Sforza, Ludovico (1452–1508)

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Sforza, Ludovico (14521508)

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

Sforza, Ludovico

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Sforza, Ludovico (c.1451–1508) Duke of Milan (1494–99). In effective control of the city-state from 1480, Ludovico tried to cement his family's power base through diplomacy and intrigue. Sforza's alliance (1494) with Charles VIII of France marked the start of the Italian Wars. He reneged on the agreement, however, and Louis XII invaded Milan, and dispossessed Sforza. He died a prisoner in France. He is mainly remembered for his patronage of Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante.