Tarquinia Molza Porrina (1542-1617)

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Later years

Tarquinia returned to Modena, but her fall from grace at Ferrara did not put an end to her literary and musical activities.  She continued to write and assembled her own 'ridotto' in her home.  Although an outcast from the social order which regulated the older city-states of Mantua and Ferrara, Tarquinia was still honoured and respected in the more forward-looking patrician societies of Parma and Rome.

Tarquinia Molza as an older woman; artist unknown.  By kind permission of Countessa Giovanna Molza.

In 1595, Stefano Guazzo published his Ghirlanda della Contessa Angela Bianca Beccaria, a volume which is both a collection of poetic encomia for the Contessa, and a series of dialogues touching on every aspect of courtly life and behaviour, each stemming from a group discussion on the literary merits of the individual verses.  One of the very few of Tarquinia's poems to appear in print during her lifetime is included in the volume, presumably expressly commissioned by Guazzo.
Duke Alfonso d'Este died in 1597.  In 1598, in the absence of a direct male heir, Ferrara was ceded to the Papal States and the d'Este family made Modena their new home.  It would be interesting to speculate whether Tarquinia was received back into the much-reduced court, or whether she still kept her distance.  In 1610, Tarquinia was made a citizen of Rome; the formal decree gives her the name, 'L'Unica'.  She died in 1617, aged 74 years, and was buried in Modena cathedral.

Bibliography references (primary sources):  Guazzo, 1595

Bibliography references (secondary sources):  Riley, 1980; Riley, 1986; Vandelli, 1750

Written by Laurie Stras.

Last updated 04 October, 2002.

The views expressed in this document are those of the author and not those of the University of Southampton.