Article

Veronica Gambara

Molly M. Martin

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online January 2016 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0311
Veronica Gambara

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
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Veronica Gambara (b. 1485–d. 1550) maintained a celebrated presence on the Italian literary landscape as a lyric poet throughout the first half of the 16th century. Equally significant to her literary repute was Gambara’s political standing as the dowager Countess of Correggio—a role she assumed upon the death of her husband in 1518 and held until her death in 1550. Though there is a hiatus in the circulation and possibly the production of her poetry between the years 1518 and 1529, likely attributable to the sudden death of her husband in battle, Gambara composed just under seventy vernacular poems throughout her lifetime. In the first stage of her career, beginning at the turn of the century and lasting until 1518, she composed love poems in the Petrarchan sonnet form. Gambara also experimented with popular musical forms such as the frottola barzaletta, and she was the first woman in the Italian tradition to publish secular vernacular lyrics upon the print of her madrigal “Or passata è la speranza” (Now hope has gone) in 1505. When Gambara returned to the public circulation of her verse in 1529, she drew upon her literary talent to engage in political discourses. Most notably from this period, Gambara composed a series of sonnets devoted to the theme of Charles V’s empire, including his return of Medici power to Florence and his military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. In both stages of her poetic career, Gambara made effective use of her family’s cultural network to circulate her verse to prominent figures, most significantly through her correspondence with Pietro Bembo (b. 1470–d. 1547). Bembo praised Gambara’s literary talent in her youth, and he promoted Gambara alongside her contemporary Vittoria Colonna (b. 1492-d. 1547) in her mature years. Gambara herself praised Colonna in verse, and she was the first woman to commission a commented edition of Colonna’s spiritual poems in 1541. For further study of Colonna, see Abigail Brundin’s Oxford Bibliographies article Vittoria Colonna. Gambara also made use of her family’s political capital to buttress her somewhat precarious political position as a dowager connected to her fiefdom by marriage, rather than birth. Gambara staged her return to the public circulation of her poetry to coincide with her brother Uberto’s sojourn as papal governor of Bologna to oversee the coronation of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor. Gambara’s literary activity throughout her governing years elucidates the interrelationship between cultural currency and political power so characteristic of Renaissance Italy, but seldom exhibited by women, thus emerging as one of the first female poet-rulers of the Early Modern period.

Article.  4056 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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