You are here:

This paper spotlights Luisa Donati Strozzi (1434–1510), Florentine patrician émigré in Ferrara, to examine her decade-long court appointment during widowhood to the household of Eleonora d’Aragona, duchess of Ferrara, as governess for her daughter Isabella d’Este. Foregrounding the widow’s closeness to Eleonora and the duchess’s connection with the Strozzi in Naples, as well as Eleonora’s important capacity as regent, I argue that Luisa shrewdly exploited her position at court to intervene on behalf of her mature sons while negotiating her own needs of survival as a widowed refugee. Tapping into a deep vein of close and profitable connections that diffuse branches of the exiled Strozzi lineage had cultivated at the Este and Gonzaga courts, and with the Aragonese monarchy in Naples, Luisa’s instrumentalising use of the Strozzi’s networks, as well as of her own privileged proximity to Eleonora d’Aragona, reveals the intricate mechanics of an émigré woman’s agency. In this Strozzi matrix of power, lineage agency (a traditionally Florentine male prerogative) and female familial agency, enhanced by female diplomacy and patronal power, intersected. This is almost unique evidence, the paper contends, of how elite female networks operated alongside and independently of male ones in fifteenth-century Italy.

Lisa Di Crescenzo received a PhD in Renaissance Italian history from Queen Mary University of London. Her doctoral thesis is presently under revision as a monograph, provisionally titled ‘Gender, Agency, and Émigré Life in Renaissance Italy: The Letters of Luisa Donati Strozzi, 1466–1510’. Her postdoctoral research will examine the political, diplomatic, and cultural roles of Lucrezia Borgia as duchess-consort of Ferrara (1505–1519). In an offshoot of this larger project, she is researching the activities, political agency, and material culture of ladies-in-waiting at the courts of the northern Italian principalities and the southern monarchy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.