

The Battle of Schellenberg, also known as the Battle of Donauwörth, was fought on 2 July 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. The engagement was part of the Duke of Marlborough's campaign to save the Habsburg capital of Vienna from a threatened advance by King Louis XIV's Franco-Bavarian forces ranged in southern Germany. Marlborough had commenced his 250-mile (400 km) march from Bedburg, near Cologne, on 19 May; within five weeks he had linked his forces with those of the Margrave of Baden, before continuing on to the river Danube. Once in southern Germany, the Allies' task was to induce Max Emanuel, the Elector of Bavaria, to abandon his allegiance to Louis XIV and rejoin the Grand Alliance; but to force the issue, the Allies first needed to secure a fortified bridgehead and magazine on the Danube, through which their supplies could cross to the south of the river into the heart of the Elector's lands. For this purpose, Marlborough selected the town of Donauwörth.

Donauwörth Place in Bavaria, Germany

DonauwörthGerman: [ˌdoːnaʊˈvøːɐ̯t]) is a town and the capital of the Donau-Ries district in Swabia, Bavaria, Germany. It is said to have been founded by two fishermen where the rivers Danube (Donau) and Wörnitz meet. The city is part of the scenic route called "Romantische Straße"

Alessandro, Marquis de Maffei German army commander

Alessandro Scipione, Marquis de Maffei, was an Italian Lieutenant General of Infantry in Bavarian service. He was the brother of the Italian writer and archaeologist Francesco Scipione.

In 1709, he went to Padua, where he briefly collaborated with Apostolo Zeno and Antonio Valisnieri in editing the ambitious literary periodical the Giornale de' Letterati d'Italia, which had but a short career. [3] [1]

Apostolo Zeno Venetian poet

Apostolo Zeno was a Venetian poet, librettist, journalist, and man of letters.

Theatre projects

Subsequently, an acquaintance with the actor Riccoboni led him to exert himself for the improvement of dramatic art in Italy [1] and a revitalized Italian theatre. His masterpiece, the tragedy Merope , 1714, brought him popularity in Europe; it was famed for its rapid action and the elimination of the prologue and chorus. Other works for the theatre include Teatro Italiano, a small collection of works for presentation on the stage, in 1723–1725; and Le Ceremonie, an original comedy, in 1728. A complete edition of his works appeared at Venice (28 vols. 8vo in 1790). [1]

Merope was a Queen of Messenia in Greek mythology, daughter of King Cypselus of Arcadia and wife of Cresphontes, the Heraclid king of Messenia. After the murder of her husband and her two older children by Polyphontes, Merope was forced to marry the murderer, but she managed to save her youngest son Aepytus, whom she sent secretly to Aetolia. Several years later, when Aepytus grew up, he killed Polyphontes with the collaboration of Merope, and he took revenge for the murder of his relatives and the insult to his mother.

A prologue or prolog from Greek πρόλογος prologos, from πρό pro, "before" and λόγος logos, "word" is an opening to a story that establishes the context and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information. The Ancient Greek prólogos included the modern meaning of prologue, but was of wider significance, more like the meaning of preface. The importance, therefore, of the prologue in Greek drama was very great; it sometimes almost took the place of a romance, to which, or to an episode in which, the play itself succeeded.

Greek chorus group of singers and dancers in Greek drama

A Greek chorus, or simply chorus in the context of Ancient Greek tragedy, comedy, satyr plays, and modern works inspired by them, is a homogeneous, non-individualised group of performers, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action. The chorus consisted of between 12 and 50 players, who variously danced, sang or spoke their lines in unison and sometimes wore masks.

