Modesto Pozzo

 
 
 
Modesta Pozzo - Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

Modesta Pozzo - Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

 

Modesto Pozzo -pseudonym Moderata Fonte (1555-92) a Venetian writer and poet.  When both parents died of the plague in 1556, when she was just a year old, Pozzo and her older brother Leonardo were placed in the care of their maternal grandmother and her second husband.  She spent several years in the convent of Santa Marta where, thanks to her extraordinary memory, she was often displayed as a child prodigy.  She was able to repeat long sermons she had heard or read only once.[1]  At the age of nine she was returned to her grandmother’s family where she learned Latin and composition from her grandfather, Prospero Saraceni, a man of letters, as well as her brother, Leonardo.[2] Her brother also taught her to read and write in Latin, draw, sing, and play the lute and harpsichord.

On 15 February 1582, at twenty-seven years old, Pozzo wed Filippo de’ Zorzi.  Their marriage appears to have been a particularly good one because de’ Zorzi returned her dowry a year and a half after their wedding.[3]  An official document dated October 1583 states that de’ Zorzi returns the dowry “thanks to his pure kindness and to the great love and good will that he has felt and feels for” Pozzo.[4]

One of Pozzo’s first known works is a musical play performed before the Doge Da Ponte in 1581 at the festival of St. Stephen’s Day.  Le Feste [The Feasts] includes about 350 verses with several singing parts.  Also in 1581, she published her epic poem I tredici canti del Floridoro [The Thirteen Cantos of Floridoro] dedicated to Bianco Cappello and her new husband, the duke of Florence.  This poem is perhaps the second chivalric work published by an Italian woman, after Tullia d’Aragona’s Il Meschino, which appeared in 1560.

Pozzo wrote two long religious poems, La Passione di Cristo [Christ’s Passion] and La Resurrezione di Gesù Cristo nostro Signore che segue alla Santissima Passione in otava rima da Moderata Fonte [The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord, which follows the Holy Passion in octaves by Moderata Fonte].  In these works she describes in detail the emotional reactions of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalen to Christ’s death and resurrection, illustrating her deep belief in the active participation of women in the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.[5]

She is perhaps best known for Il Merito delle donne [On The Merit of Women], published posthumously in 1600, in which she criticizes the treatment of women by men while celebrating women’s virtues and intelligence, but does not go as far as to appeal for sexual equality.[6]

Her biographer and mentor, Giovanni Nicolo Doglioni, wrote of her four children at the time of her death; the oldest aged ten years, the second aged eight, the third aged six and the newborn, whose birth caused Fonte’s death in 1592, at the age of thirty-seven.[7] Her husband placed a marble epitaph on her tomb which describes Pozzo as ‘femina doctissima’ [a very learned woman]. [Koren Whipp]

 



[1] Paola Malpezzi Price. Moderata Fonte: Women and Life in Sixteenth-century Venice (Madison (N.J.): Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003), 28.

[2] Paola Malpezzi Price, “Pozzo, Modesto,” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803). Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II (Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013), vol. 10, 79-80, editorial notes, 571; and Malpezzi Price. Moderata Fonte, 28.

[3] Malpezzi Price. Moderata Fonte, 33.

[4] Malpezzi Price. Moderata Fonte, 33.

[5] Malpezzi Price. Moderata Fonte, 35.

[6] Malpezzi Price, “Pozzo, Modesto,” vol. 10, 79-80, editorial notes, 571; and Malpezzi Price. Moderata Fonte, 149.

[7] G. Doglioni, ‘Vita della Sig.ra Modesta Pozzo de Zorzi nominata Moderata Fonte descritta da Gio’, in M. Fonte, Il merito delle Donne, ed. Adriana Chemello (Venice: Eidos, 1988), pp. 3–10.

 

Bibliography

Bayle, Pierre. The Dictionary Historical and Critical of Mr. Peter Bayle. New York: Garland, 1984.

Brata Datta, Satya. Women and Men in Early Modern Venice: Reassessing History. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003.

Doglioni, G. ‘Vita della Sig.ra Modesta Pozzo de Zorzi nominata Moderata Fonte descritta da Gio’, in M. Fonte, Il merito delle Donne, ed. Adriana Chemello. Venice: Eidos, 1988, 3–10.

Hays, Mary. “Modesto Pozzo.” Female Biography; or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries (6 volumes). London: R. Phillips, 1803, vol. 6, 77-8.

Malpezzi Price, Paola. “Moderata Fonte (1555-1592),” Italian Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, ed. Rinaldina Russell. Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994, pp.128-137.

--Moderata Fonte: Women and Life in Sixteenth-century Venice. Madison (N.J.): Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003.

-- “Pozzo, Modesto,” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803). Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II. Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013, vol. 10, 79-80, editorial notes, 571.

--“Venetia Figurata and Women in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Moderata Fonte’s Writings,” in Italian Women and the City: Essays. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003.

Marrone, Gaetana, Paolo Puppa and Luca Somigli. “Moderata Fonte (Modesta Pozzo De’Zorzi),” in Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies. Taylor & Francis, 2007.

Surian, Vittoria. Marietta Robusti & Moderata Fonte. Mirano: Eidos, 2001. Italian.

 

Resources

Brooklyn Museum
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Modesta Pozzo
http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/modesta_pozzo.php

 

 

Page citation:
Whipp, Koren. "Modesto Pozzo.” Project Continua (2014): [date accessed], http://www.projectcontinua.org/biographies/index/p_index/modesto-pozzo/.