Ramie Targoff’s Renaissance Woman tells of the most remarkable woman of the Italian Renaissance: Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa of Pescara. Vittoria has long been celebrated by scholars of Michelangelo as the artist’s best friend—the two of them exchanged beautiful letters, poems, and works of art that bear witness to their intimacy—but she also had close ties to Charles V, Pope Clement VII and Pope Paul III, Pietro Bembo, Baldassare Castiglione, Pietro Aretino, Queen Marguerite de Navarre, Reginald Pole, and Isabella d’Este, among others. Vittoria was the scion of an immensely powerful family in Rome during that city’s most explosively creative era. Art and literature flourished, but political and religious life were under terrific strain. Personally involved with nearly every major development of this period—through both her marriage and her own talents—Vittoria was not only a critical political actor and negotiator but also the first woman to publish a book of poems in Italy, an event that launched a revolution for Italian women’s writing. Vittoria was, in short, at the very heart of what we celebrate when we think about sixteenth-century Italy; through her story the Renaissance comes to life anew.
"Vittoria Colonna’s name has always been there, hovering in the wings, but with Ramie Targoff’s vibrant, timely study, Renaissance Woman, she comes into the spotlight . . . [In] Targoff’s hands the bits of [Colonna's] puzzle fit together beautifully. Here is a woman capable of deep, almost obsessional feeling, with an equal capacity to put those feelings into poetry . . . Vittoria Colonna has always deserved to be better known. Ramie Targoff’s fine book will surely make that happen."—Sarah Dunant, New York Times Book Review
"Ms. Targoff is adept at keeping the reader informed of the complex geopolitical machinations taking place in Colonna’s life, among them the conflict between Clement VII and Charles V, which pits her family’s loyalties against her husband’s, and the schism in the church wrought by Lutheranism. All of this is introduced not as dry context but as high drama. Working closely with Colonna’s letters and poems, Ms. Targoff gives her the vividness of a fictional protagonist."—Cammy Brothers, The Wall Street Journal
“Targoff's biography shows how Colonna’s commitment to the Catholic Church intersected with her participation in cultural and political transformation.”—Booklist
"Targoff (Common Prayer), professor of English and cochair of Italian studies at Brandeis University, paints Vittoria Colonna (1492–1547) as an embodiment of the Italian Renaissance in this enjoyable narrative, noting Colonna’s intense religiosity and role as the first published female Italian poet . . . Targoff provides several helpful translations of Colonna’s poems, accompanied by clear explications of her struggles with mourning and spirituality, which her letters also documented."—Publisher's Weekly
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