History of Literature

Pietro Aretino

"Sonetti lussuriosi"


Illustrations by Agostino Carracci


Pietro Aretino


Pietro Aretino, by Titian, 1545



Pietro Aretino,
in Titian's first portrait of him


This little manuscript of Aretino’s sonnets and other poems is a wonderful example of the “under the counter” format in which prohibited texts circulated in the eighteenth century. (Temp. Ms.).

Pietro Aretinoborn

April 20, 1492, Arezzo, Republic of Florence [Italy]
died Oct. 21, 1556, Venice

Italian poet, prose writer, and dramatist celebrated throughout Europe in his time for his bold and insolent literary attacks on the powerful. His fiery letters and dialogues are of great biographical and topical interest.

Although Aretino was the son of an Arezzo shoemaker, he later pretended to be the bastard son of a nobleman and derived his adopted name (“the Aretine”) from that of his native city (his real name is unknown). While still very young, he went to Perugia and painted for a time and then moved on to Rome in 1517, where he wrote a series of viciously satirical lampoons supporting the candidacy of Giulio de' Medici for the papacy (Giulio became Pope Clement VII in 1523). Despite the support of the pope and another patron, Aretino was finally forced to leave Rome because of his general notoriety and his 1524 collection of Sonetti lussuriosi (“Lewd Sonnets”). From Rome he went to Venice (1527), where he became the object of great adulation and lived in a grand and dissolute style for the rest of his life.

One of Aretino's closest friends in Venice was the painter Titian, for whom he sold many paintings to Francis I, king of France; a great gold chain that Aretino wears in Titian's portrait (c. 1545; Pitti Palace, Florence) was a gift from the king.

Among Aretino's many works, the most characteristic are his satirical attacks, often amounting to blackmail, on the powerful. He grew wealthy on gifts from kings and nobles who feared his satire and coveted the fame accruing from hisadulation. His six volumes of letters (published 1537–57) show his power and cynicism and give ample justification for the name he gave himself, “flagello dei principe” (“scourge of princes”). Aretino was particularly vicious in his attacks on Romans because they had forced him to flee to Venice. In his Ragionamenti (1534–36; modern edition, 1914; “Discussions”), Roman prostitutes reveal to each other the moral failings of many important men of their city, and in I dialoghi and other dialogues he continues the examination of carnality and corruption among Romans.

Only Aretino's dramas were relatively free of such venomous assaults. His five comedies are acutely perceivedpictures of lower-class life, free from the conventions that burdened other contemporary dramas. Of the five comedies, written between 1525 and 1544 (modern collection, Commedie, 1914), the best known is Cortigiana (published 1534, first performed 1537, “The Courtesan”), a lively and amusing panorama of the life of the lower classes in papal Rome. Aretino also wrote a tragedy, Orazia (published 1546; “The Horatii”), which has been judged by some the best Italian tragedy written in the 16th century.

Encyclopedia Britannica





What did you see? Tell me, please!

In the cell I saw four sisters, the General, and the three milky-white and ruby-red young friars, who were taking off the reverend father’s cassock and garbing him in a big velvet coat. Then hid his tonsure under a small golden skullcap, over which they placed a velvet cap ornamented with crystal droplets and surmounted by a white plume. Then, having buckled his sword at his side, the blissful General, to speak frankly, started strutting back and forth with the big-balled stride of a Bartolomeo Colleoni. In the meantime the sisters removed their habits and the friars took off their tunics. The latter put on the sisters` robes and the sisters that is, three of them put on the friars`. The fourth nun rolled herself up in General’s cassock, seated herself pontifically, and began to imitate a superior laying down the law for the convent.

What pretty pranks!

Now it becomes prettier.


Because the reverend father summoned the three friars and leaning on the shoulder of one of them, a tall, soft-skinned rascal who had shot up prematurely, he ordered the others to take his little sparrow, which was resting quietly, out of its nest. Then the most adept and attractive young fellow of the bunch cradled the General’s songster in the palm of his hand and began stroking its back, as one strokes the tail of a cat which first purrs, then pants, and soon cannot keep still. The sparrow lifted its crest, and then the doughty General grabbed hold of the youngest, prettiest nun, threw her tunic over her head, and made her rest her forehead against the back of the bed. Then, deliberately prying open with his fingers the leaves of her ass-hole Missal and wholly rapt his thoughts, he contemplated her crotch, whose form was neither close to bone with leanness nor puffed out with fat, but something in between — rounded, quivering, glistening like a piece of ivory that seems instinct with life.

Those tiny dimples one sees on pretty women’s chins and cheeks could also be seen on her dainty buttocks, whose softness was softer than that of a mill mouse born and raised in flour, and that nuns limbs were all so smooth that a hand placed gently on her loins would have slid down her leg as quickly as a foot slides on ice, and hair no more dared grow on her than it would on an egg.

