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Household economies in late medieval and early modern Italy

Models of female education and household management

Noblewomen in a rural context (Friuli, 16th-18th centuries)
Laura Casella
p. 119-135

Résumé

This essay will tackle two topics: women’s education and the daily practice of writing and bookkeeping among noblewomen in a rural context. The numerous family memoirs and accounting records of the main feudal families of Friuli prove that women had extensive economic control over family assets and household economic activities. A text of uncertain attribution, perhaps written by a woman, the Colloquio sopra gli studj delle donne, published in Udine in 1774, argued that women should acquire knowledge in trade, medicine, and agriculture. Most probably, the author witnessed an economic reality in which noblewomen were actively involved and needed this kind of knowledge to manage their households and take care of its members. The interest in women’s practical knowledge links the female model of the Colloquio with documented female agency among Friulian noblewomen between the 16th and 18th centuries.

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Notes de l’auteur

Translation of Matthys van Huyssteen.

Texte intégral

1The purpose of the present article is to link two themes: the discussion on female education in the 18th century – in particular, some positions we find in the Colloquio sopra gli studj delle donne, published in Udine in 1774 – and the agency of Friulian noblewomen in domestic administration and family economy as documented by widespread administrative and memorial writing throughout the early modern age.

  • 1 For an overview of the discussion around this text, refer to Casella 2020.
  • 2 Guerci 1987; Messbarger 2002; Bloch 2005; Messbarger – Findlen 2005; Timmermans 2005; Plebani 2014.
  • 3 Broadly framing the subject of prescriptive behavioural and etiquette literature Ajmar – Wolleheim (...)

2The writing we take as our reference – and which we should probably consider the product of a female hand – has recently aroused the interest of scholars and has been analysed in the light of a gendered reading that has helped to frame it better historically and culturally. However, some issues – specifically attribution of authorship – still need investigation.1 While, on the one hand, some positions expressed in the text re-propose what the most up-to-date European cultural debate was advocating regarding female education, on the other hand, the Colloquio shows some elements of originality that seem related to the specific social and cultural condition of the Friulian aristocrats. The theoretical discussion on philosophical or, more appropriately, pedagogical ideals regarding female education that was so lively in the 18th century will remain in the background,2 and we shall limit ourselves to referring only to some works and authors who discussed female education in relation to the broader debate on nobility in Friuli at the time. It is interesting to relate the text to the social context in which it is produced and from which it takes its cue. Indeed, the Colloquio has a prescriptive character regarding the education of women3 but also reveals a descriptive nature of the female condition in that milieu.

  • 4 For more on some of these aspects: Casella – De Martin Pinter 2017; Casella 2019, 2021.

3We will therefore focus on some specific elements that emerge in the text’s educational proposal, comparing them with the documentary traces that testify to the knowledge and skills, capacity to act, and horizons of intervention that aristocratic women, particularly those of feudal families, demonstrated to possess and put into practice. To govern a complex family and economic system, such as that of the noble household and its properties, these women (often, in our case, on both sides of the border) write, read, count, know the prices of goods and the market, administer annuities, and manage estates. They know the legal aspects of contracts, direct agents, control servants, raise, educate, initiate sons and daughters into careers and marriage, supervise their endowments and inheritances, and above all, keep records of their actions and decisions.4

  • 5 Most studies specifically deal with the English context: Whittle 2005; Whittle – Griffiths 2012. Se (...)
  • 6 See Martini – Bellavitis 2014; Bellavitis – Martini – Sarti 2016; Whittle 2019. These consideration (...)
  • 7 Of that season, one should at least remember the seminal volume by Frigo 1985 and the research coll (...)
  • 8 Imícoz Beunza – Oliveri Korta 2010.

4The roles of noblewomen in old or new feudalism, and in particular their working status in rural contexts, understood as the work of running the household and the family’s economy, have been little researched5 – indeed, less than has been done for urban contexts or women from other social classes. And this is because, essentially, there remains a conceptual and lexical ambiguity with which to approach and name the female tasks of the elite women: unpaid jobs, we would say today, but economically relevant, typical of the noble household, closely interrelated with both the structure of the family and that of its economy, and thus the foundation of the societies of the Ancien Régime.6 There is no need to return to what are now, at least since the 1980s, social and political history studies to assess the weight that has been given in modern centuries to the family and the treatises concerning it.7 On the contrary, it is worth taking the opportunity for a semantic re-discussion, from a gender perspective, of the categories for interpreting the social and economic relations that weave the social and political history of the family.8

  • 9 This is a very lively and articulated field of study that ranges from the oldest volumes such as La (...)
  • 10 Lacoue-Labarthe – Mouysset 2012; Plebani 2019.

5Two recent and fruitful historiographical perspectives can be taken as frames of reference to focus on a gendered reading of the cultural and economic processes of a rural and border area. I refer to studies on material culture and the everyday dimension of domestic life on the one hand9 and the valorisation of women’s ordinary writing on the other.10

6Reading some pages of the Colloquio sopra gli studj delle donne in the light of these references and, at the same time, the substantial documentation of aristocratic women preserved in the family archives of the Friulian nobility, allows for a dialogue between theory and practice, but also between production processes and social subjectivities. In other words, the intention is to establish a dialectic between this literary text and the literacy and numeracy skills practised by these women: while, given the current state of research, it is not possible to affirm that the Friulian women’s writing and management skills reflect a specific pedagogical tradition. However, the diffusion of this daily practice of recording and annotating does show common traits that allow us to reconstruct the possible cultural models that were then sedimented in the Colloquio.

Starting from the end: a model of female education in 18th century Friuli

  • 11 Conversation on women’s studies in which three important issues are discussed. First: Whether women (...)

7In 1774, a volume entitled Colloquio sopra gli studj delle donne in cui si trattano tre questioni importanti. Primo: Se le donne debbano applicarsi a qualche studio. Secondo: Quali studj convengano alle medesime Terzo: Come debbano essere acconciati i libri necessarj alla loro istruzione11 was published (fig. 1).

Figure 1 – Colloquio sopra gli studj delle donne, Udine, per li Frattelli Gallici, 1774. Front page.

Figure 1 – Colloquio sopra gli studj delle donne, Udine, per li Frattelli Gallici, 1774. Front page.
  • 12 Colloquio 1774, p. xi.

8The text is anonymous, structured as a conversation between three subjects who, throughout its 230 pages, encounter each other in a lively and tense exchange of opinions and hold “ragionamento a favor del loro sesso […] come se fossero presenti” (reasoning in favour of their sex […] as if they were present).12 In this form, the gravity of the teaching of the ancients comes across in the lively dialogue between the three women.

  • 13 Donato 2000; Graziosi 2004.

9The first to appear is Christina of Sweden, the great queen who abdicated the throne in 1654 to her cousin Charles X and embraced Catholicism: an excellent woman, writer, and promotor of pre-arcadic literary relations, in particular, of the Accademia Cristiniana.13 Cristina is tasked with leading the game, posing the preliminary and crucial question: “whether it is good for women to study”. And from this, the following two derive: which studies? And from which books?

  • 14 Colloquio 1774, p. 83.
  • 15 Sapegno 2016.

10In the first part of the text, the dialogue unfolds between the Queen and Arete, daughter of Aristippus, founder of the Cyrenaean school, and mother of Aristippus the younger, herself considered to be a philosopher and educator of her son. The third figure appears later in the text when the Swedish sovereign has dismantled the positions and convictions of her interlocutor, and Arete admits the limitation of her opinions, recognises “the usefulness of women’s studies”14, and begins, at this point, to question Christina of Sweden on the most suitable studies for women. The figure who enters the scene to reinforce what had by now become a shared conviction – the advantage of study for women – is Vittoria Colonna, the 16th-century poetess with a multifaceted cultural physiognomy, a woman of power and faith, often taken as a model to imitate.15

  • 16 Colloquio 1774, p. 19: “Io abbandonai, quando viveva nel mondo il mio trono e la mia Patria in cui (...)
  • 17 Colloquio 1774, p. 24: “Che direte voi mia cara Arete se io vi dimostro che la coltura del proprio (...)
  • 18 Ibid., p. 93-94.

