Poet and Patron of the Arts
When Vittoria Colonna died in 1547, her great friend Michelangelo was at her side. Upon her death, he wrote, "Heaven has taken from me the splendor of the great fire that burned and nourished me," but he acknowledged that some solace could be found in the "sweet, graceful, sacred verses" that Colonna left behind ( Gibaldi, 28). A friend and inspiration to Michelangelo and many other artists and writers of the Italian Renaissance, Colonna was even more well known in her day as a poet in her own right.
Vittoria Colonna was born in 1492 into the celebrated Colonna family of Rome. Her father, Fabrizio Colonna, was a famous military general; he is one of the spokesmen on military matters in Machiavelli's The Art of War. Her mother, Agnese de Montefeltro, was equally interesting: she was the daughter of Duke Federigo of Urbino and Battista Sforza, whose court would later provide the setting for Baldassare Castiglione Book of the Courtier, a famous work on courtly manners and behavior. Like many of the aristocratic women of the Italian Renaissance, Vittoria received a fine classical education.
When Vittoria was three years old, she was betrothed to Francesco de Avalos, the son of the Marquis of Pescara. This alliance was made in order to unite the Colonna family to the powerful Neapolitan Avalos family. The actual wedding contract was signed in 1507, and in 1509, when Vittoria was seventeen and Pescara was nineteen, they were married near Naples.
Vittoria claimed that the marriage was a happy one, but there is evidence that this may not have been the case. Pescara was a military man, just as Vittoria's father was. In 1510, after he had been married one year, Vittoria's husband left with her father to fight against the French in northern Italy on the side of Pope Julius II and Spain. From then on, Pescara spent most of his time away from home on military excursions.