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Vittoria Colonna e Michelangelo


edited by P. Ragionieri

exhibition catalogue: Florence, Casa Buonarroti, 24 May-12 September 2005

The author of highly original and imaginative secular and religious verse and a figure well known to historians of the 16th century, Vittoria Colonna is the subject of a new exhibition at the Casa Buonarroti, Florence (24 May-12 September 2005). The catalogue is subdivided into four sections, each of them opened by an introductory essay.
“Vittoria Colonna, the Castle of Ischia and the culture of courts” (Ippolita di Majo) describes Vittoria’s early years in the sophisticated milieu of Neapolitan humanism, a world the feel of which contemporary busts, medals and books attempt to capture. Also notable are two portraits by Sebastiano del Piombo possibly depicting the young Vittoria (the Cambó Portrait from Barcelona and the Harewood Portrait). After the premature loss of her husband, Vittoria divided her time between her palace in Rome and the beloved castle on the island of Ischia, surrounding herself with scholars and artists; her literary début, her encounter with Pietro Bembo and the first steps of the religious journey that will profoundly affect her later life date from this period.
“Vittoria Colonna and Mary Magdalen” (Barbara Agosti) deals with Vittoria’s wish to collect images of Mary Magdalen and with the paintings of this subject she requested from Titian and Michelangelo. Michelangelo eventually executed a cartoon for a Noli Me Tangere: two preparatory studies for this cartoon and a pictorial version attributed by some scholars to Pontormo are in Casa Buonarroti’s collections. (The vicissitudes of this twin commission are also analysed by Michael Hirst in the first essay of his book Tre saggi su Michelangelo.)
Vittoria’s spiritual restlessness, which brought her close to the penitential movement and into contact with the foremost religious thinkers of her time, is investigated in “Vittoria Colonna and religious dissent” (Gigliola Fragnito); most notable in this section of the exhibition are the only surviving copy of the first edition of Il Beneficio di Christo, printed in Venice in 1543 and today in the Library of St John’s College, Cambridge, and a portrait of Cardinal Reginald Pole from the Hermitage, thought by many to be the work of Sebastiano del Piombo but convincingly ascribed to Perino del Vaga by Vittoria Romani.
“Vittoria Colonna e Michelangelo” (Vittoria Romani) is dedicated to the intense friendship that developed between the poetess and the artist, resulting in masterpieces such as the Boston Pietà and Christ and the Woman from Samaria. In this section two studies from the Louvre introduce the visitor to the British Museum drawing of the Crucifixion, the genesis and development of which is documented in several letters exchanged between Michelangelo and Vittoria. This work belongs to one of the most tormented phases of the artist’s life, when the comfort he took in Vittoria’s friendship would be abruptly cut short by her death, leaving him, in the words of Michelangelo’s biographer Ascanio Condivi, “stunned and almost senseless” for a long time.

Weight 1.3 kg
Dimensions 24.5 × 29 cm



Paperback with flaps


114 in colour and b/w