11As models of cultured and exceptional women at different times in history, the three interlocutors represent three stages of female consciousness that reach its affirmation through studies and intellectual self-determination. Arete represents the tradition of educated mothers or daughters of illustrious men (and thus, her intellectual qualities are defined in relation to these). Christina of Sweden is the woman of power who distances herself from it when the spread of Protestantism challenged her reign.16 Her life is a testimony to a happy union between education and faith, one in which study, even that of women, can nurture Christian virtue.17 As for Vittoria Colonna, she has the task of eulogising study as a tool for achieving intellectual emancipation, a condition for the freedom of expression: cultured language, literature, and poetry, its most excellent part, are the subjects of the studies that Colonna loved and cultivated throughout her life.18

Who authored the Colloquio?

  • 19 Ibid., p. ix. Chiara Vendramin had married in 1738 to the illustrious representative of a patrician (...)

12As mentioned, the text is anonymous. The dedication, addressed to Chiara Vendramin Pesaro, bears the signature of a “most humble, most devoted, most obliging servant N. N.”. The intention to ascribe the work to the Venetian patrician Chiara Vendramin Calergi, second wife of Leonardo Pesaro di San Stae, is motivated by the desire to extol the care and education of her children – a noble upbringing given to them – first and foremost by the example of virtue and faith, but also through assiduous attention. “The intention of this operetta of mine”, says the author, “is to raise young women and noblewomen, particularly in such a way that they will come to imitate you”.19

  • 20 So he writes, referring to the capital city, Udine: Cargnelutti 1997, p. 112.
  • 21 Colloquio 1774, p. vii, p. 143-169.

13The dedication provides a clue – to be further investigated, of course – for identifying the author of these pages. There is no doubt that the Pesaros family was highly regarded in Friuli: Leonardo, the father, had been luogotenente della Patria del Friuli in the years 1748-1750, and Francesco, who turned out to be “one of the main protectors of the city in Venice”20 in the years following the fall of the Republic, had also been prominent earlier if, as we read in the dedication of the Colloquio, he is extolled as a figure who had led to resolving disputes between political subjects and communities in the region.21

  • 22 Ferigo – Lorenzini 2001, 2006.
  • 23 Ferigo 2007.
  • 24 Propositiones 1749.
  • 25 Poesie 1769.
  • 26 Fagioli Vercellone 1997; Gorian 2007.
  • 27 ASU, Florio, b. 193, n. 11, letter of Francesco Janisi to Daniele Florio, 31 March 1769: “Anche mia (...)

14Among the hypotheses put forward on the text’s authorship, the one that the dedication seems to endorse the most, though not definitively, points to the Janesi family in the town of Tolmezzo, the capital of Carnia, at the foot of the Friulian mountains. In this context, recent studies reconstruct the physiognomy of a community which experienced progressive demographic growth in the 18th century. Attracted by the development of important industrial activities related to textile manufacturing starting from the third decade of the 18th century, numerous individuals and families emigrated to Tolmezzo from the neighbouring villages, from Cadore and other Veneto territories. The Janesi belonged to a group of families with deep roots in the community. Their economic growth derived from the new manufacturing and commercial activities. Simultaneously, they were promoters of the town’s cultural growth, financed schools, owned libraries, and involved in scientific issues.22 This family was, therefore cultured and well-informed of the ideas circulating, of the literary and scientific debates that engaged European intellectuals in these decades of scientific progress and social reform. Two of the Janesi family members, a sister and a brother, are mentioned as authors of the Colloquio. Angelica (or Angela) Janesi (or Ianesi, Janis or Ianis – these are the variants by which she was named) did not leave many traces of her life. She was born the first of eight children on 26 January 1728 to Giuseppe Pietro Janesi and Cassandra Camozzini and was very old when she died in 1815.23 Her brother, Francesco, an abbot, was appointed by the community council to run a public school for a few years and later was in charge of a private one, paid for by the families, until 1771. We have some works by Francesco Janesi that reveal his philosophical and theological interests, which saw him take an interest in the scientific positions of Descartes, Leibniz, and Newton and in the comparison between these theories and the traditional scholastic method of the Thomists that he discusses, for example, in the Propositiones philosophicae addressed to Cardinal Daniele Dolfin in 1749.24 In keeping with the practice of the other members of his class, he shared the cultural and social habit of writing sonnets and occasional poems such as those destined for the wedding of Giovanni Manin, brother of the last doge of the Serenissima, and Caterina Pesaro, daughter of Vendramin and Leonardo Pesaro, in which we also find a sonnet by Angelica.25 Evidence that the Janesi put themselves under the protection of the Pesaro family and paid them homage with their writings is confirmed on more than one occasion. Both shared literary and intellectual interests as well. In the last lines of a long letter from Francesco – here signed Janisi – sent from Tolmezzo on 31 March 1769 to Count Daniele Florio, a leading figure in a literary environment beyond the borders of the Friulian homeland,26 Angelica is mentioned once again. “Also, my sister Angelica read the poem with as much pleasure as you can imagine. She thanks you for your criticism of her song and declares herself your ‘servant’.”27 Here we have explicit confirmation of Angelica’s involvement in scholarly relations and her commitment to studying and writing. The letter, written a few years before the publication of the Colloquio, provides an opportunity for Francesco to address the theme of education aimed at supporting its role in combating the scourge of ignorance and thus discuss subjects and topics that saw him directly involved as a teacher and that would also be the subject of the anonymous treatise on female education.

  • 28 Refer to the biographical entry and the writings of Ferigo – Lorenzini 2006; Casella 2020.
  • 29 Joseph Fucilla analyses a letter from Voltaire to Polcenigo dated 25 March 1766, concerning some wo (...)

15Whether it is due to the pen of her brother or Angelica’s or the result of a shared elaboration and writing in a sort of domestic atelier still needs investigation. Most of the eleven copies of the Colloquio found in Italian and foreign libraries attribute the work to Francesco. The identification of Angelica Janesi as the author of these pages is more complex; attribution ranges from the belief that she is a pseudonym used by a backward feudal lord to sign some writings to the recent suggestion that she is indeed the cultured woman from Tolmezzo who actually existed.28 In fact, it was long believed that Angelica Janesi was the pseudonym that Giorgio di Polcenigo, a conservative and cultured representative of one of Friuli’s oldest aristocratic families, had used in these cases, as he was accustomed to signing satirical or improper texts under other names.29

  • 30 Giorgio di Polcenigo and Fanna, author of De’ nobili de’ Parlamenti de’ feudi that owes much to Mon (...)
  • 31 Il caffè, poema di Angelica Janesi, 1769, BCU, fondo principale, ms. 172. We add, for the sake of c (...)

16The copies of the Colloquio bear material traces of attributions. Some copies of the work in the Biblioteca civica Vincenzo Joppi in Udine present a material correction by the hand of an erudite 19th-century librarian who erased the name of Giorgio di Polcenigo on the cover, replacing it with that of Angelica Janesi.30 A similar correction is repeated in other collections of poems initially attributed to Polcenigo.31

Nobility, female education, and circulation of models

17Identifying a specific author is an appropriate step for a correct reading of these pages and, more generally, of opinions on the education of young women in 18th-century Friuli. Although this may be a helpful element to support a gendered reading of this intellectual ferment, so far, there are consistent and solid clues but no specific documentary evidence to attribute the Colloquio to Angelica Janesi. However, to identify how certain themes are common and shared but also emphasise the originality of the Colloquio, it is important to place this text within the literary production of those decades.

