Brigida Baldinotti was a Tuscan woman born around 1412. The daughter of Piero di Benedetto di Messer Rinuccio, a wealthy landowner in Pistoia, Brigida married the nobleman Niccolò Baldinotti sometime around 1425 or 1426. Sometime after 1439 Brigida’s husband died, leaving behind a son, Piero, and a daughter who became a nun. When Piero eventually married in 1455, Brigida lived with his family, caring for his wife and child—named Niccolò after his grandfather—and tending to business matters for Piero while he was away traveling. In the 1478 Piero and his son became involved in a plot to murder Lorenzo de’ Medici. The plot was discovered and the conspirators, including Piero, put to death. Brigida’s grandson was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was pardoned by Lorenzo by 1481. Referred to as “the venerable Madonna Brigida, widow of Niccolò Baldinotti of Pistoia,” in manuscripts, Brigida Baldinotti was the author of letters that were among the most frequently copied vernacular texts in mid-fifteenth-century Florence. She wrote two vernacular epistles, which circulated widely in Florence throughout the Quattrocento in popular manuscript collections known as zibaldoni. Thirty manuscripts that contain at least one of her epistles have been identified, most of them copied in the Quattrocento during her lifetime.An excerpt from a 15th-century manuscript with one of Brigida Baldinotti’s epistles
One private letter written by Brigida to her son exists:
BNCF Rossi-Cassigoli Casetta V ins.VI. B. carta 43
This is the text of that letter:
In questa ora a dì 6 di marzo abbiamo sentito che le galee sono tornate a salvamento, sia laudato iddio, da cui ogni gratia procede. Per altra t’avisai siamo sani e a dì otto di novembre parturì la Candida una bella fanciulla, e subito fu nata, la detti a balia sichè la tua famigluola per quanto sia stato a me possible, non li è mancato niente, nè in nel parto nè poi. Io sono viva che a voluto iddio; consumata sono de’ fatti del monte, sentirai de Piero Vespucci. Nicholo è sano e buon figluolo con una lingua e intelletto di sei anni. La Domenica s’è con esso noi ancora; sai è ora uno anno ci è stata; a avuto in tucta due paia di scarpette, uno paio ne pagò in ne di passato altra di suo filato che ne fui contenta perch’io non aveva che filare, sichè se costi fussi cosa buona è buona derrata per farle uno guarnello; sai a sempre a voluto calzare e vestire. La discrezione è madre delle virtù -fa che ti piacie. Apressa sai la istentata [stentata] quaresima si fa qui; provedi di mandare o regare [recare] delle cose da quaresima e ricordati di chi s’è ricordata di te. Le suore di Sancta Lucia di continuovo ogni dì anno detto insieme con suora Orsola i salmi dell’ angelo Raphaello e in comune tutte te [suggested reading: notte] e dì della settimana anno fatto oratione per te. La ingratitudine secca la fonte della misericordia; tu sei savio fa che tti pare. Ne altro per ora xpo ti guardi in Pistoia a di 6 di marzo.
This hour, on the sixth of March we have heard that the galleys have safely returned, praise be to God, from whom every grace issues forth. By another letter I informed you that we are well and that on the eighth of November Candida gave birth to a beautiful girl. As soon as she was born I gave her to a wetnurse, so that as far as it has been possible for me I have seen to it that your little family has lacked nothing, whether during labor or after. I am alive, God willing, consumed by the business of the monte, as you will hear from Piero Vespucci. Niccolò is healthy and a good boy, with the tongue and intellect of a six-year-old. Domenica is still with him; you know it has been a year now that she’s been here. She has had, in all, two pairs of slippers – one I bought for her some days past, the other was of her yarn, of which I was glad, because I did not have to spin, so if that was a good thing [to do] it is good merchandise for making her a smock – you know she always wants shoes and clothes – discretion is the mother of all the virtues; do as you see fit. As you know, a difficult Lent is approaching here; arrange to send or bring some things for Lent and remember those who have remembered you. The sisters of Santa Lucia, together with Sister Orsola every day have been continually saying psalms of the Angel Raphael for you – day and night they have prayed for you. Ingratitude dries up the fountain of mercy. You are wise; do as you see fit. That is all for now; may Christ watch over you. The sixth of March, in Pistoia,
Text transcribed and translated by Lisa Kaborycha
Antonio Maria Biscioni, Lettere di Santi e Beati Fiorentini, Florence: Moücke, 1736 Brigida’s letters are on pages xlix–l.
Lisa Kaborycha, “Brigida Baldinotti and Her Two Epistles in Quattrocento Florentine Manuscripts,” in Speculum 87.3 (July 2012), 793-826. Copyright Cambridge University Press 2012
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