Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
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Visual History of the World
First Empires
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Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.




see also:






CLASSICAL MUSIC-The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, The Baroque Era



Renaissance Women

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Elisabetta Gonzaga by Raphael  

Elisabetta Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino (1471, Mantua, Italy - Ferrara, 1526, Italy)

was a cultured Italian Renaissance noblewoman , renown for her virtuous and childless life.

Elisabetta was the second daughter of Federico I Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, and of Margaret of Wittelsbach. She was the sister of Francesco II Gonzaga.

She married Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, the duke of Urbino, in 1489. Guidobaldo was sickly and impotent, and they had no children, but Elisabetta refused to divorce him and nursed him through his illnesses. In 1504 they adopted Francesco Maria della Rovere, the child of Guidobaldo's sister, who was then 14.

Elisabetta's education led her to a life in the company of some the greatest minds of late fifteenth-century Italy. Her court attracted writers, artists, and scholars.

Her nobility gave her contact and involvement in the power politics of sixteenth century Italy. She was the sister-in-law of Isabella d'Este, an influential Renaissance patron and political figure. In 1506 Elizabeth reluctantly accompanied Lucrezia Borgia on her journey to Ferrara, where Lucrezia was married to Alfonso I d'Este.

On entering Ferrara she rode a black mule caparisoned in black velvet embroidered with woven gold,and wore a mantle of black velvet strewn with triangles of beaten gold; another day indoors she wore a mantle of brown velvet slashed, and caught up with chains of massive gold; another day a gown of black velvet striped with gold, with a jewelled necklace and diadem; and still another day, a black velvet robe embroidered with ciphers.

On 21 June 1502 Cesare Borgia occupied Urbino, putting to flight Guidobaldo and forcing , Elizabeth to remain in Mantua, where she had been staying as a guest. She remained there until 1503 and then joined Guidobaldo in Venice. They were restored to power in 1504. The adoption of Franseco in that year hoped to secure the succession.

In 1508 Franseco was betrothed to Eleonora Gonzaga, Elisabetta's niece, further consolidating the dynasty.

Following Guidobaldo's death in 1508 at the age of 36 she continued to live in Urbino as regent to the underage heir.

However in June 1516 she was expelled from Urbino by Pope Leo X, who wanted to give the duchy to his nephew Lorenzo de Medici. Together with her niece Leonora and without a penny, they found refuge in Ferrara.



Portrait of Eleonora (known as "Dianora" or "Leonora") di Don Garzia di Toledo di Don Pietro dei' Medici 
by  Alessandro Allori

Eleonora di Toledo, Duchess of Florence, with her son Giovanni, by Agnolo
Bronzino, 1545

Eleonora di Garzia di Toledo (March 1553 – 11 July 1576),

more often known as "Leonora" or "Dianora", was the daughter of García Álvarez de Toledo y Osorio, Marques of Villafranca del Bierzo and Duke of Fernandina, and the wife of Don Pietro de' Medici, a son of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Leonora was born in Florence, where she was brought up by Cosimo and Eleonora di Toledo, her aunt and namesake. Betrothed to their son Pietro at the age of 15, she blossomed under the wing of Pietro's older sister, the artistic patron Isabella, into a vivacious and witty beauty. Her marriage, like Isabella's, was not a success, and she followed her mentor's example of taking lovers. For this reason, Pietro had her brought in 1576 to the country retreat of Cafaggiolo, where he strangled her to death with a dog leash. Cosimo's successor, Francesco I, tacitly approved the murder, and Pietro was never brought to justice for it.

Until recently, little was known of Leonora di Garzia di Toledo, and she was not identified as the sitter of several portraits of her. The facts of her life have emerged from the growing scholarship on Isabella de' Medici, with whom she has much in common. In the view of art historian Gabrielle Langdon, "Her story is valuable in revealing attitudes and legalities attendant on the lives and decorum of women in the early-modern Italian court".




Laura Battiferri by Agnolo Bronzino

Laura Battiferri (1523-158?)

was born at Urbino, the natural daughter of Giovanni Antonio Battiferri, who later legitimated her. Widowed at an early age, Laura married her second husband, the Florentine sculptor Bartolommeo Ammanati, in 155C. at the age of twenty-seven. The marriage remained childless, Laura referring to herself as a "barren tree". Her poetry found many contemporary admirers. The Spanish court had her literary works translated into Spanish. Important writers and artists, notably Torquato Tasso and Benevenuto Cellini, sought her company.

