Navagero’s Travels in Spain & France - With His Important Description of The Alhambra

NAVAGERO, Andrea (1483-1529).

Il viaggio fatto in Spagna, et in Francia, dal magnifico m. Andrea Navagiero, fu oratore dell’illustrissimo Senato Veneto, alla cesarea maesta di Carlo V. Con la descrittione partico-lare delli luochi, et costumi delli popoli di quelle provincie.

Venice: Domenico Farri, 1563


Quarto: (4), 68 leaves.

FIRST EDITION of this rare and important early sixteenth century travel account.

 Early 17th century vellum over boards, marbled endpapers, title very lightly soiled. A fine copy.

As the printer Domenico Farri states in the dedication to the marquis Lepido de Malaspini, he obtained the autograph copy of the work from Paolo Ramusio, who had it found among the papers of his father Giovanni Battista, who died in 1557.

The first part is the account of Navagero’s travels in Spain as Venetian ambassador from his departure from Venice (May 1, 1525) until his return and arrival at the French border. The second part deals with his sojourn in France, during which he visited Bordeaux, Poitiers, Amboise, Orleans, Paris and Lyon (among other cities) until his homecoming to Venice (September 24, 1528).

While in Spain, he sent his friend Giovanni Battista Ramusio all the written material he could find on the Americas. Describing Seville, Navagero points to the fact that so many men had left for the New World that Seville had become a city „in the hands of women‟. To the literati of Spain the appearance of Navagero at Toledo, and later at Granada and Seville, was an event of capital significance. Both as a close friend of Pietro Bembo and in his own right he was regarded by the Italianized intellectuals of Iberia as a spokesman for Renaissance high culture. Navagero himself was evidently willing to play such a role, for he urged the poet, Juan Boscan, to abandon cancionero poetry and to begin experimenting with Italian meters and verse forms. Boscan followed this suggestion. He and his fellow poet Garcilaso de la Vega began to imitate Petrarch (cf. I. Melani, Per non vi far un volume. Andrea Navagero, gli amici tutti e la costruzione di un Viaggio: testi, contesti, mentalità, in: “Rivista storica italiana”, vol. 119, no. 2, 2007, pp. 515-604).

Navagero’s letters contain many descriptions of sites and cities of great interest for the art historian, e.g. the Alcazar in Seville and the aqueduct of Segovia, but none received the attention he lavished on the Alhambra (cf. R. Chevalier, Un panorama de larchéologie espagnole au XVIe siècle. Note sur le voyage en Espagne dAndrea Navagero (1524-1526), in: “Mélanges de la Casa Velasquez”, I/27, (1991, pp. 139-148).

“When Andrea Navagero, the Venetian ambassador to the imperial court and a humanist, poet and expert gardener, visited the city in 1526, he found a largely Moorish population and few signs of the Christian re-conquest of 1492. In letters to his friend Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Navagero recorded his impressions of the palace and city prior to the transformation that Charles V began in the same year… [His knowledge of architecture and his experience as a horticulturist] equipped him to analyze the Alhambra in an informed and perceptive way.

He saw the Alhambra in terms of ancient villas and gardens as they were described in classical literature. After making some general observations about its situation and the materials with which it was built, he begins a room-by-room elaboration of its outstanding features. Certain elements – the rich materials, the fine craftsmanship, and the elaborate water systems – attract his attention… The gardens of the Alhambra… presented Navagero with the perfect subject for his rhetorical and historical imagination.” (C. Brothers, The Renaissance Reception of the Alhambra: The Letters of Andrea Navagero and the Palace of Charles V, in: “Muqarnas”, 11, 1994, p 79-80)

Navagero, a member of the Venetian nobility, studied at the Maggior Consiglio under Marco Antonio Sabellico and finished at the University of Padova under Marcus Musurus. Here, with his friends Girolamo Fracastoro and Luca Gaurico, he also followed the lessons of Pietro Pomponazzi. He also became a friend and collaborator of the printer Aldo Manuzio. He was made librarian of Saint Mark and official historiographer of the Venetian Republic.

In July 1524 he was named, ambassador at Madrid, and later, ambassador to France. This period of his embassy was particularly delicate because he had to manage the difficult situation created after the Battle of Pavia (February 25, 1525) during which the French King was made a prisoner by the imperial troops. He returned to Venice in 1527 and was elected ambassador to King Francis I of France but died shortly after reaching the French court at Blois. Raphael painted his portrait together with that of Agostino Beaziano, diplomat and poet from Treviso, in 1516 (cf. E. Lamma, Andrea Navagero poeta, in. “La Rassegna Nazionale”, 160, 1908, pp. 281-296).

Edit 16, CNCE49467; Universal STC, no. 844339; C. Fletcher, Mere Emulators of Italy: The Spanish in Italian Diplomatic Discourse, 1492-1550, “The Spanish Presence in Sixteenth-Century Italy”, P. Baker-Bates, ed., (Burlington, 2015), pp. 13-15; R. Norbedo, Per l‟edizione dell‟Itinerario in Spagna di Andrea Navagero, in: “Lettere italiane”, LII, (2000), p. 63.