Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

December 2014

Simonetta Vespucci as a Mythological Nymph
Sandro Botticelli, Simonetta Vespucci as a Mythological Nymph, ca. 1480 Frankfurt, Städel Museum, nv. Nr. 936 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Allan, Judith. "Lorenzo’s Star and Savonarola's Serpent: Changing Representations of Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci." Italian Studies 69, 1 (2014): 4-23.

Abstract: Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci (1453–76) is chiefly remembered today as the muse of Botticelli and the 'most beautiful woman' of the Renaissance. This article argues that her real significance lies not in the unproven legends that connect her to the artist but in the numerous appearances that she makes in the poetry of late-fifteenth century Florence. Simonetta was not the embodiment of a timeless ideal of beauty and virtue, as scholars have often assumed. Rather, these works demonstrate that the way in which Simonetta was depicted and understood changed dramatically over the course of the Quattrocento, mirroring cultural and political developments in the city. She begins her literary life as a tool in Lorenzo de' Medici's 'public relations machine', used by the de facto ruler and the poets associated with him to (re)fashion his image as circumstances dictated. She ends it as a representation of vice and corruption in Savonarolan Florence. [Reproduced from the journal page on the Maney Online website: http://www.maneyonline.com/loi/its.]