Giulio Cesare Brancaccio

Giulio Cesare Brancaccio

Giulio Cesare Brancaccio (1515 – 1586) was a courtier, "cavalier", actor, writer, and singer in a number of northern Italian courts throughout the sixteenth century, most notably the court at Ferrara.

He was born in Naples to a noble family. He first appears in the historical record as a soldier in the service of the Kingdom of Naples 1535 and later as a singer and amateur actor, including for Ferrante Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno in Naples; he probably did not perform at the wedding of Don Francesco d'Este, Alfonso II d'Este's uncle. He served in the army of Charles V and in 1554 he defected to France, where he became a "gentilhomme de la chambre du Roi" under Henri II and later, his sons Francois II and Charles IX. In 1571 he went to Vienna, Venice, Turin, Florence and in 1573 to Naples, where he subsequently joined the expedition of Don Juan to re-conquer Tunis for the Spanish. Later he lived in Rome, in the service of Cardinal Luigi d'Este. The first record of Brancaccio being at the court of Alfonso d'Este II in Ferrara is in 1577, singing with the ladies of the first period of the Concerto delle donne, the amateurs Lucrezia Bendidio, Leonora Sanvitale, and Vittoria Bentivoglio. In 1581 he published a translation and commentary on Julius Caesar's "Commentarii de Bello Gallico" in Venice, which survives in printings from 1581, 1582 (Vittorio Baldini) and 1585 (Aldo Manuzzio).

Brancaccio was brought to the court at Ferrara by Duke Alfonso II d'Este specifically in order to sing for his "musica secreta", where he was highly prized as a skilled bass. According to one contemporary commentator, part of the agreement when Brancacio was brought in was that he was "not to talk of his miracles of war." [Newcomb 1986 pg. 95] Alfonso and Brancaccio did not get along very well, due in part to Brancaccio's resistance to being seen as a professional musician, a position he viewed as lower-status, more akin to that of a servant than a full member of the court, [Newcomb 1986 pg 94] and in part because of Alfonso's impatience with Brancaccio's tendency to brag. While Brancaccio was in the duke's employ he received around 400 "scudi" per year (in 1582 this was 130 "lire" per month) as well as a house and horses whenever he wanted or had use for them. During this period Torquato Tasso and Giovanni Battista Guarini wrote poems in Brancaccio's honor.

In 1581 he was out of favor with the court, or more specifically the Duke because of his absence in Venice. He returned to the court by October 1581, but it was not to be for very long. [Newcomb 1980, 14] In 1583 Brancaccio was fired for insubordination; he refused to sing on the spot for Anne, Duke de Joyeuse. [Newcomb 1986 pg. 94] In 1585 he tried to get back in the duke's good graces through a series of letters and with the help of Giovanni Battista Guarini; however, he was unsuccessful. Newcomb describes the personality which comes through in these letters as "blustering, proud, preposterous, and rather touching." [Newcomb 1980, pg 185]

He died in 1586.


* Newcomb, Anthony. "The Madrigal at Ferrara, 1579-1597." Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. 1980.
* J. Bowers and J. Tick "Women making music: the Western Art tradition, 1150-1950." "Courtesans, Muses, or musicians?" Anthony Newcomb. Urbana, Il. 1986
* R. Wistreich "Warrior, Courtier, Singer: Giulio Cesare Brancaccio and the Performance of Identity in the Late Renaissance" Ashgate, Aldershot, 2007


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