Inv. No.S-1753
ArtistIrene Andessnerborn 1954 in Salzburg, Austria

"Moderata Fonte (1555-1592)"

from the series "Donne Illustri, Venice"

instant photograph (Polaroid)

Dimensions27,5 x 21,5 cm

signed, titled, dated and numberd (ink) on verso


The Women’s Rights Poet
Born in 1555 and baptised with the name of Modesta, Moderata Fonte was the second daughter of Marietta and Ieronimo da Pozzo, members of the wealthy and cultured Venetian bourgeoisie. Upon the premature death of her parents in 1556, Modesta was taken in by the convent of Santa Marta, where she distinguished herself right away for her extraordinary memory and way with words. Presented as a prodigal child to Gabriele Fiamma, the corpulent as much as illustrious poet and preacher felt obliged to define the young Modesta as a “bodyless soul”. She replied that he, instead, gave the impression of being a “body without soul”. At the age of nine she went to live at the Saracen house, with the family of her maternal grandmother, where she got into her brother Leonardo’s schoolwork and taught herself how to read and write. Here she began to compose verse. Under the eloquent pseudonym of Moderata Fonte she published “Tredici Canti di Floridoro” (“Thirteen Songs of Floridoro”), “Giorni di Festa” (“Holidays”) and finally the religious drama “Christ’s Passion” in 1581. She would also anonymously compose a number of sonnets, songs, and madrigals on a variety of subjects on commission. In 1582 Moderata married the lawyer Filippo de’Zorzi, to whom she would give three children, thus breaking her literary impulses. Between 1588 and 1592 she worked on the Dialogue “Il Merito delle Donne” (“The Worth of Women”), finished the day of her death at the age of thirty-seven while giving birth to her fourth son. “Il Merito delle Donne, written by Moderata Fonte in two days. Where one clearly sees how dignified they are, and how they are more perfect than men” is the full title with which the work was published, posthumously, in 1600. “Madonna Modesta,” as her biographer Giovanni Nicolò Doglioni would call her, would survive with this book now that she had, in fact, truly become a “bodyless soul.” This witty and ironic reflection by women on the superiority, inferiority and perplexities of men, framed by a meeting in exclusively female company, represents an absolutely new concept in terms of dialogue literature in the context of the controversies regarding the subject in the sixteenth and seventeenth centu- ries, of which the “Querelle des femmes” was part of a movement which would involve the whole of Europe. In this controversial pro-feminist writing sketched in the form of a novel, the poet depicts a group of seven women, of different ages, social classes and temperaments allowing the author to contrast their clashing opinions, therefore avoiding stating a single view or taking a personal stance. The Venetians meet in a palace garden near a hexagonal fountain (the “fonte” or “source”) decorated by seven allegorical figures which represent Chastity, Solitude, Liberty, Innocence (of women), and also Falsity and Cruelty (of men). In the middle is a seventh figure: a woman whose breasts pour water who personifies the character of Corinna in the conversation, whose declarations quench the thirst for knowledge sought by her companions, and through whom, the Renaissance Alice Schwarzer (as a German critic defined Moderata Fonte in 2001) attempts to give women access to the sciences.

Donne Illustri
Caffà Florian on St Mark’s Square in Venice: in the “Sala degli Uomini Illustri” (salon of famous men) hang ten oil paintings by Giulio Carlini (1826–1887). Irene Andessner confronts these posthumously painted portraits of famous Venetians – from Marco Polo via Titian to Goldoni – with ten Venetian women, among them the city’s most famous composer (Barbara Strozzi) and painter (Rosalba Carriera) and the most expensive courtesan (Veronica Franco), as well as the first female doctor (Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia) and the world’s first female lawyer (Moderata Fonte). Through this intervention the Sala degli Uomini Illustri is transformed into the Sala delle Donne Illustri (salon of famous women). A picture puzzle-like disturbance: disregarding make-up, wardrobe, light, decoration and pictorial detail, Andessner’s portrayals differ from the historical picture references of the ten female figures in that she has not copied the bearing and look of the women, but rather of the men from the portraits hanging above. Thus the self-perception, the pre-potency of the male counterparts is broken. 

