d'Este, Isabella (1474–1539)

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d'Este, Isabella (14741539)

A patron of the arts and writers during the Renaissance, whose brilliant court in Ferrara became a leading city of the new humanistic outlook, and who is known by historians as the Queen of the Renaissance. The daughter of Duke Ercole I of Ferrara and of Duchess Leonora, the daughter of King Ferdinand I of Naples, Isabelle d'Este traveled extensively with her mother, visiting the various courts of Italy and educating herself in the language and literature of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In her travels and studies she gained a deep appreciation for the achievements of the ancient Romans in literature, sculpture, and architecture. She was engaged as a young girl to Francesco Gonzaga, finally marrying him at the age of sixteen. In Mantua the couple led a brilliant court that boasted the presence of Ludovico Ariosto, who wrote his epic poem Orlando Furioso while residing there. Baldassare Castiglione, who wrote The Courtier, an important book of courtly manners, also lived in Mantua and was given free reign by Isabella d'Este to make her court a model of good taste and proper decorum. The d'Este court served as a model for Renaissance princes all over Europe, who were leaving behind the rustic medieval manners of their forebears and striving to match each other in their patronage of menand womenof learning and talent. Isabella boasted the presence of the painters Titian (who painted her portrait twice), Andrea Mantegna, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci, who drew a famous portrait of her. A musician and devoted patroness of composers, she also organized a court orchestra and had her palace composers set poetry she favored to musican important first step on the path to the full flowering of Italian opera in the centuries to come.

As captain-general of the forces of Venice, Francesco Gonzaga was frequently away from the court in Mantua. While campaigning against the French he was taken prisoner in 1509. Isabella d'Este then ruled Mantua as Francesco's regent. She skillfully directed the defense of Mantua against its enemies until Francesco was released in 1512. The couple found themselves at odds afterward, however, and Isabella retreated to the court of Pope Leo X in Rome. She soon became one of the most popular figures in Rome and participated in the spirited defense of the city against the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor in the 1520s. After the death of Francesco Gonzaga, Isabella served as the regent for their son Frederico, the heir to the city who had been born in 1500.

See Also: Ferdinand I of Naples; Ferrara; Gonzaga, House of; Mantua

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d'Este, Isabella (1474–1539)

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