תמונות בעמוד


Highness; she excused herself for wearing it, but had not thought of this before Signoi Giovanni arrived, and could not remove it now with decency, but says that when Donna Leonora comes here as a bride, she will change it joyfully, and says that if this marriage proves as prosperous as she desires, she will no longer feel widowed, and that this will be the greatest joy that she can ever hope to know on earth. . . . The funeral ceremonies, as Signor Giovanni has told you, were sumptuous. There were 825 mourners, wearing long cloaks with trains and hoods. All the friars and priests of the state and five bishops were present, and stood round the catafalque, with an infinite number of lighted torches, but they were hardly as numerous or as fine as those at Mantua. The universal grief and lamentation here is beyond description."1

The young Duke, Francesco Maria, now expressed a great wish to visit his promised bride. For some time past he had been anxious to come to Mantua, and his natural eagerness to see his future wife was further stimulated by Leonora's uncle, Giovanni Gonzaga, who told him that, when he had seen Donna Leonora and the Marchese's famous breed of horses, he would have seen the two finest things in the world! For, he assured him, there was no fairer and sweeter maiden in the whole of Italy, while no Christian king or prince had a stud to equal that of Mantua. Accordingly, on the 25th of August, Francesco Maria made his appearance at Mantua, and spent two days with the Marquis and his daughter. Isabella herself was absent, having lately given birth to another daughter at her summer villa on the heights 310 VISITS MANTUA

1 Luzio e Renier, Man Una e Urbino, p. 185.

of Cavriana, and Federico Cattaneo sent her the following account of the young suitor's visit: "Yesterday evening about seven, the Duke of Urbino arrived at the Castello, travelling incognito with only four persons, and remained upstairs with our illustrious lord for about half-an-hour. As soon as he arrived, our Signor sent for Madonna Laura (the wife of Giovanni Gonzaga), whose little girl died two days ago. She came at once, and with her Madonna Violante, Madonna Costanza, Madonna Orsini degli Uberti, and as soon as they were in the Castello they dressed Madonna Leonora in white tabby. If Your Highness could have seen the confusion there was at that moment! As for me, I very much wished you could have been there for many reasons, and many others of your servants did the same. The Cardinal then came in, took Madonna Leonora by the hand, and led her down the little staircase near the Camera Dipinta. They entered the Camera of the Sun, and found the Duke with our illustrious Signor and many other gentlemen. The Duke came to meet Madonna Leonora and kissed her. But he did not seem to have succeeded very well, and our Cardinal pushed him towards her again, and then he threw his arm round her head, and kissed her on the mouth. After this they sat down together and talked of many things, and more especially of pictures. Presently my lord called me and bade me fetch the portrait of Your Highness by Lorenzo Costa, the Ferrara painter, which I had lately placed in its frame. I brought it directly, and every one admired it. Then we all took our leave. The Duke went to St. Sebastian, and every one else to his own house. Of Madonna Leonora's modesty and bearing I can only


tell Your Signory that she behaved not as a child, but as a very prudent lady. The Duke leaves here on Monday, and goes to Viterbo." Mantua, 26th August 1508.

The young Duke was eighteen years of age and had already distinguished himself as a gallant soldier, but gave signs of that violent temper for which he was famous in after days. Only a few months before, he had stabbed one of Duke Guidobaldo's favourite cavaliers with his own hand, because the unfortunate young man aspired to the hand of his widowed sister, Maria Varana.1 But he always behaved with the greatest deference to his widowed aunt, and was anxious to acquire the good graces of his bride's parents. He sent the Marquis a scimitar which had belonged to the lamented King Ferrante II. of Naples, and presented Isabella with a set of costly trappings for a horse which had been the property of Cassar Borgia, saying he knew that she was not only fond of driving in a chariot and riding mules, but was an excellent horsewoman, and thought that she might relish a share "in the spoils of one who knew not how to make use of his good fortune."2 Leonora was by this time a lovely maiden of fourteen summers, whose beauty was already the theme of courtiers and poets, and whose riper charms Titian's brush was to render immortal in years to come. The little daughter who was born to her mother that August received the name of Livia Osanna, after her lamented friend the Beata Osanna. The body of this holy nun had been taken up a few weeks before, in the Marchesa's presence, and after being exposed to the 312 PAOLA GONZAGA

1 Dennistoun, op. cit., ii. 305.

* Luzio e Renier, MaiUova e Urbino, pp. 186, 187.

veneration of the public for a whole day, had been solemnly interred in the beautiful Arca designed by Cristoforo Romano, in San Domenico. This second Livia was vowed to the cloister from her infancy, and became a Poor Clare in the convent of Santa Paola, or Corpus Domenico. Here the Emperor Charles V. himself came to see her, and the fame of her sanctity attracted many illustrious visitors. Sister Paola, which name the princess adopted on taking the veil, is mentioned more than once in her mother's correspondence, and several letters which she herself addressed to her cousin Duke Ercole of Ferrara and his wife Renee are preserved in the Gonzaga archives, and were published by Ferrato.

In November Isabella went to Ferrara, where she still found a warm welcome from her brother Alfonso, in spite of the family quarrels which saddened her home, and the coolness between her and la Diva Borgia, as Lucrezia was styled by flattering poets and courtiers. But two of her oldest friends were missing. Ercole Strozzi, the accomplished Latin poet and intimate friend of Bembo, whose house was often honoured by Isabella's presence, and who himself frequently came to Mantua, had been foully murdered in cold blood one summer day when he left his house to take an early walk and enjoy the morning air. His wife, the beautiful Barbara Torelli, had only given birth to her first child a fortnight before, and now wrote "with streaming tears and broken heart" to tell her friends at Mantua the sad news. The murdered man was buried with great pomp, and the learned humanist, Celio Calcagneni, pronounced an eloquent oration over the corpse of his gifted friend. "Great is the sorrow we all feel here," wrote Bernardo DEATH OF NICCOLO DA CORREGGIO 318

dei Prosperi to Isabella—"most of all, because he was so rare and excellent a man of letters." Not a word was said as to the murderer, but it was generally known in Ferrara that Alfonso d'Este had long been jealous of Barbara Torelli's preference for Ercole, and had secretly planned his destruction. Before Strozzi's death, the Marquis of Mantua had promised to stand godfather to his new-bom daughter, and now sent the poet Tebaldeo to represent him at the christening.

Something of the same mystery overshadowed the fate of Isabella's brilliant kinsman, Niccolo da Correggio, who died in January 1508, at Ferrara, away from his own house—to the bitter grief of his wife, Cassandra Colleoni. In her letter of condolence, Isabella expressed her pity for this poor Madonna, and alluded covertly to some love intrigues in which her old friend had been unhappily entangled. Only a year before, Alfonso had presented Niccolo with a fine palace in the Via degli Angeli, which had formerly belonged to his unhappy brother Giulio, in recognition of his services in discovering that prince's plot against the Duke's life. And in February 1507, he wrote to the Marchesa in his old strain, telling her how eagerly her coming was awaited at Ferrara, and how busy he was preparing masquerades for her amusement. The Duke, he added, was longing to see his sister, and confidently expected her to spend the next two months at his court. But soon after this the old courtier incurred his lord's displeasure, and Bernardo dei Prosperi, in a letter informing Isabella that Signor Niccolo was at the point of death, ascribes his melancholy condition to grief at his disgrace. "His case," adds Bernardo, "has been

« הקודםהמשך »