Sforza, Ludovico (1452–1508)
Sforza, Ludovico (1452–1508)
Duke of Milan from 1494 until 1499. The second son of Francesco I Sforza, he was born in the town of Vigevano in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. He was a ruthlessly ambitious Renaissance prince who patronized some of the greatest artists of Europe, including Leonardo da Vinci and Donato Bramante.
On the death of Francesco Sforza in 1466, Ludovico's elder brother Galeazzo became the duke of Milan. When Galeazzo was murdered in 1476, the duchy of Milan passed to his son Gian Galeazzo, then seven years of age. Ludovico was thwarted in his attempt to seize the duchy and exiled from Milan by Gian Galeazzo's chief minister, Cicco Simonetta. Soon returning to the city, Ludovico had Simonetta murdered in 1480 and then banished Gian Galeazzo and his mother, Bona of Savoy, from Milan. Gian Galeazzo established a rival court in the city of Pavia and, with the support of his wife Isabella of Castile, the daughter of the king of Spain, continued to make his claim for the duchy.
In search of ways to secure his authority, Ludovico allied himself with King Charles VIII of France, and, in order to glorify and legitimize his reign, he engaged Leonardo da Vinci to create works of art in the city that would include the Last Supper, painted for the refectory of the Santa Maria della Grazie monastery.
On the death of Gian Galeazzo in 1494, the way was clear for Ludovico to secure his hold on the duchy. He struck an alliance with King Charles VIII of France and arranged a marriage between his niece and Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. In return Maximilian officially recognized Ludovico as the Duke of Milan, while the French assembled an army and invaded Italy. In 1495, Ludovico turned against the French, who were eventually defeated and chased from Italy.
In 1499, Charles's successor King Louis XII laid claim to the duchy through his descent from Gian Galeazzo Visconti, a member of the dynasty that had preceded the Sforzas as dukes of Milan. Louis invaded Italy and forced Ludovico to flee Milan. After assembling an army of Swiss mercenaries, Ludovico prepared a counterattack. His forces were defeated at the Battle of Novara in 1500 and he was taken prisoner by the French. Brought to the castle of Loches, in central France, Ludovico
languished in a dungeon for eight years before dying.
See Also: Leonardo da Vinci; Sforza, Caterina; Sforza, Francesco; Visconti dynasty
Ludovico Sforza (lōōdōvē´kō sfôr´tsä, lō–), b. 1451 or 1452, d. 1508, duke of Milan (1494–99); younger son of Francesco I Sforza. He was called Ludovico il Moro [the Moor] because of his swarthy complexion. In 1480 he deprived his sister-in-law, Bona of Savoy, of the regency for her infant son, Gian Galeazzo Sforza (see Sforza, family), and from that date his actual rule may be reckoned. In 1494, Gian Galeazzo died, a virtual prisoner, and Ludovico was formally invested with Milan by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Partly in order to divert French ambitions from Milan, partly in order to protect himself from the hostility of the king of Naples, Ludovico concluded an offensive alliance with Charles VIII of France, whose invasion (1494) of Italy was the beginning of the Italian Wars. In 1495, however, Ludovico reached an understanding with Charles's enemies and turned against the French, who were expelled from Italy. In 1499, Louis XII of France, who had a hereditary claim to the duchy of Milan (he was a great-grandson of Gian Galeazzo Visconti), invaded Italy and expelled Ludovico from his duchy. Ludovico's attempt, with the aid of Swiss mercenaries, to recover his lands was defeated at Novara (1500); he was captured and died a prisoner in France. Before his fall, Ludovico Sforza was one of the wealthiest and most powerful princes of Renaissance Italy. He was a subtle diplomat and an unscrupulous intriguer. With his wife, Beatrice d'Este, he held a brilliant court and spent immense sums of money to further the arts and sciences. He is remembered especially for his patronage of Leonardo da Vinci and of the architect Bramante.