Beautiful Art In La Marchesa Colombi's Short Fiction

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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In her short fiction, the Marchesa Colombi explores the role of art in a unified Italy. In her short story "Impara l'arte e mettila da parte," and also in her preface to the collection Serate d'inverno and in her noted novella Un matrimonio in provincia, Colombi discusses the dual components of art, both to delight and instruct. This article argues that ultimately these dual components of art are interconnected in the protagonist Odda of "Impara l'arte," in particular, who becomes a prime example of evolving gender roles in post-Risorgimento Italy. Through her beauty, Odda embodies art for art's sake, and through her vision, she teaches others a new way. Odda inspires others not only through her forward-looking views about marriage, women and profession but also through her example. Living independently and working as an artist, she debunks stereotypical images of "spinsters." Odda is also reflective of beauty itself, a beauty often described in the context of other virtues, such as courage and generosity. Colombi persists in discussions of art's purpose in future texts. An analysis of the stepmother figure in Un matrimonio in provincia provides a counterpoint to Odda. Because Odda emerges as more balanced than the purely practical stepmother, she forms a more positive female model. Since many of their readers were women, Colombi and her contemporaries were uniquely positioned not only to entertain and instruct but also to promote gender equality in the newly formed nation.