Read CHAPTER XXVII of Beatrice d'Este‚ Duchess of Milan‚ 1475-1497 , free online book, by Julia Mary Cartwright, on

Grief of the Duke of Milan--His letters to Mantua and Pavia--Interview with Costabili--Funeral of Duchess Beatrice--Mourning of her husband--Letters of the Emperor Maximilian and Chiara Gonzaga--Tomb of Beatrice in Santa Maria delle Grazie--Leonardo’s Cenacolo, and portraits of the duke and duchess--Lucrezia Crivelli.


The horror and confusion that reigned in the Castello of Milan that night was long remembered. There was sorrow and consternation among Beatrices servants, and dismay upon the faces of secretaries and courtiers who stood waiting for news in the halls and porticoes of Bramantes building. The dukes grief was said to be terrible. For some time he refused to see any one, and many days passed before even his children were admitted into their fathers presence. But, with characteristic strength of mind, he sent for his secretaries that morning, and himself dictated the letters which bore the sad news to Beatrices family at Mantua and Ferrara. In that dark hour the passion of his love and sorrow breaks through conventional formalities, and gives a touch of pathos to the brief message which he sent to Francesco Gonzaga


“My wife was taken with sudden pains at eight o’clock last night. At eleven she gave birth to a dead son, and at half-past twelve she gave back her spirit to God. This cruel and premature end has filled me with bitter and indescribable anguish, so much so that I would rather have died myself than lose the dearest and most precious thing that I had in this world. But great and excessive as is my grief, beyond all measure, and grievous as your own will be, I know, I feel that I must tell you this myself, because of the brotherly love between us. And I beg you not to send any one to condole with me, as that would only renew my sorrow. I would not write to the Madonna Marchesana, and leave you to break the news to her as you think best, knowing well how inexpressible her sorrow will be.

“LODOVICUS M. SFORTIA, Anglus Dux Mediolani.

Milan, January 3, 1497, 6 o’clock.”

The same day the duke sent the following intimation to the loyal citizens of Pavia: “Last night at half-past twelve our beloved wife, after giving birth to a son who died at eleven, changed this life for death, which most cruel event snatches from us one who, by reason of her rare and singular virtues, was dearer to us than our own life. You will understand what our grief is and how difficult it is to bear this irreparable loss with patience and reason. We beg of you to pray God for the soul of our dearest consort, and to hold solemn funeral services in the Duomo and in all other churches of the city."

About four o’clock that afternoon, the Ferrarese ambassador, Antonio Costabili, received an unexpected summons to the Castello, and he was admitted into the dukes presence. We give the details of his interview with the grief-stricken prince, in his own words from a letter which he addressed the same evening to Beatrices father, Duke Ercole


“Although I had received a message to the effect that I need not leave the house before night, as none of your august family could be present at the funeral of our most illustrious Madonna, the late duchess, nevertheless at four o’clock the duke sent two councillors to fetch me, and accompanied by these gentlemen, I went to the Camera della Torre in the Castello, where I found all the ambassadors, ducal councillors, and a very large company of gentlemen assembled. Directly I arrived, his Excellency sent for me, and I found him in his room, lying on the bed, quite prostrate, and more overwhelmed with grief than any one whom I have ever seen. After the customary salutations, I endeavoured, in obedience to the request of some of his councillors, to exhort his Highness to take a little comfort and have patience, trying to make use of whatever words came into my mind at the moment, and entreating him to bear this cruel blow with constancy and fortitude, because in this manner he would give comfort and courage to your Excellency in helping you to bear your grief, and at the same time relieve the anxieties of his own servants, and restore hope and peace to their hearts.

“His Highness thanked me for my kindness, and said that he could not bear this most cruel and grievous sorrow without speaking out the thoughts of his heart freely, and had sent for me, in order to tell me that if, as he was conscious, he had not always behaved as well as he should have done to your daughter, who deserved all good things, and who had never done him any wrong whatsoever, he begged both your Excellency’s pardon, and hers for whose sake his heart was now sorely troubled. He went on to tell me that in every one of his prayers he had asked our Lord God to allow her to survive him, since he placed all his trust and peace of mind in her. And, since this had not been the will of God, he prayed, and would never cease praying, that if it were ever possible for a living man to see the dead, God would give him grace to see her and speak to her once more, since he had loved her better than himself. After many sobs and lamentations, he ended by begging me to assure your Highness that the love and affection which he bore you would never be diminished in the smallest degree, and that he would retain the same warm sentiments for you and for all your sons, as long as he lived, and would prove by his actions the depth and sincerity of his feelings. Then I took my leave, and he told me to go and follow the corpse, with a fresh outburst of sorrow, lamenting her in language so true and natural that it would have moved the very stones to tears. Thus, still weeping, I returned to join the other ambassadors, who all approached and expressed their grief and sympathy with your Excellency in very loving and compassionate words.

