Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

VERONICA GAMBARA
(1485-1550)

Italy
Patron of Artists and Poet

As the presiding figure over a lively court frequented by the leading artists, writers, and political figures of sixteenth-century Italy, Veronica Gambara represents the quintessential Renaissance woman. At her fashionable salon, she provided patronage for musicians, painters, poets, and intellectuals and also produced an impressive body of her own poetry in an era in which most of the literature was written by men.

Gambara was born into a noble family near Brescia in 1485; she was connected to numerous prominent aristocratic families. Her aunt, Emilia Pia, was praised as the paragon of feminine virtue in Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, the famous Renaissance treatise on courtly life; her great-aunt was the humanist Isotta Nogarola. As a child, Veronica received a solid humanist education in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and theology. She also displayed an early interest in poetry, especially that of Petrarch and Virgil.

When she was twenty-four, Gambara was married to Count Giberto X, who was the ruler of the northern Italian Correggio region; although the marriage was arranged, it was a seemingly happy one. They had two sons, Ippolito and Girolamo, and Gambara's references to her marriage in her letters and her poetry are positive. Like her friend, the poet and patron Vittoria Colonna, Veronica Gambara married a man who had an impressive military career; however, unlike Colonna's husband, Count Giberto X gave up his military expeditions after his marriage and settled into a life of domesticity and administration of his estate.

Veronica seemed to be contented in her life as countessa of a beautiful estate and salon where poets and political figures alike gathered for social and intellectual interchange. The Casino, their castle of 360 rooms, included an impressive library and was lavishly decorated; guests were drawn there not only because of the comfort and opu

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