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Vittoria Colonna

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Italian poet, born at Marino, 1490; died at Rome, February 25, 1547. She was the daughter of Fabrizio Colonna, lord of various Roman fiefs and grand constable of Naples. Her mother, Agnese da Montefeltro, was a daughter of Federigo da Montefeltro, first Duke of Urbino. In 1509 Vittoria was married to Ferrante Francesco d'Avalos, Marquis of Pescara, a Neapolitan nobleman of Spanish origin, who was one of the chief generals of the Emperor Charles V. Pescara's military career culminated in the victory of Pavia (24 February, 1525), after which he became involved in Morone's conspiracy for the liberation of Italy, and was tempted from his allegiance to the emperor by the offer of the crown of Naples. Vittoria earnestly dissuaded him from this scheme, declaring (as her cousin, Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, tells us) that she "preferred to die the wife of a most brave marquis and a most upright general, than to live the consort of a king dishonoured with any stain of infamy ". Pescara died in the following November, leaving his young heir and cousin, Alfonso d'Avalos, Marchese del Vasto, under Vittoria's care.

Vittoria henceforth devoted herself entirely to religion and literature. We find her usually in various monasteries, at Rome, Viterbo, and elsewhere, living in conventual simplicity, the centre of all that was noblest in the intellectual and spiritual life of the times. She had a peculiar genius for friendship, and the wonderful spiritual tie that united her to Michelangelo Buonarroti made the romance of that great artist's life. Pietro Bembo , the literary dictator of the age, was among her most fervent admirers. She was closely in touch with Ghiberti, Contarini, Giovanni Morone, and all that group of men and women who were working for the reformation of the Church from within. For a while she had been drawn into the controversy concerning justification by faith, but was kept within the limits of orthodoxy by the influence of the beloved friend of her last years, Cardinal Reginald Pole, to whom she declared she owed her salvation. Her last wish was to be buried among the nuns of S. Anna de' Funari at Rome ; but it is doubtful whether her body ultimately rested there, or was removed to the side of her husband at San Domenico in Naples.

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Vittoria is undoubtedly greater as a personality than as a poet. Her earlier "Rime", which are mainly devoted to the glorification of her husband, are somewhat monotonous. Her later sonnets are almost exclusively religious, and strike a deeper note. A longer poem in terza-rima, the "Trionfo di Cristo" shows the influence of Dante and Savonarola, as well as that of Petrarch. Her latest and best biographer, Mrs. Jerrold, to whom we are indebted for a number of beautiful and faithful translations of Vittoria's poetry, has drawn a suggestive analogy between it and the work of Christina Rossetti. Many of Vittoria's letters, and a prose meditation upon the Passion of Christ, have also been preserved.

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