“The obsequies which followed were celebrated with all possible magnificence and pomp. All the ambassadors at present in Milan, among whom were one from the King of the Romans, two from the King of Spain, and others from all the powers of Italy, lifted the corpse and bore it to the first gate of the Castello. Here the privy councillors took the body in their turn, and at the corners of the streets groups of magistrates stood waiting to receive it. All the relatives of the ducal family wore long mourning cloaks that trailed on the ground, and hoods over their heads. I walked first with the Marchese Ermes, and the others followed, each in his right order. We bore her to Santa Maria delle Grazie, attended by an innumerable company of monks and nuns and priests, bearing crosses of gold, of silver and wood, infinite numbers of gentlemen and citizens, and crowds of people of every rank and class, all weeping and making the greatest lamentation that was ever seen, for the great loss which this city has suffered in the death of its duchess. There were so many wax torches it was marvellous to see! At the gates of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the ambassadors were waiting to receive the body, and, taking it from the hands of the chief magistrates, they bore it to the steps of the high altar, where the most reverend cardinal-legate was seated, in his purple robes, between two bishops, and himself said the whole Office. And there the duchess was laid on a bier draped with cloth of gold, bearing the arms of the house of Sforza, and clad in one of her richest camoras of gold brocade.

“My dear lord, besides the extraordinary demonstrations of grief which have been shown by the whole people of this city, and by the women quite as much as by the men, which may well be a great consolation to your Excellency, I must tell you how above all others, Signore Messer Galeazzo di Sanseverino has both by his words and deeds, as well as by his demonstrations of sorrow, given admirable expression to the affection which he had for the duchess, and has taken care to make known to every one the virtues and goodness of that most illustrious Madonna. All of which I have felt it my duty to tell your Excellency, in the hope that it may help to alleviate your sorrow, praying you to maintain the same fortitude that you have always shown hitherto.

“To whose favour I ever commend myself,

“Your Excellency’s servant, ANTONIUS COSTABILIS.

Milan, January 3, 1497.”

So, by the light of a thousand torches, at the close of the short winter’s day, the long procession of mourners bore Duchess Beatrice to her last resting-place under Bramante’s cupola, in the church of Our Lady. It was the duke’s pleasure that his dearly loved wife should rest there, before the altar where she had often worshipped, by the side of the young daughter whom they had both loved so well. Only a year or two before, the people of Milan had seen her enter those doors in the bloom of her youthful beauty and the joy of her proud young motherhood to give thanks for the birth of her first-born son. But yesterday they had watched her moving among them, full of life and charm; now they saw her lying there in her gorgeous brocades and jewelled necklace, with her eyes closed in death and the dark locks curling over her marble brow.

It was a tragedy which might well melt the heart of the bravest man and move the sternest to tears. No wonder that men like Galeazzo and the Marchesino, who had shared Beatrice’s pleasures, and had seen her so lately foremost in the chase and gayest in dance and song, wept when they saw her lying there cold and lifeless. As the chroniclers one and all tell us, “Such grief had never been known before in Milan.”

In Ferrara, the home of Beatrice’s childhood, where she was loved both for her own and for her mother’s sake, the sorrow was scarcely less.

“On Wednesday, the 4th of January,” writes the diarist, “came the news of the death of Beatrice, Duchess of Milan. And the duke was very sad, and so were all the people. And on the 12th, Duke Ercole attended an Office said for the repose of the late duchess in the church of the Dominicans, which was all hung with black, and all the clergy, magistrates, and courtiers were there, carrying lighted torches; all the people wore black, and the shops were closed as if it were Christmas, and more than 400 Masses were said for the repose of her soul, and 660 candles were burnt that day. It was a fine day, but a great quantity of wax tapers were used for this funeral service. As for the Duke of Milan, I will say nothing, because the things he does sound incredible to those who have not seen them. Certainly the extraordinary honours which he pays his dead wife show how dearly he loved her. She has left him two little sons. And all Ferrara sorrows for her death, and I saw many weeping. And so goes this ribald world."

