Levi-Perotti, Giustina

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LEVI-PEROTTI, GIUSTINA , the supposed 14th-century author of two Petrarchan sonnets. In one, the author expresses her longing for the poetic world and her wish to gain experience in writing poetry, instead of engaging in weaving and sewing, tasks normally assigned to women. The sonnets were published in the 16th century and were attributed to Giustina in a collection of the poems of Petrarch (1304–74) assembled by G.F. Tomasini (Petrarcha redivivus, Padua, 1635). Tomasini claimed that the sonnet described was directed to Petrarch and that the latter replied with one of his most famous works, La gola, e'l sonno e l'otiose piume, encouraging the poet to persevere in a task "undertaken by only a few." On the basis of the obviously Jewish name Giustina Levi (Giusta or Giustina were names common among Italian Jewesses, especially during the Middle Ages), it was assumed that Petrarch had some connection with a Jewish poet of his time. However, only a few Petrarch scholars ever accepted this assumption, which was finally rejected by modern Italian literary critics. The notion of a Jewish poetess exchanging sonnets with Petrarch is in the romantic vogue of petrarchismo, which flourished in the 16th century and was based on imitations of Petrarch's verse. It is thus very probable that the poems attributed to Giustina Levi-Perotti were actually written in the 16th century and that she never in fact existed.


Morici, in: Rassegna Nazionale (1899), 662–95.

[Joseph Baruch Sermoneta]