Laura Battiferri, a supporter of the Jesuitical Counter-Reformation, was reputed to have been a devout Catholic. Her great popularity at the Spanish court confirms this. The demure severity of her pose and dress may reflect the increased rigidity of Catholic ethical norms since the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

Agnolo Bronzino's Laura Battiferri is one of the most fascinating Italian Renaissance portraits of women.Reverting in deliberately archaistic manner to a prototype found in the early quattrocento, the artist has portrayed the sitter in profile view, a pose reminiscent of the medal portrait. The upper part of her body with the small head is disproportionately elongated, emphasising the projection of her strikingly large, slightly hooked nose. Laura Battiferri is wearing a transparent veil, which hangs down from the shell-shaped, calotte-style bonnet covering her tightly combed-back hair onto her goffered shawl and puffed sleeves. While pride - or is it modesty? -makes her avoid eye-contact with the spectator, a gesture which lends her something of the majesty of a high-priestess, the painting is certainly not devoid of gestures "ad spectatorem". The mannered spread of the slender fingers of her left hand marks a place in an open book of Petrarch's sonnets to Laura, with whom the lady in the portrait evidently identifies. According to Petrarch, Laura is an "unapproachable, unattainable beauty... as chaste as the adored mistress of a troubadour, as modest and devout as a 'Stilnovismo Beatrice'". "Laura's personality is even more elusive than her external appearance. She remains the incarnation of chaste and noble beauty."



Beatrice d'Este in a portrait by Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis and by Leonardo da Vinci

Beatrice d'Este (June 29, 1475 – January 2, 1497),

duchess of Milan, one of the most beautiful and accomplished princesses of the Italian Renaissance, was the daughter of Ercole I. d'Este and younger sister of Isabella d'Este and Alfonso d'Este.

She was bethrothed at the age of fifteen to Lodovico Sforza (known as il Moro), duke of Bari, regent and afterwards duke of Milan, and was married to him in January 1491.

Beatrice married Ludovico in a double Sforza-Este wedding. Ludovico married Beatrice, while Beatrice's brother, Alfonso d'Este, married Anna Sforza the sister of Gian Galeazzo Sforza. Leonardo daVinci orchestrated the wedding celebration.

Beatrice and Alfonso’s sister, Isabella d'Este (1474–1539) was married Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua.

She had been carefully educated, and availed herself of her position as mistress of one of the most splendid courts of Italy to surround herself with learned men, poets and artists, such as Niccolo da Correggio, Bernardo Castiglione, Bramante, Leonardo da Vinci and many others. Leonardo da Vinci presented her with a portrait of herself for her wedding gift, a beautiful piece of Renaissance art. In 1492 she visited Venice as ambassador for her husband in his political schemes, which consisted chiefly in a desire to be recognized as duke of Milan.
On the death of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Lodovico's usurpation was legalized, and after the Battle of Fornovo (1495) both he and his wife took part in the peace congress of Vercelli between Charles VIII of France and the Italian princes, at which Beatrice showed great political ability. But her brilliant career was cut short by death through childbirth, on the 3rd of January 1497 at the age of 22. The child was a stillborn son.

Beatrice belongs to the best class of Renaissance women, and was one of the culture influences of the age; to her patronage and good taste are due to a great extent the splendour of the Castello of Milan, of the Certosa of Pavia and of many other famous buildings in Lombardy. A fresco with her portrait faces Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper. She is a central character in E. L. Konigsburg's novel, The Second Mrs.Gioconda, in which Konigsburg credits her for being the inspiration for Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.



Cecilia Gallerani as The Lady with an Ermine,
portrait by by
Leonardo da Vinci

Cecilia Gallerani at age 45-47, with Mary Magdalene attributes by Bartolomeo Veneto

Cecilia Gallerani (1473 – 1536)

was one of the mistresses of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. She was the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Lady with an Ermine (c. 1489). While posing for the painting she invited Leonardo, who at the time was working as court artist for Sforza, to meetings at which Milanese intellectuals discussed philosophy and other subjects. Cecilia herself presided over these discussions.

