Meet Author Elizabeth Bernhardt at Book Launch Event

If you are a fan of history, Italy, the Renaissance, or women’s history–or even of historical fiction and intrigue–you won’t want to miss this event! Join us for an evening with Dr. Elizabeth Bernhardt, author of a captivating and recently-released book called Genevra Sforza and the Bentivoglio (Amsterdam University Press, 2023). It is a history of a woman and her enormous family (over 175 people lived in her home at one point), and the text’s storyline is sometimes even more fascinating and stranger than fiction. Set in fifteenth-century Bologna, the book tells the story of an illegitimate girl named Genevra who served as a young noblewoman married twice into the powerful Bentivoglio family; and in an entirely female fashion, we will see how Genevra became a key player in the turbulent politics of Bologna and Rome. Bernhardt will share her insights into the writing and research process (research was conducted in over thirty different Italian archives over the past two decades); and she will be happy to answer your questions about the book, its setting and its many characters. Genevra Sforza was also the half-sister of Battista Sforza of Urbino whose famous portrait by Piero della Francesca (held at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence) has become a Renaissance icon. St. Louis artist Chip Reay has reworked Battista’s diptych portrait into several sculptural pieces that were shown at the Bruno David Gallery. Reay has also prepared new work based on Genevra’s diptych portrait for this event. Bernhardt’s informal and fun talk about Genevra and early modern family history will take place at Bruno David Gallery, a contemporary art space in St. Louis (Clayton), on Friday, May 5th, at 6 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

From the back cover of the book: Genevra Sforza (ca. 1441-1507) lived her long life near the apex of Italian Renaissance society as wife of two successive de facto rulers of Bologna: Sante Bentivoglio then Giovanni II Bentivoglio. Placed there twice without a dowry by Duke Francesco Sforza as part of a larger Milanese plan, Genevra served the Bentivoglio by fulfilling the gendered role demanded of her by society, most notably by contributing eighteen children, accepting many illegitimates born to Giovanni II, and helping arrange their futures for the success of the family at large. Based on contemporary archival research conducted across Italy, this biography presents Genevra as the object of academic study for the first time. The book also explores how Genevra’s life-story, filled with a multitude of successes appropriate for an elite fifteenth-century female, has been transformed into a farraginous body of misogynistic legends claiming she destroyed the Bentivoglio and the city of Bologna.

Author information: Elizabeth Bernhardt (PhD, University of Toronto) is not only a scholar and a teacher, but also a storyteller and a writer. She has lived in Italy (mostly in Bologna and Rome) for over twenty years where she was involved in a variety of activities, jobs, and projects. She loves fifteenth-century Italy, women’s history, art & artisan history, family history and historical social justice. She taught many classes about the history of the Italian family for the University of California in Rome program and many art/artisan history classes at a Roman high school called Giulio Cesare; in Rome she also published two handbooks about Italian art and artisans (Ginevra Bentivoglio Editoria, 2017 & 2019), and in Bologna she curated a show featuring contemporary art by several St. Louisians and other American artists at the Villa Ranuzzi-Cospi in Bagnarola. Here in her hometown, Bernhardt has taught at Saint Louis University and is currently at Washington University.  Her book on Genevra Sforza is a companion for anyone who wants to know more about Italian history and culture, Bologna, big Italian families and family history, women’s history, and misogyny, how people lived in Italy about five centuries ago, and much more.

For more information on the author’s works, visit her publisher’s website at

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