Beatrice d'Este as a patron of learning and poetry



Lodovico Moro, as we have seen, was justly extolled by his contemporaries as the most illustrious Mecænas of his age. As Abbé Tiraboschi, the learned historian of Italian literature, wrote ninety years ago, "If we consider the immense number of learned men who flocked to his court from all parts of Italy in the certainty of receiving great honours and rich rewards; if, again, we remember how many famous architects and painters he invited to Milan, and how many noble buildings he raised, how he built and endowed the magnificent University of Pavia, and opened schools of every kind of science in Milan; if besides all this we read the splendid eulogies and dedicatory epistles addressed to him by scholars of every nationality, we feel inclined to pronounce him the best prince that ever lived." And in Beatrice d'Este, Lodovico possessed a wife admirably adapted to share his aims and preside over his court. Both her birth and education fitted her for the position which she now occupied. Her youth and beauty lent a new lustre to the court, her quick intelligence and cultured tastes led her to appreciate the society of poets and scholars. The natural love of splendour, which she shared with the Moro, went hand-in-hand with artistic invention. Her rich clothes and jewels were distinguished by their refinement and rare workmanship. The fashions which she introduced were marked by their elegance and beauty. She took especial delight in music and poetry, and gave signs of a fine and discriminating literary judgment. And like Lodovico, she knew not only how to attract men of genius, but how to retain them in her service. Where, again, asks Castiglione, who had known her in her brightest days at Milan, shall we find a woman of intellect as remarkable as Duchess Beatrice? And her own secretary, the writer known as "l'elegantissimo Calmeta" in the cultured circles of Mantua and Urbino, has told us how much men of letters owed to her sympathy and help. In the life of his friend, Serafino Aquilano, written seven years after Beatrice's death, when the Milanese was a French province and the Moro a captive at Loches, Calmeta recalls the brilliant days of his old life at Lodovico's court, and speaks thus of his lost mistress:

"This duke had for his most dear wife Beatrice d'Este, daughter of Ercole, Duke of Ferrara, who, coming to Milan in the flower of her opening youth, was endowed with so rare an intellect, so much grace and affability, and was so remarkable for her generosity and goodness that she may justly be compared with the noblest women of antiquity. This duchess devoted her time to the highest objects. Her court was composed of men of talent and distinction, most of whom were poets and musicians, who were expected to compose new eclogues, comedies, or tragedies, and arrange new spectacles and representations every month. In her leisure hours she generally employed a certain Antonio Grifo"a well-known student and commentator of Dante"or some equally gifted man, to read the Divina Commedia, or the works of other Italian poets, aloud to her. And it was no small relaxation of mind for Lodovico Sforza, when he was able to escape from the cares and business of state, to come and listen to these readings in his wife's rooms. And among the illustrious men whose presence adorned the court of the duchess there were three high-born cavaliers, renowned for many talents, but above all for their poetic giftsNiccolo da Correggio, Gaspare Visconti, and Antonio di Campo Fregoso, together with many others, one of whom was myself, Vincenzo Calmeta, who for some years held the post of secretary to that glorious and excellent lady. And besides those I have named there was Benedetto da Cingoli, called Piceno, and many other youths of no small promise, who daily offered her the first fruits of their genius. Nor was Duchess Beatrice content with rewarding and honouring the poets of her own court. On the contrary, she sent to all parts of Italy to inquire for the compositions of elegant poets, and placed their books as sacred and divine things on the shelves of her cabinet of study, and praised and rewarded each writer according to his merit. In this manner, poetry and literature in the vulgar tongue, which had degenerated and sunk into forgetfulness after the days of Petrarch and Boccaccio, has been restored to its former dignity, first by the protection of Lorenzo de' Medici, and then by the influence of this rare lady, and others like her, who are still living at the present time. But when Duchess Beatrice died everything fell into ruin. That court, which had been a joyous Paradise, became a dark and gloomy Inferno, and poets and artists were forced to seek another road."

