Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Della Porta, Giambattista

Born: 1535, Naples
Died: 14 February 1615, Naples
  • Donato VerardiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_320-1


Giambattista Della Porta was born in Naples in 1535. His first teachers were his maternal uncle, who had a well-endowed museum and a large library, and his brother Giovan Vincenzo. Della Porta became involved in the study of nature at an early age. He was a promoter and member of several academic societies. He founded the Academia Secretorum Naturae, and in his later years was one of the most prominent members of both the Lincean Academy and the “Accademia degli Oziosi” (Academy of the Idle). He died on 14 February 1615, attended to by his daughter Cinzia.

The two editions of Magia naturalis (1558, 1589) preserve the most significant aspects of the scientific thought of the contemporary Neapolitan culture: an “analogical” view of man and the universe and a method of investigation directed toward experimental verification of the auctoritates.

In addition to the two important editions of Magia naturalis, Della Porta also published three significant physiognomical works: De Humana Physiognomonia, Phytognomonica, and Coelestis Physiognomonia. He intended to follow these works with a Chirophysiognomy, which, however, was only published posthumously, and a Metoposcopy.

His demonology plays a particularly important role in his thought, as the result of a coherent examination of the Latin philosophical tradition, which he reread in the light of his inclinations as a man of science, as well as that of the particular historical, political, and cultural climate of Counter-Reformation Italy.

In a universe structured “according to degrees,” from the first heaven it is possible to ascend to the intelligences (which Della Porta, following Avicenna and the Author of Liber de causis, identifies with angels), and on up to God himself, who is the creator of form, as well as the universal cause of every natural entity. The same demons, if they acted, would only operate in accordance with the inviolable “physical laws” of ordo naturae. The secrets, although they cannot be explained by the criteria of Aristotle’s rationality, are nevertheless attributed by Della Porta to within the known. They, in fact, are simply the effects of the “particular properties” of things, “buried” by God in the “nature’s womb.”


Scientific Thought Prominent Member Natural Entity Academic Society Optical Illusion 
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Primary Literature

  1. Della Porta, G. 1558. Magiae Naturalis, sive de Miraculis rerum naturalium Libri IIII. N. Cancer Napoli.Google Scholar
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  3. Della Porta, G. 1589. Magiae Naturalis libri XX. Ab ipso autore espurgati, et superaucti, in quibus scientiarum Naturalium divitiae, et delitiae demostrantur… cum privilegio. Neapoli Horatium Salvianum.Google Scholar
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Secondary Literature

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  15. Verardi, D. 2015. Giovan Battista Della Porta e le “immagini astrologiche”. Bruniana & Campanelliana XXI: 143–152.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CRHECUniversité Paris Est – CréteilParisFrance
  2. 2.Università di PisaPisaItaly