Women on the margins
Women on the margins: the ‘beloved’ and the ‘mistress’ in Renaissance Florence
Источник: Three Monkeys Online
I record that on July 31, 1383, there died the ill-famed Letta, daughter of Federigo di Pierozzo Sassetti, in the house of Giovanni di Noldo Porcellini, in the Borgo Ogni Santi. She was buried by the friars of the church of Ogni Santi at the hour of vespers. May the devil take her soul, for she has brought shame and dishonor to our family. May it please God to pay whoever was blameworthy. And this is sufficient to describe this evil memory, which has dishonored us all. But man cannot change that which God, for our sins, has willed. But we are contemplating a vendetta which will bring some balm to our feelings.
This quotation concerns a woman from the wealthy Sassetti house, Letta di Federigo di Pierozzo, who died in 1383 while in the in house of Giovanni di Noldo Porcellini. The attitude of the Sassetti family is typical of attitudes concerning women who placed themselves (or were placed) outside the sanctioned family structure. Letta is described as ill-famed due to her presence in the house of a man who was neither her husband nor her relative. She was the bearer of dishonour to the family, her sin tainted all. Most of all, the Porcellini family had transgressed against the property of the Sassetti family, a transgression which would be avenged. The report points out that Letta was buried in the church of Ognissanti, which was not the burial place of the Sassetti. She was thus excluded from family memory and ritual for ever.
This article will discuss women who found themselves in irregular relationships in late medieval and Renaissance Florence. It will look both at women who were idealised as love objects and women who were in fact involved in pre- or extra- marital sexual relationships. Numerous histories of women have been written in the last thirty years or more. Social history has examined the roles of women in the family, the convent, in urban trades and as peasants. Woman as wife, mother, homemaker has been studied with regard to the formation of early modern ideology of the state, where the home or family can be seen as a microcosm of the state. Historians of art and literature have shown how images were gendered and also how male artists/writers mediated female forms or types. The space of the Italian city state has been studied in terms of public ritual and display by Richard Trexler and Edwin Muir, and in terms of its relationship with gender by Robert Davis, Sharon Strocchia, Patricia Simons and others. Renaissance historians now know a great deal about wives, widows, mothers, nuns, tertiaries, anchoresses; even, although to a much lesser degree, about women who were poets and artists. However, despite histories of mentalitŽ and feminist scholarship, women who did not fit into such clearly sanctioned, or perhaps it is more true to say, clearly defined roles have received little attention. If gender ‘has been the most important factor in shaping the lives of European women’ and ‘women have traditionally been viewed first as women, a separate category of being’, then how much more difficult is it took at the life of an ‘Other Woman’ than the life of ‘Woman as Other.’ This is partially due to the difficulty in accessing source material. The term ‘mistress’ is unsatisfactory and gendered, as neatly encapsulated in the title of Pollock and Parker’s work on feminism and art history ‘Old Mistresses.’ Nevertheless, due to the lack of a suitable alternative — the word ‘lover’ is equally problematic, implying a reciprocity and depth of affection that cannot be shown in the majority of cases — the word mistress will be used to indicate women who were sexually active outside wedlock. The lives of women who were mistresses and not wives have been approached, like their more regular sisters, through the lives of the men they were involved with or the children they mothered. This article is a short enquiry into the reality of the lives these women led; it is based on primary sources such as ricordanze,letters, baptismal registers, and on secondary literature on subjects such as Renaissance love, illegitimacy and slavery. It will contrast the platonic/chivalric ideal of the Beloved with the mistress. For the most part it will look at sexual unions outside marriage but will not address the related area of prostitution.
However difficult it is to retrieve information on women who lived socially approved lives, it seems almost impossible in the case of those who suffered exclusion from that world. Helen Ettlinger addressed the topic in an important article on mistresses in the Italian Renaissance courts. A view of the Renaissance court mistress can be found in the literature (and occasionally, the painting) of the courts. Studies of illicit relationships, liminal groups and sexuality have been undertaken in recent years. Thomas Kuehn has examined the legal status of illegitimate children in the Florentine city state. As in many cases the identity of the mothers was disclosed in legitimation petitions, their names are available through his detailed work. The names of women can be retrieved from the criminal records were used by Serena Mazzi and Richard Trexler in their examinations of prostitution in Florence. Michael Rocke used similar records in his analysis of the large number of prosecutions for sodomy, again, in Florence, while Guido Ruggiero has examined questions of sexuality, criminality, marriage and concubinage in Venice. Studies of slavery by Iris Origo and A. Zanelli have shown that slaves were usually female and vulnerable to the sexual appetites of their masters and others. The relationship of women and criminality has been examined by Samuel K. Cohn Junior and presented in a range of documents by Gene Brucker. Brucker has also presented a micro-history of Giovanni della Casa and his disputed betrothed, Lusanna, in which the validity of a marriage is discussed through a Renaissance court case. Ideas of perfect female beauty and portraiture was the subject of a recent exhibition in Washington. The intersection of the poetic construct of the ideal love and the reality of women’s lives was examined in the seminal article by Joan Kelly, ‘Did Women have a Renaissance?’.
