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Tigress of Forli: The Life of Caterina Sforza (Great Lives) by [Lev, Elizabeth]
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Tigress of Forli: The Life of Caterina Sforza (Great Lives) Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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An engrossing biography of one of Renaissance Italy s most accomplished powerbrokers. Few people were better able to navigate the sea of shifting alliances and internecine squabbles that characterized 15th-century Italy than Caterina Sforza (1463 1509). All the more remarkable is that she was able to do it in an era when all of her rivals were men. Widowed by three husbands two of them assassinated before her eyes Sforza ruled over the province of Forli as regent for her young son Ottaviano, and was reviled, admired and feared in equal measure by popes, foreign powers and her own subjects alike. Lev (Art History/Duquesne Univ.) deftly explores the psychological strains endured by the Countess, from her first marriage to a diffident and cowardly nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, to the murder of her beloved second husband and the merciless vengeance she took upon the conspirators, to her heroic and single-handed defense of her city from the Venetians and her ultimate imprisonment in the dungeons of Cesare Borgia. The author writes with a light touch and an eye for the pageantry and drama of the time her subject was known as one of the best-dressed women in Italy while colorfully recounting weighty affairs of state. In one memorable scene, Sforza gains the upper hand negotiating a military alliance with a young Machiavelli: "While Machiavelli had thought the seduction of Catarina was complete, she made it clear that the courtship was only beginning. Stung by his misreading of the situation, he showed his shock and hurt through both his words and gestures, betraying his inexperience. Only later would Machiavelli learn to conceal his true thoughts behind a mask of wit and irony."An inspiring tale of the courage and fortitude of an enigmatic and indomitable woman."--Kirkus Reviews"

From the Inside Flap

"A rich, nuanced portrait of a highly controversial beauty and military leader, and her violent albeit glittering Italian Renaissance milieu."--"Publishers Weekly"
A strategist to match Machiavelli; a warrior who stood toe to toe with the Borgias; a wife whose three marriages would end in bloodshed and heartbreak; and a mother determined to maintain her family's honor, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici was a true Renaissance celebrity, beloved and vilified in equal measure. In this dazzling biography, Elizabeth Lev illuminates her extraordinary life and accomplishments.
Raised in the court of Milan and wed at age ten to the pope's corrupt nephew, Caterina was ensnared in Italy's political intrigues early in life. After turbulent years in Rome's papal court, she moved to the Romagnol province of Forli. Following her husband's assassination, she ruled Italy's crossroads with iron will, martial strength, political savvy, and an icon's fashion sense. In finally losing her lands to the Borgia family, she put up a resistance that inspired all of Europe and set the stage for her progeny--including Cosimo de' Medici--to follow her example to greatness.
A rich evocation of Renaissance life, "The Tigress of Forli" reveals Caterina Riario Sforza as a brilliant and fearless ruler, and a tragic but unbowed figure.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1815 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (1 Oct. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009E2JVZK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #159,115 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a brilliantly written book that is both intellectual and entertaining. Caterina is a fascinating person and the intriguing and turbulent period she lived in is brought to vividly to life without loss of historical gravitas. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Renaissance period who also respects good writing. Elizabeth Lev is an admirable writer.
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Format: Kindle Edition
"The Tigress of Forli," is the debut publication of Rome-based Elizabeth Lev. It is a nonfiction treatment of the life of the 15th-16th century Italian woman, Caterina Riario Sforza De Medici, one of the most prominent, and vilified, women in Renaissance Italy. (The Renaissance was generally considered to have taken place between the 14th and 17th centuries, and to have been centered in Italy.The term means, literally, rebirth, and referred to the fact that by rediscovering ancient texts, art, and architecture, scholars infused new knowledge into civilisation). Caterina was a three times married wife, mother of eight surviving children, shrewd leader, and fearless warrior. Elizabeth Lev here re-examines her extraordinary life and accomplishments.

Caterina was an illegitimate child of the mighty soldiers, the Sforza (means strong in Italian) of Milan. Apparently, however, the Renaissance period wasn't much bothered by the concept of illegitimacy, and, as was the norm in those days, Caterina was raised with her half-brothers and sisters at the court of Milan. As was also apparently the norm in those days, she received as good an education as did her brothers, for, as the author mentions, the Renaissance knew that death came early and often. And noblewomen who were married to soldiers - condottiere, as Italy called them--were often widowed early in life, while the rightful heir to their husband's throne was still young. So, such women were named as regents. They had to run and hold their lands for their sons, and that required an understanding of government, politics, and warfare--especially if you were a Sforza.

Caterina was wed at age ten to the reigning pope's corrupt nephew: that too was the way things were done in those days of arranged marriages.
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Sometimes a biography is so good that the subject just leaps off the page and comes into such clear focus that you feel you actually know the person. Elizabeth Lev's book on Caterina Sforza is just such a one!

From her earliest childhood in mid 14th century Italy, this attractive, proud, clever and authoritative Sforza girl showed a resilience beyond her years. She was sacrificed by her ambitious father, as so many girls at that time were, to a strategic marriage. Hers was to Girolamo Riaro a nephew of Pope Sixtus. She was just 10 years old, and one non-negotiable condition of the marriage contract was immediate consummation - Riaro was 30 at the time! She eventually joined her husband in Rome, where she had her first taste of direct military action, and showed herself both braver and smarter than her lumpen spouse. Political changes in the Vatican meant a move with her husband and ever growing family to their fiefdom of Forli and Imola where plots against the unpopular Count Riario finally resulted in his assassination. Caterina's response to this outrage was strategically brilliant and perfectly judged, even to the point of risking her own children who were being held hostage by flaunting herself, and calling their captors' bluff by assuring them that she possessed the 'means to make more'. She saved not only herself and her children despite overwhelming odds, but emerged stronger. Her vengeance on the assassins (despite the fact that her relationship with Riario had caused her at times to wish herself dead), had to be seen to be effective as did her later armed defences of her castle and her sons' inheritance. Leadership meant hard decisions and she did not shy away from wreaking punishment on plotters and enemies.
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