Who is Polia?

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.  The Triumphs.  Leda and the Swan.

The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (or Strife for Love in a Dream) of Francesco Colonna, was first published in Venice in 1499, and with its reprinting in 1546 it became the landmark of the Renaissance that we know today.  It is renowned for the beauty of its woodcuts and its typography; and while the story is rambling and at times odd, one thing is certain: the themes, symbols, and iconography explored in  its pages became a guide and source of inspiration for the Architects and Artists of the Italian Renaissance and beyond. 
Hypnerotomachi Poliphili
The story follows Poliphilo, in his sleep, as he searches for Polia, his beloved.  His dream takes him through a dark wood that resembles a labyrinth, after which he is led by a stream, flees a dragon, encounters nymphs, witnesses the triumphs of lovers and poets, enters the temple of Venus where he is united with Polia, and finally sets sail for Venus’s island of Cythera, where love will triumph.
As he undergoes his hypnotic struggle, Poliphilo travels through fabulous gardens and strange and fantastic buildings, the remnants of monuments built by ancient civilizations.  It is after he decodes the messages left by the ancients and understands their purpose, that Poliphilo is initiated in the mysteries of Creation.  He finally comes to understand the workings of his dream world, and we understand that Poliphilo's dream is not only a story of love search, but a metaphor for the Humanist's quest for knowledge; a knowledge that, in the Renaissance mind, is attained by observing Art, Architecture, and Nature, joined in harmony. 

It is interesting to note the nature of Poliphilo's name:  Poliphilo's name literally means "lover of Polia", where Polia can also mean "many".  Poliphilo himself admits that he is set on many things; therefore his name is revealed to us as the "lover of many things".  Poliphilo is the ultimate Renaissance man.

This idea of "being set on many things" is harmonious with Vitruvius's maxim on "The Education of the Architect", in which he states that "The architect should be equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for it is by his judgement that all work done by the other arts is put to test".

It is with Poliphilo's dream in mind that I write this blog.  Each posting
is addressed to Polia,a reminder of the many things that
interest me, the many things that inspire me, and the
many things I have yet to learn. Poliphilo's
struggle is my struggle,his dream is
my dream.I am a pilgrim
on a quest for
* *


Anonymous said...

Lo sapevi che a Catania, Sicilia, c'è in Piazza Duomo una statua con elefante come nel secondo disegno? Cerca su Google e lo vedrai!
Un caro saluto dall'Italia!

Dear Polia said...

Cara Rita,

Certamente! La statua in Catania fu ispirata al elefante in Piazza Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Roma (fatto dal Bernini) e anche al disegno che si vede sopra.

Aristaeus' Aprentice said...

Finalmente una luz aclaratoria sobre el origen de Polia. He buscado el libro en español sin resultado. En Italiano ... por favor, pero desgraciadamente ... Non parlo italiano.

Anonymous said...

Polis-philos = Polifilo...l'innamorato della citta
Polia, comme in tutti i racconti medioevali c'e sempre una donna che rapresenta il Bello ed il Buono!
Per quanto riguarda l'elefante, infatti quello di Catania e inspirati da quello della piazza di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, che vuole significare che per arrivare all somo sapere (gli hieroglifi) bisogna avere forza e memoria...
Cosi a Catania con l'elefante si vuole riprendere la Catania distrutta del'erupzione del fine seicento e sopra la memoria rinovare con forza la cittá! Davero due belissime piazze, quella di Catania con il duomo del Vaccarini!

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting design-study research project, with the objective of reconstructing the architecture and gardens, as described in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili:


A book in two volumes was recently published, with more than 150 colour illustrations of many monuments described by Poliphilus.

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