In The Unique Women of the Venetian Republic, international award-winning author Connie Spenuzza vibrantly chronicles women’s contributions to Venice from the 1400s to the end of the Republic in 1797. Despite societal norms that prohibited these Venetian women to advance as artists, authors, craftswomen, musicians, publishers, scholars—and even divas and courtesans par excellence— they created a serenity and sovereignty in their city, which garnered it the nickname La Serenissima.These dauntless women persevered in a Venice that on the surface looked serene but underneath was struggling to survive economically and politically.
Since Spenuzza’s first sojourn to a decaying Venice 1973, she has returned to La Serenissima biennially (for over fifty years) to study what is at the heart of these trailblazing women. In this book, Spenuzza takes you for a stroll along the narrow calli of Venice, shining a light into the watery depths of a history that has submerged the accomplishments of its own Venetian female stars. Witness the brilliant trajectory of scholarly prodigy Cassandra Fedele in 1499 and her abject poverty by 1547. Vicariously attend the lively discussions held at the Venetian ghetto home of multilingual salonnière Sarra Copia Sulam (1592–1641), only to see her withdraw with fear once the Venetian government imposed even more severe measures on its Jewish population. Listen to the dulcet sounds of Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677), the successful composer, musician, and singer, as she rises to fame while maintaining a complex financial control over her wealth. Admire Julia Lama’s (1681-1747) artistic commitment and success despite facing society’s ridicule for her facial difference.
This invaluable compendium evokes the spirit of the Republic and celebrates the vitality of the many incomparable Venetian women whose talents uplifted La Serenissima. Spenuzza’s lavishly illustrated work offers a new perspective on the glorious Venetian Republic, and, crucially, the indelible women who were instrumental in creating it.