These poetic constructs were frequently composed around a lady celebrated for her chastity and beauty, often married, and hence unavailable. The lady would symbolise a courtly, or, depending upon the period and the poet, a Neo-Platonic ideal of perfect goodness and her virtue would have a salutary effect upon the man, although he was tormented by the pangs of love. Dante’s Beatrice and Petrarch’s Laura were frequently the models for these courtly affairs. The ideal courtly love was rarely consummated, thus enabling it to be celebrated in public without, in theory, endangering the virtue of the lady. Medicean Florence, with its large number of public festivals, jousts, processions and pageants, had a number of women who were venerated as love objects. The contradictions inherent in chivalric romances are of course seen in the story of Guinevere, which was the downfall of Dante’s Francesca da Rimini.
Platonic love could be overt as it was little more than a poetic game, perhaps epitomised in the medal presented to Giovanna degli Albizzi, wife of Lorenzo Tornabuoni. In the medal there is an image of the Three Graces designed after a medal owned by Pico della Mirandola. Her medal answers his by reversing the emblem: instead of Pico’s PULCHRITUDO-AMOR-VOLUPTAS, it reads CASTITAS-PULCHRITUDO-AMOR. Therefore, according to Wind, in place of the Platonic male definition of Love : Love is Passion aroused by Beauty, we have a female response ‘Beauty is Love Combined with Chastity’. These elaborate rituals confined women within a paradigm of male desire and female chastity; woman was the object of the male gaze but could not return the gaze; their desirability was only possible if they resisted the pleadings of the poetic lovers. ‘It is not, in fact, Beauty that arouses desires; but the justification of lasciviousness proposed by the Platonic theory of love is hypocritical. ..»The nude is chaste,» declare those old gentlemen who collect obscene photographs under the name of «artistic nudes».
In Florence, the high-born ladies that were the objects of affection for individuals such as Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici and their friends are similarly shown as objects in art. If the writing forms part of the literary or artistic canon, as in the case of the poetry of Lorenzo de’ Medici or the painting of Botticelli, the identity of the women concerned forms part of a search for biographical information on the author. The courtly nature of the love affair can be fleshed out by the letters and ricordanze of contemporaries, as in the case of Lucrezia Donati, the love of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Lucrezia, along with Simonetta Vespucci and others form the subject of Charles Dempsey’s The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli’s «Primavera».
As Dempsey demonstrates, contemporary views of Lucrezia Donati show tensions between the poetic ideal and the reality of chastity and marital fidelity. The story of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s pledge to Lucrezia Donai is related inPulci’sStanze per la Giostra. At the wedding of Braccio Martelli to Gostanza de’ Pazzi Lucrezia wove a garland of flowers for Lorenzo de’ Medici and asked that he wear them in the joust out of love for her. Martelli was one of Lorenzo’s youthful brigata. Lucrezia’s sister, Costanza, is also referred to in Pulci’s Giostra. She had been wooed by Braccio Martelli but was rejected in favour of Costanza Pazzi. At the joust, which was held in 1468, Lorenzo carried a banner with Lucrezia’s image, painted by Verrocchio. By this time Lucrezia had been married for three years to the merchant Niccol˜ Ardinghelli. Although the relaionship between Lucrezia and Lorenzo appears, from literary evidence, to have been a courtly ideal, a letter of Ardinghelli’s relative by marriage, the widow Alessandra Strozzi, makes the caustic remark that as Lucrezia hardly sees her husband due to his absence she diverts herself with balls and feasts. While Lorenzo was in Milan his brigata wrote letters in which the activities of Lucrezia and her friends were described. One letter tells of Ardinghelli’s absence and implores Lorenzo to return to Florence so as not to leave ‘sweet terrain unplowed’. Another, this time from Braccio Martelli, describes how a friend has spied on Lucrezia’s wedding night and makes fun of Ardinghelli’s physical endowments. Pulci and Bernardo Rucellai wrote of how pale Lucrezia had become, attributing this condition to remorse. The poem Da Che’l Lauro reminds the reader that Lucrezia is of the same blood as a Piccarda, presumably the Piccarda Donati that Dante met in Paradise, a woman who had been torn from a convent and forced into marriage. This imagery recalls the violated chastity of Piccarda Donati and, perhaps, equates the marriage of Lucrezia to Ardinghelli with that of Piccarda.
