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Epubli.co.uk Maria Dr. Musiol – Vittoria Colonna – A Woman’s Renaissance
“The more distinctly Vittoria Colonna is taking shape in the reader’s mind, the more often he will delve into the miraculous drawing Michelangelo created of her, a drawing that lets the very outside of the book gleam in splendour. Tenderness and willpower, introversion, and an aura of strength, humbleness and pride and sadness can be sensed in the portrait and read in the image the author drafts of Vittoria Colonna in elegant style and with great empathy for this outstanding woman of Italian Renaissance.
Growing admiration for this singular woman during time-consuming research of primary sources pervades the biographical study of the historian.
The elaborate structuring of the study makes it easier for readers to follow the author. According to their respective interests they may choose between historical, poetical, or psychological approaches. Moreover, they are offered portraits and evaluations of Vittoria Colonna by critics, and admirers, artists and literati of her day.
Throughout her book, the reader will be carried off by the considerate evaluation of the sources, the author’s comprehensive knowledge of the historic background, and her total commitment to Vittoria Colonna, who does deserve admiration.”
- Roswitha Hannack
„Readers, wanting to get acquainted with an outstanding woman, who, in the age of Italian Renaissance, did not only seek her way of female self-definition – as a humanist, a feminist, a poet, and a theologian – but, who did embark on this difficult path, so unusual for a woman, should choose this book. With infectious enthusiasm and admiration Dr Musiol portrays Vittoria Colonna, who was held in high esteem as a much desired friend and dialogue partner by the most renowned artists and literati of her day. Vittoria Colonna was the woman Michelangelo chose for his muse.
What astonished me most about Vittoria Colonna, is the topicality of her views of socially relevant subjects such as the cause of women, divorce, the attitude of the church. Above all I was impressed and encouraged by her frank comments on these timeless issues.
A special attraction of the book is offered by the great number of sonnets strewn over the text proving the fascinating woman as an outstanding lyrical poet"
- Anneliese Diesner-Miller
„The author presents a faceted and vivid portait of the Renaissance poetess Vittoria Colonna. Modestly, Maria Musiol calls her book an approximation. But it is definitely much more. All aspects of Vittoria Colonna’s legacy – sonnets, prose, and the voluminous correspondence - become alive again. The living circumstances and the private life of Vittoria Colonna are presented on the backdrop of an era of change with all the accompanying social, political, and religious tensions.
A visual delight is offered by the drawings of Vittoria Colonna by Michelangelo.
It is the praiseworthy merit of Dr. Musiol to have torn an outstanding woman from oblivion."
- Brigitte von Nordheim
“When truth does not hide from falsity, the preference is due to women, who own the more ardent hearts and the greater courage.” Vittoria Colonna, in one of her sonnets, expresses these courageous thoughts, timeless in their validity.
In spite of her premature widowhood she did not withdraw into her private abode for the rest of her life, as would have behoved her; but she acquired high esteem and acknowledgement in the male-dominated society of her time, although Michelangelo, her contemporary and ardent admirer, praised her in terms rooted in his macho world: “A man in a woman, even a god is speaking out of her mouth.”
She was born in a time of turmoil and change in 1492, the very year, when the Moors had to give up Granada, their last bastion in Europe, and Columbus landed in the New World.
A little later Martin Luther began his rebellion against the ecclesiastical order of the papal Church. The old world was in a state of renewal and Vittoria Colonna had her own share in it.
Vittoria was no revolutionary. However, she questioned the traditional roles of women. From an extraordinary female perspective of creative intellectuality she took a new stance to the male intellect and its creations not to condemn them but to reveal them in their one-sidedness. Hers can be called a more thorough going approach than today’s demands of quota regulation and similar fashionable postulations arising from superficiality.
The spirit of religious reformation was also stirring in Italy in those years. Vittoria put forth audacious questions: How can a divine father impose on his son such a shameful, violent death, she wondered. Why, the Humanist continued, does the Son of God acquiesce in his cruel death on the cross? Rejecting dogmatism and ecclesiastical institutionalism, she was convinced that exclusively religious self-definition and inner faith led to God, whereas externalised religious rites failed Him.
But it is as a lyrical poet expressing her intellectual life in masterly sonnets that Vittoria Colonna has acquired enduring fame.
It goes without saying that the power holders of the official church found fault with Vittoria Colonna’s demeanour, because her views shook the foundations of the Roman Catholic Church. Against Vittoria and her reformed brothers in faith the tools of Inquisition were applied. While the worst scenario of an inquisitorial trial did not happen during her life-time –she died in 1547 – Vittoria Colonna, after her death, was not only convicted of heresy. The Inquisition did not shy away from depersonalising this singular woman, destroying her as a “nonperson” with the consequence that until this very day no Italian biography has been published about her and her grave is still unknown.
As had been the case with Hypatia, a philosopher in ancient Alexandria, and with others, her name was to be eradicated from history. For some centuries the Inquisition apparently succeeded in extinguishing Vittoria Colonna from the collective consciousness of Europe. However, she, as a celebrity, had been too much inter-connected and too deeply integrated in her society and in the history of her time with contacts to social giants - even to Emperor and Pope. Some traces of her remained. Now she is being unearthed.
This biographical study, almost exclusively based on primary sources, is not only remarkable for the extraordinary personality of Vittoria Colonna it deals with. The author deserves praise for her comprehensive work, excelling in density and precision. Personally, she kept a low profile on behalf of objectivity, restricting her own views and comments, although they are carefully verified, to the necessary minimum.
Dr. Maria Musiol’s version of the sonnets from Renaissance-Italian into English, though rendered in prose, has saved the sublimeness of Vittoria Colonna’s poetising.
What came into life is a scientific monograph about one of the most extraordinary female personalities of history in contrast to fashionable historical thrillers.
- Hans Schwinger