cover image The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere

The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere

Caroline P. Murphy, . . Oxford Univ., $28 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-19-518268-2

Felice della Rovere (1483?–1536) emerges from obscurity to rival other great Renaissance women in this rendering of her life and legacy by Renaissance art scholar Murphy (Lavinia Fontana ). Offspring of what was probably a brief liaison between Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere—later Pope Julius II—and Lucrezia Normanni, daughter of an old Roman family, Felice grew up in her mother's house. Pope Julius, the great rebuilder of Rome and patron of Michelangelo, proved to be a generous father, marrying Felice into the Orsini family, which gave her social legitimacy, and providing her with the means to develop her own estates. Negotiating a complicated set of family and social relationships, Felice became a woman of stature and wealth, able to serve as a negotiator for her father in both international and Italian affairs. Felice's experience is woven into the lives of such notable figures as Catherine de Medici, Baldessar Castiglione and Michelangelo. Some of Murphy's speculations about Felice's emotions, especially in the early stages of her life, are less than convincing given the lack of evidence. Nonetheless, one feels in reading this vivid biography that one has gotten to know a woman of energy and talent who became "the most powerful woman in Rome of her day." 30 b&w illus. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (July)