Gaspara Stampa's Life

The following article will debate, evaluate, and investigate Gaspara Stampa's identity. Gaspara Stampa is usually regarded as the Renaissance's most important and influential female poet. She is also one of the most well-known and influential female poets of all time. In this paper, Gaspara Stampa's poetic legacy and literary achievements will be described and analyzed in order to understand clearly how Gaspara Stampa's gender was constructed by her social environment and how her literary success and lasting historical significance contribute to the feminist movement and the rising role of women in social and artistic endeavors. Gaspara Stampa was born in Padua in 1523 but later moved to Venice after her father died. It was Gaspara’s mother who organized her education in a way that made her interested in arts, music and poetry. Gaspara learned to play flute early and was an experience lover of arts. In the childhood Gaspara lived with her mother, two sisters, and a brother. Her mother’s home quickly became a center of artistic life in Venice. Artists, poets, and wealthy merchants often visited the house. Everybody in Gaspara’s family was well-educated and talented. If not for her mother’s interest in arts and culture Gaspara would not become a prominent poet and a famous woman.

O night to me more splendid and more blessed

Than the most blessed and most splendid of days,

Night worthy of the most exalted praise,

Not just of mine, unworthy and distressed,

You alone have been the faithful giver

Of all my joys; you've made the bitter taste

Of this life sweet and dear, for you've replaced

Within my arms the one who's bound me ever. (Bassanesse, 2002)

This is a fragment from the Rime 104 by Gaspara Stampa. Stampa’s poetic activities was in many ways inspired by her relationship with Count Collaltino di Collalto. To this man of whom almost nothing is known Gaspara dedicated most of all her written poems.

During her life Stampa’s social role was not definite. She has never been a wife but considered a possibility to become a nun. Historical document provide information that people who knew Gaspara thought her to be a courtesan. However, there is now way to either prove or refute this information. She herself defined her way of life as “la dolce vita”.

Gaspara was never a mother, a wife or a nun. Even though it can portray Gaspara as a feminist it was her being a poet that made her an exceptional woman. More than two thousand years lie between, for example, Sapho and Gaspara Stampa. And yet there were no such poets during the Middle Ages, Renaissance or even later. Gaspara Stampa truly was a unique woman. Gaspara was not an “ideal lady” superficially but she was not eager to be treated so as she never took on herself a role of a wife, a housewife, a mother, a nun or a courtesan. None of the clichés and labels society puts on women was acceptable for Gaspara as her life was dedicated to art.

In various poems Gaspara praises her ability to writer in verses and claims that poetry makes her alive. In one particular poem Gaspara asks for the reasons why a woman cannot write poetry and does not have any answer for it. Critical researches suggest that the fact that Gaspara was able to write poems, exchange them with her close one, and receive criticism or praise made her very happy. If living a poetic life is a criterion of a talented poet then Gasmara truly was a really talented poet. During her short life (she died at the age of just 31) she contacted mostly with the representative of Venetian elite, artists, writers, musicians, wealthy sponsors, politicians etc (Davies, 1998). Perhaps people from this circle spread a gossip that Gaspara was a courtesan. For a more objective researcher a version that Gaspara was called a courtesan because she was not considered an artist by others may be more acceptable version of events.

Stampa’s poetry was first published posthumously. Reiner Maria Rilke was greatly influenced by Gaspara Stampa’s poetry and made recurring references to it in his own works. Gaspara’s poems are full of depictions of nature, descriptions of sensual love, passion, a woman’s role in love, arts etc. Stampa’s poetry was similar to other poetry of Renaissance but yet quite different as it was, like any other work of genius, very original and unique to some extent. Stampa’s poetry most important achievement was the fact that it survived and was carefully studied by the generations of poets after Stampa. The very reason that it survived and was done by a woman make Stampa’s poetry a unique example of Renaissance poetry and also a unique example of an artistic work very valuable for a feminist studies. What is even more important is that without studying Gaspara Stampa our knowledge about Renaissance poetry cannot be full or even acceptable because of the role Gaspara played in it.

Gaspara’s social life and the fact that she has never been a mother or a wife greatly influenced her establishment as a poet. The very existence of Gaspara Stampa and her life as poet during the times when it was unimaginable for a woman to excel in such activity could be named her greatest achievement. Gaspara Stampa demanded more from a life than just being a wife, a mother or a nun. Gaspara’s gender was formed by her creative vision and her poetic achievements were empowered by her unique and original gender development. She loved a person deeply, she lived in a company of artists and that is why her name is now immortal. Among the female Renaissance artists and writers Gaspara Stampa made perhaps the most important and lasting influence on the feminist movement.


Bassanesse, F. (2002) Gaspara Stampa. New York: Twayne

Davies, M. (1998) Women Poets of Renaissance. Boston: Taylor & Francis

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