Slavica, Stojan – U Salonu Marije Giorgi Bona

U Salonu Marije Giorgi Bona (In the Salon of Maria Giorgi Bona). Dubrovnik: Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU, 1996. (197 pages)

     During the late 18th and 19th centuries, the home of Maria Giorgi Bona was a gathering place of numerous Dubrovnik’s and European distinguished people engaged in literary and cultural issues. She entertained both domestic and foreign celebrities, her learned Dubrovnik friends and relatives, most outstanding intellectuals of her time, including the renowned Abbot and travel writer Alberto Fortis. Moreover, she encircled herself with like-minded ladies of the society forming a distinctive women’s cultural circle. They engaged in science, philosophy, literature, music, and handicrafts.

     Maria Giorgi Bona amassed a considerable library that attests to her broad and diverse interests in many fields of knowledge, including natural sciences and the classics. Besides many major treatises by Greeks and Romans, the private library contained most of the 18th century representative editions from the period of English Enlightenment to the French encyclopedists with equal interest shown for domestic sciences and contemporary Latinists. She ordered books from her friends abroad and read their original versions in Latin, French, Italian, and English. Marija’s library also contained several epistles and biographies of great women. Besides Nouvelle Heloise by Rousseau, we come across Letters by Madame de Sevigne, Anecdotes by M. La Contesse du Barru, etc.

     The only existing written record by this extraordinary woman are letters addressed to her daughter Marija (Marieta). They unveil the tender, profoundly touching character of their writer, casting light on a subtle mother-daughter relationship uncommon in the literature of the time. This correspondence is a valuable record of culture and life in Dubrovnik and Giorgi Bona family, and it offers information on various subjects. Her interests focused on politics, war, the French, teachers, fashion and servants, voyages across the Adriatic, convents, relationships between the sexes, affectation as a social trend, theater, music, handcraft, books and leisure, family relations and inheritance, greediness and avarice, sickness and health, etc. These letters display her strong will and sensibility, intimacy and discontent of an unhappily married woman, as well as confidence in her own judgments proven in the case of the marriage of her younger daughter to a commoner and alien. Essentially a learned woman, Maria Giorgi Bona left an imprint of her sophisticated scholarliness in 18th century Dubrovnik for her drawing room was a genuine meeting place of the most outstanding men and women of the time. She has been characterized as “candelabro lucente” of the Dubrovnik cultural life at the sunset of the Republic.