Dr. Adelina Modesti | The Female Virtuosa at the Court of Medici Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere: ladies-in-waiting, artists, musicians, actresses and writers

Detail from Justus Sustermans, Double Portrait of the Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany and his Wife Vittoria della Rovere, probably 1660s, National Gallery London

Dr. Adelina Modesti, La Trobe University

The Female Virtuosa at the Court of Medici Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere: ladies-in-waiting, artists, musicians, actresses and writers.

This talk is part of the Early Modern Circle Series and will take place this coming Monday 21 August at 6:15 pm in the North Theatre, Room 239 Old Arts, University of Melbourne.

Abstract: This paper will address the cultural patronage (“matronage”) of Grand Duchess of Tuscany Vittoria della Rovere via an examination of the virtuoso women artists, musicians and writers she supported throughout her long life. Victoria was an active matron of the arts who gathered round her some of the most important female cultural producers of the day, sponsoring their creative work, and developing their talent. Some of these women were her ladies-in-waiting, whom she educated as artists, musicians or embroiderers as part of their cultural development and future roles at the Medici court. Others were professional artists whom she patronized or called to her court as resident artists. In particular Vittoria appreciated the cultural production of the painters Giovanna Garzoni, Elisabetta Sirani, Margherita Caffi, Camilla Guerrieri Nati, Giovanna Fratellini; the composer Barbara Strozzi; singers Francesca Caccini and her daughter Margherita Signorini, Luisa Marsia, Maria Caterina Piccioli; the actress  Beatrice Vitali; and the writers Arcangela Tarabotti, Maria Selvaggia Borghini and Barbara Tigliamochi degli Albizzi. The paper will finish with a discussion of Le Assicurate, the all female literary academy founded in Siena in 1654 under the “patroncinio” of Vittoria della Rovere. Unpublished archival material from the Archivio di Stato di Firenze will introduce some of these women, whilst new light will be shed on the art and lives of others.

Adelina Modesti is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Archaeology and History at La Trobe University, where she was an Australian Research Council Discovery Postdoctoral Fellow in Art History, researching matronage networks in seventeenth-century Italy. She is also a member of the Florence Council of Advisors, Advancing Women Artists Foundation, and the author of numerous publications on women artists, including Elisabetta Sirani ‘Virtuosa’: Women’s Cultural Production in Early Modern Bologna (Brepols 2014), and on the cultural patronage of Medici women. Adelina is currently working on a forthcoming book for Routledge, Female Patronage and Gendered Cultural Networks in Early Modern Europe: Vittoria della Rovere, Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Upcoming papers:

18 September – Professor Anne Dunlop, University of Melbourne

Italy, the Mongol Empire, and Cangrande’s Silk Suit

16 October – Dr. Andrea Rizzi, University of Melbourne

On the Shoulders of Monkeys: Visibility of Translators in Renaissance Europe


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