1490 – 1547 A.D.
Vittoria Colonna, an Italian poet, daughter of Fabrizio Colonna, a celebrated military commander. She was born near Rome, her youth was passed among the great literary spirits of Italy, and in that atmosphere she composed her first poems. At 17 she married Francisco, Marquis of Pescara, to whom she had been betrothed since childhood, but in 1525 this happy union was broken by the death of the marquis, while absent on a military campaign.
The shock of her husband’s crushed Vittoria for a time and she sought a retreat in the convent of San Silvestro. There she remained for a year, after which she returned to her country home on the island of Ischia, and appears for the first time to have devoted herself seriously to the writing of poetry. Her poems consist almost entirely of sonnets, and of these some hundred and thirty-four are inspired by grief at the loss of her husband, to whom she invariably alludes as mio bel sole, “my fair sun.”
When Vittoria came to Rome in 1530 she was received with the highest honors, and many wooers sought the hand of the wealthy, beautiful, and noble widow – but she remained true to the memory of her husband.
It was in the year 1537 that her friendship with Michael Angelo began, Vittoria in her forty-seventh. A strong sympathy existed between the two, alike honorable to both, and it lasted uninterruptedly until her death. She obtained great influence over his mind, inspired him in his work, and led him to inscribe many of his poems to her. In one of these he says that she has perfected his character as a sculptor perfects his clay model, by carving it in the hard living stone. And in another he says: “Let me address my verse to you, who have guided my life towards heaven by the most beauteous paths.”
The latter years of Vittoria’s life were clouded by sorrow, the fortunes of her family were no longer flourishing, and the death of her adopted son, the Marchese del Vasto, was a grievous blow. She died in Rome in February, 1547, and in her last moments was visited by her devoted and affectionate friend, Michael Angelo.
With meekness and humility she desired to be buried without pomp or ceremony, and directed only that her “funeral should be after the manner of those who die in convents.” Her wishes were acceded to, and she was laid in the common burial ground of the nuns of Sant’ Anna.
So passed Vittoria Colonna, Marchese di Pescara, whose intellect and unblemished purity of character, make her a beautiful figure worthy of all reverence in the gallery of Italian women of letters.
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.