Skip to main content Accessibility help

An Unknown Portrait of Tiberio Fiorilli

  • Maria Ines Aliverti


Tiberio Fiorilli (1608–1694), son of the great Neapolitan actor and playwright Silvio Fiorillo, became famous in the role of ‘Scaramouche’ as the leading actor of the Théâtre Italien in Paris. In spite of his importance as a theatrical manager in France and in Italy, his life and personality have long remained a mystery. Dressed in his black suit, is how Molière depicted Scaramouche in the first verse of Le Sicilien ou l'amour peintre. Only recently has Fiorilli's theatrical career become the subject of serious investigation, and new documents are helping to clarify his image.



Hide All


1. See Checchi, Giovanna, ‘Debiti e ricchezze di un attore’, Biblioteca Teatrale, XII, 1989, pp. 8597, with a ‘Repertorio dei documenti conservati a Parigi e a Firenze riguardanti Scaramouche e i suoi familiari’; Guardenti, Renzo, Gli Italiani a Parigi. La Comédie Italienne (1660–1697): Storia, pratica scenica, iconografia (Roma: Bulzoni, 1990), I, pp. 4682.

2. Scaramuzza.So.Memeo.Squaquera: cf. Préaud, Maxime, Jean Lepautre in Inventaire du Fonds Français. Graveurs du xviie siècle (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1993), Vol. XI, 1, pp. 165–6 (No. 294). The terminus ante quem may be 1657 as a second version of the print (p. 166) is probably related to the Thèses de Scaramouche, a divertissement of the ballet L'Amour malade, staged at Court on 16 January 1657, in which Jean-Baptiste Lully played the role of Scaramouche (see Moland, Louis's ‘Introduction’ to La Vie de Scaramouche par le Sieur Angelo Costantini (Paris: J. Bonnassies, 1876), pp. xiiixiv).

3. The print has been investigated for its carnevalesque meaning by Holm, Bent, ‘King Carnival and Commedia: Images in the Copenhagen Fossard Collection’, Nordic Theatre Studies, IV, 1991, pp. 110–31; it is attributed to Jean Lepautre (1618–82) by Préaud, Maxime, Graveurs du xviie siècle; the attribution of the drawing to Henri Gissey (1615–74), whose name has been inscribed on a copy of the print (Département des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France), is not convincing. The elaborate surround of the portrait was probably drawn by a Caravaggesque artist: vegetables (cabbages, lettuces, cucumbers), grapes, musical instruments (putipù and chitarra battente), food (cheese, macaroni, eggs), and so on, are combined with an emblematic intention as in still-life paintings by followers of Caravaggio. I thank Mary Remnant for the identification of the chitarra battente.

4. The name of Paolini was suggested to me by Pierre Rosenberg, whom I thank. On Paolini see Maccari, Patrizia Giusti, Pietro Paolini pittore lucchese 1603–1681, with an introduction by Gregori, Mina (Lucca: M. Pacini Fazzi, 1987).

5. Maccari, Giusti 1987, p. 93, and plate 14; see also Ottani, Anna, ‘Per un caravaggesco toscano: Pietro Paolini (1603–81)’, Arte Antica e Moderna, XI, 1963, pp. 1935; ‘Integrazioni al catalogo del Paolini’, Arte Antica e Moderna, XXX, 1965 pp. 181–87. Ottani dates the portrait to the beginning of Paolini's career as a portraitist.

6. Salerno, Luigi, ‘Il dissenso nella pittura. Intorno a Filippo Napoletano, Caroselli, Salvator Rosa e altri’, Storia dell'Arte, V, 1970, pp. 3465; Giffi, Elisabetta, ‘Per il tempo romano di Pietro Paolini e gli inizi di Angelo Caroselli’, Prospettiva, XLVI, 1986, pp. 2230; Salerno, Carlo Stefano, ‘Precisazioni su Angelo Caroselli’, Storia dell'Alte, LXXVI, 1992, pp. 346–61.

7. The collection was formed by Natale Rondanini between 1620 and 1630; for the works of Caroselli in this collection see Salerno, C. S., ‘Precisazioni su Angelo Caroselli’, p. 350, and note 44 (p. 356).

8. La Vie de Scaramouche par le Sieui Angelo Costantini (Paris: C. Barbin, 1695); for a nineteenth-century French edition see note 2.

