Zingari were an unwelcome minority controlled through draconian legislation but fictional gypsies regularly appeared in comic theatre and strophic song. Gentlemen assumed gypsy masks during carnival, entertaining transgressive fantasies. Cross-dressed in terms of gender and status, young men propositioned ladies using prowess in fortune telling as an excuse to traverse physical and social boundaries and spaces. Most sixteenth-century gypsy women were played by men; Vittoria Piisimi's performance at the 1589 Florentine wedding celebrations is one of the first references to women putting on this mask. Piisimi seems to have started a trend, for Francesca Caccini composed a Ballo delle zingare (1615) for another wedding. (Gypsies' reputation for fortune telling made them useful characters in dynastic celebrations.) This paper explores Florentine gypsy fictions with particular attention to an apparent distinction between a 'masculine' Carnival tradition and a 'feminine' theatrical court tradition.
Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, 24-26 March 2011
Paper delivered 24 March.