Cecilia was born into a large family from Siena. Her father, Fazio, was not of the nobility, but he occupied several posts at the Milanese court, including the position of ambassador to Florence. She was educated alongside her brothers in Latin and literature. In 1483 at the age of ten, Cecilia was bethrothed to Stefano Visconti but it was broken off in 1487 for reasons unknown. In May 1489, she left home for the Monastero Nuovo, and it was possibly there that she met Ludovico.

Cecilia spoke Latin fluently and was said to be a gifted musician and singer. She also wrote poetry. Even after Ludovico married Beatrice d'Este, Cecilia continued to keep her apartments in Ludovico's castle. Cecilia had a son, Cesare, on 3 May 1491 by Ludovico il Moro.

When Beatrice d'Este found out about her, Ludovico had to ask her to leave the Porta Giovia castle, the seat of the Ducal court. She was given the Carmagnola Palace in 1492, when she married Ludovico di Brambilla, Count Bergamino. She bore her husband four children. After the death of both her husband and her son (1514-1515), she retired to San Giovanni in Croce, a castle near Cremona. Bandello describes her as a patron of the arts. According to others, hers was the first salon in Europe.




Ritratto di dama (Veronica Gambara)
, 1517-1518

Veronica Gambara (November 29, 1485 – June 13, 1550) was an Italian poet, stateswoman and political leader.

Born near Brescia, in Lombardy, Italy, Gambara came from a distinguished family , one of the seven children of Count Gianfrancesco da Gambara and Alda Pio da Carpi. Her family contained a number of distinguished intellectuals as members , including her grandmother Ginevra and great-aunt, Isotta Nogarola . She was educated in literature, philosophy, and languages from an early age. She learned to compose in classical Latin and read Latin poetry. When she was 17 she corresponded with the leading neo-Petrarchan, Pietro Bembo, who later became her mentor. By 1530 her poetry was known throughout Italy.

In 1508 she was betrothed to a cousin, Giberto X, Count of Correggio. He was a 50 year old widower, she was 23. She married him in 1509 in Amalfi. Although an arranged marriage she developed real feeling for her husband and wrote poems of their love. They had two sons, Ippolito was born in 1510 and Girolamo in 1511. After Giberto's death in 1518 she expressed her grief in her poetry. She took charge of his estates as well as the education of her two sons.

She took an active role in the military defence of Correggio in wars between the Emperor Charles V and the French king, Francis I. She addressed poems to various leaders on the necessity of peace that were by turns flattering and stern.

Se died in 1550 in Correggio, Italy.

Approximately 80 of her poems and 150 of her letters are extant, although there is no full English translation of her work. Most of her poems are sonnets, although she also wrote madrigals, ballads, and stanze in ottava rima. Besides her political poems, she wrote poems of love, religious devotion, and pastoral praise of Brescia and Correggio




Isabella d’Este by

Isabella d'Este (18 May 1474–13 February 1539)

was marchesa of Mantua and one of the leading women of the Italian Renaissance and a major cultural and political figure.
Born in Ferrara, she was the first daughter of Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Leonora of Naples, daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples, the Aragonese King of Naples, and Isabella of Taranto.

Isabella was born in May 1474 to the Duke Ercole and Duchess Lenora of Ferrara. She was received with great joy. A son was hoped for but could wait. One year later in June 1475 her sister Beatrice d'Este was born. Then in 1476 and 1477 two brothers were born. The first was Alfonso and second Ferrante. In 1479 and 1480 two more brothers were born.They were Ippolitto and Sigismondo. Of all the children Isabella reigned as the favorite.

In 1474 when Ferrante was born, Isabella traveled to Naples with her mother. When her mother returned to Ferrara, Isabella went with her, while the other children stayed with their grandfather for eight years. As Isabella traveled with her mother she learned politics. When it came time to study, Isabella mastered the required subjects quickly.

Isabella was quite intelligent and became masterful in many languages. Isabella's favorite language was Greek. She was also a talented musician. She was said to be an amazing lute player and played it in her spare time.

As the wonderful Isabella grew she received a Royal schooling. As a child she studied Roman history, and rapidly learned to translate Greek and Latin. Because of her intellect she often discussed the classics and the affairs of the day with ambassadors. Moreover, she knew the painters, musicians, writers, and scholars, who lived in and around the court. Besides history and language, she could recite Virgil and Terrence from memory, and was an expert with lute, singing, and an innovator with new dances.