Other women were idealised in a similar fashion. Ginevra de’ Benci (1457-1521) was known as a beauty in Florence, she was depicted in Ghirlandaio’s Visitation in the Tornabuoni chapel, S. Maria Novella as well as in the famous portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. Ginevra, the daughter of a Medicean banker, inspired two sonnets from Lorenzo de’ Medici and another two from Bernardo Bembo. She was a poet in her own right, although only one line of her poetry survives. In 1474 she married Luigi di Bernardo di Lapo Niccolini, and at some time between then and 1481, had her portrait painted by Leonardo. The portrait shows Ginevra with a frame or halo of juniper, a device which plays on the Italian for juniper, ginevra. As Mary Garrard has shown, the historiography of the portrait has downplayed Ginevra’s identity in its celebration of Ginevra as the platonic or romantic love of Bernardo Bembo and the subject of poetry by Braccesi and Landino. Garrard redresses this balance and shows that the individuality of Ginevra herself both as a poet and as a person is portrayed by Leonardo. Ginevra’s very name may have contributed to this mythology, it is worth noting that the less chaste but courtly ideal of King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere, is known in Italian as Ginevra. This portrait shows Ginevra as the ideal lady, pure, desired but chaste, and framed by a secular reminder of the Virgin Mary’s halo.
Botticelli frames the head of Venus in Primavera with a similar halo of foliage. The arguments concerning the identity of Botticelli’s Venus are irrelevent here. What matters are the ideals of beauty and love created by the Medici brothers, Poliziano, Ficino and others to which Botticelli gave pictorial form. One of the most celebrated of their muse-like women was Simonetta Cattani — the love of Giuliano de’ Medici. The legend of the beautiful Simonetta was linked to the paintings of Botticelli by Vasari by 1555 and attracted much literary comment in the nineteenth century. Simonetta was born in Genoa and had moved to Florence upon her marriage to Marco Vespucci. As with Lorenzo and Lucrezia in 1469, Giuliano’s love for Simonetta was celebrated in a joust in 1475, which was commemorated by Poliziano’s Stanze per la Giostra, completed in 1478. Simonetta fell ill in 1476 and her father in law, Piero, sollicited Lorenzo for his help in shouldering the medical expenses. Lorenzo was informed of Lucrezia’s death and alluded to it in his poetry. Although the relationship between Giuliano and Simonetta clearly fell into the typical courtly ritual of Medicean Florence and was unlikely to have been consummated, it gave rise to at at least one near contemporary speculation that it was one of the causes of Vespucci involvement in the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478.
The tension between being a celebrated object of beauty and public display and the demure behaviour expected of a virtuous woman is exemplified by Filippa di Nofri Bischeri. Bryce cites a letter of Rosselli that describes Bischeri dancing while he and others awaited the arrival of galleys. Like Lucrezia Donati, she failed to escape the criticism of Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi who described her as flighty. The tensions can also be seen in the life of Marietta Strozzi. She was the daughter of exiled Lorenzo Strozzi and Alessandra Bardi. Her mother was celebrated by Vespasiano da Bisticci in his lives, and like Filippa Bischeri, was a woman who was used by the comune to entertain ambassadors and visitors. Like Bischeri, she had to manage a balance of beauty and virtue in an image presented for public display. Marietta’s father died while she was young thus rendering her an orphan in fifteenth-century terms. She attracted the attention of another member of Lorenzo’s brigata, Bartolomeo Benci. In 1464 Filippo Corsini wrote to Lorenzo de’ Medici about a snowfight that had occured outside Marietta’s house between Bartolomeo Benci and others. A festa, or tournament, was held in her honour later in 1464 and was written about by Benci. The situation of Marietta, however, was different to that of Lucrezia Donati and Simonetta Cattani. By the time of the jousts held in their honour, Lucrezia and Simonetta were already married, thus rendering them, in the tradition of chivalric love, unassailable. Marietta was not only unmarried, but was without a father, which meant that she was without a protector of the family honour. Further, she was the daughter of the exiled Lorenzo di Palla Strozzi, a fact which made a good marriage even harder to achieve. In the late 1460s Marietta attracted the notice of her cousin, Lorenzo di Matteo Strozzi, another exile who spent most of his adult life in Bruges and Naples. Lorenzo had caused much distress to his mother, the above-mentioned Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi, by delaying in his choice of a wife. In 1469, Filippo di Matteo Strozzi, in order to dissuade his brother Lorenzo from marrying Marietta, referred to her as being likely to have a ‘stained’ reputation because of her beauty, her lack of parents and her unmarried state. Lorenzo did not persist and Marietta married Messer Theophilo Calcagnini from Ferrara, while her admirer Bartolomeo Benci married Lisabetta Tornabuoni.
Marietta’s suitor, Lorenzo di Matteo Strozzi, like many prosperous Florentines, had a mistress. What was more unusual about his situation was that the mistress does not appear to have been a slave or servant. We know nothing about his mistress, Caterina di Chimenti da Sommaia, apart from her bearing two children of Lorenzo’s and her marriage to a Neapolitan in 1467. However, in an entry into his records, Giovanni Rucellai noted how a certain Chimenti da Sommaia had lost his wife and two children in the 1456 earthquake in Naples.. This Chimenti da Sommaia appears as a Florentine who lived in Naples, a merchant who was in contact with the top tier of Florentine society personified by figures such as Giovanni Rucellai and Giovanozzo Manetti. It is tempting to think that this Chimenti da Sommaia was Caterina’s father, but, although the name da Sommaia is used in this period as a family name, it could also simply mean Chimenti from Sommaia, a village near Florence.
The quintessential ‘Renaissance man’, Leon Battista Alberti was illegitimate. Although we know a great deal about Alberti’s views on family life and about his own illegitimacy, we know little about his mother, Bianca di Carlo Fieschi, who bore the name of an illustrious Genoese family and who was the widow of a Grimaldi. Leon Battista was born in 1404; his father was Lorenzo Alberti, a an exiled Florentine patrician. The reasons why Fieschi and Alberti did not marry are obscure. Bianca gave birth to another son, Carlo (who appears to have been named after her father) and she died in the plague of 1406. Lorenzo Alberti then married a Florentine.
Bartolomea Bagnesi (c.1336-1416) had an illegitimate son according to the ricordanze of her legitimate son, Lapo di Giovanni Niccolini. Bartolomea was the daughter of a Filippo di Rosso Bagnesi who had served as a prior, and the wife of Giovanni Niccolini, a prosperous wool merchant and a prior many times. Again, the sparseness of the records leaves questions of how a woman with a prominent family name became involved in an illicit relationship, and how she then married into another prosperous family. The compiler of the Niccolini ricordanze remarks on the generosity shown by Lapo di Giovanni Niccolini in his bequest to his illegitimate half-brother.
The travels of Florentine merchants kept them away from the city for long periods of time. Many had mistresses in foreign cities. Serena Berotti de Cimegne of Avignon was the mistress of Messer Tome Soderini. In 1406, their son, Lorenzotto, was convicted of faking documents in an attempt to prove that his parents were legally married and that he was entitled to inherit. He had been brought to Florence and raised there, and although legitimated by the Signoria in 1390 he had been left out of his father’s will in 1400. Maria Rendi was the daughter of a Greek notary. She became the lover of Neri di Jacopo Acciaiuoli and the mother of Antonio, who inherited his father’s kingdom in Thebes. Agnola Velluti’s mother was the proprietress of a lasagne shop in Trapani and her father a Florentine merchant. After the death of her father, although illegitimate, her uncle Donato took her in, and, after some difficulty, married her off to a Florentine factor, Piero Talenti.
Women married to someone other than their lover
Some of the mistresses uncovered by Kuehn in his book on illegitimacy were the wives of others, such as Piera di Nuto di Grazia Cingatti,wife of Vanni di Dino of San Clemente and the mistress of Niccol˜ di Jacopo del Palagio. She had two children with del Palagio and remained in his house as a servant and wet nurse. He declared that he owed her money but specified that it was not to go to her husband. Tessa, the mistress of Damiano d’Antonio di Santi, was the wife of messer Nigio Alfani, but claimed the marriage had not been consummated. Her son Niccol˜ brought suit to the Podestˆ stating that he was legitimate and had been slandered by an uncle, Cosimo. The wife of Fascello Petriboni asserted the legitimacy of her son, but did not deny not adultery. Lena di Giovanni di ser Benedetto di Neri was the wife of Benedetto di Piero and mistress of Francesco di Bartolo Bischeri. These cases are interesting, as Nigio Alfani is titled messer, indicating knighthood, Petriboni is a family name, and Lena di Giovanni di ser Benedetto di Neri would appear, from the names, to have come from a notarial family.
A number of illicit relationships were conducted from convents. As early as the thirteenth century, Diana, the abbess of the Monastero delle Scalze, was the mistress of Giovanni Angelini Machiavelli and bore him a son. When the case was heard, it emerged that other nuns of the convent had also been involved with Machiavelli. In 1441 a certain Michele di Piero Mangioni was convicted of having sexual relations with a nun, while in 1446 Gimignano Moronti was convicted of having entered the convent of S. Jacopo in Via Ghibellina and of sleeping with a nun. In 1452 Pope Nicholas V wrote to the Florentine Archbishop, Antoninus, asking that he enquire into the conditions of the convent of Santa Caterina in Cafaggio as two of its nuns had borne children the previous year. By 1490 the convent had become branded as little more than a brothel. The prestigious Franciscan convent of Monticelli was reformed in 1434 and strict clausura enforced due to scandals. Although the Convento delle Convertite had been set up primarily for reformed prostitutes and ‘fallen women’, it was the subject of scandal in the fifteenth century. In 1448 Giovanni di Bartolo was convicted of having been with some nuns of S. Agata. More seriously, he was also convicted of the abduction and rape of the abbess of S. Anna. Cecilia, a nun of San Giovannino, had a relationship with a Sante di Bartolo. They ran away together but were found in 1447-8. A Suor Caterina, a nun of S. Margherita, had a relationship with Nofri, a dyer. Twins brought to the Hospital of San Gallo in 1437 were said to be the children of Suor Nanna of San Baldassare. The most famous renegade nun was Lucrezia di Francesco Buti, the lover of Fra Filippo Lippi and mother of Filippino Lippi. Lucrezia and her sister Spinetta were both nuns in the Pratese convent of Santa Margherita, having been placed there by their brother Antonio in 1451. In around 1456, Lucrezia, Spinetta, and three other women including the noblewoman Brigida Peruzzi, left the convent after being accused of having illicit relations with men. However, in 1459, all five women renewed their vows in an elaborate ceremony. Although Lucrezia was one of these, Lippi clearly continued to visit as, in 1461, an anonymous complaint brought to the Uficiali di Notte e Monasteri accused Lippi and another of having sexual relations with nuns in the convent and states that Lippi has a son, Filippino, already by one of the nuns. That same year, on the 8th May, through the intercession of Cosimo de’ Medici, Pope Pius II conceded to Filippo Lippi the right to hold Lucrezia as his legitimate wife, and both parties were relieved of their monastic vows. Four years later Filippo and Lucrezia had another child, Alessandra.
