The image is from Wikipedia Commons
Isabella Andreini (born Isabella Canali, 1562 – 10 June 1604), also known as Isabella Da Padova, was an Italian actress and writer. Considered beautiful, elegant, and well educated, she was one of the most famous performers of her time. Isabella Andreini was a member of the Compagnia dei Comici Gelosi, an influential touring theatre company that performed for the highest social circles of Italy and France. Famous in her time, and distinguished both for her acting and her character, the role of Isabella of the commedia dell'arte was named after her.
Isabella Canali was born in Padua to Venetian parents. Although her family was poor, Andreini received a complete classical education. She was very interested in literary culture and became fluent in several languages which she put to use in her La Pazzia d'Isabella (The Divine Madness of Isabella).
In 1576, at age fourteen, Andreini was hired by the troupe of Flaminio Scala, the Compagnia dei Comici Gelosi. The Gelosi was a well-established theatre company that performed commedia dell'arte. The Gelosi were patronized by the aristocracy of northern Italy, usually performing for the gentry of Italy and France. Henry III of France was fond of the troupe, and Andreini performed for him in those very early years.
From the beginning, Andreini particularly performed the role of the enamored woman, the prima donna innamorata, and she improvised to create a character that was less dull and more perceptive. She began to improvise and eventually shaped the art form into one of comedic bits and spontaneity. She was one of the women who introduced, developed, and excelled at improvisation. She was daring for the time, sometimes taking off or tearing her clothes onstage. Additionally, Andreini was recognized for her acting flexibility, an important skill for all commedia dell'arte characters, regardless of sex. Andreini played the power dynamics for comedy in her characters; she recognized the importance of her status as the leading actress in a new profession. Andreini worked with the Gelosi until her death.
In 1578, Andreini met and married Francesco Andreini, non-traditionally taking his last name, who would become the director of the Gelosi (1589). Andreini became both the leading lady and an important voice within the Gelosi company. Together with her husband, she managed the troupe's activities and negotiated with potential patrons.
Andreini bore seven children, three boys and four girls, while touring in the Gelosi, and was a dedicated mother. While her firstborn son, Giambattista, continued the theatrical tradition, her other male children were raised by the aristocracy of Mantua, one to become clergy in Italian monasteries, and the other son to become a guard of a duke. She was committed in her duties to motherhood and as wife to Francesco Andreini.
In 1589, Andreini performed her comic work La Pazzia d'Isabella (Isabella's madness) for the Florentine court during the wedding of Ferdinando I de' Medici and Christina of Lorraine, and the details of the mostly improvised play have survived to modern times. Fluent in several languages, she was renowned for her intellectual presentation and refined presence. In this play, she creates madness by using several languages and then imitating the dialects of the other characters. She was versatile in her craft and even referred to herself as being capable of playing any male role. She created the role of Fabrizio, a character used in many of Flaminio Scala's scenarios, where she plays a transvestite pageboy. Andreini was noted as having played three different characters in one scenario, showcasing her improvisation skills and her talent.
In 1599, Andreini performed before Henry IV, King of France, and his wife Maria de Medici. By this point, Andreini was well known enough to be addressed as the "star" performer of the troupe, referred to by Maria de Medici in a letter as "the actress Isabella and her company".
In 1602, Andreini toured northern Italy, and in 1603 performed again for Henry IV, Marie de' Medici and a local audience at Fontainebleau and Paris. This would be her last tour, because early in 1604 she died near Lyon, on her way back to Italy, when she miscarried her eighth child at age 42. After her state funeral, memorial coins were struck in her honour, with one side representing her as a powerful Roman ruler and the other as the fame goddess herself.
The death of Andreini was observed by the people of Lyon, with a public funeral and an engraved medallion of that year which featured Andreini's portrait on one side, and the figure of Fame on the reverse with the words aeterna fama. Although Francesco Andreini dissolved the Gelosi after her death, their son Giambattista Andreini, who was an actor and a playwright, started his own company, the Fedeli, with the original troupe of the Gelosi.