That year no races were held on St. George’s Day, at Ferrara, and the pallium usually given to the winner was presented by Duke Ercole to the Franciscan Church.

At Mantua there was the same general lamentation, and the same funeral Masses were offered up for the young duchess, who had not yet completed her twenty-second year. Isabella’s own sorrow was great.

“When I think,” she wrote to her father, on the 5th of January, “what a loving, honoured, and only sister I have lost, I am so much oppressed with the burden of this sudden loss, that I know not how I can ever find comfort.”

And the marquis, writing to Duke Lodovico, says that he had never seen his wife so completely overwhelmed with grief; and that she who has always shown herself full of strong and manly courage in adversity, is now utterly broken down. On hearing this, Lodovico roused himself from the torpor of his grief to try and comfort his sister-in-law, and sent her an affectionate letter by one of his secretaries, begging her to seek the consolation which he himself could not find, and telling her how much he thought of her, even though his own grief and bitterness of soul made it impossible for him to write with his own hand. From all sides letters of condolence flowed in. Elegies and Latin verses recalled the charms and talents of Beatrice and lamented the hard fate which had snatched her away in the flower of life. Among these poetical tributes, Niccolo da Correggio’s sonnet on seeing a portrait of the late duchess is perhaps the best.

“Se a li occhi mostri quel che fosti viva Morti lor, come te, nulla vedranno Ma parte invisibil tue staranno. Po che del secol questa eta sia priva. Laude al pictor, ma piú laude in che scriva Quello a futuri che i presenti sanno, Origin e stato e che al triseptimo anno Morte spense ogni ben che in te fioriva. Ma come excedo tua forma il pennello Excedera tue virtu penne E resterà imperfetto, e questo e quello.”

The poet’s complaint that the painter’s art can never reproduce one-half of the dead lady’s charms is literally true in this instance, and those of Beatrice’s portraits which we possess do but scant justice to the brightness and beauty which fascinated young and old among her contemporaries. Two of the letters addressed to Lodovico on this melancholy occasion are especially worthy of mention. One was a Latin epistle from the Emperor Maximilian, in which the writer expresses his cordial regard for the duke and his frank admiration for the lamented duchess whose delightful company he had so lately enjoyed.

The letter bears the date of January 11, 1497, and was written from Innsbruck.


“Having just heard of the sad calamity which has befallen you in the death of your illustrious wife, Beatrice, our most dear kinswoman, we are filled with grief both on account of our great affection for you and of all the gifts of person and mind which adorned that renowned princess, and which now only adds to the heaviness of our mutual loss. Nothing could grieve us more at this present moment than to find ourselves thus suddenly deprived of a relative who was dear to us above all other princesses, and whose surpassing charms and virtues we had lately learnt to value as they deserved. But we are still more distressed to think that you whom we love so well should lose in her, not only a sweet wife, but a companion who in so remarkable a degree shared the burdens of your crown and lightened your cares and cheered your labours by her society. As for her, although she was one of the few women worthy of perpetual regret and eternal remembrance, this premature death is no true cause of sorrow, and we take comfort in the thought that, since we must all die, they are most blessed who die young and who, having lived happily in their youth, escape the innumerable calamities of this miserable world and the evils of a weary old age. Your most fortunate wife enjoyed all that makes life good; no gift of body and mind, no advantage of beauty or birth, was denied her. She was in every respect worthy to be your wife and to reign over the most flourishing realm in Italy. She has left you the sweetest children to recall the face of their lost mother, and to be alike the consolation of your present sorrow and the staff of your declining years. And when the time comes for you to go hence, you will be able to leave them a peaceful throne and the immortal memory of your name. May the recollection of all the good that you owe her help you to share in these consolations, so that, having already mourned your dear one’s death more than enough, your tears may at length be dried and she may rest more safely, while we on our part are once more able to avail ourselves of your help in these difficult and perilous times."

The other letter was written to the duke on the 5th of January, from Mantua, by Chiara Gonzaga, the widowed Duchess of Montpensier, who had so lately enjoyed the pleasure of Beatrice’s company at Milan, and who now poured out the fulness of her grief and sympathy with the bereaved husband.