  • 32 In 1743, in an edition that combines several works, appeared in Udine, at the typographer Gianbatti (...)

18From the first decades of the century, evidence of interest and lively publishing activity is ample. There is a wealth of treatises involving several leading exponents of Friulian aristocratic culture – city patricians and feudal lords – on the education of young women. Some members of Udine’s elite or ecclesiastics, involved in the circulation of pedagogical guidelines observant of religious orthodoxy, published works to educate young boys and girls. In some cases, these were translations of French works, such as the Lettera della Marchesa di Lambert a suo figliuolo, translated and published by Giacomo Gorgo, who grew up in a cultured family and was a protagonist of Udine’s cultural scene thanks to the rich library and private academy that constituted a pole of association and intellectual frequentation, or the Lettera della Marchesa di Lambert a sua figlia, nuovamente data in luce per istruzione delle figliuol, translated and published by another Friulian, Abbot Carlo Narduzzi of San Daniele.32

  • 33 Casella 2008.
  • 34 Ibid. The reference is to François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon, Les aventures de Télémaque, fil (...)

19As an expression of one of the most prominent female figures in Parisian literary society between the 17th and 18th centuries, historiographical tradition considers Madame de Lambert’s Instructions mostly re-proposals of the model already seen in the French philosophical-pedagogical school of which Fenélon is its most authoritative representative. However, it is precisely the repetitiveness of this educational model that identifies these works as the most suitable to perpetuate a tradition that, by its long duration and universality, lends itself to being used as ideal for the aristocratic education of men and women, in Paris as well as in a province far from the French capital. Knowledge of these texts had presumably been imported to Friuli by travellers such as the Udine patrician Niccolò Madrisio, who described Parisian salons and cultural life on his trip to France in the late 17th and early 18th century.33 A few decades later, Francesco Janesi himself, in his letter to Florio mentioned earlier, did not miss an opportunity to praise the influence that the Telemachus had represented on the renewal of pedagogical trends: “Benedetto sia Fénelon” (Blessed be Fénelon), Janesi wrote of the French archbishop who, with this precursor work, had “il nobil fin di liberare gli uomini da loro mali e errori”.34

  • 35 Beretta 1730, 1724. On these texts, see: Monaco 1967; Spada 2009. They both say little about these (...)
  • 36 Beretta 1730.
  • 37 Ibid., p. vi: “Le virtù coniugali sono le prime e le massime tra le virtù civili”; “se è buona madr (...)
  • 38 These are considerations by Corbellini, who published the introduction and index of the treatise ch (...)

20Far removed from these positions were those held by Count Francesco Beretta of Udine, a prolific historian and scholar with many prestigious intellectual connections, who flanked his more strictly political reflections (Trattato sulla nobiltà of 1748 and La patria del Friuli descritta e illustrata of 1751) with works dedicated to the training and morals of women such as Principj di filosofia cristiana sopra lo stato nuziale ad uso delle donzelle nobili and the shorter Lettera d’istruzione a una monaca, both published between the 1720s and 1730s.35 The treatise on marriage, in particular, extols Christian morality and the social stability that comes from respecting the roles and precepts laid down by religious orthodoxy. As Beretta defines it, the “matrimoniale società” draws yet another figure of a woman who derives her participation in civil life and her contribution to the political order from her role of wife and mother.36 “Foremost among the civil virtues are the conjugal virtues” is a statement that delineates the perimeter of the action of the woman who “if she is a good mother, she gives the republics good citizens if she is bad she gives bad subjects”.37 Beretta’s political and cultural project does not need an educated woman: it is no coincidence that in his writing, he denies “the value of culture for the education of a woman, judging it to be a means of misguidance, in order to exalt, on the contrary, all the behaviour that produces, modesty, remission, conjugal obedience”.38 Within this frame of reference is the vision “del buon impiego del tempo” (of the good use of time, chap. xx), which allows Beretta to touch upon the theme of female labour. Women were created for work, understood as domestic work, in a perspective that the author further develops in chapter xxii which discusses Xenophon’s positions on women in economic science and home government. The discussion on women is closely linked and dependent on his discussion on nobility and society, which Beretta addresses, as mentioned in other works.

  • 39 Leshem 2016; Arienzo 2018.

21Recourse to Senofonte’s philosophy for the definition of the physiognomy of the mistress of the house and Beretta’s conception of the conjugal relationship would require an in-depth study of classical philosophical positions, such as that of Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, which significantly influenced the discussion on economics in the medieval and modern centuries.39 In the case of Beretta’s treatise on marriage, this aspect was little noted, giving space to religious morality to classify his intellectual contribution as retrogressive regarding more modern positions on women, their education, and their role in society.

  • 40 It was Luciano Guerci who had already warned against the mistake of seeking only the application of (...)

22A deeper analysis reveals that the issue is more nuanced and that the debate on women’s education throughout the 18th century developed within the tension between religious orthodoxy and the affirmation of new cultural acquisitions. The Principij di filosofia cristiana and the Colloquio, ideally holding different positions, share a horizon in which, for example, women’s education and marriage continue to be closely related and in which the former is functional to the latter. While female education is understood as a condition of personal elevation and emancipation, in some cases, it is seen as the added value of a bien élevée wife.40

  • 41 See Savorgnan Cergneu di Brazzà 2008, 2011.
  • 42 Casella 2020.
  • 43 Lavinia Florio Dragoni, Memorie di Vittoria Florio nata Valvasoni, mia cara madre, alla mia sorella (...)

23An example of this tension affecting female education and life between orthodoxy and devotion on the one hand, and personal growth and emancipation on the other, can be seen in the biography of Lavinia Florio Dragoni, who is the most important female figure in Udine’s literary scene, animator of a fashionable intellectual salon, and studied above all for her correspondence with Melchiorre Cesarotti.41 The letters that Giulia and Teresa Dragoni wrote to their mother Lavinia are evidence of what education represented for a woman ahead of her time: cultural interests, observation, and commentary on political events, and love of discussion arising from challenging reading, are all topics that Lavinia and her daughters touched upon in their correspondence.42 Lavinia Florio is simultaneously committed to transmitting moral and religious values to her daughters through traditional forms of writing, such as spiritual biographies, which she uses to idealise the memory of her mother and mother-in-law. Hagiographic models and critical spirit coexist in the culture of these women.43

24But let us return to the Colloquio and its consideration of women’s education as aimed at preparing a good wife, mother, and lady of the house rather than intellectual emancipation. In a text that solicits rethinking women’s social position and culture, women’s education remains an asset to be put to good use in the marriage market. This is clearly argued in the pages of the Colloquio addressed to an easily identifiable imaginary reader, a male member of the nobility:

  • 44 Colloquio 1774, p. xv: “Fingi di avere quattro o sei figlie da marito le quali, mercé gl’insegnamen (...)

