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ANCONA (D'Ancona), Italian family whose members were active in the Italian Risorgimento. ALESSANDRO (1835–1914), patriot, philologist, and literary critic. Born into a wealthy Pisa family, Alessandro studied at Pisa University. In these early years he joined the liberal circles in Tuscany seeking the liberation and unification of Italy. In 1854 he wrote his first essay, on the philosophy of the political reformer Tommaso Campanella, which brought him to the attention of the Liberal Party in Tuscany. He joined the staff of two Pro-Risorgimento newspapers in Florence, the Genio and the Spettatore Italiano. In 1854–59, he went to Turin, ostensibly to study law. In fact he played an important role in the liberal movement, acting as a liaison between Cavour, prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Liberal Party of Tuscany. Ancona became friendly with the Tuscan patriot Farini, and in 1859, when Tuscany was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia, he assumed the post of secretary of the Second Army Corps of Central Italy. Between 1859 and 1860, he promoted the cause of the Italian nationalists as editor of the liberal newspaper, La Nazione.

In 1860, Ancona gave up politics for literary scholarship; through the efforts of his friend Salvagnuoli, he was appointed deputy-professor of Italian literature at the University of Pisa (1861). The official occupant of the chair was no less than the celebrated critic De Sanctis. Later on he received the Chair of Italian Literature, a post he held until 1900. He was also vice president and director of the Regia Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and a member of the Academia Reale delle Scienze. In 1904 he became a member of the Italian Senate. A typical representative of the positivist trend in the study of Italian literature, Ancona made an important contribution to the study of medieval Italian literature as one of its first philologists. His philological research included the study of folklore material. He unearthed and edited many important documents and encouraged others to publish critical editions of 13th- and 14th-century texts. Ancona himself produced one of the most important anthologies of 13th-century Italian poetry, Le antiche rime volgari, secondo la lezione del Codice Vaticano 3793 (1875). In La poesia popolare italiana (1878), he tried to prove that Italian poetry was developed mainly from popular verse. Other books dedicated to the early development of Italian popular literature were the Canti del popolo reggino (1881) and Poemetti popolari italiani (1889). In his attempt to trace the origin of medieval Italian prose tales, Ancona engaged in comparative research that involved the whole of European literature. Examples of this pioneering work are his study of the motif of the *Wandering Jew La leggenda dell' Ebreo errante (in saggi di letteratura popolare, 1913) and his examination of the development of religious theater in medieval Italy, Le sacre rappresentazioni dei secoli XIV, XV, e XVI (1873), a collection of old mystery plays with notes and commentary, on which he based his Origini del teatro in Italia (3 vols., 1877, 18912; 2 vols., 1966). It was in the second edition of the latter that he included a chapter on his important discoveries concerning the Jewish Renaissance Theater at Mantua (vol. 2, pp. 403–22 and 578–84). From his work published in the Rivista Storica Mantovana (1, p. 183) he revealed that there was at Mantua a company of Jewish actors who had won considerable fame in the 16th century and were obliged to play before the Dukes of Gonzaga between 1525 and 1597. About the same time, the playwright Leone (Judah) di *Sommo Portaleone was active. Ancona showed that at Venice, too, plays on Jewish themes and even one operetta were presented by Jews at intermittent periods between 1531 and 1607. Ancona surveyed the role and importance of Jews as actors and stage directors in the Italian Renaissance Theater. He also wrote many articles on Jewish literary personalities.

Ancona's contribution to the study of Italian literature includes his critical edition of Dante's Vita Nuova (1872) as well as the book I precursori di Dante (1874). His most important critical studies dedicated to individual Italian literary figures are those on the Contrasto di Cielo d'Alcamo (1884), the Odi of Giuseppe Parini (1884), and Il Tesoro di Brunetto Latini (1889).

Ancona founded the literary periodical Rassegna bibliografica della letteratura italiana, which he edited until 1912; his own articles appeared in leading scholarly journals.

His son PAOLO (1878–1964) was a celebrated art historian and educationalist. He was born in Pisa. In 1909 he was appointed professor of the history of medieval and modern art at the University of Milan. He was also a member of the Fine Arts Council of the Italian Ministry of Education. Among his publications are Modigliani, Chagall, Soutine, Pascin, aspetti dell' expressionismo (1952; Eng. translation, 1953); works on Italian miniature painting; and studies on the masters of the Italian Renaissance, including Piero della Francesca (1951) and Paolo Uccello (1959).

Alessandro's brother, SANSONE (1814–1894), born in Pisa, was an important journalist and politician in the Italian Risorgimento. In his youth, like his brother, he wrote for Tuscany's Liberal newspapers, the Spettatore and the Nazione. In 1859 he was appointed to the financial commission of the provisional government. He was chosen to write a report on the financial situation of the provisional government under the leadership of Ricasoli. Later, after the annexation, he was called upon by Cavour, the prime minister of the United Kingdom of Italy, to direct the "Department of Finances, Commerce, and Public Works" of Tuscany.

With two other Jews he sat in the parliament of united Italy in 1861, where he represented the moderate liberals, and in 1882 he was appointed a life member of the senate, on the floor of which he died in 1894.

His younger brother was the painter Vito d'*Ancona .


ALESSANDRO: In memoriam Alessandro D'Ancona (1915); L. Russo, La critica letteraria contemporanea (1942), index; Coppola, in: Nuova Antologia, 88 (1953), 435–56; G. Laras and R. Elia, in: Scritti… G. Bedarida (1966); L. Ferrari et al., Bibliografia degli scritti di Alessandro d'Ancona (1915). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Foà, Gli ebrei nel Risorgimento italiano (1978). SANSONE: Vessillo Israelitico, (1894), 403–5. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Foà, Gli ebrei nel Risorgimento italiano (1978).

[Joseph Baruch Sermoneta / Samuel Rocca (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.