In 1480 at age six Isabella was betrothed to Francesco Gonzaga who at that time was the heir to the Marquis of Mantua. Even though he was an ugly man Isabella liked him for his strength, and bravery, she also thought that he was a gentleman. After their first meetings she found she liked him and spent the next few years getting to know him and preparing herself to be the Marchessa of Mantua. During these courting times Isabella especially treasured the letters, poems, and sonnets he sent her as gifts.

Ten years later, at age 16, she married the 25 year old, now- reigning Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua and became the Marchessa to Francesco amid a spectacular outpouring of popular acclamation. Besides the Marquis Francesco was also Captain General of the republic of Venice armies. This gave him many duties; so in result a couple of days after their honeymoon he left her to perform her responsibilities alone. However Isabella wasn't always alone, she spent time with her mother and sister, and once she met Elisabetta Gonzaga her 18- year- old sister-in-law the two became fast friends.




Donna velata by

Portrait of a Young Woman (La fornarina), by

Sixtinische Madonna by

Sebastiano del Piombo by

Giulio Romano, before was attributed to

La fornarina

The Portrait of a Young Woman (also known as La fornarina) is a painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael, made between 1518 and 1520. It is housed in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Palazzo Barberini, Rome.

It is probable that the picture was in the painter's studio at his death in 1520, and that it was modified and then sold by his assistant Giulio Romano[1]. In the 16th century the picture was in the house of the Countess of Santafiora, a Roman noblewoman, and subsequently became property of the Duke Boncompagni and then of the Galleria Nazionale which still possesses it.

The woman is traditionally identified with the fornarina (bakeress) Margherita Luti, the semi-legendary Roman lover of Raphael (see biography), though, probably, the true meaning of the picture has still to be cleared up. The woman is pictured with an oriental style hat and bare breasts. She is making the gesture to cover her left breast, or to turn it with her hand, and is illuminated by a strong artificial light coming from the external. Her left arm has a narrow band carrying the signature of the artist, RAPHAEL URBINAS. Art historians and scholars debate whether the right hand on the left breast reveal a cancerous breast tumour detailed and disguised in a classic pose of love. The particular fixed glance of the young woman also contributes to the artificiality of the whole composition.



Madonna della Seggiola by



Veronica Franco by Jacopo Tintoretto

Lady Revealing Her Bosom, Perhaps the Famous Venetian Courtesan Veronica Franco
by Jacopo

Veronica Franco (1546-1591) was an Italian poet and courtesan in 16th century Venice.

Life as a courtesan
Renaissance Venetian society recognized two different classes of courtesans: the cortigiana onesta, the intellectual courtesan, and the cortigiana di lume, lower-class courtesans (closer kin to prostitutes today) who tended to live and practice their trade near the Rialto Bridge. Veronica Franco was perhaps the most celebrated member of the former category, although Franco was hardly the only onesta in 16th-century Venice who could boast of a fine education and considerable literary and artistic accomplishments.

The daughter of another cortigiana onesta, Franco learned the art at a young age from her mother and was trained to use her natural assets and abilities to achieve a financially beneficial marriage. While still in her teens, Franco married a wealthy physician, but the union ended badly. In order to support herself, Franco turned to serving as a cortigiana to wealthy men. She quickly rose through the ranks to consort with some of the leading notables of her day and even had a brief liaison with Henry III, King of France. Franco was listed as one of the foremost courtesans of Venice in Il Catalogo di tutte le principale et piu honorate cortigiane di Venezia.

A well-educated woman, Veronica Franco wrote two volumes of poetry: Terze rime in 1575 and Lettere familiari a diversi in 1580. She published books of letters and collected the works of other leading writers into anthologies. Successful in her two lines of work, Franco also founded a charity for courtesans and their children.

In 1575, during the epidemic of plague that ravaged the city, Veronica Franco was forced to leave Venice and lost much of her wealth when her house and possessions were looted. On her return in 1577, she defended herself with dignity in an Inquisition for witchcraft trial (a common complaint lodged against courtesans in those days). The charges were dropped.

There is evidence that her connections among the Venetian nobility helped in her acquittal. Her later life is largely obscure, though surviving records suggest that although she won her freedom, she lost all of her material goods and wealth. Eventually, her last major benefactor died and left her with no financial support. Although her fate is largely uncertain, she is believed to have died in relative poverty.

