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210 HER CONDUCT AT FERRARA
Ercole, was born in 1508, and succeeded his father as Duke in 1584. Her conduct during the latter years of her life was exemplary, and she edified the people of Ferrara by the charitable institutions which she founded, and spent much of her time in Duchess Leonora's favourite convent of Corpus Domini.
Isabella's visit to Venice—Her letters to the Marquis—Courtesy of the Doge and Signory—Her income and expenditure— Proposed marriage between Federico Gonzaga and Caesar Borgia's daughter—Elisabetta of Urbino goes with Isabella to Porto—Csesar Borgia seizes Urbino—Flight of Duke Guidobaldo to Mantua—Isabella asks for the Venus and Cupid of Urbino—Caesar Borgia sends them to Mantua— Michel Angelo's Cupid sold to Charles I. and brought to England.
As soon as Isabella had recovered from the fatigues of the wedding festivities at Ferrara she began to make plans for a new expedition. The Duchess of Urbino had never seen Venice, and a vow which Isabella had made to the Santo at Padua afforded a good excuse for paying a second visit to the famous city. This time the two princesses decided to go in the strictest incognito, in order that they might be able to dispense with tedious ceremonies, and devote themselves wholly to sight-seeing and their own amusement. So they set out one morning in March, taking only two ladies with them—the Marchesa di Cotrone and the faithful Emilia Pia— and escorted by the Protonotario Sigismondo Gonzaga and two of Isabella's most trusted servants, her seneschal Alessandro da Baesso and her secretary Benedetto Capilupi. The Marquis accompanied his wife and sister as far as Sermide, where they took 218 VISIT TO VENICE
boat to the mouth of the Po, and spent the night at a wretched hostelry at Stellata. As usual, Isabella gave her husband a full account of her doings in a letter from Venice, where she arrived on the 14th of March.1
"My dear Lord,—Yesterday morning we left 'la Stellata' so early that we reached Chiozza an hour after dark, but since the hostelries were all full we had to send Benedetto Capilupi to inform the Podesta of our arrival, which we did the more readily, hearing that he was M. Alvise Capello, brother to M. Paolo, and a great friend of Your Excellency; and although we begged him to direct us to some private lodging near the inns, he insisted on receiving us in his own house in the kindest manner possible, and, above all, allowed us to remain strictly incognito. So we accepted his invitation, and were honourably lodged and entertained at supper in the palace. That night we were too tired and travel-stained to see His Magnificence, but this morning he visited us and regretted that he had not been aware of our coming, so as to pay us greater honour, as the Signory would have wished, and begged us to dine with him. We replied that we were on our way to discharge a vow at Padua, but had come through Venice, as the Duchess had never seen this city, and that since we were in travelling dress we should not have made ourselves known to him, only that he was a friend of Your Excellency, and, we felt sure, could be trusted to keep our secret; to which he replied that we had done well, and that the moment he heard of our arrival he had THE SIGHTS OF VENICE 219
1 This snd the five following letters in the Archivio Gonzaga were published by Dr. Luzio, Mantova e Urbitto, 307-315.
sent word to the Signory, but we begged that on no account should we be received and publicly entertained by them. So we came on here quietly this evening, and are lodged in the house of M. Niccolo Trevisano, which is occupied by the Duke of Urbino's ambassador. We found Franceschino Trevisano in the house, and hear from him that all Venice knows of our arrival, and that Your Excellency's friends are delighted. We all three commend ourselves to you, and I beg you to kiss my boy. To-morrow I will send some fish and oysters. I thank Your Excellency for allowing me to come here, and am enjoying Venice much more than I did last time, and think the city far more beautiful. The Duchess owns that it is more marvellous than Rome, and wonders at the sight, and is lost in admiration, and kisses Your Excellency's hand.— With the right hand of your wife, Isabella." Venice, March 14, 1502.
The next day she resumed her tale:— "I was sure Your Excellency would be vexed to hear of the discomforts that we endured at the Stellata, but I hope you will understand that mine were not serious, and that I have spirit enough to put up with such trifling inconvenience, although, of course, we should have been more comfortable if we had stayed with Your Excellency at Sermide. The only disadvantage would have been that we could not have reached Chiozza that evening, where, although we arrived unexpectedly, we were very honourably entertained by M. Alvise Capello at his expense, as I told you before. Yesterday we stopped at Ponia to see those big ships, and went on board a very large one which is being built and is said to be three thou220 THE CAMPANILE
sand tons and more. This morning we went to hear mass at Sta. Maria dei Miracoli, and then to S. Giovanni e Paolo and the Scuola di S. Marco, and returned home by another way. Directly after dinner we went to S. Marco, hoping to find very few people at that hour, but we were mistaken, as there were a good many, and then, so as not to leave anything undone and to see this marvellous city well, we climbed the Campanile of S. Marco, where we greatly enjoyed the beautiful view and examined the noble buildings on all sides. When we descended, we returned by boat and went to S. Giorgio and to the Misericordia, and came home by the Grand Canal. As yet I have seen none of our friends, except Genua, who shook hands with me in the Campanile, and this evening he called at our lodgings to see if we required anything. Monsignore and I spoke to Francesco directly about the jewels. Monsignore pretended that he had found a friend who would lend him 3000 ducats before Your Excellency heard of this, in order to conduct the transaction the more secretly with regard to the 2000 ducats which the Albani will pay. We have sent for the Jew, and Monsignore and I will do our utmost to settle this business. The Duchess is anxious to see the Doge and Signory, who will not appear till the procession of Olives on Sunday, so we have settled to stay here over that day, although I, having seen them already, do not care about it, but I must do this for her sake. On Monday we shall be at Padua, Tuesday at Vicenza, Wednesday at Verona, and so as not to travel on Holy Thursday or Friday, we will spend these two days there and make our communions. On Saturday we shall be at Mantua, and I