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MARCHIONESS OF MANTUA
I474-I539 A STUDY OF THE RENAISSANCE
BY JULIA CARTWRIGHT (mrs. ADY)
AUTHOR OF "BEATRICE D'ESTE," «'THE PAINTERS
"La prima donna det mondo"
Niccolo Da Correggio.
'D'opere iltustri e di bei studi amica,
IN TWO VOLUMES
E. P. DUTTON fcf CO.
The life of Isabella d'Este has never yet been written. After four hundred years, the greatest lady of the Renaissance still awaits her biographer. An unkind fate has pursued all the scholars, whether French, German, or Italian, who have hitherto attempted the task. Their labours have been hindered and interrupted, or their lives prematurely cut short by death. More than fifty years ago an interesting study on the famous Marchesa, from the pen of a Mantuan scholar, Carlo d'Arco, was published in the Archivio Storico Italiano (1845), based upon documents preserved in the Gonzaga Archives. In 1867, a distinguished Frenchman, M. Armand Baschet, wrote a remarkable essay on Isabella d'Este's relations with the great Venetian printer, Aldo Manuzio, but died before he could execute his intention of publishing a life of this princess. A mass of documents, which he had copied from the Mantuan Archives, remained in the hands of the late M. Charles Yriarte, who wrote several interesting chapters on Isabella d'Este's relations with the great painters of her age, in the Gazette des Beaux Arts, and was preparing a fuller and more complete work on the subject when he died. M. Firmin Didot, Dr. Janitschek, Dr. Iieumont, and Ferdinand Gregorovius have all in turn given us sketches of Isabella in their historical works, while deploring the absence of any biography which should do full justice to so attractive and important a figure. vi PREFACE
Meanwhile, Italian students have not been idle. Twenty years ago a learned Mantuan ecclesiastic, Canonico Willelmo Braghirolli, made a careful study of Isabella's correspondence with Giovanni Bellini and Perugino, and published many of the letters relating to these artists. But he too died before his time, leaving her life still unwritten. Other wellknown scholars, Ferrato, Bertolotti, Campori, Signor Vittore Cian, and Cavaliere Stefano Davari, the present Director of the Archivio Gonzaga, have turned their attention to different aspects of the theme, and have published studies on the Gonzaga princes, or on the scholars and artists attached to their court. Above all, Dr. Alessandro Luzio, the present Keeper of the State Archives of Mantua, and his former colleague, Signor Rodolfo Renier, have devoted years of patient and untiring labour to the examination of the vast mass of Isabella d'Este's correspondence, amounting to upwards of two thousand letters, which had been fortunately preserved. During the last fifteen years these indefatigable workers have published a whole series of interesting articles and pamphlets containing the results of their researches, as well as one valuable volume, in which the intercourse between the courts of Mantua and Urbino, in the lifetime of Isabella and her sister-in-law, Elisabetta Gonzaga, is fully described. In an essay which Signor Renier contributed to the Italia, fifteen years ago, he informed his readers that he and Dr. Luzio would shortly publish a monograph on the great Marchesa, but these distinguished scholars have as yet been unable to fulfil their promise, and the appearance of this important and long-expected work is still delayed.
Meanwhile, the following study, without pretendPREFACE vii
ing to be an exhaustive biography, may interest those of our readers who are already familiar with Isabella through the Life of her sister, Beatrice d'Este.1 The history of these two princesses was closely interwoven during the early days of their wedded life, and Isabella's visits to Milan, and her correspondence with Lodovico Sforza and his young wife naturally filled a large share of her time and thoughts. But these six brilliant years which made up the whole of Beatrice's married life formed only a brief episode in Isabella's long and eventful career. During the next forty years she played an important part in the history of her times, and made the little court of Mantua famous in the eyes of the whole civilised world. Her close relationship with the reigning families of Milan and Naples, of Ferrara and Urbino, and constant intercourse with Popes and monarchs made her position one of peculiar importance, while the wisdom and sagacity which she showed in political affairs commanded universal respect. Both during the lifetime of her husband and son she was repeatedly called upon to administer the government of the state, and showed a coolness and dexterity in the conduct of the most difficult negotiations that would have excited the admiration of Machiavelli himself. By her skilful diplomacy this able woman saved the little state of Mantua from falling a prey to the ambitious designs of Caesar Borgia, or the vengeance of two powerful French monarchs, Louis XII. and Francis I. At the same time she helped her brother, Duke Alfonso of Ferrara, to resist the furious assaults of Julius II.
1 Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan, by Julia CartwrighU (Dent& Co., 1899-)