Castiglione, Ippolita Torelli (1499-1520)
Born in 1499, Ippolita Torelli was the daughter of condottiere Guido Torelli of Montechiarugolo (near Parma) and Francesca Bentivoglio, daughter of Giovanni Bentivoglio of Bologna, related by marriage to both the Gonzaga and d'Este families. The aristocratic and distinguished Torelli family, after unsuccessfully disputing with the d'Este for control of Ferrara, settled in Pavia, Naples, and Guastalla. Ippolita was raised by relatives in Modena.
In 1516, a young Ippolita--described as both beautiful and accomplished--was married to Count Baldassare Castiglione, 23 years her senior, diplomat, courtier, and author of the celebrated Il libro del cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier). Castiglione had previously engaged unsuccessfully in various marital negotiations, including in 1509 with a daughter of the de' Medici family. Hosted by the Gonzaga family, the elegant nuptials on 19 October 1516 were attended by family and illustrious friends from Mantua, Lombardy, and Emilia. To celebrate the occasion, the marquis Gonzaga reopened the theater of Mantua for a comedy, Oga e Magoga, to remind Baldassare Castiglione of a dear childhood friend. Meanwhile the bride's graceful demeanor satisfied all onlookers: "in gesti e in costumi satisfece ognuno."
Though documentation on their early years of wedlock are lacking, the couple apparently enjoyed a happy marriage. They traveled together to Venice, accompanying Federico, the future marquis of Mantua, in 1517. On 3 August 1520, Ippolita wrote from Mantua to her husband, away in Rome, "Io me vi racomando con tuto il cor di gratia aricordative qualche volta di me che io me ricordo sempre di voi e mai non ho altro contento se non al pensare de voi... La vostra Consorte che vi ama più che lei stessa."
Ippolita and Baldassare Castiglione had three children: Camillo, Anna, and Ippolita. One of Matteo Bandello's prologues in his collection of novella mentions the celebration of Camillo's birth. Castiglione celebrated his wife's virtues in a poem, "Balthassaris Castilionis Elegia qua fingit Hippolyten suam ad se ipsum scribentem," written in 1519. The poem, as its title indicates, is a feigned letter from Ippolita to Baldassar in which she bemoans his absence.
Ippolita died on 25 August 1521 after giving birth to her third child on 20 August of that same year. Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena conveyed the news to Castiglione along with condolences from Isabella d'Este, on 26 August 1521. Buried near Mantua, Ippolita was commemorated with the following epigraph written by her husband:
NON EGO NUNC VIRO CONIUNGXTo which Pietro Bembo added:
HIPOLITAE TAURELLAE QUAE IN AMBIGUO RELIQUIT UTRUM PULCRIOR
Though Castiglione, who possessed a substantial library, which included volumes in Greek and Latin, was to instruct that his son Camillo be educated in Greek and Latin, it is not clear what sort of education his wife had received nor if she knew languages other than the vernacular in which she wrote her extant letters.
Submitted by Gabrielle Elissa Popoff, Columbia University, 2004.
1. One author states that Ippolita Torelli was born in 1501. Baldassarre conte Castiglione, Maier, Bruno, Il Libro Del Cortegiano: Con Una Scelta Delle Opere Minori, 3a ed., Classici Italiani.; Classici U.T.E.T.; (Torino: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1981).
3. Family papers of the Guastalla branch of the Torelli are housed at the Annenberg Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania.Torelli family, "Memorie Dei Conti Torelli, Signori Di Guastalla," (1454-1765).
7. Camillo Martinati, Notizie Storico-Biografiche Intorno Al Conte Baldassare Castiglione Con Documenti Inediti, Pubblicazioni Del R. Istituto Di Studi Superiori Pratici E Di Perfezionamento in Firenze. Sezione Di Filosofia E Filologia. [No. 19]; (Firenze: Coi tipi dei successori Le Monnier, 1890), 26.
11. Julia Mary Cartwright, The Perfect Courtier, Baldassare Castiglione; His Life and Letters, 1478-1529, 2 vols., vol. 2 (New York: E.P. Dutton and company, 1927), 456-57. "I beg you, remember me occasionally, I always remember you and have no other joy than the thought of you... your wife who loves you more than herself." My translation.
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