So the father General consumed his day in contemplation, eh?

No, I wouldn’t say he consumed it, because placing his paintbrush, which he first moistened with spit, in her tiny color cup, he made her twist and turn as women do in the birth throes or the mother’s malady. And to be doubly sure that his nail would be driven more tightly into her slit, he motioned to his back and his favorite punk pulled his breeches down to his heels and applied his clyster to the reverend’s visibilium, while all the time the General himself kept his eyes fixed on the two other young louts, who, having settled the sisters neatly and comfortably on the bed, were now pounding the sauce in the mortar to the great despair of the last little sister. Poor thing, she was so squint-eyed and swarthy that she had been spurned by all. So, she filled the glass tool with water heated to wash the messer`s hands, sat on a pillow on the floor, pushed the soles of her feet against the cell wall, and then came straight down on that great crozier, burying in her body as a sword is thrust into a scabbard. Overcome by the scent of pleasure, I was more worn out than pawns are frayed by usury, and began rubbing my dear little monkey with my hand like cats in January rub their backsides on a roof.

Pietro Aretino


St Bartholomew (portrait of Aretino) displaying his flayed skin
(a self-portrait by Michelangelo) in The Last Judgment.




My legs are wrapped around you neck,
Your cazzo's in my cul, in pushes and thrashes!
I was in bed, but now I'm on this chest.
What extreme pleasure you're giving me!
But lift me onto the bed again: down here,
My head hung low, you'll do me in.
The pain's worse than birth-pangs or shitting.
Cruel love, what have you reduced me to?
What are you going to do?
Whatever you like.
Give me your tongue a little, darling.
Reward who served you silently and well.
The potta will want its share of pleasure,
Otherwise potta and cul will stay at war.
Push harder, your cazzo's slipping out.
If I had had to wait
One minute longer for release,
I swear I would have died, sweetheart.

I want this cazzo, not a treasure,
This is what can make one happy.
This cazzo would suit an Empress.
This jewel's worth more than a goldmine.
Woe is me, help me, cazzo, I'm dying,
May your lust reach to my very gut!
Truly, to deal properly with a potta
A little cazzo is hardly suitable.
Milady, those are truthful words:
Whoever has a small cazzo and dares
To fottere in the potta deserves icy enemas.
The poorly endowed should always use the culo,
But those like me blessed with ruthless organs
Should thrash continually around in potte.
Agreed, yet since it keeps us jaunty,
Women lust greedily for cazzi:
We'd take that spire in front and in the back.





Open your thighs so I can look straight
At your beautiful culo and potta before my face
Paradisiacal culo to be enjoyed,
Potta that melts hearts through the kidneys.
While I contemplate these things,
Suddenly I desire to kiss you, and I seem
To myself more handsome than Narcissus
In the morror that keeps my cazzo erect.
Ah, shameless pair! I spy you
On that mattress pulled down to the floor.
You whore, you'd better defend yourself.
I'm going to break a rib or two!
Shit on you, syphilis-ridden hag!
In order to enjoy this superb pleasure
I'd throw myself into a well.
I'm greedier
For a noble cazzo than bees are for flowers.
Even just looking at it tickles me.

You little prick! Don't keep pulling the cart.
Cupid, you bastard, stop it!
I want to fottere her in the potta not the culo.
She lets the cazzo slip and makes me laugh.
Forced to lean on my arms and legs,
O curse you for this clumsy position.
A mule would conk over after an hour of it.
That's why you hear me farting thunderously.
As for you, Beatrice, if you're uncomfortable,
Forgive me. You ought to be able to tell
How this crazy posture is killing me.
If I didn't mirror myself in your ass,
Lifted up, as I am, on both my arms,
We'd never get to the end of this act.
O milky, rosy culo,
If I didn't gaze voluptuously at you,
My cazzo would hardly stand up straight





It would be a dumb-ass thing to do,
If I were allowed to fottere you,
To place my cazzo in your potta,
Choosing that instead of the rear end.
May my lineage die out with me!
I'd like to fottere you back there many times,
Since the round part's different from the slash
As malmsey from watered-down wine.
Fottere me, do whatever you want
In the potta and cul -- it's all the same to me
Where you do what you have to do.
In both the potta and cul I'm aflame:
All the mules, asses, and oxen in the world
With their cazzi could not cool my lust.
In any case you'd cut a poor figure
Doing it the old-fashioned way.
If I were a man, I'd never want potta.

Aretino dedicated the Sedici Modi to a doctor friend, Battista Zatti of Brescia:

"I dedicate this lewd memorial to you, and let the hypocrites take a flying leap; I'm sick of their thieving justice and their filthy traditions that forbid the eyes to see what most delights them. What harm is there in seeing a man mounted atop a woman? Must beasts be more free than we are? It seems to me that the organ given us by Nature to perpetuate our race should be worn around the neck like a pendant or as a medallion on a hat, because it is the source that feeds the rivers of mankind ...