Beside performing on stage, Isabella Andreini was a recognized intellectual who dedicated much of her time to literature. The themes of her plays were shaded with some notions questioning the situation of the woman in the society of that epoch; she wrote with a masculine voice in her creations that showed her virtue. Indeed, after publishing Mirtilla (1588) she began corresponding with contemporary intellectuals, attending their forums, and – an uncommon achievement for a woman in her era – in 1601 she was integrated into the literary society of the Accademia degli Intenti of Pavia, for which she adopted the nickname of Accesa. In a poetry contest held by the Cardinal Giorgio Cinthio Aldobrandini of Rome, Isabella Andreini attained second place, only behind the Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso. Like the Tasso, both Gabriello Chiabrera and Giambattista Marino have praised her.
Apart from writing plays, Isabella also wrote poetry and corresponded with a great variety of people.
Andreini was known and infamous because of her intimacy onstage. She connected with people and used complex characteristics to make her characters realistic and relatable.
The commedia dell'arte "lover" stock character, Isabella, was named from Andreini's most famous character and used by subsequent commedia dell'arte troupes. In particular, this school of theater has studied the posthumous works of Andreini, Rime, Parte seconda and Fragmenti de alcune scritture.
Many women in early commedia dell'arte troupes are credited with advancing much of the improvisational tools used by the art form; Andreini is included in this legacy as a performer in the Gelosi troupe.
- Her sonnets were published in diverse Italian books of anthology. (since 1587)
- Mirtilla, a pastoral drama, with some feminist advocacy. (1588)
- Rime, a collection of 359 poems (1601, in Italian language). In 1603, the French version was published for her tour of France.
- Rime..., Parte seconda. (posthumous, 1605)
- Lettere di Isabella Andreini padovana comica gelosa, a collection of fictional correspondence, about her personal life and art in general, for being performed as monologues onstage. (posthumous, 1607) 
- Fragmenti de alcune scritture, a collection of improvised dialogs (contrasti) of Isabella's Inamorati characters, gathered by her husband. (posthumous, 1617)
- Savoia 2008, p. 28.
- Richmond, Hugh Macrae (2016). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.
- Bosi, Kathryn (2003). "Accolades for an actress: on some literary and musical tributes for Isabella Andreini". Recercare. 15: 73–117. ISSN 1120-5741. JSTOR 41701403.
- Aliverti 2008.
- Moose, Christina (2005). Great Lives from History: Renaissance & Early Modern Era, 1454–1600. Salem Press Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-58765-211-0.
- Sorrenti, Anne-Marie (1 August 2015). "Mad-Hot Madrigals: Selections from the Rime (1601) of Late Sixteenth-Century Diva Isabella Andreini (1562–1604)". Italian Studies. 70 (3): 298–310. doi:10.1179/0075163415Z.000000000103. ISSN 0075-1634. S2CID 190568814.
- "Compagnia dei Gelosi | Italian theatrical troupe". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
- McGill, Kathleen (1991). "Women and Performance: The Development of Improvisation by the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell'Arte". Theatre Journal. 43 (1): 59–69. doi:10.2307/3207950. ISSN 0192-2882. JSTOR 3207950.
- Sorrenti, Ann-Marie (2015). "Mad-Hot Madrigals: Selections from the Rime (1601) of Late Sixteenth-Century Diva Isabella Andreini (1562–1604)". Italian Studies. 70 (3): 298–310. doi:10.1179/0075163415Z.000000000103. ISSN 0075-1634. S2CID 190568814.
- McGill, Kathleen (1991). "Women and Performance: The Development of Improvisation by the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell'Arte". Theatre Journal. 43 (1): 59–69. doi:10.2307/3207950. JSTOR 3207950.
- Kerr, Rosalind (2015). "The Fame Monster: Diva Worship from Isabella Andreini to Lady Gaga". Italian Studies. 70 (3): 402–415. doi:10.1179/0075163415Z.000000000110. S2CID 191101679.