“The piteous and lamentable news of your wife’s sudden death, which, my dear lord, I have just received, has so bitterly revived my own sorrows, that I am unable to write to your Excellency as I ought, or speak a single word of comfort, ’Che medico morbeso mal sana li malatti’ for a sick doctor cures sick folks badly. All I can do is to join my tears with your own in lamenting this cruel and grievous misfortune and our mutual sorrow, which I only wish I could bear in your stead. Had fortune only better understood your need and mine, she would have left that blessed soul to enjoy all the prosperity in store for her, and would have allowed death to relieve me from the burden of my tearful and wretched existence. May that Divine Providence, Who orders all things for some good end, give your Excellency comfort and lead this toilsome life to a safe haven."

Maximilian’s allusion to the duke’s prolonged mourning for his wife agrees with the remarks of the Ferrarese and Venetian chroniclers. To these men of the Renaissance, accustomed as they were to pass quickly from one phase of life to another and to witness swift and sudden changes of fortune, this inconsolable grief seemed beyond understanding. For a whole fortnight Lodovico remained in a darkened room, refusing to see his children, and taking no pleasure even in their company. No ambassadors were admitted into his presence; even Borso da Correggio, who came from Ferrara, was referred to the Marchesino Stanga and the Conte di Caiazzo, as deputies appointed by the duke to receive condolences. And when Lodovico saw his ministers, they were strictly charged only to speak of business matters, and never to mention the name of the duchess or allude to the duke’s recent bereavement. So complete was his seclusion and so profound his melancholy, that those about him began to tremble for his reason. “The duke,” wrote Sanuto, “has ceased to care for his children or his state or anything on earth, and can hardly bear to live.” But fears of his old enemy Louis of Orleans before long roused him from the apathy and despair, and showed his foes that they had still to reckon with him. Rumours of a French invasion were once more heard; Trivulzio was at Asti with a strong force, and the Duke of Orleans was shortly expected to lead an expedition into Lombardy and assert his claim to Milan.

On the 17th of January, Lodovico shaved his head, came out of his room, and publicly gave the standard and baton of command to Galeazzo di Sanseverino, who was sent to defend Alessandria at the head of a considerable Milanese and German army. But the French king’s health was failing, and the Duke of Orleans, who, since the death of the little dauphin twelve months before, had become the next heir to the crown, suddenly refused to leave France. Trivulzio was repulsed in an attack on Novi; while an attempt to seize Genoa, which was set on foot by the Cardinal della Rovere and Battista Fregoso, was frustrated by the prompt measures of defence taken by the Duke of Milan and the Venetians.

Meanwhile every possible honour was paid to the memory of Duchess Beatrice. All through the duchy, during the month of January, solemn funeral services were held, and one hundred requiem masses were said daily in S. Maria delle Grazie for the repose of her soul, while a hundred tapers were kept burning day and night round the stone sarcophagus supported by lions in which her remains were interred. The duke himself, clad in a suit of black fustian and wrapt in a long black cloak, which all his courtiers wore as a badge of mourning, attended two or three masses daily, as well as many offices to Our Lady, and sent a hundred gold ducats to the Santa Casa at Loreto, in discharge of a vow which poor Beatrice had made to take a pilgrimage to that famous shrine after the birth of her child.

Marino Sanuto, writing in August, seven months after Beatrice’s death, remarks that since his wife’s death the duke has become an altered man. “He is very religious, recites offices daily, observes fasts, and lives chastely and devoutly. His rooms are still hung with black, and he takes all his meals standing, and wears a long black cloak. He goes every day to visit the church where his wife is buried, and never leaves this undone, and much of his time is spent with the friars of the convent.” And a Dominican historian, Padre Rovegnatino, then living, records how during the whole of the next year Lodovico visited the convent regularly twice a week on Tuesday, which, being the day of the week on which Beatrice died, he always kept as a fast, and on Saturday, and on these occasions dined with the prior Giovanni da Tortona and his successor Vincenzo Baldelli.