A further room, the Saletta Liberty, is turned into the “Moderata Fonte Room” with a Fonte/Andessner photographic full-length self-portrait in a light box. Opposite this portrait Andessner places a “Fonte” portrait painted in oil on canvas, for which she sat as model in the workshop of Marinella Biscaro.
“7 Gentildonne”: as a preliminary to the exhibition Andessner convenes a meeting of seven Italians in the Caffà Florian men’s salon – inspired by Moderata Fonte’s debate in the novel “Verdienst der Frauen” [merit of women], documented as a video work. In the photo production for the Venice project there are additional full-length portraits, which transpose into our time the historicised portrayals of women (only visible in oval bust details in the room installation) by means of complete styling. In these images it can also be seen that the artist has the camera shutter release in her hand; which means – in contrast to earlier productions – she releases the image herself in just that moment when she herself inwardly feels the particular role so fully that she is sure she is bringing the personality of that model woman perfectly to expression. This way of working corresponds to the historical Venetian women, who likewise developed and lived out their professions self-determined and self-employed, independent of men. The full-length self-portraits are executed as light boxes. 
The “Donne Illustri” project, curated by Stefano Stipitivich, takes place under the auspices of the Art Programme of the Caffà Florian. Started over 15 years ago by the caf» owner and art collector Daniela Gaddo Vedaldi, the series of exhibitions has so far represented artists such as Mimmo Rotella (1990), Fabrizio Plessi (1993 and 2001) and Luca Buvoli (1997)

S-1753, "Moderata Fonte (1555-1592)"
Irene Andessner, "Moderata Fonte (1555-1592)", 2003
S-1753, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1753, verso
Irene Andessner, "Moderata Fonte (1555-1592)", 2003
S-1753, verso
S-0995, Irene Andessner, "Agnesina Morosini (9. Jhdt.)", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Agnesina Morosini (9. Jhdt.)", 2003
more infoS-0995, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-0996, Irene Andessner, "Cecilia Venier-Baffo (1525 -1583)", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Cecilia Venier-Baffo (1525 -1583)", 2003
more infoS-0996, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-0997, Irene Andessner, "Moderata Fonte (1555 -1592)", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Moderata Fonte (1555 -1592)", 2003
more infoS-0997, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1761, Irene Andessner, "Agnesina Morosini (9th Century)", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Agnesina Morosini (9th Century)", 2003
more infoS-1761, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1762, Irene Andessner, "Cecilia Venier-Baffo (1525-1583)", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Cecilia Venier-Baffo (1525-1583)", 2003
more infoS-1762, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1826, Irene Andessner, "Elena Lucrezia Cornaro-Piscopia", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Elena Lucrezia Cornaro-Piscopia", 2003
more infoS-1826, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1827, Irene Andessner, "Agnesina Morosini"

 , 2003
Irene Andessner, "Agnesina Morosini"  , 2003
more infoS-1827, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1828, Irene Andessner, "Barbara Strozzi", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Barbara Strozzi", 2003
more infoS-1828, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1829, Irene Andessner, "Catarina Cornaro", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Catarina Cornaro", 2003
more infoS-1829, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1830, Irene Andessner, "Cecilia Venier-Baffo", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Cecilia Venier-Baffo", 2003
more infoS-1830, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1831, Irene Andessner, "Elisabetta Querini-Valier", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Elisabetta Querini-Valier", 2003
more infoS-1831, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1832, Irene Andessner, "Marietta Robusti", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Marietta Robusti", 2003
more infoS-1832, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1833, Irene Andessner, "Moderata Fonte", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Moderata Fonte", 2003
more infoS-1833, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1834, Irene Andessner, "Rosalba Carriera", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Rosalba Carriera", 2003
more infoS-1834, Front view
© Irene Andessner
S-1835, Irene Andessner, "Veronica Franco", 2003
Irene Andessner, "Veronica Franco", 2003
more infoS-1835, Front view
© Irene Andessner