La Gioconda

Thomas Tompion

Senior Member
English - England
I'm told that it's polite in Italian to refer to the lady of the house in the third person as La + family name.

So if my name was Francesco del Giocondo and I chose to have my wife's portrait painted, it would be normal for people to talk of the resulting portrait as La Gioconda.

Is this true?

Obviously don't hesitate to post in Italian if you prefer.
 
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  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I need to know a detail about the title 'La Gioconda'.

    It means The Smiling Woman or The Cheerful Woman, to refer to the inscrutable smile, probably.

    Does the title have nothing to do with the fact that Lisa was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo?
     

    Mary49

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hello. No, it would be "la Del Giocondo". ;)
    No, the name comes from her husband's family.
    Gioconda - Wikipedia "...ha come fonti antiche un documento del 1525 in cui vengono elencati alcuni dipinti che si trovano tra i beni di Gian Giacomo Caprotti detto "Salaì", allievo di Leonardo che seguì il maestro in Francia, dove l'opera è menzionata per la prima volta "la Joconda";".
    La Gioconda (o Monna Lisa) di Leonardo da Vinci: analisi "la tela è intitolata Gioconda perché la donna ritratta era la moglie del mercante Giocondo;".
    Gioconda di Leonardo, perché si trova in Francia e non in Italia? | Sky TG24 "Secondo quanto riportano gli storici dell’arte, la Gioconda ritrarrebbe Lisa Gherardini, una nobildonna aristocratica di Firenze, nonché moglie di Francesco Del Giocondo, un nobile mercante italiano. Questo il motivo per cui il quadro è chiamato, appunto, la Gioconda".
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thanks very much, Mary. I'd looked things up in the Italian Gioconda Wikipedia, of course, and it was good to have those other sources.

    My worry was, and remains, that if, in Italian, the correct name would be La Del Giocondo, as Necsus explains, why is her husband's name given as the source of the sobriquet.

    No Italian source I've read addressed this point. Does the fact that she's smiling count for nothing in the choice of name?
     
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    Mary49

    Senior Member
    Italian
    My worry was, and remains, that if, in Italian, the correct name would be La Del Giocondo, as Necsus explains, why is her husband's name given as the source of the sobriquet.

    No Italian source I've read addressed this point. Does the fact that she's smiling count for nothing in the choice of name?
    Actually, her husband's family was called "i Giocondi". She was called "Lisa del Giocondo". Her smile has nothing to do with her name.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Actually, her husband's family was called "i Giocondi". She was called "Lisa del Giocondo". Her smile has nothing to do with her name.
    Hello again, Mary.

    Thank you very much for engaging with this, not many Italians seem ready to do so.

    So for you the sobriquet derives from the a feminisation of the family name and has nothing to do with the smile? My initial question concerned whether this (politely to refer to a woman as La + a feminisation of the family name) was normal practice in Italy today, or, more important, in the time of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo who seems to have been the first to talk of La Gioconda when referring to the painting in 1585, and so 80 years after Leonardo conceived the painting. Isn't it possible that Lomazzo didn't know the subject's family name?

    When Arrigo Boito made a libretto of Victor Hugo's play Angelo, Tyran de Padoue, for Ponchielli, he called his opera La Gioconda, but the heroine, La Gioconda, is far from a happy woman, so on the surface we take the title as ironic. But Gioconda is a given name in Italian, surely. Would a woman with the given name of Gioconda be referred to as La Gioconda? Do you think Boito meant a slanting reference to the painting?
     

    symposium

    Senior Member
    Italian - Italy
    Hi, Thomas! You seem to have doubts about a few different questions: let me try to help you with them. First, the femenization of family names: it was definitely common in the past, at least in some areas, and it can still be heard in some areas, at least when speaking one's dialect; it is not done ever in modern standard Italian. Today, a Lucia Ferrari is just "la Ferrari", never "la Ferrara". It was different in the past, regional usages may still vary, but in modern standard Italian that's the only acceptable way to call her. As for Ponchielli's opera, it is titled "La Gioconda" because that's the protagonist's given name, so no Monna Lisas are involved. And finally, but obviously this isn't a question concerning language only, where did Lomazzo get the name of Leonardo's painting from? I don't know. In the book you mentioned, he says Leonardo painted both La Gioconda and the Monna Lisa, so according to him, Gioconda and Lisa were two different women. I don't know if there's a way to ascertain who was who, which portrait is whose, and why those women were called that...
     

    Necsus

    Senior Member
    Italian (Italy)
    Oops... sul telefono mi compariva solo il post di TT, non avevo visto tutti quelli precedenti nel thread, quindi dicevo che per me, OGGI, la moglie del signor Del Giocondo sarebbe la (signora) Del Giocondo...! ;):)
     
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    lövastrell

    Member
    Italiano, Italia
    OGGI, la moglie del signor Del Giocondo sarebbe la (signora) Del Giocondo
    Non mi pare, Necsus. In Italia le donne sposate mantengono il proprio cognome. (C'è un articolo del codice civile, il 143 bis, che ancora prevede l'aggiunta del cognome del marito, benché il diritto di famiglia in vigore dal 1975 stabilisca la completa parità tra i coniugi. Ma nei documenti d'identità il secondo cognome non compare. La questione è spiegata abbastanza bene sul sito dell'associazione notai: Il cognome dei coniugi secondo la legge italiana | Notai.it)
    So, back to Thomas Tompion's original question: no, it is not "polite" to call a woman by the husband's name. Una donna di tendenze conservatrici potrebbe apprezzarlo, ma una donna di orientamento più femminista potrebbe trovarlo molto, ma molto urtante. Per stare sul sicuro, meglio seguire la legge e chiamarla col proprio nome da nubile. E decisamente usando "signora" o altro titolo, evitando dunque l'articolo + cognome: cioè non "la Raggi", ma "la signora Raggi", o "Virginia Raggi", o "L'avv. Raggi", o "la sindaca Raggi".
    Saluti a tutti
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you all very much. You are being most helpful.