Some of these scandals can be explained by the use of convents as a dumping ground for daughters who had no chance of marriage. The role of the convent in Renaissance society was not only its explicit one: that of a house of women dedicated to God, but it was also as a repositary for women who otherwise would be unmarried and therefore, uncontrolled. Giovanna di messer Ugo Altoviti was forcibly put by her brothers into the convent of San Domenico at the age of twelve. The nuns initially refused her permission to take the habit due to her age, but sometime between 1347 and 1350 they conceded it to her under pressure from the papal legate. In the fifteenth century the high dowries required for marriage in the city resulted in the less marriageable female members of a family being sent into convents, where the dowries required were lower, for example, in 1466 Tommaso Deti wrote to the Dowry Fund asking that his payment for his daughter Marietta be transferred to another daughter, as Marietta suffered from a physical infirmity and would thus be better off in a convent. Ginevra di Piero Parenti was born in 1500 and had an account in the Monte delle dote opened for her in the same year, but by 1510 her father had decided to put her in a convent. Ippolita Minerbetti, born in 1497, caught rubella which blinded her in one eye. In 1502 she was placed in the convent of S. Maria Montughi where she remained for the rest of her life. Caterina di Paolo Niccolini, born in 1434, ‘made herself a nun in the convent of the Murate in Via Ghibellina on the 29th February 1440, and she took the vows in May 1448, with the name of Agostina. The said Agostina died in the said convent on 24 Oct. 1451’.
Mistresses of the clergy
The sexual proclivities of priests and the clergy formed a topos in late medieval literature. Although this is a literary topos which cannot be used as evidence of fact, and perhaps not even of contemporary attitudes to the clergy, not surprisingly, given the notoriety of Renaissance popes, historical evidence can be found that priests and friars also had mistresses. Between 1550 and 1650 priests and friars made up 58 of the 263 criminal and disciplinary trials in Venice. Laurence Stone reports that an English penitential tract gave more penance to a priest for sodomy with a woman than for the adultery which was part of the same activity. Giorgio Dati — a canon of Florence cathedral — was convicted of having entered the convent of S. Caterina illegally at night. Sandra of Ponte Carraia had a child by a friar of Santo Spirito. Boccaccio, himself illegitimate, had five illegitimate children. Margherita, a freed slave, had a child by Ser Andrea, a priest. The child was brought to the foundling hospital of the Innocenti with a note with an identifying almond shape stating: ‘So that the said child may be found when her mother wishes to do her some good. I have discovered that the child is called Elisabetta and her mother Margherita; she is a slave, though free, and the father who is a priest is called Ser Andrea, and he has taken this child from her mother and sent her to the hospital, and has made the slave give suck to the child of a fellow townsman, telling her that her own child has been put out to nurse; and he does not wish her to know that she has come to the hospital.’ In this case, Margherita was later reunited with her child.