Imagine that you have four or six daughters to marry and who, thanks to the teachings that you or the masters with little effort will have given them, have come to possess all the knowledge (but also awareness: that is, knowledge that makes one confident) whose study is recommended in the Colloquio. In this case you will surely be forced to confess (and when you have read it, you will see) that – unless a bad heart or an insurmountable obstacle opposes them – they will be the happiness of those families into which they are placed. Now, of such an advantage, what do you think? But, in our hypothesis, the value and actions, and therefore the fate and happiness of your daughters, will be quite different. And you? What can we say about you? Which father, which father-in-law, can be happier and more content than you?44

25What is envisaged in this passage is a wealth of knowledge and culture that women who entered families through marriage brought with them. It is not a matter of useful conversation knowledge for the intellectual exchange that was gradually becoming more and more frequent or, as required by tradition, for spiritual elevation in line with the moral direction of religion; instead, it evokes that range of practical, managerial, day-to-day knowledge that, in particular, the noblewomen of Friuli, representatives of the feudal families, knew. Women other than Lavinia Florio Dragoni; for example, women of the country, of “villa”, as we shall read, rather than of city and “palace”.

26It is, therefore, worthwhile to relate the positions supported in the text on the subjects proposed for women’s studies and the regional context in which the work is conceived and, consequently, focus reflection on women’s education in a less frequent direction to typical studies on women’s education, particularly in the 18th century. This would require looking into the ideological matrix, the relationship between Catholic orthodoxy and the Enlightenment, and the tension between tradition and the affirmation of new ideas and liberal positions. The Colloquio offers originality that is worth investigating, i.e. that women must study medicine, agriculture, and commerce. We should consider the documented experience of subjects from the Friulian rural aristocracy to give the analysis a different perspective by focusing on the economic dimension, work, and the role of women in rural economies between the Renaissance and fully developed modernity. By looking at the direct written expressions left by women, it is possible to find traces of what is taught in this text.

Women of the landed aristocracy: daily writing practices and household management

  • 45 I considered about forty family archives in which I identified, up to now, about 140 memory or mana (...)

27The research I am conducting on women’s domestic and daily writings in the archives of some families of the Friulian nobility has brought a variety of extremely well-articulated sources to light. These documents are not always traceable to the usual accounts and memoirs: accounts, notes on household management, the provisioning and consumption of foodstuffs, the memory of marriages and children’s careers, and choices regarding inheritance, are often found interspersed in books, notebooks, or registers that, because of their form, the reasons for the entries, the greater or lesser space given to sentimental and affective notes, or the memory of economic decisions, lead us to pay unprejudiced attention to the variable typology of these writings.45

  • 46 A methodologically innovative research that starts from women’s ordinary writings is in Galasso 201 (...)

28Some methodological and theoretical aspects of the research are affected. Starting from the daily and ordinary occasions in which it is exercised, women’s writing shows “other” possibilities of historical interpretation. Writing is not just, as in many women’s letters, dedicating oneself to maintaining sentiments and social relations or engaging in the talented work proper to a small and belated number of educated women. Nor is it an exceptional exercise to entrust one’s final wishes to paper. Ordinary everyday writings allow us to explore the daily practice of managing or co-managing the home and property; the ability to organise and, above all, pass on those skills and knowledge – economic, administrative, legal – which give substance to female agency by showing its position and potential, in the relationship with other parental figures and with the social and economic system of reference.46

29These books are highly illuminating sources about the daily activities of women. They describe aspects of the day-to-day running of the household and family – e.g., procurement and consumption, the relationships with farmers, agents, domestic staff, suppliers, merchants, and artisans. In this way, we can assess the little researched area of the role played by women’s occupations and work in the governance of the noble household and determine, as already mentioned, the roles and spheres of intervention of aristocratic women in rural economies. To show the persistence of female practice, I will give a few examples by going back in time from the 18th century to the 16th century.

  • 47 Casella – De Martin Pinter 2017.
  • 48 ASU, Perusini, b. 390, fasc. 1: Cibarie. Memoria delle spese faremi la Co: Claudia per mio conto l’ (...)

30Silvia Rabatta Colloredo, in the long course of her life (1717-1801), displayed an ability to govern the family over several decades, leaving evidence in her books of outstanding experience in the economic management of her household and in particular of the food supply arrangements of a complex family system, spread over several houses and several properties. Rabatta kept regular records of what came from her land (grains, vegetables, fruit, livestock, wine) and what she bought on the market, subdividing the goods for each supplier while also noting her personal expenses and those for the servants. “My books”, as she calls them, are built up in an articulated system of cross-references, both internally and with the other administrative writings of the house.47 Significant in this regard is a register of expenses, made on her behalf by her daughter-in-law who lives with her (fig. 2).48 Besides the explicit reference to the structure of her accounting memoir, these words reveal the relationship of substituting each other in women of the same family, a relationship through which the transmission of managerial and practical knowledge between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law was often structured.

Figure 2 – Silvia Rabatta, Cibarie. Memoria delle spese fatemi la Co: Claudia per mio conto l’anno 1797 e saldate e girate nelli miei libri (ASU, Perusini, b. 390, fasc. 1).

Figure 2 – Silvia Rabatta, Cibarie. Memoria delle spese fatemi la Co: Claudia per mio conto l’anno 1797 e saldate e girate nelli miei libri (ASU, Perusini, b. 390, fasc. 1).
  • 49 ASU, Toppo, b. 48, Libro di notte della Sig.a Bianca Savorgnana, fol. 6v: “Memoria come costuma il (...)
  • 50 Casella 2015.

31Another case is that of Bianca Prampero Savorgnan, who oversaw numerous activities during the last decades of the 17th century: annuities collection, rewriting contracts related to rented land, selling grain, collecting information about of price fluctuations and their local variations, as when she notes, on 17 September 1670, that she was selling a quantity of grain on a market that allowed her a higher income.49 Taking charge of economic management also entailed checking the documents attesting to property rights and those establishing the conditions under which land was leased. Bianca, in June 1672, noted the absence of some papers and the need to clarify certain lease conditions. Probably the onset of a conflict situation with the landlords or the simple need to get to know and trace back the conditions of the contract with two tenants led the noblewoman to a backward search in the archives to reconstruct the personal chain of guarantees of the contract. These are significant notes to measure these women’s economic and legal knowledge, whose acquisition is necessary for managing the house and their financial condition.50

32Let’s go back even further in time. It is not unusual to find ample evidence of women who knew how to manage assets and agricultural activities as well as how to defend their interests legally. In the 16th century, Albarosa Cossio, who came from a prestigious lineage of the Colloredo family, married into a family of minor nobility in a community in western Friuli and showed her ability to defend her interests in the context of feuding noble families. She found herself defending her position as a widow, since 1558, before the Venetian magistracies to whom she described a situation of decades-long conflict over her dowry assets and claimed the non-payment of what was owed to her by her son, manoeuvred, according to her, by her daughter-in-law, Smeralda Strassoldo, a member of a family involved in the feud between feudal families. The economic and personal situation is tinged with political overtones that make it even more delicate.

  • 51 ASVe, Collegio, Suppliche, Suppliche di Fuori, b. 338, fol. nn.: “L’eccellente Lovisini principal a (...)
  • 52 On that, see Casella 2019.

33Nevertheless, Albarosa appointed lawyers – one of whom had been killed precisely because of her defence – and pleaded her case directly in Venice. In May 1584, her plea was brought before the Collegio.51 The climate of threats and intimidation that Cossio brought to the Venetian magistrates necessarily framed her economic claim in a context that went beyond the family equilibrium and included part of a panorama of clashes that were not only domestic but in which the two opposing aristocratic alignments from the Venetian and Habsburg Friuli political scene appeared. The claims to property and annuities that Albarosa presented to the Venetian courts in Friuli and Venice constitute a female point of view that helps us to deconstruct traditional narratives of the political history in this area, and induce us to strengthen the gendered reading of the patrimonial and family affairs of the local nobility.52

  • 53 BSI, ms. 40 (in the typewritten inventory, the book of Venere Bosina is associated with the name of (...)
  • 54 ASGo, Coronini Cronberg, b. 88.

