Costanza Varano

Costanza Varano (1426-1447) was born into the ruling family of Camerino, a remote mountainous territory in the region of the Marche. After her father was murdered by his brothers in 1433, Costanza’s mother Elisabetta da Montefeltro Malatesta (1407-1477) fled with her children to Pesaro, taking refuge with the girl’s grandmother Battista da Montefeltro Malatesta (1384-1448). Battista, to whom humanist Leonardo Bruni had written De studiis et litteris (On the Study of Literature),  was a learned woman who composed Latin prose and poetry, and was largely responsible for the Costanza’s education. As a child, Costanza learned Greek and Latin, studied the Church Fathers and classical authors. In 1442, aged sixteen, Costanza Varano wrote and delivered the “Oration to Bianca Maria Visconti,” in which she asks Bianca’s husband Francesco Sforza to restore her family as lords of Camerino. This oration was widely praised, in particular by humanist Guiniforte Barzizza (1408-63). Varano followed  by writing several political letters in Latin on the same theme, two to Bianca Maria’s father Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan and another to Alfonso VI, King of Aragon along with poems in his praise. Later that year the young woman delivered a Latin oration before Alfonso. It was on the occasion of the first oration that Varano met her future husband, the younger brother of Francesco Sforza, Alessandro, who fell in love with her at once. The following year the territory was restored to Costanza Varano’s family and in 1444 she and Alessandro—who previously had no state to rule—were married. Their first child, Battista  was born in 1446; soon after giving birth to a second child in 1447 Varano died only three years after her marriage.

 

RESOURCES

King, Margaret L., and Albert Rabil, Jr., eds., Her immaculate hand: selected works by and about the women humanists of Quattrocento Italy, Binghamton, N.Y. : Center for Medieval & Early Renaissance Studies, 1983. pp. 18; 39-44; 53-56.

Jennifer Webb “Hidden in Plain Sight: Varano and Sforza Women of the Marche,” in Wives, widows, mistresses, and nuns in early modern Italy : making the invisible visible through art and patronage / edited by Katherine McIver. Farnham, Surrey, England ; Burlington, VT : Ashgate, c2012.

Holt N. Parker, “Costanza Varano (1426–1447): Latin as an Instrument of State” in Laurie J. Churchill, Phyllis R. Brown, and Jane E. Jeffrey, eds., Women Writing Latin: From Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Europe. Vol. 3. Early Modern Women Writing Latin (New York 2002), pp. 31–53.

Cecil H. Clough, “Daughters and wives of the Montefeltro: outstanding bluestockings of the Quattrocento,” in Renaissance Studies, Volume 10, Issue 1, March 1996, pp 31–55.

Costanza Varano’s poem to Isotta Nogarola included in her 1442 letter 

Feliciangeli, Bernardino, “Notizie di Costanza Varano-Sforza” Gior Stor 23 (1894) 

 

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