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Simonetta Vespucci, Botticelli's muse

text Francesca Lombardi

October 23, 2020

Who was the Venus of Botticelli

Chiara Ferragni as Simonetta Vespucci. But the true descendant is Teresa Sancristoforo Cattaneo

"O clear star, that with your rays you remove the light from the other nearby stars". Chiara yes... but be careful, we are not talking about Ferragni, the day after the publication of the very successful Vogue HK service at the Uffizi Galleries. These verses are by Lorenzo il Magnifico and describe the beautiful Simonetta Cattaneo, wife of Marco Vespucci.

Venus of Botticelli


Simonetta was born in Genoa in 1451 at Palazzo Cattaneo della Volta by Gaspare Cattaneo and Catocchia Violante Spinola. The Cattaneo della Volta are one of the most illustrious and ancient families of Genoa and so are the Spinola, whose family tree dates back to the eleventh century. The beautiful Catocchia Violante, widow of Battista, married Gaspare Cattaneo, from whom Simonetta was born. At only sixteen years old our muse joins Marco Vespucci in marriage and since then her destiny is forever intertwined with Florence. She is welcomed with all honors by Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici who organize for her great celebrations in the villa of Careggi and the Tournament of Giuliano where Simonetta was elected queen. The great artists of the time exalted her. Poets such as Poliziano and Pulci celebrated her in their rhymes, the Magnifico in his "Selve d'Amore". But it was above all Botticelli who made her immortal in the wonderful Allegory of Spring, where she appears "even with roses and painted flowers and grass", and in the likeness of a goddess in the Birth of Venus.

Teresa Sancristoforo Cattaneo della Volta


She was loved by Giuliano, and perhaps even Lorenzo. The dream was short-lived because on April 26, 1476 Simonetta died of consumption at the age of 25 and was buried in the tomb of Vespucci in All Saints' Day. Exactly two years later, on April 26, 1478, the beloved Giuliano found death in the conspiracy of the Pazzi and on May 7, 1510 also Botticelli died, who expressed the desire to be buried in the church of All Saints, right next to the tomb of that woman who had inspired him so much.
We at Simonetta are not left only with the images of those masterpieces and poems that exalted her beauty: her direct descendant Teresa Sancristoforo Cattaneo della Volta, from Genoa, is married to a Florentine and lives in the city. Daughter of Simonetta Cattaneo della Volta, born in the same palace in Genoa as her namesake, daughter of a Cattaneo and a Spinola, the current Simonetta has inherited the beauty and the name of her famous ava. She herself tells that at the time of her baptism her grandmother did not want to call her by the name of that ancestor who had herself portrayed naked. Fortunately a priest clarified the fact: at the time of the creation of the masterpiece Simonetta Vespucci was already dead, so it was just an image evoked by art. Teresa, today's Simonetta's daughter, was also born in Genoa and married in Florence. Her husband, Leandro Burgisser, belongs to the great family of the founders of the Banca Toscana. Bankers like the Vespucci.
Teresa is blonde, she is a woman of our time who carries out entrepreneurial activity in the advertising field, mother of two children, Cristoforo and Thea, to whom she is very close.

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