Calmeta himself was a prolific writer both of verse and prose, whose translation of Ovid's Ars amandi, dedicated to Lodovico Moro, was highly esteemed by his contemporaries, and whom Castiglione introduces among the speakers of his Cortigiano. Like his friends Niccolo da Correggio and Gaspare Visconti, Beatrice's secretary was a fervent admirer of Petrarch, and wrote an elaborate commentary on the Canzone, "Mai non vo' più cantar como io solea," which he dedicated to Isabella d'Este and sent her with a letter expressing his conviction that no one before him had ever fully understood this profound and subtle poem. Another of Beatrice's protégés was Serafino, the famous improvisatore of Aquila in the Abruzzi, a short and ugly little man, whom Cardinal Bibbiena once laughingly compared to a carpet-bag (valigia)! But in spite of his dwarfed stature and elfish appearance, Serafino sang his own strambotti and eclogues so well, and had so fascinating a way of accompanying himself on the lute, that the Este and Gonzaga ladies all entreated him for new verses, and literally wrangled over the man himself! Like Calmeta and many others, however, after spending some time at the courts of Mantua and Urbino, he came to Milan, and devoted his talents to the service of Duchess Beatrice until her death, after which he went his way sadly, and sought shelter in his old haunts. Most of his time after this was spent with the good Duchess Elizabeth at Urbino, where the Milanese refugees found a warm welcome, and where Serafino was caressed and fêted by all the great ladies in turn, until a premature death closed his career, and he died in Rome in 1500, lamented in prose and verse by the most cultured spirits of the age.

While Beatrice encouraged these foreign poets to settle at Milan, Lodovico invited the Tuscans Bellincioni and Antonio Cammelli, surnamed Pistoia, to his court, in the hope of refining and polishing the rude Lombard diction. The priest Tanzio, writing after Bellincioni's death in 1492, remarks that this influence had already borne fruit, and that the sonnet, which was practically unknown in Milan before Bellincioni's coming, was now diligently cultivated there. But, not unnaturally, a bitter rivalry sprung up between the Lombard and the Tuscan poets, and a fierce poetic warfare was exchanged between them. Bellincioni's suspicious and quarrelsome nature is revealed in his letters to his patron, in which he is always complaining of the envious detractors whose wicked tongues are employed in backbiting him day and night. His own character was by no means free from the same imputations; and the Ferrarese poet, Tebaldeo, the friend of Raphael and Castiglione, composed a witty epitaph, in which he warns passers-by to avoid the last resting-place of this singer, who had made so many enemies in life, lest he turn in his grave and bite them. Bellincioni's bitterest foe was a certain Bergamasque poet, Guidotto Prestinari, who wrote many odes and songs in honour of Beatrice, and represented the old Lombard school. On one occasion this misguided person even dared to attack Leonardo, and wrote a sonnet in which he jeers at the great painter for spending his time in hunting for curious worms and insects on the hills of Bergamo, when he visited his friends of the Melzi family. Leonardo scorned to take any notice of these petty insults, but in his letter to the councillors of Piacenza we see the contempt which he had for Lombard artists"those rude and ignorant workmen," as he calls them, "who boast they will get letters of recommendation from Signora Lodovico or his Commissioner of Works, Messer Ambrogio Ferrari, when not one of them is fit to undertake the task." And certain epigrams in the Windsor Sketchbook are plainly directed against the false and venal science of the astrologer Ambrogio da Rosate, whose name is given in the margin, and show how cordial was Leonardo's hatred of the duke's all-powerful favourite.