34Also, in the 16th century is the excellent case of Venere, the daughter of a leather goods manufacturer. She was born in a small coastal community on the Venetian lagoon and lived in Porcia, in Friuli Veneto, where she married the wealthy heterodox artisan Girolamo della Massara, known as Bosina because he traded with Bosnia. Venere was linked to Hapsburg nobles residing in the Gorizia region thanks to the marriage, first of her sister and then her nephew, into the Degrazia family. Thus, in her history, social borders and state borders were crossed through these matrimonial ties, which, given by the trafficking of certain goods (leather, grains) from one side of the border to the other, mirror the sharing of economic interests. These annotations are found at the beginning of the diary Venere keeps during holidays, so as not to be idle. Her Libro de le cose che son degne de eser notate et tenute memoria dal 1541 in qua is an assortment of facts on her family life, grain prices, trends in agricultural production up to 1591, weather phenomena and the damage these caused to crops, political events she learns about (the visit of a sovereign, the composition of the galleys to be sent against the Turks, the outcome of the battle of Lepanto, the burning of the Arsenal in Venice), and events relating to feuding between local lords.53 She had only just been widowed when she began writing her notebook. Still, her ability to manage the house and money is confirmed even earlier by her other essential accounting books, such as the Libro d’affitti di madonna Venera Bossina et le Libro de mi Venere Bosina,54 by her lending activity of which she keeps a record, and by letters and will, decisions related to her will.

  • 55 ASU, Toppo, b. 48.
  • 56 ASU, Perusini, b. 702, fasc. 7, Libro delli livelli di me, Silvia Colloredo ut intus (1787-1796).
  • 57 ASU, Perusini, b. 716, reg. 8, Libro dei salariati di me, Silvia Colloredo (1783-1785).
  • 58 ASU, Zucco, b. 14, fasc. nn., 1753, Rottolo di me, Anna Giulia di Zucco.

35The “books” or “scrolls” known as “de mi” (mine), which are notebooks or registers of accounting entries, were quite frequent between the 16th and 18th centuries. In the case of the scrolls, they still retain the name of the typical medieval parchment register that could be rolled up but are made of paper and bound in a hardcover. Besides that of Venere, we have others in which women emphasise with the first person personal pronoun their ownership and describe the purpose of those records: the Libro di livelli di me, Bianca Savorgniana. Rotollo 1683 (fig. 3)55 or the Libro delli livelli di me, Silvia Colloredo (fig. 4)56 or, again by the latter, the Libro dei salariati di me, Silvia Rabatta vedova di Colloredo (fig. 5).57 Anna Giulia di Zucco’s is also an example of how, at times, those pages that served to record transactions (what the peasants owe her) also reveal her sensitivity through writings (fig. 6).58

Figure 3 – Libro di livelli di me, Bianca Savorgniana. Rotollo 1683 (ASU, Toppo, b. 112).

Figure 3 – Libro di livelli di me, Bianca Savorgniana. Rotollo 1683 (ASU, Toppo, b. 112).

Figure 4 – Libro delli livelli di me, Silvia Colloredo (ASU, Perusini, b. 702, fasc. 7).

Figure 4 – Libro delli livelli di me, Silvia Colloredo (ASU, Perusini, b. 702, fasc. 7).

Figure 5 – Libro di salariati di me, Silvia Rabatta vedova di Colloredo (ASU, Perusini, b. 716, reg. 8).

Figure 5 – Libro di salariati di me, Silvia Rabatta vedova di Colloredo (ASU, Perusini, b. 716, reg. 8).

Figure 6 –Rottolo di me, Anna Giulia di Zucco (ASU, Zucco, b. 14, fasc. nn., 1753).

Figure 6 –Rottolo di me, Anna Giulia di Zucco (ASU, Zucco, b. 14, fasc. nn., 1753).
  • 59 ASU, Colloredo Mels, b. 15, fasc. 135.

36In most cases, such registers are autographs, written by agents or secretaries and then checked by the woman who owned accounts and interests: we can make the case of Hortensia Sbrojavacca, who in the first half of the 17th century checked and countersigned payments-in-kind (fig. 7 and 8)59.

Figures 7 and 8 – Estratti della entrata goduta dalla S.ra Ca. Hortensia Sbroiavacca nata Colloreda dall’anno 1615 inc. per tutto l’anno 1652 (ASU, Colloredo Mels, b. 15, fasc. 135).

Figures 7 and 8 – Estratti della entrata goduta dalla S.ra Ca. Hortensia Sbroiavacca nata Colloreda dall’anno 1615 inc. per tutto l’anno 1652 (ASU, Colloredo Mels, b. 15, fasc. 135).

37The typological variety of these books, both from the point of view of material characteristics and the authorship of the writing, is articulated and requires an in-depth study that goes beyond the purpose of these pages, which is to provide only a few examples of the field of action and skills of the women of the Friulian elites throughout the modern centuries. Not surprisingly, these skills form an important part of the body of knowledge that the Colloquio expects to be part of their education.

Women’s practical knowledge: the building of a model

  • 60 Colloquio 1774, p. 102: “E però inoltrandomi ora agli studi che possono più mettere le donne al fat (...)
  • 61 Ibid.: “E’ cosa ben più spettante alle donne incaricate della domestica azienda, che a maschi occup (...)
  • 62 As Marta Ajmar-Wollheim 2013 clearly explains: “In affluent households, however, a new concept of d (...)

38Indeed, a significant passage in the Colloquio suggest that among the subjects suitable for female instruction are agriculture, commerce, and the rudiments of practical medicine: “And delving now into the studies that can be of greater pleasure to women, and at the same time also be more useful, I say frankly that they are Agriculture, and a little bit of Commerce and Medicine.”60 The reasons that explain the inclusion of the subjects listed with so many italics and capital letters in the text are immediately afterwards explained by Christina of Sweden: “Farming is more appropriate for women who are in charge of the household than for males who are engaged in civil, religious, and political affairs. It also brings with it many very enjoyable occupations, which can, therefore, effectively distract her from all the typical female discomforts.”61 These words, which insist on the conjugal couple and the division of roles, take up a common practice of the literary and didactic tradition since the Renaissance: male involvement in society and female involvement in the home and the activities that support it, including agricultural activities. However, this “domestic seclusion” has only been read as a subtraction of female visibility. Yet, if correctly interpreted through the documentation we mentioned earlier, it can attribute a different value to the domestic dimension and the value of the work that women sustain in it.62

  • 63 ASU, Perusini, b. 531, letter of 16 September 1738.
  • 64 Casella – De Martin Pinter 2017.

39From this perspective, the complexity of housekeeping and its different skills are combined: from the ability to organise a reception for distinguished guests to the ability to assert oneself with agents and farmers by imposing one’s own managerial will. We find evidence of an articulated range of tasks in the cases of the women we have mentioned and in many others. Still, it is again Silvia Rabatta who, through the four hundred letters she left behind, offers multiple examples of how much the landlady had to manage: from the request for candelabra and silver cups she asks her father-in-law to send from one house to another to worthily receive important guests,63 to the many missives with which she firmly directs farmers and agents in the management of the land and the sale of products.64

  • 65 Colloquio 1774, p. 103: “Fatte a bella posta dalla natura, la quale ha dato loro una lingua assai s (...)

40The reference to a woman’s character, which, in dealing with agriculture – we will see better in a moment in what sense – would be so distracted by women’s ill-humours (“donneschi malumori”), returns when it is claimed that commerce also suits women “made on purpose by nature, which, unlike males, has given them a quick tongue and a quicker disposition to deal and converse with others”.65 References to feminine nature and the use of stereotypes about the female character – in this case, the propensity to talk – are repeated and used differently to benefit their agency.

  • 66 Ibid.