- "Isabella Andreini | Italian actress and author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
- Robin, Larsen & Levin 2007, p. 9.
- "Biography: Andreini, Isabella". www.lib.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
- MacNeil, Anne (1995). "The Divine Madness of Isabella Andreini". Journal of the Royal Musical Association. 120 (2): 195–215. doi:10.1093/jrma/120.2.195.
- Robin, Larsen & Levin 2007, p. 11.
- "Giovambattista Andreini | Italian actor and author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
- Bosi Monteath 2003, p. 73. sfn error: no target: CITEREFBosi_Monteath2003 (help)
- Jordan, Peter (2013). The Venetian Origins of the Commedia dell'Arte. Routledge. p. 187.
- Kerr, Rosalind (2015). The Rise of the Diva on the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell'Arte Stage. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442649118.
- Ray, Meredith Kennedy. "Andreini, Isabella (1562-1604)". University of Chicago Library. University of Chicago. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
- Aliverti, Maria Ines (2008). "An Icon for a New Woman: A Previously Unidentified Portrait of Isabella Andreini by Paolo Veronese", Early Theatre, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 159–180. doi:10.12745/et.11.2.789.
- Bosi Monteath, Kathryn, “Accolades for an actress: on some literary and musical tributes for Isabella Andreini”, Recercare, XV (2003), pp. 73–117.
- Biography Italian Women Writers, at the site of the University of Chicago.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. .
- Delplano, Roberto (1998). About the Innamorati characters and Isabella Andreini
- Kerr, Rosalind. The Fame Monster: Diva Worship from Isabella Andreini to Lady Gaga. Italian Studies. 70, 3, 402–415, Aug. 2015. ISSN 0075-1634
- Kerr, Rosalind. The Rise of the Diva on the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell'Arte Stage. Toronto, CANADA: University of Toronto Press, 2015. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 4 December 2016.
- MacNeil, Anne. "The Divine Madness of Isabella Andreini." Journal of the Royal Musical Association, vol. 120, no. 2, 1995, pp. 195–215. JSTOR 766509
- McGill, Kathleen. "Women and Performance: The Development of Improvisation by the Sixteenth-Century Commedia Dell'Arte." Theatre Journal, vol. 43, no. 1, 1991, pp. 59–69. JSTOR 3207950
- Myers, Alice. "Isabella Andreini." Great Lives from History: Renaissance & Early Modern Era, 1454–1600. Ed. Christina J. Moose. Hackensack: Salem, 2005. n. pag. Salem Online. Web. 4 December 2016. http://online.salempress.com/
- Richmond, Hugh Macrae. "Isabella Canali Andreini." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition. 1, Apr. 2016.
- Robin, Diana Maury; Larsen, Anne R.; Levin, Carole (2007). Encyclopedia of women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. ABC-CLIO, Inc.
- Romana de' Angelis, Francesca (1991). La divina Isabella: vita straordinaria di una donna del Cinquecento. Florence: Sansoni. ISBN 9788838312489.
- Savoia, Francesca (2008). "Isabella Andreini (1562? – 10 June 1604)", pp. 28–40, in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 239: Seventeenth-Century Italian Poets and Dramatists, edited by Albert N. Mancini and Glenn Palen Pierce. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale. ISBN 9780787681579.
- Sorrenti, Anne-Marie. "Mad-Hot Madrigals: Selections From The Rime (1601) Of Late Sixteenth-Century Diva Isabella Andreini (1562–1604)." Italian Studies 70.3 (2015): 298–310. Humanities International Complete. Web. 4 December 2016.
- Works by Isabella Andreini at Open Library
- Other Women's Voices—Translations of women's writing before 1700
- History of The Commedia dell'Arte
- University of Alberta
- Project Continua: Biography of Isabella Andreini—A web-based multimedia resource dedicated to the creation and preservation of women's intellectual history from the earliest surviving evidence into the 21st century
- This page is based on the Wikipedia article Isabella Andreini; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA.