Petrarch, Francesco Petrarca (1304-74) is an Italian poet and
scholar. He was born into the family of an exiled Florentine notary, who
settled in Arezzo in 1302. In 1312 the family moved to Avignon, and later
to Bologna, where young Francesco enthusiastically studied the classics.
After his father’s death Petrarch returned to Avignon (1326).
He became a churchman. It was at this period (1327) that he first met Laura (possibly Laure de Noves, married in 1325 to Hugo de Sade; she died, the mother of eleven children, in 1348). She inspired him with a passion that has become proverbial for its constancy and purity.
As the fame of Petrarch’s learning and genius grew, so did his influence.
The most powerful sovereigns of the day competed for his presence at their
courts. He traveled repeatedly in France, Germany and Flanders.
Invited by the senate of Rome on Easter Sunday, 1341, he ascended the capitol clad in robes of his friend and admirer, King Robert of Naples, and there, after delivering an oration, he was crowned poet laureate.
In 1353, after the death of Laura and his friend Cardinal Colonna, he left Avignon and his country house at Vaucluse for ever. His remaining years were passed in various towns of northern Italy.
Petrarch may be considered as the earliest of the great humanists of
the Renaissance. Among his works are: the epic poem Africa, the
hero of which is Scipio Africanus; a historical work in prose, De Viris
Illustribus, a series of biographies of classical celebrities; the
eclogues and epistles in verse; and the dialogues, in prose, De Comtemptu
Mundi (or Secretum); the treatises De Otio Religiosorum
and De vita Solitaria, etc. But it was his lyric poetry, sonnets,
madrigals and songs, which made his fame last for over five centuries.
His lyrics were first published in 1470, and have since gone through innumerable
See: Andrea del Castagno. Francesco Petrarca.
Chambers Biographical Dictionary. 1996.