Fortunately, both Leonardo himself, as well as Calmeta and Pistoia, were on friendly terms with Gaspare Visconti, who, originally a scholar of Prestinari, became the chief representative of the Lombard school of poetry at Milan, and whom Beatrice's secretary places next to Niccolo da Correggio among the best poets of her court. This popular poet and polished cavalier was a great favourite, not only with Beatrice and her husband, but with Galeazzo di Sanseverino, the Marchesino Stanga, and all the chief personages at court. Born in 1461 of noble Milanese parents, he married Cecilia, daughter of Cecco Simonetta, Duchess Bona's ill-fated minister, and was advanced to the dignity of Eques Auratus and ducal councillor. After the death of Bellincioni he succeeded to the post of court poet, and was often employed by Lodovico to address complimentary verses to other princes or to write sonnets on passing events, whether his theme were a royal wedding or the death of a favourite falcon. His most important work was a romance entitled "Paolo e Daria," founded on Bramante's discovery of a tomb containing the ashes of these lovers, when the foundations of his new cloisters at S. Ambrogio were being laid in the year 1492. The incident excited great interest at court, and Gasparo dedicated his poem to Lodovico"mio Duca"and introduced an eloquent eulogy in honour of his friend Bramante in the first canto. In the following year he published a volume of rhymes, dedicated to Niccolo da Correggio, who sent the book to the insatiable Isabella d'Este, saying this would please her better than any verses that he could write. Finally, in 1496, he formally presented the duchess with a copy of his poems, written in silver letters and gold on ivory vellum, and enriched with miniatures of rare beauty. This sumptuous volume, bound in silver-gilt boards enamelled with flowers, and containing 143 sonnets as well as epistles on love and other philosophical and theological subjects, was dedicated to Beatrice in the following words:

"To the Most Illustrious Duchess of Milan, Gaspare Visconti, Having been told by many honourable persons, chief among whom is Messer Galeazzo Sanseverino, that the said duchess graciously pleads my cause with His Excellency the Duke, I beg of her to accept this book, dedicated to her by her humble servant." The same grateful sentiments inspired the lyric which followed, in which the poet implored the duchess to use her well-known influence with her lord, and incline his will to look favourably upon her servant's prayer

Donna beata! e Spirito pudico!
Deh! fa benigna a questa mia richiesta
La voglia del tuo Sposo Lodovico.
Io so ben quel che dico!
Tanta è la tua virtu che ció che vuoi
Dello invitto cuor disponer puoi."

An ardent lover of Petrarch, to whose poems these of the Milanese poet were often compared by his admirers, Gaspare Visconti took the lead in a lively poetic contest with Bramante on the respective merits of Dante and Petrarch, The discussion was carried on during many weeks, in the presence of the duchess and her courtiers in the beautiful gardens of Vigevano, or in those fair pleasure-houses by the running streams in the park at Pavia, where Beatrice and her ladies spent the long summer days. Gaspare found animated supporters in his friends Calmeta and Niccolo da Correggio, who was himself an enthusiastic admirer of Petrarch, and on one occasion journeyed twenty-five miles from Correggio over the worst roads in the world to see the remote village of Rosena, where the Tuscan poet had composed some of his finest canzoni. On the other hand, Bramante had the duke and duchess on his side. We know how, at the end of a long day's work, Lodovico loved to listen to the reading of the "Divina Commedia" in his wife's boudoir, and ponder the meaning of that great vision of heaven and hell. And when the catastrophe of Novara had crushed his last hopes, and he was borne a captive into the strange land, the only favour he asked of his victors was the loan of a volume of Dante, "per studiare"in order that he might study the divine poet's words. One of Gaspare's sonnets on the subject, which was afterwards printed, bears this inscription: "These verses were not written with any pretence of deciding between the merits of these two great men, but solely to answer Bramante, who is a violent partisan of Dante."

Another poetic tourney, in which both the great architect and his friend Visconti were the chief combatants, turned on Bramante's supposed poverty and the complaints with which he filled the air, calling on all the gods in heaven to help him in his misery. This was in the summer of 1492, and not only Gaspare, but Bellincioni, who was then living, and Mascagni of Turin took up the parable, and charged Bramante with begging for a pair of shoes, when all the while he was receiving five ducats a week from the duke, and was secretly hoarding up a store of gold. To this Bramante replied in a sonnet full of allusions to Calliope, Erato, and all the Muses, begging his friends for pity's sake to give him a crown, if they would not see him left barefoot and naked to battle with rude Boreas. A whole series of curious sonnets from Bramante's pen has been lately discovered by M. Müntz among the Italian manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and reveal the burlesque side of the great architect's character, and the biting wit which made his opponents give him the name of Cerberus.

