On this date in 1597, Venice beheld a spectacle like none other. Four hundred ladies, wearing the finest fabrics, pearls, and laces that La Serenissima had to offer, accompanied Morosina Morosini Grimani on her procession to be crowned the dogaressa. She was attired in a dress of her own design, shot through with threads of gold and silver and adorned with jewels and pearls. A portrait by Andrea Vicentino shows her surrounded by the multitudes as she disembarks at the Piazzetta San Marco.
On every tour of the Doge’s Palace, visitors hear about the many illustrious doges, their military feats, their political intrigues, and their gifts to the city. But what about their first ladies? Did Venice’s women have a place at the table?
The truth is, few did. Not all doges had their wives crowned as dogaressa, perhaps because the wife had died, or war with the Turks prevented these celebrations. Then in 1645, Venice decreed that wives would no longer be allowed to have coronations like their husbands. Morosina’s was the last.
But she put on a show that could hardly be replicated. Three days of festivities touched every citizen, from the crowded boat procession down the Grand Canal, replete with floating dancing platforms, to lavish feasts, to boat races, to Morosina and her daughters tossing ducats like confetti to the populace. The new dogaressa and her husband shared their prosperity with the people.
During her reign, Morosina used her own fortune to rebuild the Church of San Sebastiano. She also founded a lace school where 130 women could learn a trade and thus bring income to their families. Morosina used her influence among the nobles to promote lace sales. For her efforts, none other than Pope Clement VIII presented Morosina with a Golden Rose in 1597, the only women to ever receive one.
Venetian women had no political voice, but Morosina was able to create a persona and a presence that gave women a public face and place.
My new book, A Beautiful Woman in Venice, dedicates a chapter–the first chapter, in fact–to Morosina’s life. To read more or purchase a book, visit http://kathleenanngonzalez.wix.com/beautifulwoman