"It has made you who ranks among the greatest living doctors. It has created me, who is 'better than bread' [i.e., good as gold]. It has produced the Bembos, the Molzas, the Fortunios, the Francos, the Varchis, the Ugolino Martellis, the Lorenzo Lenzi, the Dolces, the Fra Bastianos, the Sansovinos, the Titians, the Michelangelos, and after them, the popes, the emperors, and the kings; it has fathered beautiful little children and the most exquisite women with their 'holy of holies.'

"Therefore we should set aside holidays for it and sacred vigils and feast days, and not just wrap it up in a bit of cloth or silk. The hands might be better hidden because they gamble, swear falsely, commit usury, give the finger, rip, yank, punch, wound, and murder. And what do you think of the mouth, which curses, spits in your face, overeats, gets drunk, and vomits? In sum, lawyers could win some honor for themselves if they would add a clause for it in their books, and I think they will. In the meantime, try to decide whether my verses have accurately captured the positions of the jousters."



Anselm Feuerbach. The death of Pietro Arentino



"Lewd Sonnets"

(Sonetti lussuriosi)


Artist: Agostino Carracci

b Bologna, 15 Aug 1557; d Parma, 22 March 1602.
Painter, engraver and draughtsman, cousin of Ludovico Carracci. He abandoned his profession as a tailor, which was also that of his father, Antonio, and began training as a painter. According to Faberi, he studied first in the workshop of the painter Prospero Fontana (like Ludovico), then trained under the engraver and architect Domenico Tibaldi and under the sculptor Alessandro Menganti (1531–c. 1594). However, it is likely that Faberi’s account was influenced by his desire to present Agostino’s career as an example of the versatile ‘cursus studiorum’ advocated by the Accademia degli Incamminati. Other sources (Mancini, Malvasia, Bellori) agree that it was his cousin Ludovico who was responsible for directing him towards painting. Only recently has it been assumed that he was a pupil of Bartolomeo Passarotti.

These 20 plates are out of the book „L`ARETIN d`Augustin CARRACHE ou Receuil de Postures Érotiques, d`apres les Gravures a l`eau-forte par cet Artiste célèbre", which was printed 1798 in Paris. This artist was Jacques Joseph Coiny, who lived from 1761 to 1809.

Author: Pietro Aretino

Published: 1798


Sonetti lussuriosi

Un clic sull'immagine per tornare alla copertina

Libro I


Fottiamci, anima mia, fottiamci presto
perché tutti per fotter nati siamo;
e se tu il cazzo adori, io la potta amo,
e saria il mondo un cazzo senza questo.
E se post mortem fotter fosse onesto,
direi: Tanto fottiam, che ci moiamo;
e di là fotterem Eva e Adamo,
che trovarno il morir sì disonesto.

- Veramente egli è ver, che se i furfanti
non mangiavan quel frutto traditore,
io so che si sfoiavano gli amanti.

Ma lasciam'ir le ciance, e sino al core
ficcami il cazzo, e fà che mi si schianti
l'anima, ch'in sul cazzo or nasce or muore;

e se possibil fore,
non mi tener della potta anche i coglioni,
d'ogni piacer fortuni testimoni


Mettimi un dito in cul, caro vecchione,
e spinge il cazzo dentro a poco a poco;
alza ben questa gamba a far buon gioco,
poi mena senza far reputazione.
Che, per mia fé! quest'è il miglior boccone
che mangiar il pan unto appresso al foco;
e s'in potta ti spiace, muta luoco,
ch'uomo non è chi non è buggiarone.

- In potta io v'el farò per questa fiata,
in cul quest'altra, e in potta e in culo il cazzo
mi farà lieto, e voi farà beata.

E chi vuol essre gran maestro è pazzo
ch'è proprio un uccel perde giornata,
chi d'altro che di fotter ha sollazzo.

E crepi in un palazzo,
ser cortigiano, e spetti ch'il tal muoja:
ch'io per me spero sol trarmi la foja.


Questo cazzo vogl'io, non un tesoro!
Questo è colui, che mi può far felice!
Questo è proprio un cazzo da Imperatrice!
Questa gemma val più ch'un pozzo d'oro
Ohimè, mio cazzo, ajutami, ch'io moro
e trova ben la foia in matrice:
in fin, un cazzo picciol si disdice,
se in potta osservar vuole il decoro.

- Padrona mia, voi dite ben il vero;
che chi ha piccol il cazzo e in potta fotte
meritera d'acqua fredda un cristero.

Chi n'ha poco, in cul fotti dì e notte:
ma chi l'ha come ch'io spietato e fiero,
sbizzarrischisi sempre colle potte.

- Gli è ver, ma noi siam ghiotte
del cazzo tanto, e tanto ci par lieto,
che terrem la guglia tutta drieto.



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