Women from the ranks of the lower guilds and peasants
Florentine men found some mistresses in the ranks of the lower guilds. The mistress of Fruosino d’Ugolino Ciucci was the daughter of a dyer, and that of Uberto di Giovanni Albizzi the daughter of a blacksmith from Cortona. Caterina d’Antonio di Tome was the daughter of a weaver and the mistress of Ser Iacopo di ser Paolo della Camera. Mea di Angelo was daughter of a pizzicagnolo and the femmina of Bartolomeo di Barone. The mother of Pope Clement VII remains an enigmatic figure. Pieraccini cites a record of the Pazzi conspriacy by Antonio da San Gallo in which he wrote that Giuliano had a son, aged one, by the time he was killed in the Pazzi conspiracy in 1478. The mother was ‘ a woman of the Gorini, his friend. The said Lorenzo went to see him and then gave him to the care of the same Antonio, where he stayed until his seventh year. The said son had the name of Giulio.’ Pieraccini goes on to compare it with a Palatina Ms., which says ‘ Giulio son of Messer Giuliano de’ Medici was born on the 6th March 1478 (s.f.), who was then pope Clement VII. Giuliano the aforesaid was killed in the Pazzi conspiarcy. Antonio da Sangallo, who lived in the Pinti, gave the news to the Magnifico Lorenzo of this baby born of Monna Antonia del Cittadino, a free woman, which baby was held at baptism by the said Antonio as a favour to Giuliano. Lorenzo reccomended him to the said Antonio up to his seventh year…’ According to Pieraccini, Cambi states that she was the daughter of Antonio di Michele del Ciptadino, a member of the minor guilds. A certain Andrea Maddalena di Antonio di Michele del Cittadino was baptised on 18th August 1463, making her fifteen in 1478 and thus fourteen at the conception in 1477. Seraccini is cited as stating that she was Fioretta di Antonio di Michele di Iacopo del Ciptadino corazzaio. Pieraccini however states that the mother’s name was certainly ‘Fioretta’, but that all else is unknown. An unpleasant paragraph then follows outlining the importance of knowing who the mother was, owing : ‘ on the laws of hereditary biology, the knowledge of whether Fioretta was daughter of nobles or plebs must be important, for example, to recognise the inheritance of particular refined talents or dispositions (such as the aesthetic taste), presumably more developed in the Florentine upper classes than in the lower ones.’ Giulio had himself declared legitimate during Giovanni’s cardinalate, saying that his mother had been secretly married to Giuliano. The eighteenth-century Jesuit antiquarian, Giuseppe Richa, in an attempt to ensure the Medici pope’s legitimacy to the throne of S. Peter, repeated this claim of a secret marriage. Hibbert follows the Gorini reference, and identifies her as Fioretta Gorini. ‘This boy, whose mother soon afterwards died, was adopted by Lorenzo’. Young identifies her as Antonia Gorini.
Other women were daughters of peasants, such as Domenica, contadina, the mistress of Niccol˜ Baldovinetti, Apollonia d’Antonio of Impruneta, who bore an illegitimate child, as did Tana di Pagolo di Giovanni da San Casciano, Gemma di Marchionne di Castel Nuovo, Mea d’Agnolo da Casentino, and Mea da Quarantola.[92 Women of lower rank were more obviously available to men of higher rank. According to Vern L. Bullough: «If a nobleman desired a peasantwoman so strongly that he could not resist the temptation, he was free to rape her on the spot since a courteous approach would only be wasted on a woman who could not possibly feel love». The ideology of romantic love posed a serious threat, it seems, only to those who were not expected to feel it.
Slaves and servants
The easiest mistresses for a Florentine male were, naturally, the most socially vulnerable: slaves and servants. The mistress of Pongano Baldi was his servant, Margareta, while Nencia was the servant and mistress of Francesco di Cambio da Siena. Camilla, a servant, had a child with Ruberto Migliorati. The child was legitimated and studied canon law. Cilia di Vittorio, a servant, had a daughter, Cornelia, by her employer, Giovanni di Francesco Soderini. A famous example of a slave as mistress cited by Origo and Niccolini da Camugliano is Lucia, the slave of Paolo Niccolini, who bore him two children and remained in his household throughout his marriage to Cosa Guasconi. Otto Niccolini’s son Giuliano was the child of Otto’s slave, Nastagia. Carlo, the provost of S. Stefano in Prato, was son of Cosimo de’ Medici and a Circassian slave, Maddalena. Other examples include Lucia, the slave and mistress of Iacopo Tani, the slave of Tommaso di Piero Giovanni, the slave of Giovenco di Giuliano de’ Medici, Gianna, the slave of Bernardo Salviati, Nastagia, the slave of Otto Niccolini, Madalena, the slave of Giovanni di Luca Ubertini, Caterina, the slave of Andrea della Stufa, and Caterina, the slave of Piero di Jacopo Rinuccini,