The decoration and improvement of this church and convent now became the chief object of Lodovico’s thoughts. The beautiful shrine which he had already adorned with Bramante’s cupola and portico, was now doubly dear to him for the sake of Beatrice and his dead children. The annals of the convent record the multitude of his benefactions to both church and convent, and the cordial relations which he maintained with the Dominican friars to the end of his reign. First of all, he applied himself to raise a monument to the memory of Beatrice immediately in front of the high altar, where her remains were buried. The sculptor whom he chose for this work was Cristoforo Solari, called Il Gobbo, or the hunchback, a surname which he had inherited from his father, who seems to have been deformed. The Solari were a race of sculptors, many of whom had been employed at the Certosa, while Cristoforo, who had settled in Venice about 1490, was recalled to Milan about this time and appointed ducal sculptor, on the recommendation of the Marchesino Stanga. It was the duke’s pleasure that a recumbent effigy of Beatrice, wearing the rich brocades and jewels in which she had been borne to her rest, should be placed on her tomb, so that future ages should have a perpetual memorial of the young duchess as she had last appeared in the eyes of the servants and people who had loved her so well. And as it was Lodovico’s own wish to be buried in the same tomb, the sculptor was to carve an effigy of himself in ducal crown and mantle, lying at his wife’s side in the last slumber. So, at the duke’s bidding, the Milanese ambassador, Battista Sfondrati, bought the finest blocks of Carrara marble that he could find in Venice, and the brothers of the Certosa sent seven loads more from their vast stores to Solari’s house in Milan. Out of these marbles the sculptor carved a noble bas-relief of the Dead Christ and the two admirable effigies of the duke and duchess, which now adorn the Certosa of Pavia. His task was probably finished before the close of the following year, and the tomb was set up in the Cappella maggiore of S. Maria delle Grazie, at a cost of upwards of 15,000 ducats. At the same time Lodovico placed a slab of black marble on the walls of the same chapel, in memory of the dead child whose birth had cost his mother her life, with the following proud inscription:

Infelix partus: amisi ante vitam quam in Lucem ederer; infelicior quod matri Moriens vitam ademi et parentem con -sorte sua orbavi in tam adverso fato. Hoc solum mihi potest jocundium esse Quod divi parentés me, Ludovicus et Béatrix Mediolanenses duces genuere, M.C.C.C.C.LXXXXVII. Tertio Nonas Januarii.”

The ill-fated child had died before he had ever seen the light of day, and, still more unfortunate in this, he had deprived his mother of life, and left his father widowed and alone; but this at least he could proudly say, “Lodovico and Beatrice, Duke and Duchess of Milan, were my parents.”

The walls of the chapel were decorated with rich marbles and gilding, and new altars were set up in honour of Saint Louis and Santa Beatrice, the patron saints of the duke and duchess. Cristoforo was employed to carve reliefs for the high altar, and the duke gave the friars a jewelled crucifix and marvellously wrought set of chalices, patens, candelabra, paci of niello, engraved with Beatrice’s name and arms. Among other costly gifts, he also presented them with a magnificent pallium and richly embroidered hangings for the altar, and a set of illuminated choir-books with enamelled and jewelled bindings, while the Marchesino Stanga gave an organ to the church. Bramante was ordered to complete the cupola as soon as possible, and was employed later to add a new sacristy to the church.

But there was one thing more which lay still nearer to Lodovico’s heart. Leonardo’s great wall-painting for the convent refectory was well-nigh completed. Cardinal Perault de Gurk, when he visited his friend the Dominican prior towards the end of January, 1497, saw and admired the work of Leonardo, and conversed with the painter, who laughed, Bandello tells us, at his Éminence’s ignorance for thinking his salary of 2000 ducats a large one and expressing surprise at the duke’s liberality. Lodovico was now anxious to see the life-sized portraits of himself and Beatrice with their children painted by the great master’s hand on the opposite wall. The Dominican historian, Padre Pino, writing in the last century, says that the convent retained a life-sized portrait of that most excellent and famous lady, Duchess Beatrice, in which the sweet gentleness of her nature and majesty of her bearing were faithfully reproduced; and Padre Gattico, a very accurate and careful writer of the sixteenth century who wrote the history of the convent from its foundation, describes how Leonardo da Vinci was employed by Lodovico to paint portraits of himself and Beatrice, with their children kneeling at their feet, on the wall opposite the Cenacolo, but adds that these portraits, being painted in oil, were already in a ruinous condition. The Dominican father’s words were all too true, and only the merest fragments of these portraits, which Vasari described as works of sublime beauty, now remain on the wall, where the Lombard artist Montorfano had already painted his fresco of the Crucifixion. That of Beatrice is a mere ghost, but enough remains of Lodovico’s figure to show how nobly Leonardo treated his subject, and is of the deepest interest as an example of the great Florentine’s art and a faithful likeness of his illustrious patron. A distinct reference to Lodovico’s wishes on the subject may be found in the paper of directions which he drew up on the 30th of June, 1497, for his minister the Marchesino Stanga.

Memorandum of the things which Messer Marchesino is to do.

“In the first place, he is to place the ducal arms in gold letters on a marble slab on Porta Ludovica, together with ten bronze medals bearing the duke’s head.

Item: to see that similar tablets are placed on all the public buildings, excepting those in the Castello, which are in charge of Messer Bernardino di Corte, and that medals are placed between them.

Item: to see that El Gobbo carves the reliefs for the altar this year, and that he has sufficient marble, and if more is needed, send to Venice or Carrara.

Item: to see that the sepulchre is finished without delay, and to desire Gobbo to work at the covering and all the other portions belonging to the tomb, so that it may be ready as soon as the rest of the sepulchre.

Item: to ask Leonardo the Florentine to finish his work on the wall of the Refectory, and to begin the painting on the other wall of the Refectory. If he will do this, some arrangement may be made with him regarding the agreements signed by his own hand, by which he stipulated to finish the work within a certain time.

Item: to see that the portico of S. Ambrogio is finished, for which two thousand ducats have been assigned.

Item: to call together all the most skilled architects to hold a consultation, and design a model for the façade of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which shall be of the same height and proportions as the Capella Grande.

Item: to finish the Strada da Corte, which the duke wishes to see completed.

Item: to make a head of our Madonna the late duchess, and place it on a medallion with that of the duke on the doors of the chapel in Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Item: to open a new gate in the walls corresponding to the Porta S. Marco, and call it the Porta Beatrice, and place the ducal arms and letters of the said duchess upon the said gate, as has been done at Porta Ludovica.

Item: to desire that the decorations of the Broletto Nuovo should be finished by August.

Item: to place an inscription in gold letters on black marble above the portraits of the chapel.”

This Memoriale was signed by the ducal secretary, Bartolommeo Calco, and the following lines were added by Lodovico himself:

“MARCHESINO, We have charged you with the execution of the works here mentioned, and, although you have already received our orders by word of mouth, we have for our further satisfaction set them down in writing, to show you how extraordinary is the interest that we take in their completion.


The bronze medals here mentioned, which by Lodovico’s orders were to be placed on all the chief public buildings, were probably those designed by Caradosso after Beatrice’s death, in which the head of the duke and duchess appear side by side.

The name and arms of Beatrice were to be seen everywhere; her portrait was to be placed in the church of the Grazie, and her medallion above the gate. And to-day, in spite of the common ruin which has overwhelmed the palaces and churches of Lodovico’s fair duchy, the armorial bearings of his consort may still be seen painted in the lunette above the Cenacolo, as if the duke wished Leonardo’s great painting to be especially associated with her beloved memory; while not only in the Castello of Milan, but on the site of ducal castles and villas throughout the Milanese, blocks of stone and marble carved with the initials of Lodovico and Beatrice are constantly brought to light.

In the midst of these tokens of grief and love for his lost wife, we come upon a strange incident. That May, Lucrezia Crivelli, the mistress whose liaison with the duke had caused Beatrice the sorrow which he now remembered with so much remorse, bore Lodovico a son, who was named Gianpaolo, and who became a valiant soldier and loyal subject of his half-brother Duke Francesco Sforza in after days. The Moro, as far as we know, never renewed his connection with Lucrezia after his wife’s death. The universal testimony of his contemporaries “he lived chastely and devoutly, and was a changed man” seems to bear witness to the contrary; but in the following August he settled Cussago and Saronno, the lands which three years before he had given to Beatrice, upon his mistress as a provision for the son she had borne him, and in the act of donation speaks expressly of the delight which he had found in her gentle and excellent company.

Even more strange it sounds in our ears to find Isabella d’Este, only a year after Beatrice’s death, writing to the duke’s former mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, to ask for the loan of her portrait by Leonardo’s hand, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The fact that a princess of the proud house of Este, and one who, in the eyes of her generation, was the model of all virtues, should seek a favour from one who had wronged her sister so deeply, affords fresh proof how lightly such liaisons were regarded in those days, and may incline us to be more lenient in our judgments of the men and women of the Renaissance.