HBICs of history » S i m o n e t t a V e s p u c c i
Simonetta (1453-1476) was an Italian renaissance noblewoman from Genoa and the wife of Marco Vespucci of Florence. She was renowned for being the greatest beauty of her age - certainly of the city of Florence - hence her nickname la bella Simonetta.
At the age of fifteen or sixteen she married Marco Vespucci who was a distant cousin of the Florentine explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci. Marco was accepted by Simonetta’s father, and he was very much in love with her, so the marriage was logical. Her parents also knew the marriage would be advantageous because Marco’s family was well connected in Florence, especially to the Medici family.
Simonetta was instantly popular at the Florentine court. The Medici brothers, Lorenzo and Giuliano took an instant liking towards her. Lorenzo permitted the Vespucci wedding to be held at the palazzo in Via Larga, and held the wedding reception at their lavish Villa di Careggi. Through the Vespucci family Simonetta was discovered by Sandro Botticelli and other prominent painters upon arriving in Florence. Before long every nobleman in the city was besotted with her, even the brothers Lorenzo and Giuliano of the ruling Medici family. Lorenzo was occupied with affairs of state, but his younger brother was free to pursue her.
At La Giostra (a jousting tournament) in 1475, held at the Piazza Santa Croce, Giuliano entered the lists bearing a banner on which was a picture of Simonetta as a helmeted Pallas Athene painted by Botticelli himself, beneath which was the French inscription La Sans Pareille, meaning “The unparalleled one”. It is unknown, however, if they actually became lovers.
Simonetta died just one year later, on the night of 26–27 April 1476, probably from tuberculosis. She was only 22 at the time of her death. The entire city was reported to mourn her death and thousands followed her coffin to its burial. It is suggested that Botticelli was in love with her since he requested to be buried at her feet - his wish was in fact carried out when he died some 34 years later, in 1510.