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ARETINO, PIETRO (1492-1556), Italian author, was born in 1492 at Arezzo in Tuscany, from which place he took his name. He is said to have been the natural son of Luigi Bacci, a gentleman of the town. He received little education, and lived for some years poor and neglected, picking up such scraps of information as he could. When very young he was banished from Arezzo on account of a satirical sonnet which he composed against indulgences. He went to Perugia, where for some time he worked as a bookbinder, and continued to distinguish himself by his daring attacks upon religion. After some years’ wandering through parts of Italy he reached Rome, where his talents, wit and impudence commended him to the papal court. This favour, however, he lost in 1523 by writing a set of obscene sonnets, to accompany an equally immoral series of drawings by the great painter, Giulio Romano. He left Rome and was received by Giovanni de’ Medici, who introduced him at Milan to Francis I. of France. He gained the good graces of that monarch, and received handsome presents from him. Shortly after this Aretino attempted to regain the favour of the pope, but, having come to Rome, he composed a sonnet against a rival in some low amour, and in return was assaulted and severely wounded. He could obtain no redress from the pope, and returned to Giovanni de’ Medici. On the death of the latter in December 1526, he withdrew to Venice, where he afterwards continued to reside. He spent his time here in writing comedies, sonnets, licentious dialogues, and a few devotional and religious works. He led a profligate life, and procured funds to satisfy his needs by writing sycophantish letters to all the nobles and princes with whom he was acquainted. This plan proved eminently successful, for large sums were given him, apparently from fear of his satire. So great did Aretino’s pride grow, that he styled himself the “divine,” and the “scourge of princes.” He died in 1556, according to some accounts by falling from his chair in a fit of laughter caused by hearing some indecent story of his sisters. The reputation of Aretino in his own time rested chiefly on his satirical sonnets or burlesques; but his comedies, five in number, are now considered the best of his works. His letters, of which a great number have been printed, are also commended for their style. The dialogues and the licentious sonnets have been translated into French, under the title Académie des Dames.
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