There are numerous examples in the city’s baptismal records of children identified as the child of a slave, for instance, ‘Francesco della schiava di Jacopo degli Agli’, baptized on 5th February 1451 (Florentine style). When a slave is baptized herself with a child that was presumably born outside of slavery, the entry gives evidence of the estimated age of the slave and her child, as in the case of ‘Francesca e Maria schiava di Amerigo di Simone Carnesecchi d’etˆ d’anni 14 o circha’. Sometimes the slave’s name is given, as with ‘Leonardo e Domenico della Chaterina schiava’, baptized 16th November 1462. Although the records rarely state that these children are illegitimate, the lack of a father’s name would seem to indicate it. The same can be said where children are identified as the offspring of a ‘serva’ or a ‘balia’, as in the case of ‘Jacopo di mona Mattea di Andrea Visdomini balia’, or ‘Alessandra e Apollonia della Nastasia serva di di Salvestro Spini.’ We yet again find ourselves having to trace the lives of women through the records of their children or partners. What, for instance, is the story behind the record of ‘Cristofano di mona Giuliana in S. Gallo’, baptized on 14th March, 1451 (s.f.), or Bartolomeo di mona Lisa of Monte Lupo, baptized on the 25th March, 1452? The alterity of some of these women is seen in their identification as foreign, as can be seen in the baptism of ‘Bianca e Domenica della Caterina Tartara’. Slaves were frequently described as Tartars and it seems likely that Caterina was a freed slave. Another entry reads ‘Sforzo e Giovanni di Mona Caterina d’Arezzo delle Stinche’. Again, one can only speculate about Mona Caterina, and about whether Sforzo Giovanni was illegitimate, whether she was in the Stinche, a notorious Florentine prison or whether she simply happened to live near the Stinche and be so identified in the register. Her place of origin according to her name is Arezzo; women who worked as prostitutes rarely did so in their own town, perhaps her profession brought her to Florence, and indeed, the Stinche. Some entries in the records list a child of a woman who ‘stays’ with an identified man, as in the case of ‘Ventura e Benedetto della Chaterina che sta con Cipriano saponaio’, and ‘Caterina e Madalena della Margherita che sta con Bernardo Chanbini’. These cases can be compared with mona Antonia, the mother of a child by Giuliano di Agnolo Benciatti, described by him in his tax return as one who ‘sta mecho in casa’, and Maria, the mistress of Belfredello dello Strinato and mother of two of his children, as a Foristiera la quale in chasa meco mia ( a foreigner who is in my house with me).
Slaves were easy prey not only to their masters but to others. Caterina, the slave of Andrea della Stufa (possibly the same woman as the above-mentioned) was attacked by a certain Francesco in 1453. Della Stufa registered dowries for two illegitimate children in the Monte delle doti, one by a Madalena from Raugia, the other from Caterina ‘mia schiava’, and may have seen an attack on his slave as not only an attack on his property, but also as a problem in identifying paternity. Della Stufa was particularly unfortunate in protecting his slaves; a slave of his had a child by Vieri di Antonio Davanzati. As already shown, the slave of Giovanozzo Biliotti married Tommaso Biliotti. The slave of Pagolo da Diacceto had a child by Lionardo di Zanobi del Recha. A certain Tommaso da Asti was convicted of impregnating a slave of Nerone di Nigi’s in 1435. Tommaso was forced to pay her full worth to her owner in case her childbirth went wrong. The slave of Otto Niccolini, himself the father of illegitimate children conceived with slaves, had a child with Vieri di Tommaso Corbinelli. Francesco Strozzi fathered two children by other people’s slaves. Anna, the slave of Lorenzo Barducci, was the mother of Damiano, an illegitimate child by Giovanni d’Amerigo Benci. Caterina, the slave of Giovanni Rucellai, bore a child of Pagolo Ottavanti. The slave of Giuliano di Cattaneo di messer Cristiano had a child by Filippo d’Ardingo Ricci. In 1474 Jacopo Niccolini had a child by the servant of the Baldovinetti house.
Although a servant was technically a free person, a slave had no control over their fate or their children. Ruggieri Crucci had a child by his brother’s slave, the child, Lisa, was kept, the slave sold. Ruggieri’s other child, Francesco, was also illegitimate. In his tax declaration of 1458 Ruggieri named the child’s mother, Mona Papera di Cienni Cenini, but declined to name her husband due to reasons of honour. Goro Dati had a child by a Tartar slave, Margherita, who he owned while he was in Valenza. The child was sent to be educated in Florence. The slave of Giovanni di Luca Ubertini bore him a child in 1449, was manumitted in 1452, yet bore him a second child in 1454. Bernardo Morelli had no legitimate children with his wife, Simona, but plenty of illegitimate ones: ebbene molti non ligitimmi, parte d’una donna assai da bene, e parte d’una ischiava era sua, assai bella, e di poi la marit˜ in Mugello: non gli vo’nominare, perchŽ non onesto s“ fatta ischiatta, come ch’e’ sieno di buona condizione assai, secondo loro essere.’ Antonio Ricci petititoned to have his child by his slave Caterina legitimated; she was separated from her child. Lucia, the slave and mistress of Jacopo Tani, was freed 1458 but she remained in his house, having given birth to a son, Filippo, in 1440. The foundling hospitals of Renaissance Florence were filled with children, many of them the children of slaves. Their higher-born counterparts however also had few rights over their children in a society where a legal wife was not the automatic guardian of her children in the event of her husband’s death.
Life after being a mistress
As is shown above, mothers were frequently parted from their children, although sometimes they were retained in the home in a type of parallel family, as is the case of Lucia, the slave of Paolo Niccolini. Former mistresses were sometimes married off to others, as in the case of Simonetta da Sommaia who was married to a Neapolitan merchant. The mistress of Francesco di messer Arnaldo Mannelli was married off to another man, as was Lorenza di Lazzerino, the servant of Bernardo Machiavelli and mistress of Niccolo Machiavelli.
