Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A woman is more than her dress

I've been working on the handout for the class I'm teaching on 16th century female poets at Kingdom Collegium in November.  One of the things I wanted to do was put some faces to voices, so to speak, and match up some portraits of women with their poems.  I've seen the Veronica Franco portraits and Tulia Aragona before, but I'd never connected Isotta Brembate with her poetry before.  This portrait is actually on my "must make this dress!" list.

Brembate was rather well known for writing poetry in Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian.  Unfortunately, very few of her poems survive.

One non-poem survival that I was really excited to see is her imprese.  It was published in 1565 in Le Imprese Illustri by Girolamo Ruscelli.  The text (in Spanish) translates to "I will guard them better."  The image is of a dozing dragon in front of the Garden of Hesperides from which Hercules stole the golden apples.  The entirety of Ruscelli is available online.  Some rather interesting imprese.  What I found most interesting was that the imprese of a non-royal woman was published in her lifetime.  Granted, she was interesting in her own right as well as being part of a powerful family that was involved in a giant family feud with intrigue and multiple murder going on at about this time (the family troubles came to a head in 1563.)  Regardless of the reason, I'm excited to see it.

It is sad that her poetry didn't survive as well.  There is a volume of poems dedicated to her with poems by 31 OTHER poets, but only 3 sonnets and one longer piece survive.  Of the 3 sonnets, two are pretty specific to particulat historic persons. This is the other one.
                                      Sublime thought always
                                    unburdens my heart of other thought
                                    like the brilliant sun lightens dark clouds
                                    shows me the true path to heaven.

                                    This alone rules my breast
                                 and creates desire, forms rose and violet words,
                                 as changing as April
                                 under the majestic sun

                                    Now, if Heaven and Nature
                                  wish that the sun be within me
                                  who is powerful enough then to take it away?

                                     However much cruel Fortune might oppose this
                                  she can never challenge 
                                  the mindful care of heaven.

Translation and most of the information is from Irma B. Jaffe's book Shining Eyes, Cruel Fortune: The lives and loves of Renaissance female poets.  I can't recommend it enough.  Besides being a scholarly work that is easy to read, it includes art of a variety of types to give more insight into the poets. On top of which, it comes with a cd of the poems being read aloud in both English and the original Italian.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with the month I'm supposed to be devoting to pink-- other than something to distract me from carving.  Ummmm.  Okay.  Here's something. The other portrait of Isotta has her in pink.  Moroni painted her with ribbons in  her hair and pinkish fuzzy embroidered guards on her dress as well as that fun redwork partlet/ruffle combo.  Even better, for lovers of pink, is her husband Gian Gerolamo Grumelli's portrait.  The seated portrait of Isotta is thought to have been commissioned by Grumelli after her death in order to make a matched set with the one of himself.  The backgrounds do coordinate. His is by Moroni and is usually known as "Gentleman in Pink."
In private collection of Count Antonio Moroni.Image via

1 comment:

  1. So I'm a total nut. I know full well the portraits are by Moroni and yet typed Bronzino. I edited to fix the problem.