AbstractsPolitical Science

Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci: beauty, politics, literature and art in early Renaissance Florence

by Judith Rachel Allan

Institution: University of Birmingham
Department: Department of Modern Languages
Year: 2015
Keywords: DG Italy; HQ The family. Marriage. Woman; NX Arts in general; PQ Romance literatures
Record ID: 1405945
Full text PDF: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5616/


My thesis offers the first full exploration of the literature and art associated with the Genoese noblewoman Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci (1453-1476). Simonetta has gone down in legend as a model of Sandro Botticelli, and most scholarly discussions of her significance are principally concerned with either proving or disproving this theory. My point of departure, rather, is the series of vernacular poems that were written about Simonetta just before and shortly after her early death. I use them to tell a new story, that of the transformation of the historical manna Simonetta into a cultural icon, a literary and visual construct who served the political, aesthetic and pecuniary agendas of her poets and artists. It is an account of the Florentine circles that used women to forge a collective sense of identity, of the emergence of Simonetta and her equally idealised peers as touchstones in contemporary debates regarding beauty and love, and of their corresponding lack of importance as 'real' women in the conservative republic in which they lived. In doing this, my thesis makes an important contribution to our understanding of how and why female beauty was commodified in the poetry and art of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Florence.