Venus was from Liguria!

It will be a very beautiful, romantic, and tragic story. It will be a story about Renaissance Genoa and Florence, about great historical figures, about great loves and famous painters and their famous works … it will be the story about Simonetta Vespucci, née Cattaneo.

The birth of… Venus

Simonetta Cattaneo was born on January 28th, 1453 in Genoa or Portovenere (historians are not sure of the place of her birth), in the aristocratic Genoese Cattaneo family. The next certain information comes from 1469 when Simonetta (16 years old) was married to Marco Vespucci (a distant cousin of Amerigo Vespucci). The wedding itself was a very practical and romantic coincidence. The groom was from Florence but stayed in Genoa, where was studying banking at the prestigious, oldest bank in the world: Banco di San Giorgio. At the same time, the fathers of Marco and Simonetta had common interests and met often each other “outside of work”. This is how Marco and Simonetta met. Marco fell madly in love with the beautiful Ligurian. Their marriage was a logical consequence, given the Cattaneo family’s interest in establishing contacts with the powerful Florentine banker family.

Life in Florence

After the wedding, the couple moved to Florence, Marco’s hometown. There they were welcomed by Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence. This meeting began a long series of infatuations of the different rulers who fell in love with her. For instance, Lorenzo’s brother, Giuliano, fell madly in love with Simonetta and dedicated his victory in the knight’s tournament and even a poem in her honor. Then, the Duke of Calabria, Alfonso, who was passing through Florence and had the opportunity to meet Simonetta, also fell in love with her too. And Lorenzo de’ Medici himself did not remain indifferent to the charms of the beautiful Ligurian woman. When Simonetta died, Lorenzo dedicated a poem and four sonnets to her.


Simonetta’s life was unfortunately very short. On April 26th, 1476, at the age of only twenty-three, the young woman died. It was believed that she died of pneumonia, but new hypotheses suggest that Simonetta suffered from a pituitary adenoma and was probably infertile. And it was the increase in tumor volume that led to her death.

Sandro Botticelli

The most famous paintings of this great artist are definitely “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera” (both are in the Uffizi Museum in Florence). For a very long time, it was believed that Simonetta Vespucci was the model and inspiration for the main character of these paintings (Venus and the goddess Flora). However, subsequent findings by scientists contradicted these theses. It was established that this was a more romantic version of historical facts. Piero di Cosimo’s painting of Cleopatra was also considered a portrait of Simonetta for a very long time. Today, however, as in the case of Botticelli’s paintings, there is no historical evidence for this.

However, I prefer the romantic version and image of this beautiful Ligurian woman who made the most powerful rulers of that time fall in love with her and that it was Simonetta who was immortalized in Sandro Botticelli’s paintings.

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