Illicit relationships did, however, sometimes end in marriage to the lover concerned. Verdiana, the mistress of Rosso del Boneca Rossi was first listed as the wife of Martino di Pietro da Ulignano and then listed as Rossi’s wife. Caterina di Filippo del Buono was married on her lover’s deathbed in a clear attempt to legitimise their children. Those who contested his will accused her of being a nun. Giovanna di messer Iacopo del Panna married Giovanni Casciatelli in a similar attempt to legitimise children. Guidantonio di messer Domenico di ser Mino married his mistress. Tommaso Biliotti married the slave of Giovanozzo Biliotti, but the matter was not to be discussed for the sake of honour. Marsilia di Bartolomeo di Luca, mother of the sculptor, Lorenzo Ghiberti, lived with the goldsmith Bartolo di Michele while still married to Cione Ghiberti. It was only after Cione’s death that she married Bartolo di Michele.
Some cases show affection between the parties although not marriage. Marcionne di ser Marchionne Donati freed Madalena, slave of Stoldo Frescobaldi. He had a child with her and called her his donna, although there is no record of a marriage in this case. Andrea Rucellai presented a petition to the Signoria tin 1388-9 to legitimise his son Santi, saying of his mistress that: ‘for some twenty years, she has lived with him in his house as his concubine, and since he has never had a wife, and since he has never had a wife, he loves her as though she were his legitimate spouse’.
The marginality of these women is defined by their exclusion from marriage. The chivalric ideal of chaste love existed side by side with the reality of clandestine affairs, foundlings deposited in the middle of the night at the gate of the Foundling hospital, and the separation of mothers from children. Woman’s virtue lay in her virginity or chastity, without these, other roles such as wife, mother, widow, daughter, sister, all defined in relationship to male others, were worthless. Husband, father, widower, son, brother, these roles were arguably secondary to merchant, banker, prior, rentier; a man’s virtue was never, except sometimes in hagiography, dependent upon sexual continence. The family in Renaissance Florence can be seen as a building block of the state. Those who lived outside the structure of the family structure (with the exception of the religious, who themselves used the language of the family to maintain structures: brother, sister, mother, father) were marginal and by creating parallel families or structures, were also subversive. However, both men and women were offered numerous alternative narratives in novelle, romances, painting, even hagiography. These fictional constructs were in direct opposition to the lives women had to lead in order to be socially accepted. Some women, such as Lucrezia Donati, Simonetta Vespucci, Ginevra dei Benci could flirt with romantic love outside marriage without serious peril to their status; for others, however, sexual involvement brought marginality and life-long exclusion from social normalcy. The Florentine Renaissance city state is hardly historically unique in this, but the contrast of socially accepted, even lauded, poetic constructs with lived illicit relationships, of courtly narratives with bourgeois family structures is particularly accute here. The lives of some of these women who formed a liminal social group in Florence can be reconstructed; it is time do so.
This essay first appeared in Pawns or Players?: Studies on Medieval and Early Modern Women and is re-published with the kind permission of Four Courts Press
Русский пер. by shakko
Д-р Кэтрин Лоулесс
Женщины за скобками: возлюбленные и любовницы в ренессансной Флоренции
«Я записываю здесь, что июля 31 года 1383, скончалась злосчастная Летта, дочь Федериго ди Пьероццо Сассетти, в доме Джованни ди Нольдо Порцеллини в квартали Борго Ониьи Санти. Она была похоронена братьями церкви Всех Святых в час вечерни. Пусть дьявол заберет её душу, ибо она навлекла стыд и позор на наш род. Пусть Господь соизволит отплатить тому, кого следует наказать за это. Сих слов достаточно, чтобы описать ту плохую память о женщине, которая опозорила нас всех. Но никто не может изменить судьбу, которую Господь, за наши грехи, пожелал нам. Но мы не откажемся от мести, которая принесет хоть немного бальзама нашим душам».
Эта цитата относится к истории женщины из богатого дома Сассети, Летты ди Федериго ди Пьероццо, которая умерла в 1383 году в доме Джованни ди Нольдо Порцеллини. Отношение семьи Сассетти — типичный пример восприятия женщин, которые поставили себя (или были были поставлены кем-то) вне санкционированной структуры семьи. Летта описывается как злосчастная по причине своего присутствия в доме мужчины, который не был ей ни родственником, ни мужем. Она навлекла позор на семью, её грехи оскорбили всех. Более того, семья Порцеллини совершила преступление против собственности семьи Сассети, преступление, за которое ей будут мстить. Запись указывает, что Летта похоронена в церкви Оньи Санти, которая не была местом упокоения её предков. Таким образом, она была исключена из родовой памяти и ритуалов навсегда.
 Ginevra herself was probably named after her grandmother, Ginevra Peruzzi. For Peruzzi’s marriage with Giovanni Benci see Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 8, 194-6.