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OF THE MADONNA 127
He describes the youths dressed up as angels and apostles who sang lauds on the tribunal erected for the altar-piece outside Mantegna's house, where the altar-piece was first placed, and dilates on the love and enthusiasm which the preacher's references to the Marquis evoked, as well as on the number of wax lights, torches and other votive offerings which had been already brought to the new shrine. Another correspondent, the chancellor Antimaco, describes the painting as a most excellent work, and says that it was truly amazing to see the eagerness of the crowds which pressed round to see this noble picture, and that, next to the Madonna's image, the portrait of their absent lord excited the greatest interest.1
The little shrine of Our Lady of Victory is standing still in a deserted byway of Mantua, but Messer Andrea's Madonna, as we all know, was carried off a hundred years ago, by the French conquerors, and hangs to-day in the Louvre among the proudest possessions of the nation whose supposed defeat it was intended to commemorate.
1 Braghirolli, Giorn. di Erud. Art., i 206.
Campaign of Naples—Ferrante recovers his kingdom—Francesco Gonzaga commands the Venetian army—Isabella governs Mantua—Her correspondence and friendship with Lorenzo da Pavia—Birth of her second daughter—Illness of the Marquis—His return to Mantua, and visit to Venice—Death of Ferrante of Naples, of Gilbert de Montpensier, and Beatrice d'Este—Francesco Gonzaga deprived of the office of captain9 general of the Venetian armies—Death of Anna Sforza.
Early in January, the Marquis of Mantua left home again to take the command of a new Venetian army which the Signory sent to assist Ferrante, the young king of Naples, in recovering his dominions. After the retreat of Charles VIII. this gallant prince had crossed over from Ischia, and entered Naples on the day after the battle of Fornovo. The people welcomed him with shouts of joy and the nobles flocked to his banner, and soon Montpensier, who had been left at the head of the French troops, was compelled to retire into the mountains of Calabria. There he carried on a war of petty skirmishes and depredations against the Venetian forces under the command of his brother-in-law, Francesco Gonzaga. While their husbands were fighting on opposite sides, Chiara Gonzaga remained at Mantua with her sister-in-law, to whom she was fondly attached, and whose company consoled Isabella in some measure for the departure of Elisabetta, who returned to Urbino in