By Emanuele Severino

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Milano, Feltrinelli,, 1999, eightvo brossura editoriale con copertina illustrata a colori, pp. 172 (piccole fioriture al taglio) .

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60 From this point on, any such ‘new’ spiritual material was highlighted with great insistence by publishers and placed at the beginning of the volume in the position of primary importance, clearly reflecting the importance of piety to Colonna’s public image. As is illustrated by the reaction of editors to the trickle of new poems that they were able to lay their hands on, the appetite of the reading public for new works by Colonna was immense. The direction in which the printed editions of the Rime moved, beginning in a traditionally ‘amorous’ vein and swiftly developing and exploiting a more ‘spiritual’ poetic voice, clearly reflects and responds to the wider trajectory of the poet’s public image as it was presented in works about and dedicated to her, swiftly moving from the Ariostan position of wifely commemoration to a more wholly ethereal one of religious contemplation.

Nonetheless, as a widow she could choose where to lodge herself, frequently returning south to Costanza D’Avalos’s court on Ischia where she enjoyed such fame and respect, or else entering various convents as a secular guest, where the tranquillity, order, and comfort no doubt contributed much to her poetic endeavour. Secondly, of course, the tragic events of 1525 provided Colonna with the ultimate confirmation of her poetic attitude and subject matter, concretising the elements that had been gestating since her earlier poetic beginnings into a clear and finely judged portrait of a mournful and pious widow.

12 It is to be hoped that, through the process of tracing the consonances between life and art, it will also be possible to come to some interesting conclusions about the extent to which the poet’s public image was shaped and manipulated, both by Colonna herself and at the hands of the editors and publishers who brought her work into the public realm. These latter actors in the drama are of particular importance, as the agents of a quite phenomenal publishing success from which the poet herself was always careful to maintain her distance and of which she claimed to disapprove.

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