41The third direction of study concerns medicine. Its knowledge can be of use especially in noblewomen, and more so if they live in a “villa” because it is of benefit to family members, children, and servants but also to strangers staying there, for any ailment and if it did not have enough doctors.66 Interweaving different motivations support the appropriateness of these studies: the condition of women who find themselves coping with tasks and jobs in the breadwinner’s absence engaged in other activities and public affairs (political, civil, religious affairs); a stereotypical idea of the female character characterised by proverbial extroversion and propensity for verbal communication; the usefulness of their involvement for the benefit of family members and relatives.

42Character references to feminine “genius” and its “feminine” traits are difficult to frame: they are an expression of a “tone” and “style” of this writing that is still unclear and that conditions the attribution of authorship to this text. If we interpret the text literally, it weakens the hypothesis of female authorship unless it is to be seen as the use of unsettling irony. It is hard to imagine that a woman would have felt like joking about such a delicate and controversial subject as her condition. Yet, it could also be a subtle attempt at revenge, albeit within the limits of a precise tradition: the author/authoress tries to transform alleged female weaknesses into strengths and motivations for their ability to act.

  • 67 ASU, Perusini, b. 604, letter of Enrica Spineda Colloredo to Silvia Rabatta Colloredo, Muscletto, 9 (...)
  • 68 ASU, Perusini, b. 500, letter of Enrica Spineda Colloredo to Silvia Rabatta Colloredo, s.l., 13 Nov (...)
  • 69 Muzzarelli 2013.
  • 70 Cavallo 2020.

43What is certain is that agriculture, commerce, and medicine are indicated as indispensable knowledge for the profile of the noblewoman that the documentation of many of the feudal family archives reveals. Women in the villa, it is said in the pages of the book, took care of the house and the estates; traded their products, knew their prices and the market; identified the health situation of their relatives and always shared from woman to woman – mothers, daughters, and daughters-in-law – knowledge on how to care for children and relatives. Teresa Colloredo, daughter of the oft-mentioned Rabatta and her daughters-in-law Enrica Spineda and Claudia di Prampero, weave a network of correspondence in which they frequently exchange news about the health of family members and possible remedies to safeguard it. “The grandchildren are still well – Enrica writes to her mother-in-law – except for Filipetto, who [was] tormented by whooping cough that reigns so strongly in these parts.”67 And always, the daughter-in-law justifies the non-visit that her husband had to make to his mother with health reasons.68 Silvia herself directs the educators of her youngest son Pietro Antonio, who is ill with epilepsy when he is at boarding school, by reminding them what must be done for his health; only she knows what he must eat, what he must not drink and what remedies must be administered to him. Information about the ailments affecting the family members, their newfound health, and treatments, constitute the themes of the correspondence between the women who, primarily through the handling and supervising food, possessed the power to heal.69 It must be acknowledged, however, that this specific female task is entirely within the competencies of women in their “caring” work, and arguing its usefulness is thus hardly innovative.70

  • 71 Colloquio 1774, p. 112: “sol per modo di scienza e di direzione”.
  • 72 Ibid.: “debita distinzione che far bisogna tra lo studio semplice di Agricoltura e l’esercizio dell (...)
  • 73 Ibid., p. 112-113: “E’ vero altresì che una padrona di casa, se anche una o due sole volte all’anno (...)
  • 74 Ibid., p. 113: “Comandi dunque la gentildonna e sopraintenda talora a’ lavori degli altri.”
  • 75 ASU, Perusini, b. 508, letter of June 8 1775: “Li comandi del patrone si deve eseguirli […] questo (...)

44The most original aspect concerning the tradition of women’s education – and we return to it to emphasise this – is the importance of agriculture as a central element of this store of knowledge that we have called “practical”. Amongst the interlocutors called upon to support the different positions, an exchange opened up between those who maintained the unsuitability of women for these activities, given certain intrinsic limits to their fragile physical condition but also their social condition – noble and therefore not suited to manual labour – and those who supported the possibility of considering education in agricultural matters only from a theoretical and not an applicative point of view. Agriculture would then be known only through science and management.71 A lengthy note, the only one in the entire text, opens this passage. Its purpose is to clarify the “due distinction to be made between the simple study of Agriculture and its application”72 and to show how knowledge in this field serves gentlewomen to carry out with due instruction the task we have seen as pertinent to the representatives of the rural nobility, i.e. the management (or co-management with husband or children) of the agrarian income. If the study of agriculture is, therefore, not to be for the purpose of physical exercise, it must serve to manage those who deal with it and understand what is reported by the farmers or what the lady sees when visiting her properties, as she should do, once or twice a year, to promote improvements and avoid damage.73 “Therefore, command gentlewoman” – the writer of the Colloquio’s pages concludes – “and sometimes superintend the works of others.”74 And Silvia Rabatta, putting into practice the following dictate, orders her agent, Pietro Cragni, who was guilty of having procured her wine of poor quality, “The master’s commands must be carried out […] this serves as a rule for you”.75

  • 76 Another example is that of Barbara Malvezzi Colloredo studied by De Martin Pinter 2015.

45Above all, these three areas of knowledge – agriculture, first and foremost, rudiments of commerce and practical medicine – can form the essence of a comparison between the words of the Colloquio and the agency of women such as Venere Bosina, Bianca Prampero or Silvia Rabatta. Still, it is also the case for many other aristocratic women who had similar tasks because of different contingencies.76 These are women who, in the rural Friuli of the early modern age, bore witness to the fact that what the pages of the Colloquio indicated as a task to be undertaken was already their daily practice: dealing with agents and farmers, with sharecroppers and peasants; controlling the production of land and livestock; overseeing the distribution of products and their sale; checking accounts or directly keeping them; looking after the health of family members and relatives. In other words, the author of the Colloquio refers to a reality that lay before her, or his, eyes.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Archives

ASGo = Archivio di Stato di Gorizia

ASU = Archivio di Stato di Udine

ASVe = Archivio di Stato di Venezia

BCU = Biblioteca civica di Udine (Vincenzo Joppi)

BSI = Biblioteca Statale Isontina di Gorizia

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Whittle – Griffiths 2012 = J. Whittle, E. Griffiths, Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth-century household: the world of Alice Le Strange, Oxford, 2012.

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Notes

1 For an overview of the discussion around this text, refer to Casella 2020.

2 Guerci 1987; Messbarger 2002; Bloch 2005; Messbarger – Findlen 2005; Timmermans 2005; Plebani 2014.

3 Broadly framing the subject of prescriptive behavioural and etiquette literature Ajmar – Wolleheim 2004; Sanson –Lucioli 2016.

4 For more on some of these aspects: Casella – De Martin Pinter 2017; Casella 2019, 2021.

5 Most studies specifically deal with the English context: Whittle 2005; Whittle – Griffiths 2012. See also on the French context: Ferrier-Viaud 2022.

6 See Martini – Bellavitis 2014; Bellavitis – Martini – Sarti 2016; Whittle 2019. These considerations now find application and exemplary results in Serena Galasso’s doctoral thesis: Galasso 2021. An important theoretical reassessment of women’s work is recently provided by Borderías – Martini 2016. On the work of women in urban contexts, see Bellavitis 2016. It remains a point of reference for the broad chronological framework and cases it presents: Cavaciocchi 1990. The recent essay by Périvier 2020 offers interesting theoretical insights.

7 Of that season, one should at least remember the seminal volume by Frigo 1985 and the research collected in Mozzarelli 1988.

8 Imícoz Beunza – Oliveri Korta 2010.

9 This is a very lively and articulated field of study that ranges from the oldest volumes such as La famiglia 1986 and Pinchera 1999 to the most recent research: Campbell –Miller – Carrol Consavari 2013; Ajmar – Wolleheim – Dennis 2013. More generally, see also McKeon 2005 and Montoya Ramírez – Águila Escobar 2020.