His collections and antiquarian publications

Scipione Maffei Scipione Maffei.jpg
Scipione Maffei

In 1710, he spent some time studying the manuscripts in the Royal Library at Turin; while there he arranged the collection of objects of art which the late Carlo Emanuele, Duke of Savoy had brought from Rome. From 1718 he became especially interested in the archaeology of his native town, and his investigations resulted in the valuable Verona illustrata (1731–1732). [1]

Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy Duke of Savoy from 1638 to 1675

Charles Emmanuel II ; 20 June 1634 – 12 June 1675) was the Duke of Savoy from 1638 to 1675 and under regency of his mother Christine of France until 1648. He was also Marquis of Saluzzo, Count of Aosta, Geneva, Moriana and Nice, as well as claimant king of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia. At his death in 1675 his second wife Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours acted as Regent for their nine-year-old son.

Maffei devoted the years 1732-1726 to travel in France, England, the Netherlands and Germany. In 1732 he went to the south of France for purposes of archaeological research and from there he went to Paris, where he remained four years and was received as member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. On a visit to London in 1736, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society [4] and received at Oxford University, where he was honoured with a doctoral degree; he returned through Holland and Germany to Verona. He was a friend of Francesco Algarotti, who wrote him many letters.

On his return to Verona, he built a museum, which he bequeathed, together with his valuable archaeological and artistic collection, to his native city. He bequeathed his collection of manuscripts to the canons of the cathedral of Verona. In later life he became interested in astronomy and physics, and built an observatory to study the stars.

Philosophical Treatises

The Jesuits requested him to write in defence of the orthodox system of grace against the doctrine of the Jansenists, which resulted in his Istoria teologica delle doctrine e delle opinione corse ne cinque primo secoli della chiesa in proposito della divina grazia, del libero arbitrio e della predestinazione, published at Trent, 1742. [5]

He also published a letter and a book arguing against the existence of supernatural magic and witches, that mixes both enlightenment thinking and theologic arguments based on scripture. [6] This letter on magic was subsequently printed in Augustin Calmet's dissertation on magic and vampires titled Traité sur les apparitions des esprits et sur les vampires ou les revenans de Hongrie, de Moravie, &c.(1751) [7]

Posthumous reputation

The secondary school 'Liceo Maffei' in Verona is named in his honour.

He is also known for having written a description of Bartolomeo Cristofori's invention of a hammer mechanism for the harpsichord, work widely considered to comprise the invention of the piano. [8] Maffei published the article in the Giornale de’ Letterati d’Italia in 1711. [9] Maffei was one of the editors of the Giornale. Maffei reprinted the article in his Rime e Prose, a collection of some of his writings, published in Venice in 1719.

The Italian poet and translator Ippolito Pindemonte published a biographical elegy on his friend. [10]

Selected publications

Besides these original works Maffei also collaborated in editions of the works of St. Hilary (Verona, 1730), St. Jerome (1734), and St. Zeno (1739).

See also

Mérope - a tragedy by Voltaire based on an adaptation of Maffei's drama


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Maffei, Francesco Scipione, Marchese di". Encyclopædia Britannica . 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 299.
  2. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Marchese Francesco Scipione Maffei". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. Brendan Dooley, Science, Politics, and Society in Eighteenth-Century Italy: The Giornale de' letterati d'Italia and Its World.
  4. "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 4 March 2012.[ permanent dead link ]
  5. "Teleological History of the Doctrines and the Opinions Current in the First Five Centuries of the Church in Regard to Divine Grace, Free Will and Predestination"; it was published in Latin in Frankfort, 1765.
  6. Arte magica annichilata, 1754.
  7. Calmet, Augustine. Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants: of Hungary, Moravia, et al. The Complete Volumes I & II. 2016. ISBN   978-1-5331-4568-0.
  8. Stewart Pollens, The Early Pianoforte, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1995:43–95.
  9. Scipione Maffei, "Nuova invenzione d’un Gravecembalo col Piano e Forte aggiunte alcune considerazione sopra gli strumenti musicali", in: Giornale de’ Letterati d’Italia V, 1711, 144–59.
  10. Elogio del marchese Scipione Maffei, 1790.

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