    Yes, in England while the old standard was for a woman on marriage to become Mrs + husband's family name, women with strong feminist inclinations often prefer a title which does not reveal their marital status. I don't think there was a time, however, when it was usual to refer to Mrs Smith as The Smith. It would only be possible now in a strongly satirical sense, and certainly be far from polite.

    To return to Ponchielli: Symposium says:
    it is titled "La Gioconda" because that's the protagonist's given name.
    Now this may be correct, but two questions remain:

    1. Would it be usual, then (Boito's libretto is set in 17th-century Venice) or now to refer to a girl with the given name Gioconda, as La Gioconda?

    2. Is there any textual evidence in Boito's libretto for thinking that Gioconda is the protagonist's given name, rather than a sobriquet?

    Obviously I need to help you here:

    Under Personaggi, she's called La GIOCONDA, cantatrice, and La CIECA, madre della Gioconda rather than madre di Gioconda.

    Barnaba at the end of I.3 says: L'angiol m'aiuti dell'amor materno e la Gioconda è mia!

    In her soliloquy in I.5 the protagonist says: Costei della mia infanzia bionda l'angelo fu... Sempre ho sorriso... or piango. Mi chiaman... la Gioconda.

    In I.6 Enzo says: Giurai fede a Gioconda.

    Almost immediately after Enzo says this, Barnaba says: Già disperavi in terra di riveder quel volto, e l'amor di Gioconda hai per pietà raccolto, ed or, sotto la maschera, l'angelo tuo t'apparve...

    From then on she's always referred to as Gioconda, rather than La Gioconda, so Symposium would seem to be right. Then we return to question 1.: Is it normal to refer to a woman as La + her given name?

    I find it hard to believe that there is no indirect reference to the picture under this ironic appellation, just as I don't believe that the smile counts for nothing in the sobriquet of Leonardo's portrait.

    Here's the text, http://www.librettidopera.it/zpdf/gioconda.pdf, should you wish to check.
     
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    lövastrell

    Member
    Italiano, Italia
    As to question 1: definite article before a given name is colloquial in Northern Italy (except maybe in Piedmont -- I think I've seen a thread about this). So, when talking among friends or family I may refer to my friend Gioconda Rossi as "la Gioconda", but this is quite informal, and regional too. I'm not familiar with the nuances of Boito's libretto, but my guess is that he tried to capture both the Venetian setting and the commedia dell'arte atmosphere. The line "Mi chiaman la Gioconda" is crucial here. If this had been her given name, the normal form would've been "Mi chiamo Gioconda" or "Il mio nome è G." (unless there are metric reasons!). Even in Nothern Italy, nobody uses the article in stating their own name (one can say "Sono la Gioconda" when answering the phone, but never "mi chiamo la Gioconda").
    Due note:
    -nella commedia dell'arte spesso i ruoli avevano nomi descrittivi preceduti dall'articolo: l'Amorosa, ecc. (in English too, I think: the ingenue?)
    - Vivaldi, nella Venezia del Settecento, scrisse molta musica per suonatrici che erano ospiti di un'istituzione per fanciulle sole, e che spesso sono identificate nei manoscritti con appellativi come "la Bolognese", ecc.
     

    symposium

    Senior Member
    Italian - Italy
    Hi! First of all: do you really think that learning about contemporary Italian ways to call a woman can give you any insight about why Leonardo's painting is called that? I'm not familiar with this subject, but I'm sure that many book and studies have been devoteted to that very subject already, as to everything else concerning Leonardo: aren't they of any help at all? Anyway: "Gioconda" can either be a given name (not common, though, I concede that: I remember meeting a nun whose name was Gioconda Cunegonda, but nuns choose their own names, you know), a sobriquet that means "cheerful, merry, playful", or the femenized version of one's family name, a common practice in the past. As for a woman's name with an article in contemporary Italy:
    -given name: in Northern Italy a woman's name is always preceded by "la" when speaking: la Maria, la Carla, la Stefania etc. It's not proper Italian, but it's the usage. This is not found in Southern Italy.
    -family name: in spite of somebody possibly finding it discriminating, when a woman is called by her family name only, her family name is usually preceded by the article: that is common in the press and news broadcasts, too. So you can usually read and hear "la Raggi, la Merkel, la Clinton, la Middleton" etc.
    This is modern day's usage, on a general level.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, I think that the way in which we use names and the social tone of such practices is a language question.

    I don't know how we can discover whether the habit of calling women La +given name is ancient. There's no moment in I Promessi Sposi where Lucia is referred to as La Lucia, that I could find, but that does not tell us much. Boito was from Northern Italy (born in Padua) and his libretto was based on a play by Victor Hugo, set in 16th-century Padua. The character's name in the play was Tisbe and she's referred to as La Tisbe in the list of characters, and as La Tisbe in the third person, but Tisbe to her face. So Boito may be following the precedent in the French play, rather than Italian practice. Anyway he may have said to himself that practice would have been different two hundred years earlier in Venice, rather than in the Milan he knew.

    That's been most helpful. Thank you all very much.
     
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