10 Lacoue-Labarthe – Mouysset 2012; Plebani 2019.

11 Conversation on women’s studies in which three important issues are discussed. First: Whether women should apply themselves to any studies. Second: What studies are convenient for them. Third: How the books necessary for their education should be arranged.

12 Colloquio 1774, p. xi.

13 Donato 2000; Graziosi 2004.

14 Colloquio 1774, p. 83.

15 Sapegno 2016.

16 Colloquio 1774, p. 19: “Io abbandonai, quando viveva nel mondo il mio trono e la mia Patria in cui allora vidi regnare senza che io potessi mettere ostacolo una religione diformata e quella Gotica rozzezza all’indole mia tanto ripugnante, per ricoverare in Italia sede e reggia della vera religione, delle belle arti, delle Muse, e d’ogni politezza felice soggiorno” (When I lived in the world I abandoned my throne and my homeland, where I then reigned without being able to put obstacles in the way of a deformed religion and that Gothic coarseness that was so repugnant to my nature, in order to return to Italy as the seat and palace of true religion, fine arts, the Muses, and every happy politeness).

17 Colloquio 1774, p. 24: “Che direte voi mia cara Arete se io vi dimostro che la coltura del proprio spirito è un’azione delle più solenni e indispensabili di virtù […] senza la quale l’uom trascurato della propria perfezione contravviene alla volontà dell’Ente supremo” (What will you say, my dear Arete, if I show you that the cultivation of one’s spirit is one of the most solemn and indispensable acts of virtue […] without which a man neglects his own perfection and contravenes the will of the Supreme Being).

18 Ibid., p. 93-94.

19 Ibid., p. ix. Chiara Vendramin had married in 1738 to the illustrious representative of a patrician family with political weight and considerable wealth, partly drained by the construction at the turn of the century of the grandiose palace on the Grand Canal in whose rooms one of the richest art collections of the Serenissima would be housed. Leonardo, who had no heirs from his first marriage, remarried at an advanced age. Male children had been born from his marriage to Vendramin, including Francesco, a knight and procurator of St. Mark’s, at the time Savio to the orders, a prominent figure on the Venetian political scene in the second half of the 18th century and a controversial figure in the events that saw the fall of the Republic. On the riches and decline of the family: Favetta 2009, 2011. On Francesco Pesaro: Gullino 2015.

20 So he writes, referring to the capital city, Udine: Cargnelutti 1997, p. 112.

21 Colloquio 1774, p. vii, p. 143-169.

22 Ferigo – Lorenzini 2001, 2006.

23 Ferigo 2007.

24 Propositiones 1749.

25 Poesie 1769.

26 Fagioli Vercellone 1997; Gorian 2007.

27 ASU, Florio, b. 193, n. 11, letter of Francesco Janisi to Daniele Florio, 31 March 1769: “Anche mia sorella Angelica ha letto il poema col piacer che può credere. La ringrazia della critica fatta alla di lei canzone, e se la rassegna serva.”

28 Refer to the biographical entry and the writings of Ferigo – Lorenzini 2006; Casella 2020.

29 Joseph Fucilla analyses a letter from Voltaire to Polcenigo dated 25 March 1766, concerning some works that had been sent to him: “Voltaire has been wilfully misled, for Comte Nolini is none other than Polcenigo himself. The poem referred to is either II viaggio concineo or La lettiera precipitata, which together with Fra Simone, veil their real authorship behind this pseudonym. Incidentally, Polcenigo used other noms de plume. E.g. in the Sconciatura estemporanea di stanze semi bernesche, he assumes the name of Annibale d’Hannover. On the other hand, in Il Caffe the authorship of which is not very clear, he chooses to call himself Angelica Janesi.” See Fucilla 1939. Works attributed to Polcenigo are conserved in BCU, fondo principale, mss 171, 172.

30 Giorgio di Polcenigo and Fanna, author of De’ nobili de’ Parlamenti de’ feudi that owes much to Montesquieu and Boulainvilliers, is a staunch defender of the prerogatives of the feudal lords that were put in crisis by the reform movement and the circulation of Enlightenment ideas as well as the centralisation of the Venetian administration. Regardless of his positions, he is a cultured and up-to-date intellectual, in contact with leading figures on the European scene. See Fucilla 1939, p. 184-88; id, 1965, p. 135-140; Casella 2006; Cargnelutti 2007.

31 Il caffè, poema di Angelica Janesi, 1769, BCU, fondo principale, ms. 172. We add, for the sake of completeness, that under the name of Angelica Janesi two other occasional poems are also reported: content in Raccolta 1771, the other in the Poetici applausi on the occasion of his entry into the monastery, published in the same year by the same printer.

32 In 1743, in an edition that combines several works, appeared in Udine, at the typographer Gianbattista Fongarino. For this I refer to Casella 2008, 2020.

33 Casella 2008.

34 Ibid. The reference is to François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon, Les aventures de Télémaque, fils d’Ulysse.

35 Beretta 1730, 1724. On these texts, see: Monaco 1967; Spada 2009. They both say little about these texts. A more in-depth analysis can be found in: Pastres 2004; Stefanutti 2006.

36 Beretta 1730.

37 Ibid., p. vi: “Le virtù coniugali sono le prime e le massime tra le virtù civili”; “se è buona madre dà alle repubbliche buoni cittadini, se è cattiva da cattivi sudditi”.

38 These are considerations by Corbellini, who published the introduction and index of the treatise chapters in Corbellini 1993, p. 176 (the translation is mine). An in-depth study of the text, briefly introduced, is hoped for, but this has yet to be done. A general outline is traced by Guerci 1988.

39 Leshem 2016; Arienzo 2018.

40 It was Luciano Guerci who had already warned against the mistake of seeking only the application of Enlightenment ideas to the debate on women, neglecting what turned out to be an outdated but still prolific tradition: Guerci 1987.

41 See Savorgnan Cergneu di Brazzà 2008, 2011.

42 Casella 2020.

43 Lavinia Florio Dragoni, Memorie di Vittoria Florio nata Valvasoni, mia cara madre, alla mia sorella Gabrielli, BCU, fondo principale, 875/18, fol. 471r-480r; id., Memoria di Eleonora Dragoni nata Arcoloniani, BCU, fondo principale, ms. 875/3, fol. 91r-104r. The cultured Gorgo also trace their ideal woman through the spiritual biography of Elisabeth, daughter and sister, respectively: Camillo e Giacomo Gorgo, Notizie della vita e morte di Elisabetta Caimo nata co. Gorgo raccolte in due lettere, in BCU, fondo principale, ms. 875/25, fol. 858r-885r. Another copy in ASU, Caimo, b. 79, fasc. 11, fol. 1r-30r.

44 Colloquio 1774, p. xv: “Fingi di avere quattro o sei figlie da marito le quali, mercé gl’insegnamenti tuoi, o de’ maestri, che avrai lor procacciati con poco travaglio siano giunte a possedere le contezze tutte, di cui nel Colloquio se ne raccomanda lo studio. In tal caso ti farà forza confessar senza fallo (e quando avrai letto il vedrai) che se almeno un cuore molto perverso, o qualche altro invincibile ostacolo non si opponga, saranno esse verisimilmente la felicità di tutte quelle famiglie dove saranno allogate. Or, di un tal vantaggio, che te ne pare? […] Ma delle tue figliuole saranno nella nostra ipotesi il valore e le azioni, e quindi la sorte e la felicità ben diverse. E di te allora, dimmi, che sia? Qual Padre, qual suocero, potrà chiamarsi di te più lieto e contento.”

