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DEATH OF LEONORA 108
be of good courage for his sake. The warmth of Francesco's affection for Isabella was evidently increased, not only by gratitude for her good offices with the Venetian Signory, but by the hopes of an heir which she had begun to entertain.
In July, the Marchesa tore herself reluctantly away from her sister-in-law to visit her mother, whose health was giving her family anxiety, and spent a month at Ferrara. It was the last time that she ever saw the good Duchess, who died on the 11th of October of a gastric fever which carried her off in a few days. Francesco Gonzaga hastened to Ferrara, but gave orders that the sad news should be kept from the Marchesa until his return. But when no letters came from the Duchess for a whole week, Isabella's fears were aroused, and she heard from a Milanese correspondent, "who," as Capilupi wrote to the Marquis, " must have been either very imprudent or still more wicked," that her beloved mother had been dead three days. Happily no harm was done, and after the first outburst of grief Isabella showed her usual good sense and self-control. The highest honours were paid to the dead Duchess both at Ferrara and at Mantua. The saintly friar, Bernardino da Feltre, preached the funeral sermon, young Ariosto wrote an elegy on her death, and Latin orations were pronounced by some of the most distinguished humanists of the day. But more touching than any of these pompous tributes was a letter in which Battista Guarino poured out the grief of his soul to his old pupil.
"If I had a hundred tongues, dearest lady," he wrote, "I could not express the grief which I feel at the death of our Madonna. I long to fly to you and 104 BIRTH OF ISABELLA'S DAUGHTER
comfort you, but am myself in sore need of consolation. The whole city is weeping for our dead lady, and I, who received so much kindness from her, am more unhappy than any one, and can only take comfort in feeling that this is the will of God. I am sure that none of those saints whom the Church has canonised, ever made a better or more devout end than she did, as you will learn from a few words which I spoke over her grave, which I will send you, in memory of this virtuous and excellent lady. And I will see that Your Excellency is not the last to receive a copy, for I have always looked upon you as my mistress, but how much more now that I have lost her who was my sole hope and refuge! Forgive me if I cannot say more, but tears will not allow me to write.—Your faithful servant, Battista." l
Fortunately for the Marchesa's happiness, she was able to forget her grief in her new hopes, and on the hist day of the year 1492, she gave birth to her first child—a daughter, in whom, as she wrote to her aunt Beatrice, the wife of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, "the name and blessed memory of my mother shall live again." Congratulations poured in from all sides. Fra Mariano and the holy nun Osanna sent the mother and child their blessing, and the poor fool Mattello wrote in his maddest and merriest mood, telling his dear Madonna not to have a thought or care in the world, now that she had given birth to a lovely daughter. He proceeded to address the new-born princess as Leonora zentile—Leonora mia bella—Leonora mia cara, informed her that he was coining from Marmirolo to her christening, and 1 Luzio e Renier in Giorn. St. d. Lett., vol. xxxv.
GIOVANNI DEI MEDICI 105
ended by begging her father the Marquis for a dole on this happy occasion. Isabella herself however did not conceal her disappointment at the sex of the child, as we learn from the letter which she wrote to her sister on New Year's Day. "You will have heard that I have a daughter and that both she and I are doing well, although I am sorry not to have a son. But since this is the will of God, she will be dear to me."1 The child received the names of Leonora Violante Maria, and Lodovico Sforza, his wife Beatrice, the Doge of Venice, and Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco dei Medici were among the sponsors. None of these illustrious personages, however, were able to be present at the christening, but Lorenzo dei Medici wrote a courteous letter to the Marquis, thanking him for the honour which he had paid him and congratulating him and the Marchesa on the happy event. "I hope," he adds, "that this newborn daughter may grow up to be a great joy to you, and that God will give you sons in future." Since he was unfortunately too unwell to attend the christening, he promised to send his brother, Giovamu dei Medici, to take his place. This prince, who soon afterwards became the third husband of Caterina Sforza, the famous Madonna of Forli, visited Mantua on the 2nd of March, and was entertained by Isabella, as we leam from the following note to her absent lord:—
"The Magnificent Giovanni dei Medici arrived this morning in time for dinner. I have given him rooms in the Corte and sent Giovanni Pietro Gonzaga and Lodovico Uberti to wait on him. After dinner he paid me a visit, and I entertained him and showed 106 ELISABETTA LEAVES MANTUA
1 Luzio e Renier, Mantova e Urbino, p. 69.
him the Camera and the Triumphs and afterwards took him to see our little girl."'
The Camera was the Sala degli Sposi, decorated with Mantegna's frescoes, while his newly completed Triumphs hung in a hall in that portion of the Castello known as the Corte Vecchia, and were not removed to Francesco's new palace of San Sebastiano until the year 1506.
Elisabetta Gonzaga had been induced to remain with Isabella for her confinement, and only returned to Urbino on the 20th of January, with her husband Duke Guidobaldo, who came to spend Christmas at Mantua. Her departure was greatly lamented by the Marchesa, who sent her a tender little note on the same day, saying how sadly she missed her sweet and loving conversation. "It seems strange enough," she adds, "to be without you as long as I am in bed, but it will be much worse when I leave the house— for there is no one whom I love like you, excepting my only sister, the Duchess of Bari." Her recovery, however, proved rapid. A week later she rode out through the town, to the joy of all the people, and the next day went to pay her vows at S. Maria delle Grazie, a favourite sanctuary of the Gonzaga princes, on the other side of the lakes, five miles from Mantua.
Early in February, we find her enjoying hunting parties and theatricals, at Marmirolo, that superb country-house which Francesco Gonzaga delighted to'adorn. For the last three years architects and artists had been busy here. Mantegna's son Francesco had painted a series of Triumphs on canvas, in DECORATIONS OF MARMIROLO 107
1 Archivio Gonzaga, quoted by P. Kristeller, Andrea Mantegna, App.
imitation of his father's great works, and both this artist and the Veronese master Bonsignori, who had entered the Marquis's service in 1488, were now engaged in decorating certain halls with views of Greek and Turkish cities. Constantinople, Adrianople, Gallipoli and Rhodes were all represented in the Camera greca, and groups of Turkish women bathing and going to mosque, as well as a portrait of the Sultan's ambassador, were painted on one of the walls. The plans provided by Gentile Bellini were evidently destined to hang in three rooms, and one hall, we are told, contained a Mappamondo drawn in charcoal. In 1496, the Marquis applied to Giovanni Bellini for a map of Paris, and the painter promised to do his best to satisfy His Excellency, but said he could not vouch for its correctness, since he had never been in France. Francesco addressed the same request to Lorenzo dei Medici when he asked him to stand godfather to his infant daughter, but such a thing, it appeared, was not to be found in the whole of Florence. Isabella, as might be expected, shared her husband's taste for topographical plans and maps. Many years afterwards, she ordered copies to be made of a celestial and terrestrial globe in the Vatican Library, and sent to Venice for the latest plans of Constantinople and Cairo.