Written records
In 1565, when she was about 20 years old, Veronica Franco was listed in Il Catalogo di tutte le principale e più honorate cortigiane di Venezia, which gave the names, addresses, and fees of Venice's most prominent prostitutes; her mother was listed as the person to whom the fee should be paid. From extant records, we know that by the time she was 18, Franco had been briefly married and had given birth to her first child; she would eventually have six children, three of whom died in infancy.

As one of the più honorate cortigiane in a wealthy and cosmopolitan city, Franco lived well for much of her working life, but without the automatic protection accorded to "respectable" women, she had to make her own way. She studied and sought patrons among the learned. By the 1570s, she belonged to one of the more prestigious literary circles in the city, participating in discussions and contributing to and editing anthologies of poetry.

In 1575, Franco's own volume of the poetry was published, her Terze rime, containing 18 capitoli (verse epistles) by her and 7 by men writing in her praise. That same year saw an outbreak of plague in Venice, one that lasted two years and caused Franco to leave the city and to lose many of her possessions. In 1577, she unsuccessfully proposed to the city council that it should establish a home for poor women, of which she would become the administrator. By then, she was raising not only her own children but also her nephews, who had been orphaned by the plague.

In 1580, Franco published her Lettere familiari a diversi ("Family letters to different people") which included 50 letters, as well as two sonnets addressed to King Henry III of France, who had visited her six years earlier. We have little information for her life after 1580. Records suggest that she was less prosperous in her later years but was not living in poverty. However, she published no more writings.


Veronica Franco als Venus by Titian



Fioretta Gorini  by Sandro Botticelli

Fioretta Gorini (or Clarice Orsini)

Clarice Orsini (c. 1453 – 29 July 1487) was the daughter of Jacopo (Giacomo) Orsini, lord of Monterotondo and Bracciano, and his wife and cousin Maddalena Orsini. Born in Rome, she is most known as the wife of Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent), de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic. She was the mother of Pope Leo X.

Lorenzo and Clarice were married by proxy on 7 February 1469. The marriage was arranged by Lorenzo's mother Lucrezia Tornabuoni, who wanted her eldest son to marry a woman from a noble family, in order to enhance the social status of the Medicis. Clarice's dowry was 6,000 florins. She arrived in Florence on 4 June 1469.

Clarice was not popular in Florence, because her strict religious personality was in deep contrast with the humanist ideals of the age. Even Lorenzo preferred a Florentine woman, Lucrezia Donati, to whom he dedicated his poems, but he had children only from Clarice. Of the nine children born to them, three died in infancy.

During the Pazzi Conspiracy, which was aimed at murdering Lorenzo and his younger brother Giuliano, Clarice and her children were sent to Pistoia. (The Pazzis succeeded in murdering Giuliano, but Lorenzo survived the attack, thus the conspirators' plan to replace the Medicis as de facto rulers of Florence failed.)

Clarice returned to Rome several times to visit her relatives; she also visited Volterra, Colle Val d'Elsa, Passignano, and other places in the 1480s. On 29 July 1487 she died suddenly from tuberculosis in Florence.



Portrait of Beatrice Cenci.
Formerly attributed to Guido Reni

Beatrice Cenci (February 6, 1577 – September 11, 1599)

was an Italian noblewoman. She is famous as the protagonist in a lurid murder trial in Rome.

Beatrice was the daughter of Francesco Cenci, an aristocrat who, due to his violent temper and immoral behaviour, had found himself in trouble with papal justice more than once. They lived in Rome in the rione Regola, in Palazzo Cenci, built over the ruins of a medieval fortified palace at the edge of Rome's Jewish ghetto. Together with them lived also Beatrice's elder brother Giacomo, Francesco's second wife, Lucrezia Petroni, and Bernardo, the young boy born from Francesco's second marriage. Among their other possessions there was a castle, La Rocca of Petrella Salto, a small village near Rieti, north of Rome.

