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  • Susan Stoderl

Women Writers | Luisa Sigea de Velasco

Painting of Luisa Segea de Valasco
Luisa Segea, Humanist Writer and Poet

Luisa Sigea de Velasco (1522-1562) was one of the few women to earn her living as a well-known humanist of the Spanish and Portuguese Renaissance. The Siega family moved to Portugal, where Luisa’s father gave her a classical education. She and her sister were proficient musicians and both fluent in Latin. In addition, Luisa learned Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and other modern languages.

In 1542, Luisa joined the Portuguese court service. She was a chambermaid to Queen Caterina between 1543 and 52. She earned a hefty salary because of her scholarly abilities. Luisa served Princess Maria of Portugal, one of the richest heiresses in Europe. Princess Maria did not marry, which allowed Luisa unique opportunities to learn and expand her illustrious acquaintances and develop her intellect further.

Luisa wrote two major works during this time. In 1546, she wrote a short Latine poem for Phillip II, in which a nymph of the wood announces the future wedding of her mistress with a king who rules the world. Her second work, the Duarum virginum colloquium de vita aulica et private (1553), is a conversation between two women, Blesilla and Flaminia, who discuss whether courtly life or a life away from court is better. She wrote this piece shortly before her marriage. After marrying in 1552, she remained at court until 1555, when she moved back to Spain. In 1557, Sigea gave birth to a daughter. She did not recover from the birth for some time. The family eventually returned to Burgos.

After moving, Luisa couldn’t find a place to pay for her talents. She was a skilled scholar and used to court life. With little stimulation, she grew depressed and died in 1562 at forty. Scholars and men of letters lauded her for her work even after her death.

For Luisa, it seems court life was more beneficial to her psyche.


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