The Fraudulent Muse: Forgeries of Female Petrarchism in Renaissance Italy

When and Where

Friday, January 27, 2023 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm
Victoria University Common Room
89 Charles Street West, Toronto


Laura Ingallinella


In 1564, a priest from Fabriano, a small town in central Italy, addressed a speech to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in which he advocated for his hometown to be recognized as an independent city. Towards the end of his speech, he mentioned that Fabriano claimed a tradition of fourteenth-century female poets (“rimatrici”), one of whom had exchanged poems with none other than Francesco Petrarca. A sonnet sequence attributed to these poets—Ortensia di Guglielmo, Leonora della Genga, and Livia del Chiavello—appeared in print in 1580, captivating readers for centuries.  

This workshop will present the rimatrici as a case study in early modern medievalism that fabricated subversive women’s voices for political purposes. The sonnets attributed to Ortensia, Leonora, and Livia have been either celebrated for their seemingly pioneering feminist claims or dismissed as a Renaissance forgery. Moving past these polarizing interpretations, we will read these sonnets as a fictional canzoniere to answer the following questions: What tools can we use to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a literary artifact is inauthentic? Who wrote this sonnet sequence, and why? In answering these questions, we will explore the patterns through which early modern Petrarchism fetishized women’s voices and core arguments of female-authored poetry, such as the denunciation of gender inequalities and the poet’s struggle to claim authority within literary conventions.

Laura Ingallinella, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto is an Assistant Professor of Italian Studies, with a cross-appointment in the Renaissance Studies Program at Victoria College. Dr. Ingallinella’s research focuses on the intersection of identity politics and literary expression in late medieval and Renaissance Italy.

The CRRS Friday Workshops are a recurring speaker series held approximately twice a semester, and feature both local and visiting scholars presenting their recent work in a seminar-style format. These events are an invigorating way for the medieval and early modern scholarly communities at the University of Toronto and beyond to network and foster one another's research.

Contact Information

Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies


Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies