Genevra Sforza and the Bentivoglio

Family, Politics, Gender and Reputation in (and beyond) Renaissance Bologna

Genevra Sforza (ca. 1441-1507) lived her long life near the apex of Italian Renaissance society as wife of two successive de facto rulers of Bologna: Sante Bentivoglio then Giovanni II Bentivoglio. Placed there twice without a dowry by Duke Francesco Sforza as part of a larger Milanese plan, Genevra served the Bentivoglio by fulfilling the gendered role demanded of her by society, most notably by contributing 18 children, accepting many illegitimates born to Giovanni II, and helping arrange their futures for the success of the family at large. Based on contemporary archival research conducted across Italy, this biography presents Genevra as the object of academic study for the first time. The book also explores how Genevra’s life-story, filled with a multitude of successes appropriate for an elite 15th-century female, has been transformed into a farraginous body of misogynistic legends claiming she destroyed the Bentivoglio and the city of Bologna.

About the Author

Elizabeth Louise Bernhardt has enjoyed living for many years between Bologna and Rome where the stories of this book unfold. In Italy she has taught courses about her main interests: the history and culture of the Italian family (for the University of California in Rome) and early modern Italian art and artisan history (for the Liceo Classico Giulio Cesare in Rome). There she also published two handbooks about Italian art with Ginevra Bentivoglio Editoria. In her hometown she has taught Italian at Saint Louis University and is currently a lecturer in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

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