The Love of Beauty

John Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) Florentine writer best know for The Decameron, which inspired Chaucer’s Canturbury Tales.

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Boccaccio’s reputed mistress and muse, Maria d’Aquino. She was the daughter of the Count and Countess of Aquino, but was rumored to have been fathered by Robert of Anjou, King of Naples.

When Maria’s parents died during her infancy, she was sent to live with relatives at the Benedictine convent of St. Michele at Baia. She married an Italian nobleman on the condition that she could return to life at the convent if she so desired, which she did.

According to the legend (which sounds remarkably like Petrarch’s encounter with Laura), Boccaccio first encountered the married Maria d’Aquino around 1338 at the Church of San Lorenzo in Naples on Holy Saturday before Easter. It was love at first sight, and Boccaccio was so overcome he could not speak.

Their second encounter occured at the convent, where Boccaccio was visiting a friend. Maria asked him to retell the rude French tale "Florie et Blancheflor" in Italian as a courtly romance. Boccaccio produced "Filocopo," dedicated to "La Fiametta," (little flame) his nickname for Maria. This effort apparently convinced her to become Boccaccio’s mistress; the affair lasted less than two years, ending when Maria took another lover.

Boccaccio dedicated "Teseide" and "Filostrato" to La Fiametta. She is the heroine of his "Ameto" and "La Fiametta," and appears in "Amorosa Visione," "La Caccia di Diana," and "Ninfale Fiesolano."