From behind the shadows of the luminous Italian Renaissance, we have recovered a burst of explicit eroticism which perhaps —depending on how one views it— is vexatious to the point of personal insult: it is Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) an expert in the art of the coarse Roman pasquinade, a master of courtly intrigue and exhibitionism, all of which steered his pen to balance precariously between libel and an ambiguous defense of absolute freedom. Aretino, aware of his personal power, forced Popes and emperors to bow before him, and wound up forging for himself a legend of power and perversion. Avoiding to the extent possible a tendentious interpretation, we have reproduced in its entirety the only surviving copy from the sixteenth century of the editio princeps of the Sonetos sobre los «XVI modos». The analysis, annotation and translation of the texts has been meticulously carried out by Professor Pablo Luis Ávila, a poet, painter and distinguished holder of a Chair of Spanish Language and Literature at the Università degli Studi di Torino, and thanks to his patient efforts, readers in Spain and throughout the world can now fully enjoy the original literary complexity of this work. This edition also includes the previously unpublished text by José Saramago: La Imagen y la Palabra.
By glossing in sonnets thee polemical engravings of his friend Marcantonio Raimondi, Aretino went far beyond a mere verbal amplification of the «sixteen postures» sketched in order to explore fully other equally intimate obsessions. The Aretino of this work, young and with a profoundly aggressive stance towards the pontifical court, we find the seeds of practically all the themes that would mark the rest of his writing, from the obvious uninhibited eroticism to the fierce criticism of the swarm of poets and mediocre and servile hangers-on who lived like parasites off the court. Aretino's humanistic intelligence is clearly displayed here as he takes advantage at such an early date of the powerful symbiosis of image and word that was beginning to be so characteristic of the printing trade in those years. At the same time, his anticlassical spirit also erupts, as evidenced in his fearless brandishing of the carnivalesque mirror of explicitness.
Still far away from the moment when king Francis I of France would give him as a present a great golden chain, here, towards 1525, we see him fleeing Rome, barely avoiding assassination. Always under the wings of protectors who sheltered him equally out of respect and fear, Aretino's existence hung precariously by a thread. Scrupulously well-informed, his truths produced discomfort and his influence, deriving from his ability to manipulate public opinion, was frightening: thus he managed to make a living with his pen and to therefore be one of the first modern professional writers.