De claris mulieribus

Italy, (first published in 1374)

  • De claris mulieribus - Circe
  • Circe turns Odysseus’ companions into swine

  • from: Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus
    (BNF Fr. 598, fol.54v)
  • (1361-1362), illumination
    (anonymous illustrator)
  • La Bibliothèque nationale de France

  • De claris mulieribus - Circe
  • Circe turns Odysseus’ companions into animals

  • from: Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus
    German translation published by Johannes Zaine (1473)
  • (1473), woodcut, hand colored
    (anonymous illustrator)
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

About the Artist

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) was an Italian author and poet. He was an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the DecameronOn Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular.

While other medieval writers followed formulaic models for character and plot, Boccaccio is particularly notable for his dialogue, which has been characterized as surpassing virtually all of his contemporaries in verisimilitude. [DES-01/11]

De mulieribus claris or On Famous Women is a collection of biographies of historical and mythological women by the Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. First published in 1374, It is notable as the first collection devoted exclusively to biographies of women in Western literature.

Boccaccio says that the purpose he wrote the 106 biographies was for posterity about women who were renowned for any sort of great deed, either good or bad. He explains that by recounting the wicked deeds of certain women that hopefully in the mind of the reader it would be offset by the exhortations to virtue by other respected women. He writes in his presentation of this combination of all types of women that hopefully it would encourage virtue and curb vice.

This work quickly reached canonical status after its initial publication. Boccaccio continued to revise it up until his death in 1375. The text continues to be read and new translations made into English and other anguages even into the present. [DES-01/11]

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A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.