According to the legend, Francesco Cenci abused his wife and his sons, and had reached the point of committing incest with Beatrice. He had been jailed for other crimes, but thanks to the leniency with which the nobles were treated, he had been freed early. Beatrice had tried to inform the authorities about the frequent mistreatments, but nothing had happened, although everybody in Rome knew what kind of person her father was. When he found out that his daughter had reported against him, he sent Beatrice and Lucrezia away from Rome, to live in the family's country castle. The four Cenci decided they had no alternative but to try to get rid of Francesco, and all together organized a plot. In 1598, during one of Francesco's stays at the castle, two vassals (one of whom had become Beatrice's secret lover) helped them to drug the man, but this failed to kill Francesco. Following this Beatrice, her siblings and step mother bludgeoned Francesco to death with a hammer and threw the body off a balcony to make it look like an accident. No one believed the death to be an accident.

Somehow his absence was noticed, and the papal police tried to find out what had happened. Beatrice's lover was tortured, and died without revealing the truth. Meanwhile a family friend, who was aware of the murder, ordered the killing of the second vassal, to avoid any risk. The plot was discovered all the same and the four members of the Cenci family were arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to death. The common people of Rome, knowing the reasons for the murder, protested against the tribunal's decision, obtaining a short postponement of the execution. But pope Clement VIII showed no mercy at all: on September 11, 1599, at dawn, they were taken to Sant'Angelo Bridge, where the scaffold was usually built.

Giacomo was quartered with a mallet and had his limbs hung in the four corners; then Lucrezia and finally Beatrice took their turn on the block, to be beheaded with a sword. Only the young boy was spared, yet he too was led to the scaffold to witness the execution of his relatives, before returning to prison and having his properties confiscated (to be given to the pope's own family). Beatrice was buried in the church of San Pietro in Montorio. For the people of Rome she became a symbol of resistance against the arrogant aristocracy and a legend arose: every year on the night before her death, she came back to the bridge carrying her severed head.



Portrait of a Florentine Lady by  Alessandro Allori

Eleonora de' Medici (February 28, 1567[1][2] – September 9, 1611)

was the eldest child of Francesco I de' Medici and Johanna of Austria. She was a member of the famous Medici.

In 1578, when Eleonora was eleven her mother died, and her father later married Bianca Cappello. Medici was one of seven children. One of her sisters Marie de' Medici became queen of France and was the mother of Louis XIII of France, Marie made her sister Eleonora the godmother of Louis. Eleonora and Marie also had another sister called Anna who died at the age of 14, the rest of Eleonora and Marie's siblings died during childhood also.

Medici married Vincenzo I Gonzaga on April 29, 1584,[2][8] for her husband it was his second marriage after he divorced Margerita Farnese. Three of her sons would become Dukes of Mantua and Montferrat and her daughter Eleonore would become a Holy Roman Empress. Her children were:

Francesco IV Gonzaga (May 7, 1586 – December 22, 1612), Duke of Mantua and Duke of Montferrat between February 9 and December 22, 1612.
Ferdinando I Gonzaga (April 26, 1587 – October 29, 1626), Duke of Mantua and Duke of Montferrat from 1612 until his death.
Guglielmo Dominico (1589 – 1591), died during childhood
Margerita Gonzaga (2 October 1591 – 7 February 1632) , wife of Henry II, Duke of Lorraine
Vincenzo II Gonzaga (January 7, 1594 – December 25, 1627), Duke of Mantua and Marquess of Montferrat from 1626 until his death.
Eleonore Gonzaga (September 23, 1598 – June 27, 1655), wife of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor.

Her two daughters were possible second wives to Philip III of Spain, after the death of his wife Margaret of Austria. In 1608 she arranged the marriage of her eldest son Francesco to Margaret of Savoy, this marriage produced three children, only the eldest daughter Maria reached adulthood, Maria was the mother of Eleanor Gonzaga who became Holy Roman Empress by her marriage to Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, they were the parents of four children, among them were Eleonora Maria Josefa of Austria and Maria Anna Josepha, Archduchess of Austria.

Eleonora died on September 9, 1611 in Cavriana, Italy, when she was 44. Her husband outlived her by only one year, dying in 1612, their son Francesco succeeded them, however Francesco was hardly Duke of Mantua for a year before his death also in 1612. Francesco was succeeded by his brothers, Eleonora's father died without a surviving male child so his brother Ferdinando succeeded him as Grand Duke of Tuscany.




Vittoria Colonna, by Sebastiano del Piombo

Vittoria Colonna, drawing by

Vittoria Colonna (April 1490 - 25 February 1547),

marchioness of Pescara, was an Italian noblewoman and poet.