These poetic jousts or encounters of wits were a favourite amusement of the cultured princesses of the Renaissance and their courtiers. Thus it was that Poliziano and Ficino discussed philosophical questions before Lorenzo in the gardens of Careggi or on the terraces of Fiesole; so Castiglione and Bibbiena reasoned of art and love with Duchess Elizabeth and Emilia Pia, in the palace of Urbino, till the short summer night was well-nigh over and the dawn broke over the peaks of Monte Catria. And at Milan, where in Beatrice's days there was less pedantry and more freedom and gaiety than in any court of the day, these lively debates found especial favour. The most brilliant courtiers and bravest knights, the gravest scholars and officers of state alike took part in them. Messer Galeazzo, as we have seen, was an adept at the game, and could wield his pen and challenge fair ladies in defence of Roland as gallantly as he couched his lance to ride in the lists or wielded his sword in the thick of the battle. So, too were the Marchesino Stanga and his friend Girolamo Tuttavilla. Both these noblemen were great sonnet-writers, and are classed by Pistoia among those illustrious lords, who, like Messer Galeazzo and Signor Lodovico himself, were poets and writers as well as statesmen and generals.

Bramante addressed several of his sonnets to Count Tuttavilla, who in his turn had a lively controversy in rhyme with the Marchesino. And when, in the spring of 1492, Tuttavilla accompanied the Count of Caiazzo on his embassy to France, Gaspare Visconti sent him a sonnet asking for the latest news from Paris, which Duchess Beatrice and all her ladies were dying to hear.

"Tell me if the Queen of France is fair, and how the king appears in your eyeswhether he is cruel or clement, inclined to walk in the paths of virtue or of vice. And tell us, too, if the people of Paris seem to fear the English and the Spaniard, and if they are true followers of Mars? Tell us how the crowds who walk the streets are clad, and what customs and manners they have, and how they speak, and what they think. Tell me how many students their University numbers, and in what branches of learning they excel. Tell me the names of their lawgivers and historians, and if any classical antiquities are to be found in Paris. Tell me how the Abbey of S. Denis is built, and what style of architecture prevails in the far North? And tell me, too, if I dare ask, have you perchance in Paris found some fair lady to bend a gracious smile upon you, and console you for all that you have left behind?"

Girolamo Tuttavilla replied in verses of the same light and airy strain, alluding to the fierce contest over Dante that waged between Dottore Bramante and his foes, and laughing at friend Bellincioni's furious rages, but saying that he at least is wiser, and will take the viâ media and steer warily between the two contending parties.

But the best poet at Lodovico's court, a sweeter singer and a finer scholar than the much-praised Bellincioni or the gay Visconti, was Niccolo, the "gran Correggio" of Gaspare's song. The son of that accomplished princess of Este, Beatrice the Queen of Festivals, reared by her in all the culture of Ferrara, this singularly polished and handsome personage was in the eyes of his contemporaries the model of a perfect courtier. To have known him was in itself a liberal education. Sabba da Castiglione, that fastidious scholar and refined writer of the sixteenth century, counted himself fortunate because as a boy he had seen and known "this most famous, most courteous and gifted cavalier in all Italy." Ariosto saw him in his vision upholding the Fountain of Song, and chanting in his own lofty and noble style

  "Un Signor di Correggio
Con alto stil par che cantando scriva."

