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The Tigress of Forli

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The Tigress of Forli

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:26 am

This sounds like a wonderful book. http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2011/11/tigress-of-forli.html To quote from Zenit:
ROME, OCT. 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- ZENIT readers are accustomed to finding here at Rome Notes the musings of our talented art historian Elizabeth Lev. This week is no exception, but today, instead of Lev's outlook on the goings-on in Rome, we will hear about her first book, just out this week.

"The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici" (Harcourt) tells the story of a woman Lev calls a remarkable female icon of the Renaissance.

Sforza has many lessons for the modern reader, not least of which is finding "the conduit to the triumphant Church in Heaven in the very human Church on earth." And this, despite the fact that "there came a moment in her life when she did very wicked things."

Je pardonne à tous mes ennemis le mal qu’ils m’ont fait.

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Under The Tuscan Sun

Post  Julygirl on Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:49 pm

I recently read "Under The Tuscan Sun" which, besides being about the adventures involved in restoring an old Italian Villa, is a wonderful homage to Italy and her people. How and why the film strayed so far from this lovely book by having the protagonist divorced from her husband and 'finding herself ' in Italy is, to me, completely prostituting a book in order to earn money at the box office.

The book is a lovely painting of Italy, the food, the unique personalities of her people, the glorious landscape, the food, and what's more, the food. When a friend of mine was planning a trip to Italy, her son, who had previously visited there, said, "Mom, when you get there start eating and don't stop!"

It is interesting how a book without the drama of failed interpersonal relationships, murder and mayhem, political intrigue, etc., can still be a 'page turner' as the reader waits in suspense for the next foible perpetrated by the various Italian contractors, or what turns up from disturbing a rock wall or untangling 30 years of vines.


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My review

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:19 pm

"If I were to write the story of my life, I would shock the world."

~Caterina Sforza

The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici by art historian Elizabeth Lev is a biography which paints a portrait not only of one of the most colorful characters of the Renaissance but of the Renaissance itself. If ever I thought that the films and novels I have seen and read about Renaissance Italy were exaggerated in either the violence or the splendor, thinking that people could not really have lived that way, I see now that they were only showing the tip of the ice burg. Every page of Tigress is rich with abundant details of palaces, churches, cities, wars, assassinations and weddings and yet I had no trouble keeping the characters straight, which attests to the clarity of the prose. The story told therein combines a war epic with heartrending love story and searing tragedy as well as scenes that would do justice to a horror flick.

Caterina Sforza is one of those larger than life characters whom no novelist could invent, and who would have shone in any era of history. As it happened, Caterina, as an illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, was reared in one of the most sophisticated courts in Italy, where art, learning, and fashion were as de rigeur as riding and hunting. Children born out of wedlock were treasured alongside legitimate offspring, Renaissance Italy not being anything like Victorian England. Caterina received the finest education and had the most brilliant marriage arranged for her, to the Pope's own nephew Girolamo Riario. Now here is the one quibble I have with the book: Girolamo is portrayed as consummating the marriage to Caterina when she was only ten and when the couple were merely betrothed. While they might have had a symbolic bedding down ceremony to seal the betrothal, I can hardly believe that the Sforzas would break all convention and permit Girolamo to deflower Caterina when she was only ten, even if he was the Pope's nephew. When the bride was fourteen, they had a sumptuous wedding that lasted days and days and it was at that time that the pair began to officially live together. Thus began Caterina's adventures in the wider world.

The Riarios were given two city states to govern, Imola and Forli. Most of Caterina's life would be spent defending and maintaining the family lands so that her eight children would have an inheritance. Whatever else one can say about her, she was a devoted mother, with solid faith and sincere piety. (I must say it is amusing how the Riarios consulted their astrologer before taking possession of Forli, but that's the Renaissance for you.) Caterina was a generous alms giver and supported many religious houses, particularly a community of nuns in Florence with whom she was later buried. She took her responsibilities as a Lady and Countess to heart and made every effort to protect her people and maintain the prosperity of their cities, except, I hate to say, when she lost her temper with them.

With Caterina, everything was always in extremes. When she sinned, it was with abandon, fury and passion, but then she just as passionately confessed her sins and amended her life. Part of it was the culture she lived in and part of it was her personality. As a Sforza, who were a dynasty of condottieri, Catherina had been taught how to use weapons, especially when hunting, and had been encouraged to be fearless. Her boldness in crisis situations came to the fore on several occasions, such as when she held the Castel Sant'Angelo in order to force the college of cardinals to elect a new pope. Most dramatic of all was Caterina's stand against Cesare Borgia at Forli; it is certainly the climax of the book to have two legends in their own time face-to-face. Her courage won over the French knights who were fighting alongside Cesare. The Borgia, however, behaved like a beast, bringing the episode to a tragic and horrendous conclusion.

I can not recommend this book highly enough to those who enjoy the history of the Renaissance and biographies of some of the era's personalities. I certainly gained a greater understanding of the tumultuous events which shaped the politics of the day. While Caterina is often forgotten when great ladies of the past are named, she has been immortalized by this work of Elizabeth Lev even as she was once immortalized by the great artists of her time. While reading of her exploits, of her loves and hates and follies, it is good to murmur a prayer now and then for Caterina's soul, knowing that of all people she would be humbly grateful to be remembered in such a manner.

Je pardonne à tous mes ennemis le mal qu’ils m’ont fait.

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