The daughter of Fabrizio Colonna, grand constable of the kingdom of Naples, and of Agnese da Montefeltro, Vittoria Colonna was born at Marinoa fief of the Colonna family in the Alban Hills near Rome. Betrothed when four years old at the insistence of Ferdinand, king of Naples to Francesco Ferrante d'Ávalos, son of the marquis of Pescara, she received the highest education and gave early proof of a love of letters. Her hand was sought by many suitors, including the dukes of Savoy and Braganza, but at nineteen, by her own ardent desire, she was married to d'Ávalos on the island of Ischia.

There the couple resided until 1511, when her husband offered his sword to the League against the French. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Ravenna (1512) and conveyed to France. During the months of detention and the long years of campaigning which followed, Vittoria and Ferrante corresponded in the most passionate terms both in prose and verse. They saw each other but seldom, for Ferrante was one of the most active and brilliant captains of Charles V; but Vittoria's influence was sufficient to keep him from joining the projected league against the emperor after the battle of Pavia (1525), and to make him refuse the crown of Naples offered to him as the price of his treason.

In the month of November of the same year he died of his wounds at Milan. Vittoria, who was hastening to tend him, received the news of his death at Viterbo; she halted and turned off to Rome, and after a brief stay departed for Ischia, where she remained for several years. She refused several suitors, and began to produce those Rime spirituali which form so distinct a feature in her works. In 1529 she returned to Rome, and spent the next few years between that city, Orvieto, Ischia and other places. In 1537 we find her at Ferrara, where she made many friends and helped to establish a Capuchin monastery at the instance of the reforming monk Bernardino Ochino, who afterwards became a Protestant.

In 1536 she was back in Rome, where, besides winning the esteem of Cardinals Reginald Pole and Contarini, she became the object of a passionate friendship on the part of Michelangelo, then in his sixty-first year. The great artist addressed some of his finest sonnets to her, made drawings for her, and spent long hours in her society. Her removal to Orvieto and Viterbo in 1541, on the occasion of her brother Ascanio Colonna's revolt against Paul III, produced no change in their relations, and they continued to visit and correspond as before. She returned to Rome in 1544, staying as usual at the convent of San Silvestro, and died there on 25 February 1547.

Pietro Bembo, Luigi Alamanni and Baldassare Castiglione were among her literary friends. She was also on intimate terms with many of the Italian Protestants, such as Pietro Carnesecchi, Juan de Valdés and Ochino, but she died before the church crisis in Italy became acute, and, although she was an advocate of religious reform, there is no reason to believe that she herself became a Protestant.

The example of her life helps counteract the impression of the universal corruption of the Italian Renaissance conveyed by such careers as those of the Borgia. Her amatory and elegiac poems, which are the fruits of a sympathetic and dainty imitative gift rather than of any strong original talent, were printed at Parma in 1538; a third edition, containing sixteen of her Rime Spirituali, in which religious themes are treated in Italian, was published at Florence soon afterwards; and a fourth, including a still larger proportion of the pious element, was issued at Venice in 1544.



Portrait of Margaret Roper by Hans Holbein

Margaret Roper, née More (1505–1544),

translator, was the daughter of Thomas More and wife of William Roper. During More's imprisonment in the Tower of London, she was a frequent visitor to his cell, along with her husband. After More was beheaded in 1535 for refusing to bless the Reformation of Henry VIII of England and swear to Henry as head of the English Church, his head was displayed on a pike for a month afterward. At the end of that period, Margaret purchased his head and preserved it by pickling it in spices until her own death at the age of 39 in 1544. After her death her husband William Roper took charge of the head, and it is buried with him.

William Roper ("son Roper," as he is referred to by Thomas More) produced the first biography of the statesman/martyr, but his homage to his father-in-law is not remembered as well as Margaret's efforts at comforting and honoring More. In Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Dream of Fair Women, he invokes Margaret Roper ("who clasped in her last trance/ Her murdered father's head") as a paragon of loyalty and familial love.

She published a translation of a work by Erasmus, A Devout Treatise upon the Paternoster. In a letter her father mentions her poems, but none is extant.

In Robert Bolt's famous play A Man for All Seasons, Margaret and Roper were major characters. In the 1966 film, she was portrayed by Susannah York.




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