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176 DESIGN ASCRIBED TO MANTEGNA
fame.—Your slave and servant, Jacopo D'atri."1 Naples, 17th March 1499.
A drawing, now in the His de la Salle collection in the Louvre, of a statue of Virgil, covered with laurel and holding the iEneid, in the style, although not by the hand, of Mantegna, was probably executed by Isabella's order, but her project was never carried out, and Mantua was left without a monument of her greatest son. The only memorial erected in Isabella's lifetime was the fine terra-cotta bust of Virgil, which, in 1511, the doctor Battista Fiera placed on an arch in front of the church of S. Francesco, together with a bust of the Marquis, and of the Carmelite poet Battista Spagnuoli. The arch was destroyed by the Austrians in 1852, but the three busts are still preserved in the Museum of Mantua.
1 A. Baschet, Gazette d. B. Arts, 1866.
Birth of Isabella's son Federico—Caesar Borgia his godfather— Relations of the Gonzagas with him—Elisabetta of Urbino goes to Rome—Letters of Sigismondo Cantelmo—Comedies at Ferrara and Mantua—Treaty of Granada and partition of Naples—Csesar Borgia conquers Romagna—Abdication and exile of Federico, King of Naples—Betrothal of Alfonso d'Este to Lucrezia Borgia—Preparations for the marriage in Rome— II Prete's letters to Isabella—Wedding of Lucrezia and her journey to Ferrara.
The year 1500, which saw the final ruin of Lodovico Sforza and the rise of Cassar Borgia, was a memorable one for Isabella d'Este, both in her public and private life. On the 17th of May, within a month of the catastrophe of Novara, she gave birth, in the Castello of Mantua, to the long-wishedfor son and heir. Some time before, Suor Osanna foretold this event, and bade the Marchesa be of good cheer, since her prayers were heard and she would soon bear a son.1 Now the joyful news was hailed with acclamation, not only throughout Mantuan territory, but at Ferrara and Urbino. The sumptuous cradle which Duke Ercole had sent for his first grandchild's birth, and which Isabella had refused to let her daughters use, was at length brought out; and the happy mother borrowed Spanish leather hangings and tapestries from Ferrara for the 178 BIRTH OF FEDERICO
1 Donesmondi, Storia Eccles. di Mantova. VOL. I. 177 M 1 Luzio e Renier, Mantot,a e Urbino, p. 106.
decoration of her infant son's nurseries at his christening. This ceremony took place on the 16th of July, but was not marked by any public rejoicings. As Isabella wrote to her sister-in-law, "the troubled state of Italy has deprived him of a more honourable baptism."1 The choice of the godfathers was significant. The first was the Emperor Maximilian, whose friendship the Marquis was anxious to secure without breaking with Louis XII., and who was himself rejoicing over the birth of his grandson, the future Emperor Charles V. Little did Isabella know how great an influence the babe, who first saw the light at Ghent, on that auspicious Feast of St. Matthias, was destined to wield over the fate of Italy and the fortunes of her new-born son. The second of Federico's sponsors was Cardinal Sanseverino, the warlike prelate, who, like all his brothers, had been a devoted partisan of the Sforzas, and had entered Milan at the head of the Moro's followers. None the less, he had, a few months before, succeeded in making his peace with France, through the friendship of Cardinal d'Amboise, and soon afterwards returned to Milan. The third august personage whom the Marquis chose to hold his son at the font was Caesar Borgia. The Pope's son, as young Castiglione wrote home, was the tallest and most splendid-looking man among all the princes and nobles who escorted Louis XII. on his entry into Milan. Now he was rapidly becoming the most prominent figure in Italian politics. His energy of will and powers of mind were as great as his strength of body; his ambition was as boundless as his courage. His influence over the Pope was absolute. He was CESAR BORGIA HIS SPONSOR 179
already master of Rome and aspired to reign over all Italy. The Pope's son, wrote the Ferrarese envoy, Pandolfo Collenuccio, "has a great soul and seeks fame and grandeur, but cares more to conquer States than to govern and defend them. He is fierce in his revenge and never forgives a wrong, so I hear on all sides." The truth of this report was confirmed by the Pope himself, who remarked, in conversation with another Ferrara agent, Costabili: "The Duke is a good-natured man, but he cannot forgive an insult. The other day I told him that Rome was a free city, where every one had a right to say what he pleased. • That may be all very well for Rome,' replied Caesar, 'but I will teach people to be sorry for what they say.'"l
From the first, Francesco Gonzaga and his wife realised the growing power of Duke Valentino, as he was popularly called in Italy, and lost no opportunity of conciliating this dangerous personage. A few days after his son's birth, the Marquis wrote to ask him to stand sponsor to the little Federico, an honour which Caesar accepted with alacrity, as we learn from a note written on the 24th of May:—
"I heard of the fortunate and much-desired birth of Your Excellency's little son with exultation as great as if it had been my own, and gladly accept the honour you propose to do me, begging that you will depute one of your councillors to represent me at the font and will give my congratulations to your most illustrious consort, hoping this babe may be the first of a numerous race of sons destined to perpetuate the name of two such noble and glorious parents." *
1 Pastor, "History of the Popes," vi. 113. 2 F. Gregorovius, "Lucrezia Borgia," p. 66.
180 ELISABETTA GONZAGA
But enough was known of Ca?sar Borgia's designs at Mantua to excite the worst fears, and the suspicion which the Marquis Francesco entertained of his new ally is evident from a letter which he addressed to Elisabetta of Urbino, in March 1500, begging his sister to abandon her intended visit to Rome.
Already in the summer of 1499, the Duchess had invited Isabella to accompany her on a pilgrimage to Rome in this year of Jubilee, but the critical state of public affairs in Lombardy and the approaching birth of her child compelled the Marchesa reluctantly to decline the proposal. As the time of Elisabetta's journey drew near, the Marquis became seriously alarmed for his sister's safety, and urged her by their mutual love to consider the present state of things and the risks to which she would be exposed. If she is in need of change, let her come to Mantua and give his wife the pleasure of her company. "The year is long," he adds, "and later on we will all three go to Rome and visit the holy places together in a more convenient season." But when this letter reached the Duchess, she was already on her way to the Colonnas at Marino, and wrote to the Marquis from Assisi, full of concern at the objections which he raised to her plans.
"Most illustrious Prince and dearest Brother,— A few days ago I left Urbino on my way to Rome to keep the Jubilee, as I told you some time ago, and this morning reached Assisi, where I received your letter begging me to give up my journey. This has caused me the greatest possible grief and vexation. On the one hand, my sole desire is now, as it has ever been, to comply with your wishes, and