Deeds & misdeeds: Women’s day edition

Stories of muses: let’s unravel some secrets of these women from Florence!


Today, March 8th, is Women’s day, and we decided to honor it by dedicating our newsletter to the muses behind some incredible works of art. Unfortuntately, as it always is, the stories are not happy ones.

“I want to be a part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that is made”
(Barbie, 2023)

Confined as only muses, passed down for their beauty and looks, we want to tell the stories of these women, the little we know about them, especially compared to the lives of their painters, and definitely less fortunate.


“Miss Universe” in the XV century

Venere di Botticelli
Venere of Botticelli, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

One of the most well-know paintings in the whole world. “The birth of Venus”, 1485, was created by Sandro Botticelli and represents the myth of the Goddess of Love and Beauty, arrived in the island of Cyprus on a sea shell. The artist was inspired by the memory of Simonetta Vespucci, a noble woman of Ligurian origins. She lived at the Medici court and was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Her figure was so well known that the artist took inspiration from her even though she had already been dead for at least eight years. She sadly died of tuberculosis at the age of 23. She was also the muse for other paintings by Botticelli, as well as the famous “Spring”, also exposed in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.



The sad portrait of Battista Sforza

Ritratto Sforza
The Duchess of Urbino, by Piero della Francesca, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This painting is part of a double portrait, the duchess of Urbino faces her husband, Federico di Montefeltro. Piero della Francesca, the painter, visited the dukes in the town of Urbino, showed in detail in the background of both the portraits. Piero became friend with the dukes, and it’s told that the duke asked Piero to paint these images to honor his deceased wife. That is why this work of art exudes melancholy. The pale look of the duchess wouldn’t be only for her noble status, as the fashion was back in those times, but also to represent her premature death. She was very well-known for her intelligence and bravery. She ruled while her husband was in battle, and even fought by his side. A real feminist icon.



The liberal merchant of art

Costanza Bonarelli
Bust of Costanza Bonarelli, Bernini, Museo del Bergello, Florence

Costanza Bonarelli, a noble woman from the Piccolomini family, married Matteo Bonarelli at the age of 18. She was cultured, tenacious, and helped her husband with their art shop. Her husband became assistant to the famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Of course she also came in contact with the renowed artist who immediately fell in love with her. He created this marble bust just for himself, without commission. A beautiful and modern testament to her beauty and femininity. But when Bernini found out that Costanza also loved his brother, he beated him. He then commissioned a servant to disfigure her. Of course, he only paid a little fee for his actions, while she spent few years in jail accused of adultery.
A tale as old as time. But eventually her husband took her back and she managed to became a merchant after he died, guaranteeing a future for her daughter.


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