Niccolo had come to Milan in Beatrice's bridal train, and remained there ever since, highly valued and beloved by Lodovico and all the ducal family, riding in jousts and tournaments, going on foreign missions, and composing songs and eclogues for that young duchess whose death was one day to inspire some of his most touching verses. But the Marchesa Isabella was the true goddess of his adoration, the mistress to whom his heart and lyre alike were pledged, who was for him, not only "la mia patrona e signora," but "la prima donna del mondo," "the first lady in all the world." For her he translated Breton legends and Provençal romances; for her he set Virgil and Petrarch to music; for her fair sake, old and stiff as advancing years have made him, he is ready to break a lance or join once more in the dance. At Christmas-time, in the last days of 1491, the impatient Marchesana had written to remind him that she had never yet received the eclogue which he had promised to send her at her brother Alfonso's wedding, and refused to be put off with any other verses, saying that his poems pleased her more than those of any living bard. When in later years she found that Niccolo was inclined to transfer his allegiance to her sister-in-law, Lucrezia Borgia, she was sorely affronted, and after his death entered into a long contention for the possession of the book of poems which he had left behind.

There were many other poets of Beatrice's court whose names were famous in their day, but have long ago been forgotten, and whose works have passed into oblivion with all that vanished world. There was Lancino di Corte, or, as he preferred to style himself, Lancinus Curtius, the writer of Latin epigrams; and Antonio di Fregoso, the noble Genoese youth who, like Niccolo, won Calmeta and Ariosto's praises, and whose poetic disputes with Lancinus were a feature of Cecilia Gallerani's entertainments; and Baldassare Taccone of Alessandria; and Pietro Lazzarone of the Valtellina. There was Galeotto del Carretto, the Montferrat poet and historian, who left his home at Casale to compose plays and sonnets for Beatrice, and who, like Niccolo da Correggio, was one of Isabella's favourite correspondents, and sent her eclogues and strambotti to sing to the lute. When Beatrice died he had just finished a comedy dedicated to this princess, which he afterwards sent to Isabella, begging her to accept it both for his sake and that of the lamented Madonna Duchessa sorella, who had taken pleasure in reading his effusions. And there was another Tuscan poet, Antonio Cammelli of Pistoia, who composed a whole volume of sonnets dedicated to "that most invincible Prince, the light and splendour of the world, Lodovico Moro." These sonnets are of great interest, less on account of their poetic merit than because of the fidelity with which they commemorate political events. The invasion of the French, the conquest of Naples, the battle of Fornovo, the peace of Vercelli, the proclamation of Lodovico as Duke of Milan, his coronation fêtes at Milan and Pavia, are all carefully recorded. Nor does the series end here; in another sonnet the poet takes up the note of warning, and bids Lodovico beware of the new King of France and, ceasing to dally with Fortune, prepare to defend his fair duchy. The next time Pistoia took up his pen, it was to wail over the duke's fall and the ruin of Italy, and to hurl curses on the head of the false servants who had betrayed their trust and yielded up the Castello to their master's foes. This, at least, may be said to Pistoia's credithe did not forget his generous patron in the days of adversity; and when Pamfilo Sasso, the Modena bard who had basked in the sunshine of the Moro's favour, assailed the fallen duke in his verses, Pistoia rose up in defence of his old master, and fiercely rebuked the cowardly poet.

"I send you," wrote Calmeta to the Marchioness of Mantua in 1502, in a letter enclosing Pistoia's verses, "an invective against Sasso for certain sonnets and epigrams which he printed at Bologna against our Duke Lodovico Sforza, and which some people say that I wrote. It was never my habit to attack others, but if I had wasted a little ink in defending so illustrious a prince, I hardly think I should deserve much blame."

