Moderata Fonte: Women and Life in Sixteenth-Century Venice

Moderata Fonte: Women and Life in Sixteenth-Century Venice

Moderata Fonte: Women and Life in Sixteenth-Century Venice

Moderata Fonte: Women and Life in Sixteenth-Century Venice

Synopsis

What did it mean to be a woman in sixteenth-century Venice? How did women impact the everyday life of this brilliant, festive, but essentially patriarchal city? How did an educated, sensitive, and intelligent woman writer of the Venetian citizen class treat the question of gender relationships and of women's place in society? These questions are at the center of this volume, which explores the role of Venetian women in sixteenth-century culture as well as the contribution of the writer Moderata Fonte to the centuries-old war of the sexes.

Excerpt

In the refined and educated venetian society of the second half of the sixteenth century, the “nobility and excellence” of women find historical personifications in Gaspara Stampa and Veronica Franco. the former is an accomplished singer and musician as well as a renowned poet, the latter a controversial courtesan as well as a gifted poet and epistolary writer. contemporary to the famous Veronica Franco is the writer Modesta da Pozzo who hides under the pseudonym of Moderata Fonte (1555–92). They live in the same city, breathe the same cultural atmosphere and frequent the same intellectuals and literati. Yet they never meet. What separates them is a profound difference in lifestyle, which for Franco at times becomes an ostentatious show of transgressive behavior vis-a-vis the rules imposed on “honest women,” like Fonte herself.

When Moderata Fonte breaks the silence of an isolated life, spent for the most part between the walls of the family home, she enters the literary scene with an epic poem. she is praised during her lifetime as a “young maiden, an honored citizen of this city, being very knowledgeable, especially in Poetry.” Between 1591 and 1592 she writes a dialogue on a “domestic conversation” among seven Venetian noblewomen and gives us her reflections on human destiny, and in particular on women’s existence.

While the dialogue opens with a remarkable description of Venice, “metropolis of the universe,” it closes with a short list of illustrious Venetian women and with an homage to one of her female contemporaries: “I heard […] about Signor Giacomo Tintoretto and a daughter of his of marvelous worth.” Marietta Tintoretto, daughter of the famous painter, was a close contemporary of Moderata Fonte and belonged to the same “citizen” class. only one painting has been proven as Maria Tintoretto’s work: her self-portrait, which is now on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. While contemporary records show that Maria Tintoretto was actively painting during her lifetime, it is very . . .

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