9. La Vie de Scaramouche; Rasi, Luigi, Fiorilli Tiberio in I Comici Italiani (Firenze, Torino, & Roma: Fratelli Bocca, 1897), 2 vols., Vol. I, pp. 888903; Borsellino, Nino, Fiorilli Tiberio in Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo, Vol. V, 1954, pp. 365–8.

10. Chapters IX, X, XXVII. For the Lazzo del piangere e del ridere, see Petraccone, Enzo, La Commedia dell'Arte. Storia, tecnica e scenari (Napoli: R. Ricciardi, 1927), p. 263.

11. La Vie de Scaramouche, chapter XVIII

12. This type of damask (called dei capperi from the shape of the leaves) has been produced since at least as early as 1545. I thank my colleagues Donata Devoti and Antonino Caleca for their helpful suggestions concerning the woman's dress.

13. Le Recueil Fossard, edited by Beijer, A. (Paris: Librairie Théâtrale, 1981), plates XXVI (J. Honervogt), XXVIII (P. Brebiette), XXIX.

14. Guardenti, , Gli Italiani a Parigi, Vol. I, pp. 4950 and Vol. II, Plate No. 227a, p. 153.

15. Under the name of Scaramouche, however, he played a variety of roles in Paris, before and after the creation of the Théâtre Italien (1660). As for the artistic career of Fiorilli after the foundation of the Théâtre Italien, Guardenti points out the striking contrast between Fiorilli's legendary reputation and the infrequence of his performances after 1660 (Gli Italiani a Parigi, Vol. I, p. 79).

16. Riccoboni affirms that the costume of the Neapolitan Scaramouche was ‘une imitation de l'habit Espagnol, qui depuis si long-tems dans la Ville de Naples étoit l'habit du Palais, des Magistrats, et de gens de guerre’, in Riccoboni, Luigi, Histoire du Théâtre Italien, Vol. II (Paris: André Cailleau, 1731), p. 315.

17. La Vie de Scaramouche, chap. XXVII.

18. Salerno, Luigi, ‘Il dissenso nella pittura’, pp. 55–7.

19. For example, the silence of Scaramouche and the taciturnity of Fiorilli (silence is known to be a stoic practice), his libertinism and the curious way of dying related in the Vie de Scaramouche (which appears to be a comic inversion of a stoic suicide). For a different approach to the theme of silence with regard to Scaramouche, see Macchia, Giovanni, Il silenzio di Molière (Milan: Mondadori, 1975), pp. 1119.

20. Menagiana (1693) in Mongrédien, Georges, Recueil des Textes et des documents du XVIIe siècle relatifs à Molière (Paris: CNRS, 1973), Vol. II, p. 665.

21. Ferrari, Oreste, ‘L'iconografia dei filosofi antichi nella pittura del sec. XVII in Italia’, Storia dell'Arte, LVII, 1986, pp. 120–2.

22. Montaigne, , Essais I, xxxviii (‘Comme nous pleurons et rions d'une même chose’); I, L (‘De Democritus and Heraclitus’). A philosophical meaning could also be attributed to a famous anecdote concerning Fiorilli and the infant Louis XIV, according to which the comic actor changed royal tears into a smile.

23. Quoted in Rasi, , Fiorilli Tiberio, I, p. 896.

24. He is commenting on a pantomime of Scaramouche in Colombine avocat pour et contre, Act II sc.vii, in Gherardi, Evaristo, Le Théâtre Italien (Paris: Cusson et Witte, 1700), 6 vols, Vol. I, pp. 377–8. For an extensive analysis of Fiorilli's performance in this comedy, see Guardenti, , Gli Italiani a Parigi, Vol. I, pp. 70–8.

25. The treatise De humana physiognomonia (1586) was first issued in Latin and then translated into Italian and published in Naples (1610) and Padua (1623).

26. The connection between Della Porta's studies on physiognomy and the ars memorativa is pointed out by Bolzoni, Lina in La stanza della memoria. Modelli letterari e iconografici nell'età della stampa (Torino: Einaudi, 1995), pp. 135–86, (forthcoming edition in English by Toronto University Press).

An Unknown Portrait of Tiberio Fiorilli

  • Maria Ines Aliverti


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed