Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mantova according to Edith, part 2 plus a bit more

Ludovico III Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua and Barbara of Brandenburg
with their children, fresco by 
Andrea Mantegna at San Giorgio Castle, Mantua, around 1470
source wikipedia

I had in mind drawing substantially on Edith Templeton's The Surprise of Cremona to discuss Mantova here, but have decided to be brief — and bring you a movie, albeit in Italian, but remember one picture is worth a thousand words. 

Nonetheless, Edith's book is an excellent reflective guide, though 60 years old. We will carry it to Mantova.

Descriptive of art and artists, it also dwells with some puzzlement on the Gonzaga family who seized the city in 1328 or so, built the castle to end all castles with fifteen courtyards, churches etc, etc and went bankrupt from extravagance of a wedding in 1608, whereafter most of their pictures sold to Charles I in England, more works seized and taken away by Napoleon and others. This wedding spared no expense, including one of Monteverdi's most notable operas. (The city was devastated by the Thirty Years' War, plague and sacking. It now has an elegance and charm and an integrity from being away from the main tracks of tourist tramping.)

Discussion of the Gonzaga mind, the persistent search for happiness in the art and construction, in Mantova and Sabbioneta. A fear of death on preoccupation with which she quotes Lorenzo de' Medici, another 'gangster' of the renaissance:
"Fair is youth and free of sorrow
Yet how soon its joys we bury.
Let who would be now be merry:
Sure is no-one of tomorrow."
  • quoted at page 161, Readers Book Club edition (Australia) 1955

As elsewhere Edith finds a professor, this time to discuss the Gonzaga extravagance and in response to her perspective that the Gonzaga's creations were just folie de grandeur  the professor responds that this was not so, the immense wealth of the Gonzaga was acquired by plunder in war, that they had no way of sharing the wealth as in modern times building industry, their construction works and commissioning of art enabled sharing of their wealth. And against her observation that Venice, even richer, built dainty palaces compared with the Gonzaga monster, the professor points out that Venice had an entirely different and trade oriented economy. [pp183-4].

We shall go see, Templeton in hand.

I wrote also in an earlier blog entry regarding those times.

The map at right in this text (link also in right column) shows the Po delta in 1570, before effects of an earthquake that year. Note the great lake in front of Bologna, Mantova in a lake and Ravenna out to sea. Chioggia is in the northeastern corner of the map. Venice off the map just north of that. 
Note Ferrara - pointer from the bottom. Ferrara a great rival of the Venetian Republic and hostile to Venetian desires to muck around with the delta and block off their lagoon from floods. 

But then the Este family who had made Ferrara great (their works are what people go to Ferrara to see) ran out of legitimate heirs—and so Pope Clem 8 in 1598, [declaring them a pack of bastards] sent in his army and grabbed the city. But then the same Clem 8 declared a Holy Year in 1600, meaning he would do no warring. The Venetians quickly upped spades and in four years diverted much of the flow away from their lagoon. And then in the south the land grew and the delta marched out to sea (continuing)

source wikipedia
Lucrezia Borgia had died
after difficult pregnancy and childbirth
in 1519
These cities on the north of Italy went through extraordinary times in the Renaissance, the arrival of the printing press, many of them in Venice in particular, altered possession of and entitlement to information (compare with the Shock of the Internet since 2000) and also altered language, enthusiasm for an 'Italian' language, a shift from Latin. The great foundation literary work of Italian language, Orlando Furioso, which draws on Arthurian legend as well as that of Rowland, was written by Ludovico Ariosto who was an administrator for the House of Este. He produced three editions of Orlando Furioso, changes reflecting the 'great argument' about how an Italian language should be, in those years.

Portrait of a Woman by Bartolomeo Veneto,
traditionally assumed to be Lucrezia Borgia.
 Dominant figure in literary direction and music and the popularisation of the madrigal, at the time, was Pietro Bembo.

It was probably a contributing consideration Ariosto's responses to Bembo's advice on his text that Bembo was senior to him in the court of the Este family, indeed senior to the point of carrying on with the wife of the duke of Ferrara, a certain Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alex 6.

And, and, we are back to the point, just a bit, inasmuch as also Lucrezia was carrying on with her husband's sister's husband, Francisco II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantova.

Herewith let me venture, if none has before, that Lucrezia Borgia was surely thus a major influence on the form of the Italian language—and the popularisation of the madrigal.
Look at those two, sound out the word 'popularisation'  and ask yourself...or ask Rupert Murdoch!

Alfonso deserves credit too, having brought an array of painters and musicians to Ferrara. While Alfonso 'acquired' Ariosto when he inherited Ferrara, in the shining pages of history the visual artists and musicians are way ahead.

The National Gallery of Victoria claims this on the right is the only true painting of Lucrezia Borgia: "We have the only known portrait of the most famous and notorious woman in Renaissance history."

Were a man so described he could certainly be a major figure in literary history...

Hey look, what's she been writing?

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