Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Women on the margins: the ‘beloved’ and the ‘mistress’ in Renaissance Florence

Botticelli frames the head of Venus in Primaverawith 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.[32]   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.[33]

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