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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Leonora Baroni

b. 1611, Mantua, Italy; d. 1670, Rome

A soprano and a polished instrumentalist, Leonora Baroni grew up at the Gonzaga court at Mantua, where her mother, Adriana Basile, was a leading singer. From 1624 to 1633, her family resided in Naples, where Leonora received her first accolades at the age of sixteen. Thereafter, she caused a sensation wherever she appeared, inspiring many literary tributes that were eventually collected in the volume Applausi poetici alle glorie della Signora Leonora Baroni (1639). Settling in Rome in 1633, Baroni hosted musical entertainments in her home, composed arias, and performed at aristocratic salons; she was the only female member of the Accademia degli Umoristi, a group of vanguard literatis. It was at a performance in Rome that her singing captivated the poet Milton, who dedicated three eulogistic poems to her. In 1644, she accepted an offer from the queen regent of France to live and perform at the French court; her stay was short-lived but the queen nevertheless granted her a life pension. Baroni resumed her musical activities in Rome, where she died in 1670.