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ISABELLA'S REQUEST 231

Romagna. I feel certain that these things must have fallen into the said Duke's hands, together with all the contents of the palace of Urbino, in the present revolution. And since I am very anxious to collect antiques for the decoration of my studio, I desire exceedingly to possess these statues, which does not seem to me impossible, since I hear that His Excellency has little taste for antiquities, and would accordingly be the more ready to oblige others. But as I am not sufficiently intimate with him to venture to ask this favour at his hands, I think it best to avail myself of your most revered Signoria's good offices, and pray you of your kindness to ask him for the said Venus and Cupid, both by messenger and letter, in so effectual a manner that both you and I may obtain satisfaction. I am quite willing, if it so please Your Reverence, that you should mention my name and say that I have asked for them very urgently, and sent an express courier, as I do now, for, believe me, I could receive no greater pleasure or favour either from His Excellency or from your most dear and reverend Signoria, to whom I commend myself affectionately.—Your sister, Isabella, Marchioness of Mantua."1 Mantua, June 30, 1502.

The letter, in its frank, straightforward tone, is highly characteristic of the writer. Even at this critical moment, when her heart is wrung with sorrow for the poor Duke, who has fled to Mantua in his shirt-sleeves, and the beloved Duchess, Isabella does not hesitate to seek a favour at the hands of the treacherous prince who had caused their ruin. It is true, she will not stoop to ask this favour of Valentino 232 CiESAR SENDS THE STATUES

1 Gaye, Carieggio d'AtiM, vol. ii. 53.

in person; she has no domestichezza with him, and is not on sufficiently familiar terms with him for that. But she is none the less ready to make use of his connection with her own family in order to attain her object and gratify her passion for rare antiques. The Cardinal, who was in high favour at the Vatican since Lucrezia's wedding, complied with his sister's request without delay, and Caesar Borgia hastened to gratify the fancy of the illustrious Madonna, whose goodwill he was especially anxious to gain. Within the next few weeks, the Duke of Romagna's chamberlain, bringing with him a mule laden with marbles, arrived at Mantua; and on the 22nd of July, the Marchesa told her husband joyfully that the precious statues were safe in her Grotta.

"Yesterday, the muleteer arrived safely with the Venus and Cupid which Duke Valentino has sent here, and his chamberlain, Messer Francesco, presented them to me." And after begging Francesco, who had gone to meet the French king at Milan, to take steps for recovering the Duchess of Urbino's dowry, she adds the following postscript: "I do not write of the beauty of the Venus, because I believe Your Excellency has seen it, but for a modern thing the Cupid has no equal."1

This Cupid, which justly excited the accomplished Marchesa's admiration, was not, as she apparently knew, a genuine antique, but the work of a young Florentine sculptor, Michel Angelo Buonarroti, whose fame was already great in Rome. In those early days, when Savonarola's sermons were shaking the heart of Florence, the youth of twenty carved a Sleeping Cupid with quiver and torch at his side, which was TO MANTUA ?33

1 Alvisi, "Caesar Borgia," p. 537.

so like a Greek marble that a dealer took it to Rome and sold it to Cardinal Riario as an antique. The Cardinal found out the fraud and returned the Cupid to the dealer, but invited the sculptor to Rome. Michel Angelo, indignant at the fraud which had been practised in his name, sought out the dealer and demanded him to restore his Cupid; but the agent laughed him to scorn, and soon found another purchaser in the Pope's son, who, wishing to conciliate the Duke of Urbino, presented him with this Cupid and an antique torso of Venus. Guidobaldo, it seems, set great store on this Cupid, and when, towards the close of 1503, he had recovered his dominions, he told Cattaneo, the Mantuan agent at the Papal court, that he wished the Marchesa would restore his statue. But Isabella replied with her usual readiness that, glad as she was to hear that the Duke was recovering his scattered treasures, she must remind him that he had given her permission to ask Borgia for the Cupid; and, to prove her case, sent Cattaneo Guidobaldo's own letter on the subject. After this there was nothing left for the Duke but to beg the Marchesa to keep the statue and to assure her that his person and property were altogether at her disposal.1 So the Cupid remained in the famous Grotta, where it is mentioned in the inventory of 1542, as the work of Michelagnoh fiorentino.

De Thou, who visited the Castello in 1573, praised the statue highly, and in June 1630, Charles the First's agent, Daniel Nys, mentions it together with the Cupids of Praxiteles and Sansovino as the rarest objects in the ducal collection. There seems little doubt that this Cupid, which Michel Angelo carved, 234 THE LOST CUPID

1 Luzio in Arch. St. Lot/A., 1886.

and which had so strange a story, and both Guidobaldo and Isabella valued so highly, came to England in 1632, with the rest of the Mantuan art-treasures, and for a while adorned the palace of Whitehall or the halls of Hampton Court. But nothing is known of its fate in after years, and it probably disappeared with so many other rare and precious things at the sale of Charles the First's collections.

CHAPTER XIV

1502—150S

Louis XII. at Milan—He receives the exiled princes and the Marquis of Mantua—Ctesar Borgia arrives at Milan and concludes an agreement with the king—Isabella's warnings to her husband—The Duke and Duchess of Urbino forced to leave Mantua and take shelter at Venice—Francesco Gon9 zaga goes to France—Isabella governs Mantua—Her negotiations with Borgia regarding her son's marriage—Caesar's campaign in Romagna—Treacherous murder of Vitellozzo and his companions—Isabella sends Valentino a present of masks —Death of the Pope and sudden revolution in Rome— Return of Duke Guidobaldo to Urbino—Election of Pope Pius III.

All the victims of Caesar Borgia's high-handed policy, and all those who looked with alarm at his rapid success, now turned to the French king for help. Early in July, Louis XII. crossed the Alps to make preparations for war against the Spanish forces, who, under Gonsalvo di Cordova, had attacked his troops in Naples. On the 28th he entered Milan, bringing with him Federico of Aragon, the ex-king of Naples, and attended by the Duke of Ferrara and the Marquis of Mantua, who had joined him a week before at Vigevano. Here, too, came the unfortunate Duke of Urbino and Giovanni Sforza to plead their cause against Valentino. Louis received the exiled princes with fair promises, and Francesco Gonzaga was beginning to talk loudly of avenging their wrongs, when Caesar Borgia himself appeared suddenly on

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