Publication Date



Early Modern Europe, Italy, dance


"Le mosche d'Italia in una poppa, Volando in Francia, per verder i ragni...." In these lines, titled "Di Pompeo Diabone," the Milanese artist and poet Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo celebrated the Italian dancing masters who, lured like flies to the web of the spider, served in the courts of France. In the sixteenth century there were many Italians in France, including a large number of influential and prosperous dancing masters. In spite of obvious connections with Florence via Catherine de’ Medici, the majority came from Lombardy, an area long considered the center of il ballo nobile, the formalized social dance that emphasized courtesy, courtliness, memory, and expertise. The preeminence of Lombard dancing masters and the reputation of Milan as a leading center of dancing provided a type of cultural wealth valued by contemporaries not only in Italy and France, but throughout the courts of Europe.