Gaspara Stampa Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Very little is actually known about the historical Gaspara Stampa. Documentation of her life is scarce, and most data are limited to contemporary letters and occasional poems dedicated to her. Even the exact year and location of her birth are uncertain, as is the social status of her family, although some evidence suggests that her father had been a successful Paduan jeweler whose trade permitted a comfortable bourgeois existence. Some information can be drawn from the Rime, although it is not always wise to use the poetry as a biographical source. It appears that sometime after 1530, the three Stampa children were taken to Venice by their widowed mother and were given a good Humanistic education. The daughters, Gaspara and Cassandra, demonstrated exceptional musical aptitude and soon achieved excellent reputations as musicians, while their brother, Baldassare, was becoming greatly admired as a promising young poet before his untimely death in 1544. The siblings, particularly Baldassare, participated actively in the social world of the Venetian ridotti, or salons, meeting some of the most prominent artists, musicians, patrons, and intellectuals of the time. It was a sophisticated environment where the nobility freely mingled with dandies, foreigners, students, and courtesans. It was an ambiance generally inaccessible to the maidens and matrons of the city, who lived a sheltered existence. Gaspara and Cassandra had a ridotto of their own, where they entertained guests with song and poetry. Sometime in 1548, at such a gathering, Stampa met Count Collatino di Collato, a feudal gentleman-warrior known for his patronage of artists and musicians. The romantic involvement of...

(The entire section is 693 words.)