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Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi

Countess, hostess and writer

Albrizzi portrait, Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun

Born on the then Venetian island of Corfu, Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi (1760-1836) was married to the patrician Antonio Marin, and after his death to the state inquisitor Giuseppe Albrizzi. Like her good friend, Marina Querini Benzon, she was famous for her literary salon in the courtyard of Calle Michiel near Piazza San Marco, that hosted the poet Ugo Foscolo, Antonio Canova and Lord Byron.

In a letter to Thomas Moore, dated December 14, 1816, Byron describes her:

The day after to-morrow (to-morrow being Christmas-day) the Carnival begins. I dine with the Countess Albrizzi and a party, and go to the opera. On that day the Phenix (not the Insurance Office, but) the theatre of that name, opens: I have got me a box there for the season, for two reasons, one of which is, that the music is remarkably good. The Contessa Albrizzi, of whom I have made mention, is the De Staël of Venice, not young, but a very learned, unaffected, good-natured woman, very polite to strangers, and, I believe, not at all dissolute, as most of the women are. She has written very well on the works of Canova, and also a volume of Characters, besides other printed matter. She is of Corfu, but married a dead Venetian—that is, dead since he married.

She owned a greatly admired bust of Helen by Canova (now in the museum in Copenhagen Museum), commonly believed to be in her own likeness. Byron eventually found her salon too polite and tasteful, and was not best pleased when he read her portrait of him in her Ritratti (Characters). But rather than destroy it, as he wished, she published it after his death, in 1826.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: PD Art