Andrea de Jorio, Canon of the Cathedral of Naples and an expert on Greek antiquities, noticed that the gestures represented on ancient Greek vases appeared to be the very ones executed with such vigor and panache by his fellow citizens. He therefore undertook what would be the first ethnographic study of gestures in everyday life in order to defend Neapolitans, and by extension Southern Europeans, against imputations of primitivism, vulgarity, and emotional extravagance by connecting their gestural practices to classical antiquity. 
Gestures in ancient Greek art and writing, he thought, could be interpreted through contemporary gestures. By the same token, these Neapolitan gestures could be ennobled by attribution to classical sources.
Adam Kendon, a contemporary gesture theorist and editor as well as translator of the present work, speculates that Naples may have been uniquely positioned to preserve and elaborate the Greek gestural practices to which it is heir. 
Originally founded as a Greek city state, Naples became and remained for centuries thereafter a crowded, densely built urban center. Because of its mild climate, interior spaces were only partially bounded and Neapolitans, as one eighteenth-century observer noted, lived most of their life in the streets. The possibility of maintaining visual forms of communication over the ambient noise, using gestures as a private or partially concealed channel in contrast to broadcast speech, or producing gestural counters to or commentaries on their own or other's conversations, led Neapolitans to cultivate gestural communication with gusto. 




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