Thursday, 16 January 2014

Names from Naples 1810-1820

File:August Riedel - Frauen aus Albano.jpg

A bit like me, the British were obsessed with Italy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Grand Tour was considered to be an essential part of a young gentleman's education. He would not only learn about the revered Italian literature of times past, but he would learn conversational skills, how to move elegantly in elevated circles, how to dance, how to appreciate art properly, and make important societal connections (along with a great deal of womanizing, drinking and general mischief making). The Napoleonic Wars put a bit of a damper on things by making travel rather difficult, but the British never lost their love for Italy - the great stately homes of England are a testament to that.

So, to link in with this British obsession, here are a few names from Italy. The names in the list below are of baby girls born between the years of 1810 and 1820 in Naples.

Adele
Agata
Amalia
Amarilli
Andzeana
Angiola
Annunziata
Armida
Aurora
Balbina
Briggida
Carmine
Chiara
Chiarina
Colomba
Concetta
Cosma
Dionisia
Domenica
Enrichetta
Eugenia
Fortunata
Geltrude
Giovanna
Giuseppa
Giustina
Leonilda
Lucrezia
Luigia
Maddalena
Margarita
Marianna
Mariantonia
Mattia 
Metilde
Nice
Nunzia 
Orsola
Orsolamaria
Ottilldia
Pasca
Rachela
Raffaela
Sabbata
Santa
Saveria 
Serafina
Tiberia
Tomasina




There wasn't a great deal of variety in the names that came up. Of course, I only looked at a small sample of about 1000 individual records, which isn't a large enough number to determine anything really. It's only a tiny snapshot of a decade in one Italian state. However, it was easy to see that Maria, Anna, Giovanna and Giuseppa were the most popular names with parents. Although there was a limited selection of names, there were actually some rather dashing ones. 

Amarilli - Very likely an Italian form of Amaryllis, it comes from the Greek amarysso meaning 'to sparkle'. This pretty name only came up once, but it was already in use in the late 16th century. The famous play Il Pastor Fido, published in 1590 but first performed in 1585, has a main character called Amarilli.  Although it has a old fashioned quality to it, Amarilli is fresh enough that it wouldn't be too out of place in a modern birth announcement. I think it would be a lovely alternative to Emily or Amelia. 

Mattia - Truly a unisex name that works well on both genders. Nowadays, Mattia is for most a masculine name, and is often noted as being the Italian form of Matthias, but in 1810 to 1820 it was given to a number of girls in Naples. I came across combinations such as Mattia Rosa and Mattia Carmina alongside Mattia Antonio and Mattia Marco, which shows that it really does work for both sides. On the scale of popularity for the girls, it was closer to queen bee Maria rather than obscure Amarilli. Mattia is very feminine but has a sweet boyish side to it, a plus for those who want no frilliness. 

Nunzia - A name grounded in Christianity, it is the short form of Annunziata, or 'annunciation' in English. This refers to when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be giving birth to Jesus. Although clearly religious once we scratch the surface, Nunzia doesn't immediately evoke any religious connotations for those not already familiar with the name. It is an Italian name that sounds multicultural and is on the exotic side.

Image: Women from Albano by August Riedel.