Caterina Dolfin

Caterina Dolfin (Venice, 8 May 1736 - Venice, 14 November 1793) was an Italian (Venetian) poet.

Caterina was the daughter of the Nobilhuomo Ser Antonio Giovanni Dolfin and the Nobildonna Donata Salamon, members of a secondary branch of one of the most ancient families of venetian aristocrary. Caterina's father was knowned to have squandered the family fortune, leaving serious debts to his wife and daughter uppon his death in 1753.

In 1755, the young "nobildonna" made a suitable marriage with Marcantonio Tiepolo, a member of another influential noble family which had the means to relieve the Dolfins of their debts. The marriage of Caterina with Marcantonio Tiepolo achieved great notoriety in Venitian society. It is understood that in 1756, only months after her marriage, Caterina entered into a relationship with Andrea Tron, a Statesman, and also member of the aristocrary, although not of the antiquity of the Dolfins. Very shortly after her affair began, Caterina filed for divorce, the matter was subject of great scandal, but it's records, preserved until this day, have been of great interest for academics, containing a rich testimony of the rules, customs and social complexity of Venitian aristocracy. After years of scandal, the divorce was granted in 1772, upon which she married Tron, who used his marriage to enter the tightest circles of society, and stately institutions, achieving the prestigious office of "Procurator of Saint Mark", next most important post to that of Doge. From then on, Caterina Dolfin Tron was known as the "Procuratessa".

In 1757, Caterina made her debut as a writer under a pseudonym. Her most famous work was a collection of sonets inspired by her father, which were published in 1767-68. She was a center of a circle of intellectuals and held a prestigious literary salon. Among her guests were Gaspare Gozzi. In several testimonies of her time, Caterina Dolfin was described as a beautiful, kind, cultivated and refined woman, admired for her brilliant conversation, her graceful poetry and prose. She was also an assistant of Gasparo Gozzi. In 1772, Dolfin was famously called before the Venetian Inquisition because of some of the contents of her library, which were reported to have ideas from the Enlightenment.

Along with her poetry, famous entertaining and intellectual relevance, Caterina Dolfin never seized to shock Venitian society with her scandalous affairs. One of her most well known lovers was probably the twenty seven year old Gian Galeazzo Serbelloni, Duke of San Gabrio. According to their correspondence, still preserved until today, it is understood that the affair could have begun in 1773.

There was a known occasion when Princess Gonzaga, close friend of Caterina, asked her to her present her to Venitian society during her visit to the city. The Princess had also been the subject of many scandals. When arriving at the Ducal Court, the noble ladies of the Venetian aristocracy refused to talk to her. However, Caterina Dolfin said out loud: "Ladies, this is Princess Gonzaga, she as I belongs to an illustrious family, as for many of you, I could not say."[1]

In 1778, Andrea Tron, Caterina's husband was elected senator. However, he lost the 1779 election to become Doge of Venice despite being one of the two main candidates. This is partially attributed to the political scandals surrounding Caterina at that time, as was her involvement in the "Gratarolo Affair", named after Secretary of State Antonio Gratarolo. The case consisted in a series of courtly intrigues to get the post of Ambassador to the Duchy of Savoy for one of two candidates, one supported by Gratarolo, and the other by Caterina Dolfin. In 1772, Gratarolo had defeated Caterina's candidate. In 1775, a theatrical play supposedly commissioned by Caterina, exposed Gratarolo's intrigues and affairs. In the same year of her husband's candidacy for Doge, Gratarolo answered the insult with another play, which caricatured Dolfin and her social circle, exposing her love affairs and staining her name and reputation publicly. The play destroyed Andrea Tron's possibilities to become Doge, although the victorious candidate candidate turned out to have a spouse even more unsuitable for the title of Dogaressa, Margherita Delmaz, but is reported to have bribed many of the electors to assure her acceptance.

Caterina Dolfin became a widow in 1785. She was left a fortune but became entangled in a dispute with her former in-laws. From 1788, she spent more time in her house in Padova. Her last years, she worked on a project for the reform of female education, which does not appear to have been finished before her death.



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