GAMBARA, Veronica

A quintessential Renaissance woman, Veronica Gambara was a patron of musicians, painters, poets, and scholars; she also produced an impressive body of her own poetry. Born in 1485, Gambara was connected to numerous aristo­cratic families. Her great-aunt was the famous humanist Isotta Nogarola, and her aunt, Emilia Pia, was celebrated in Baldesar Castiglione's* treatise on courtly life, The Courtier. Gambara received a solid humanist education in Greek, Latin, philosophy, theology, and poetry.
When she was twenty-four, Gambara was married to Count Giberto X, ruler of the Correggio region. Gambara enjoyed her life as contessa of a beautiful estate where poets and political figures gathered for social and intellectual in­terchange. The Casino, their castle of 360 rooms, included an impressive library and was lavishly decorated; guests were drawn there because of the comfort and opulence of the palace, but also because of Gambara herself. Though she was not a great beauty, she was said to be quite vivacious; she loved beautiful clothing, sumptuous decor, painting, and sculpture.
When Gambara was only thirty-two, her husband died. Although her grief was sincere, her reaction was somewhat theatrical. She withdrew from society for several months; when she emerged, she insisted that all of her rooms be decorated in black cloth to match her own mourning clothes and that her carriage horses be black as well. She never remarried, but she took over the management of Correggio, a task for which she proved to be well suited. She worked to improve literacy among her people and helped women and children who had lost husbands and fathers in the various wars Italy then suffered. She defended her city against invaders, found rations for the villagers during a period of famine, and wrote to political leaders of the day, especially her friend Charles V,* urging peace.
Gambara also continued to welcome artists and intellectuals to her estate, especially the painter Antonio Allegri, now known as Correggio.* Among other well-known figures who frequented her salon were Pietro Bembo,* Pietro Are-tino,* and Isabella d'Este.* Even the famous monarchs Francois I* and Charles V, both great patrons of the arts themselves, visited Gambara's estate.
Gambara was herself a poet as well as a patron. Her extant work comprises about eighty poems on various subjects, including the effects of war on Italy, pastoral descriptions, spiritual matters, and dedicatory poems to Vittoria Co-lonna,* but most of them are love poems to her husband. Gambara was also a lively correspondent; approximately 150 of her letters are extant.
In 1550 Gambara died at the age of sixty-four. She was buried next to her husband in a church near their estate, but in 1556 her tomb, the church, and her beloved Casino were all destroyed by an invasion of Spanish soldiers.
M. Jerrold, Vittoria Colonna, with Some Account ofHer Friends and Her Times, 1912, rpt., 1969.
R. Poss, "Veronica Gambara," in Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation, ed. K. M. Wilson, 1987.
Jo Eldridge Carney

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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