‘May the holy nails now be my quills,’ wrote Vittoria Colonna, Machesa di Pescara, in one of her shattering sonnets, a profession to her dedication to the suffering of Christ through the writing of poetry. ‘And may his precious blood be my ink.’ Ramie Targoff’s learned and powerful account of the lavishly wealthy sixteenth-century Italian noblewoman who wanted to be a nun as much as she wanted to write unlocks this much-overlooked Renaissance woman from a prison of the poet’s own making, the prison of her grief, and from another prison, too: the prison of the archives, from which Renaissance Woman has at last released her.
I was engrossed, inspired, and moved by the story of this groundbreaking, contradictory, and overlooked literary figure. Targoff brings Vittoria Colonna to life with a novelist’s flair for plot, detail, and character. Her passion for her subject is contagious, and her analysis of Renaissance culture is both scrupulous and empathetic, at once erudite and richly dramatic.
Vittoria Colonna’s name has always been there, hovering in the wings, but with Ramie Targoff’s vibrant, timely study, Renaissance Woman, she comes into the spotlight...[In] Targoff’s hands the bits of [Colonna’s] puzzle fit together beautifully. Here is a woman capable of deep, almost obsessional feeling, with an equal capacity to put those feelings into poetry...Vittoria Colonna has always deserved to be better known.