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14 ISABELLA'S TROUSSEAU
Duchess were reluctant to part from their beloved child, and wished the wedding of their two daughters to take place at the same time. But Lodovico Sforza showed little inclination to fix the date of his marriage, while Francesco Gonzaga pressed his suit eagerly, and Leonora finally agreed that Isabella's wedding should take place in the spring of 1490, before she had completed her sixteenth year. Great preparations were made both at Mantua and Ferrara for the coming event . All through the year painters, carvers, and goldsmiths were engaged in preparing the bride's trousseau, under her mother's watchful eye. Early in 1489' Ercole Roberti was sent to Venice, to buy gold-leaf and ultramarine for the decoration of the wedding chests. On his return he painted thirteen cassoni, for which he employed eleven thousand gold leaves, and designed the nuptial bed, as well as a magnificent chariot and gilded bucentaur which the Duke presented to his daughter. The tapestries and hangings for her rooms were made in Venice, seals and buttons and silver boxes for her use were engraved by Ferrarese artists, and a portable silver altar, richly chased and embossed, together with ornaments and office-books to match, were ordered from the skilled Milanese goldsmith Fra Rocco. The girdle or majestate, worn by royal brides and elaborately worked in gold and silver, was also ordered from Fra Rocco, who devoted many months to the task, and received 600 ducats from the Duke. No less than 2000 ducats were paid him for a similar belt which he made the next year for Beatrice, and which is described by contemporaries as a still greater marvel of wor•kmanship. Isabella's HER MARRIAGE 15
1 Gruyer, op. cit., ii. 153.
dowry had been fixed at 25,000 ducats, while her trousseau was valued at 2000 ducats, and the jewels and other costly objects given her by the Duke were held to be worth another 3000, so that the whole of her marriage portion and outfit did not exceed 30,000 ducats, a modest fortune compared to her mother's dowry of 80,000 ducats and the 150,000 ducats that were settled on her sister-in-law Anna Sforza.
The wedding was celebrated at Ferrara on the 11th of February 1490, and after the ceremony in the ducal chapel, the bride rode through the streets of the city in her fine new chariot draped with cloth of gold, with the Duke of Urbino on horseback on her right and the Ambassador of Naples on her left. The banquet which followed was one of the most sumptuous ever held in the Castello of Ferrara. The walls of the Sala Grande were hung with the Arras tapestries brought from Naples by Duchess Leonora, including the "Queen of Sheba's Visit to Solomon," and six pieces known as "La Pastourelle," worked by hand in gold and silver and coloured silks of exquisite delicacy. These priceless hangings originally came to Naples with Queen Joan, and it was said that Flemish workers had been employed upon them during more than a hundred years. The Este princes held the tapestries among their choicest possessions and only used them on great occasions; and in after years they excited the admiration of the Emperor Charles V. when he visited Reggio as the guest of Alfonso d'Este, and insisted on examining each piece separately by torchlight. The magnificent dinner-service used at Isabella's wedding had been made in Venice 16 ENTRY INTO MANTUA
by a renowned goldsmith, Giorgio da Ragusa, from Cosimo Tura's designs. Crystal flagons and dishes of gold and enamel were supported by griffins and satyrs, dolphins and satyrs, the handles of golden bowls and cornucopias laden with fruit were adorned with genu or the eagles of the house of Este, while two hundred and fifty little banners, painted by Ferrara artists with the Este and Gonzaga arms, adorned the temples and pyramids of gilt and coloured sugar that were a triumph of the confectioner's art.1
On the following day the wedding party set out in the richly carved and gilded bucentaur, attended by four galleys and fifty boats, for Mantua, and sailed up the Po. The bride was accompanied by her parents, with their three young sons, Alfonso, Ferrante, and the future Cardinal Ippolito, as well as by her cousins, Alberto d'Este, Niccolo and Borso da Correggio, and a hundred chosen courtiers, who escorted her to the gates of Mantua. On the 15th of February she made her triumphal entry into the city, riding between the Marquis and the Duke of Urbino, and followed by the Ambassadors of France, Naples, Milan, Venice, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, and other Italian States. The loyal citizens of Mantua hailed their young Marchesana with enthusiasm, and it is said that as many as 17,000 spectators were assembled in the town that day. The streets were hung with brocades and garlands of flowers. At the Porta Pradella a choir of whiterobed children welcomed the bride with songs and recitations. At the Ponte S. Jacopo, on the Piazza in front of Alberti's church of S. Andrea, at the WEDDING FESTIVITIES 17
1 Gruyer, op. at, ii. 83.
gates of the park, and on the drawbridge of the Castello, pageants and musical entertainments were prepared in her honour. At one point the seven planets and nine ranks of angelic orders welcomed her coming, and a fair boy with angel wings recited an epithalamium composed for the occasion at the foot of the grand staircase of the Castello di Corte. There Elisabetta Gonzaga received the bride, and the princely guests sat down to a banquet in the state rooms, while the immense crowds assembled on the Piazza outside were feasted at the public expense, and the fountains and cisterns ran with wine. The Marquis had borrowed large stores of gold and silver plate, of carpets and hangings from all his friends and kinsfolk. Giovanni Bentivoglio, Marco Pio of Carpi, the Gonzagas of Bozzolo, and many of Isabella's relatives had placed their treasures at his disposal for the occasion, and his brother-inlaw, Duke Guidobaldo, had lent him the famous tapestries of the Trojan war, which were the glory of the palace of Urbino. The festivities were prolonged until the last day of the carnival. Tournaments and dances and torchlight processions followed each other in rapid succession, and each day a fresh banquet was spread on tables in the Piazza, and confetti, representing cities, castles, churches, and animals in endless variety, were distributed to the delighted populace.1
Only one thing was wanting to complete the splendour of the festival. This was the presence of Andrea Mantegna, the great master who had spent thirty years in the service of the Gonzagas, and whose genius was so highly esteemed by the young 18 MANTEGNAS ABSENCE
1 D'Arco, Notisie d'Isabella Estcnse, p. 31. VOL. I. B
Marquis. In June 1488, Francesco had given him leave to go to Rome, at the earnest request of Pope Innocent VIII., who employed him to paint his new chapel of the Belvedere. The artist, however, was not happy at the Vatican, and complained bitterly in his letters to the Marquis of the irregular payments and indifferent treatment which he received from the Pope, declaring that he was a child of the house of Gonzaga, and wished to live and die in their service. He was uneasy too about his unfinished Triumphs in the Castello of Mantua, and begged the Marquis to see that the rain did not come in through the windows and damage these canvases, which were his best and most perfect works. Francesco replied in a friendly letter, assuring him that his Triumphs were perfectly safe, and wrote again at Christmas 1489, begging the painter to return as soon as possible, since his help was indispensable in preparing the pageants and decorations for the wedding. But the messenger who brought the letter found Andrea ill in bed and the Pope's frescoes unfinished, and the Marquis was forced to celebrate his marriage without the presence of his favourite painter.