45 I considered about forty family archives in which I identified, up to now, about 140 memory or management books that can be attributed to a woman, in addition to a rich documentation of thousands of letters of women. On female epistolary writing in Friuli, see De Martin Pinter 2013; Casella 2014.

46 A methodologically innovative research that starts from women’s ordinary writings is in Galasso 2019, 2021.

47 Casella – De Martin Pinter 2017.

48 ASU, Perusini, b. 390, fasc. 1: Cibarie. Memoria delle spese faremi la Co: Claudia per mio conto l’anno 1791 e saldate e girate nelli miei libri.

49 ASU, Toppo, b. 48, Libro di notte della Sig.a Bianca Savorgnana, fol. 6v: “Memoria come costuma il fattore alle Basse tior il formento dei Coloni a Campo Longo, san Lenardo e Fiumicello a misura di Gradischa; il resto tutto a misura d’Aquileia, e sul venderlo lo da tutto a misura di Gradischa si che ogn’anno per questa causa nel render conto mi da qual cossa d’achresimento come apar nei miei registry” (Annotation of how the farmer at the Basse used to buy the colonists’ wheat according to the Gradisca measure; he buys the rest of the wheat according to the measure of Aquileia and sells it all according to the measure of Gradisca, so that, for this reason, every year, he gives me some income more, as appears in my registers).

50 Casella 2015.

51 ASVe, Collegio, Suppliche, Suppliche di Fuori, b. 338, fol. nn.: “L’eccellente Lovisini principal avocato della terra nostra di Udine, il qual fu ucciso da Piro Strassoldo fratello di essa mia nuora, perché havea presa la protetione e difesa delle mia cause” (the excellent Lovisini, principal lawyer of our land of Udine, who was killed by Piro Strassoldo, brother of my daughter-in-law, because he had taken on the protection and defence of my causes).

52 On that, see Casella 2019.

53 BSI, ms. 40 (in the typewritten inventory, the book of Venere Bosina is associated with the name of Rosina di Porcia due to a transcription error: “Bosina” became “Rosina”). On Venere Bosina: Casella 2013, 2020.

54 ASGo, Coronini Cronberg, b. 88.

55 ASU, Toppo, b. 48.

56 ASU, Perusini, b. 702, fasc. 7, Libro delli livelli di me, Silvia Colloredo ut intus (1787-1796).

57 ASU, Perusini, b. 716, reg. 8, Libro dei salariati di me, Silvia Colloredo (1783-1785).

58 ASU, Zucco, b. 14, fasc. nn., 1753, Rottolo di me, Anna Giulia di Zucco.

59 ASU, Colloredo Mels, b. 15, fasc. 135.

60 Colloquio 1774, p. 102: “E però inoltrandomi ora agli studi che possono più mettere le donne al fatto di goderli, e insieme sono alle medesime più convenevoli, dico francamente l’Agricoltura, un poco di Commercio, un poco di Medicina esser dessi per appunto.”

61 Ibid.: “E’ cosa ben più spettante alle donne incaricate della domestica azienda, che a maschi occupati degli affari civili, religiosi e politici, porta seco in oltre mille occupazioni di sommo diletto, e perciò distraenti efficacemente da ogni donnesco mal umore.”

62 As Marta Ajmar-Wollheim 2013 clearly explains: “In affluent households, however, a new concept of domesticity was also gaining ground. As the financial and symbolic value of the house and its possessions grew, women running the household required new management and social skills, which partly reversed this process of domestic seclusion. Women were expected to look after not only the everyday running of the house but also aspects of its aesthetic and economic management and this fostered access to specialist knowledge.”

63 ASU, Perusini, b. 531, letter of 16 September 1738.

64 Casella – De Martin Pinter 2017.

65 Colloquio 1774, p. 103: “Fatte a bella posta dalla natura, la quale ha dato loro una lingua assai spedita ed indole di trattare e conversare con altri più assai, che non la diede ai maschi.”

66 Ibid.

67 ASU, Perusini, b. 604, letter of Enrica Spineda Colloredo to Silvia Rabatta Colloredo, Muscletto, 9 December 1775: “Li nipoti ancor essi stanno bene, fuori di Filipetto, che [fu] tormentato dalla tosse pagana che regna molestissima da queste parti.”

68 ASU, Perusini, b. 500, letter of Enrica Spineda Colloredo to Silvia Rabatta Colloredo, s.l., 13 November 1787: “Non sentendosi molto bene, dilazionò qualche giorno, finché finalmente le sopragiunse picciola febre e ne ha soferto di già vari termini, ma essendo questa reumatica, con l’aggiunto della traspirazione si è del tutto liberato” (Not feeling well, he delayed coming for a few days until he came down with a fever and suffered from it in various ways; but being rheumatic fever, with perspiration, he got rid of it).

69 Muzzarelli 2013.

70 Cavallo 2020.

71 Colloquio 1774, p. 112: “sol per modo di scienza e di direzione”.

72 Ibid.: “debita distinzione che far bisogna tra lo studio semplice di Agricoltura e l’esercizio della medesima”.

73 Ibid., p. 112-113: “E’ vero altresì che una padrona di casa, se anche una o due sole volte all’anno gisse a vedere i suoi poderi, se sol anche dalla bocca altrui udisse le relazioni degli scapiti, o de’ vantaggi, che vengono i Coloni, ed essa quinci, o soffrendo o riportando, potrebbe se sapesse di coltivazione, o col comando o cogl’insegnamenti suoi da lungi ezaindio promuovere i vantaggi a maraviglia e gli scapiti impedire. Or anche questo solo non è forse d’avanzo per rendere alle donne l’Agricoltura commendevole?” (It is also true that if a landlady went to see her farms only once or twice a year, or if she heard of the losses or advantages that the settlers have only from the accounts of others, she could, either by direct experience or because it is reported to her, if she knew about cultivation, either by command or by instruction, promote the advantages or avoid the losses. Wouldn’t this alone be enough to make Farming recommendable to women?).

74 Ibid., p. 113: “Comandi dunque la gentildonna e sopraintenda talora a’ lavori degli altri.”

75 ASU, Perusini, b. 508, letter of June 8 1775: “Li comandi del patrone si deve eseguirli […] questo vi serva di regola.”

76 Another example is that of Barbara Malvezzi Colloredo studied by De Martin Pinter 2015.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1 – Colloquio sopra gli studj delle donne, Udine, per li Frattelli Gallici, 1774. Front page.
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Titre Figure 2 – Silvia Rabatta, Cibarie. Memoria delle spese fatemi la Co: Claudia per mio conto l’anno 1797 e saldate e girate nelli miei libri (ASU, Perusini, b. 390, fasc. 1).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/11800/img-2.jpg
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Titre Figure 3 – Libro di livelli di me, Bianca Savorgniana. Rotollo 1683 (ASU, Toppo, b. 112).
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Titre Figure 4 – Libro delli livelli di me, Silvia Colloredo (ASU, Perusini, b. 702, fasc. 7).
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Titre Figure 5 – Libro di salariati di me, Silvia Rabatta vedova di Colloredo (ASU, Perusini, b. 716, reg. 8).
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Titre Figure 6 –Rottolo di me, Anna Giulia di Zucco (ASU, Zucco, b. 14, fasc. nn., 1753).
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Titre Figures 7 and 8 – Estratti della entrata goduta dalla S.ra Ca. Hortensia Sbroiavacca nata Colloreda dall’anno 1615 inc. per tutto l’anno 1652 (ASU, Colloredo Mels, b. 15, fasc. 135).
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Laura Casella

Università di Udine – laura.casella@uniud.it

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