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Readable biography of Caterina Sforza
on 13 May 2014
This is an accessible and readable biography of Caterina Sforza aimed at a popular general audience rather than an academic one. Lev is an art historian and her admiration for Sforza does make her sometimes a little insensitive to the more negative sources. Like Alison Weir, she is happy to quote from the positive, even hagiographical sources written by Caterina's own court followers, but dismisses those written outside of her own circle of influence as having been tampered with or edited to give a deliberately hostile picture of Caterina.
Some of her readings are somewhat optimistic and unconvincing: men who described Caterina as a `virago' are deemed by Lev to be expressing their admiration of her - when, in reality, the term indicating a `manly' woman was no more flattering at the time (or, indeed, now) than to be described as a `womanly' man.
That said, this is an engaging story of another one of those steely Renaissance women, this time from Italy in the late fifteenth century. I do get a little irritated that every one of these books tracing Renaissance women's lives (Elizabeth, Mary Tudor, Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici, Lucrezia Borgia, the d'Este women, the Boleyns etc.) always tries to make out that the subject of the particular book is completely unique in Renaissance culture, something which clearly, from the evidence, isn't the case.
Small niggles aside, though, this is informative and entertaining even if its self-consciously feminist standpoint gives it an overly positive bias.