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Andrea De Jorio (1769 — 1851) was an Italian antiquarian who is remembered today among ethnographers as the first ethnographer of body language,[1] in his work La mimica degli antichi investigata nel gestire napoletano, 1832 ("The mime of the Ancients investigated through Neapolitan gesture"). The work has been mined, refined and criticized.[2]

Born on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples, De Jorio became a Canon at the Cathedral of Naples, a respected archaeologist under the pre-modern conditions of his times, and a curator at the predecessor to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples.

He wrote extensively about the then-recent excavations of classical antiquity near Naples, such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Cumae.

His recognition in the frescos of Pompeii and Herculaneum provided him with his insight, that the gestures depicted were familiar to him in the streets of modern Naples. The book stressed the continuity from Classical times to the present by showing the similarity between hand gestures depicted on ancient Greek vases found near Naples and the gestures of modern Neapolitans. "Its doubtful premise of a time-honored continuity"[3] in culture has retreated to the confines of sentimental writings on Neapolitan cuisine, but De Jorio was among the first ethnographers to venture into the field, producing the first scholarly investigation of Neapolitan hand gestures; it remains the source literature for more recent treatments of the topic, both scholarly and popular.

The volume has been reprinted three times photostatically in Italian in recent years—1964, 1979, and 2002—and recently (2000) in a scholarly and annotated English translation by Adam Kendon as Andrea de Jorio: Gesture in Naples and Gesture in Classical Antiquity (Indiana University Press, 2000). [4]


  1. ^ A. Kendon, "Andrea De Jorio: the first ethnographer of gesture" Visual Anthropology, 1995
  2. ^ Adam Kendon, "Gestures as illocutionary and discourse structure markers in Southern Italian conversation", Journal of Pragmatics, 1995.
  3. ^ Herman Roodenburg in Semiotica no. 144. (2003) p 443.
  4. ^ The English translation was well received, both of which praise the original as well as the erudite translation, which includes an 80-page essay/introduction. a review is "The Neapolitan Finger" by Joan Acocella in the The New York Review of Books (2000) and in Sign Language Studies, a journal published by Gallaudet University in 2002. The other review is by Giovanna Ceserani of Princeton University; it appeared in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review in 2003; it was also extensively reviewed by Herman Roodenburg for Semiotica no. 144 (2003) pp. 443–445.


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