Before the coming of Beatrice there had been no theatre in Milan, but Lodovico had done his best to encourage dramatic art. As early as 1484, he had written to the Duke of Ferrara, asking him to lend him a Bolognese actor, Albergati by name, who was also a skilled mechanic, to give sacred representations during Holy Week in Milan. The presence of Duke Ercole's daughter naturally gave a fresh impulse to the growth of dramatic art, and after Lodovico's visit to Ferrara in 1493, a theatre was erected in Milan. Courtiers and poets vied with each other in the production of plays and masques at each successive Christmas or Carnival. In 1493, Niccolo da Correggio wrote a pastoral entitled Mopsa e Daphne, which was performed at court that Carnival, and which he afterwards sent to Isabella, promising to explain its allegorical meaning at their next meeting. Another time, Gaspare Visconti composed the masque with the chorus of Turks, to which we have already alluded, for representation before the duke and duchess. On one occasion a piece called La Fatica was acted at the house of Antonio Maria Sanseverino, whose wife, Margherita of Carpi, was the sister of Elizabeth Gonzaga's beloved companion, Emilia Pia, and herself a learned and cultivated princess. On another a representation described as La Pazienza was given before the court, in honour of a visit which Cardinal Federigo Sanseverino paid to Milan.

Music, as Calmeta tells us, was another art that flourished in an especial manner at the Milanese court. Both Lodovico and his wife were passionately fond of music, and the delicious melodies that daily resounded through their palace halls were the theme alike of chronicler and poet. When first Lorenzo de Medici had sent Leonardo to his friend's court to charm the Moro's ears with the surpassing sweetness of his playing, he had brought with him a well-known musician and maker of instruments, Atalante Migliorotti, who stood high in Lodovico's favour, and spent much of his time at Milan. We find Isabella d'Este writing to her friend, Niccolo da Correggio, in 1493, begging him to procure her the loan of a silver lyre, given him by Atalante, that she may learn to play this instrument; and in the following year the marchioness herself stood godmother to the Florentine musician's infant daughter, who was called Isabella after her illustrious sponsor. And in 1492 we find Lodovico writing to thank Francesco Gonzaga for allowing a certain Narcisso, who was in the Marquis of Mantua's service, to visit Milan, and saying what exquisite pleasure this singer's voice has afforded him. The following summer, Isabella, in her turn, begged her sister to allow her favourite violinist, Jacopo di San Secondo, to spend a few weeks at Mantua; and on the 7th of July Beatrice wrote to desire his return. "Since you are back at Mantua, I think you will not want Jacopo di San Secondo much longer, and beg you to send him back to Pavia as soon as possible, since his music will be a pleasure to my husband, who is suffering from a slight attack of fever." This Jacopo was a famous violin-player of his day, who had settled at the Moro's court, and who after Lodovico's fall left Milan for Rome, where he became the friend of Raphael and Castiglione, and is said to have served as model for the laurel-crowned Apollo of the Parnassus, in the Vatican Stanze. Another of Beatrice's favourite singers was Angelo Testagrossa, a beautiful youth who sang, we are told, like a seraph, and who, after the death of this princess, accepted Isabella's pressing invitation to Mantua, where he composed songs and gave her lessons on the lute. Testagrossa is said to have sung in the Spanish style, which was much in vogue at Milan, where a Spaniard named Pedro Maria was director of the palace concerts, and is frequently mentioned in Bellincioni's poems. The priest Franchino Gaffuri, as already stated, occupied the first chair of music ever founded in Italy. Besides this master's works on music, another treatise on harmony, composed by a priest named Florentio, and dedicated to Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, is preserved in the Trivulzian Library, with a fine miniature of Leonardo playing the lyre as frontispiece.

Both the Flemish priest Cordier, with the wonderful tenor voice, and the accomplished master Cristoforo Romano were, as we know, among the chosen singers who accompanied Beatrice on her travels. And there was one more gifted artist, who, like Atalante Migliorotti, was both a skilled musician and a mechanic, and whose whole life was devoted to the construction of musical instruments of the choicest quality, Lorenzo Gusnasco of Pavia. It was Lodovico Moro who first discovered the rare talents of this "master of organs," as he was styled by his contemporaries, and it was for Beatrice's use that he began to make those wonderful clavichords and lutes and viols that made his name famous throughout Italy. In his hands the manufacture of musical instruments was carried to the highest pitch of excellence. He grudged no labour and spared no pains to make his work perfect. The choicest ebony and ivory, the most precious woods and delicate strings were sought out by him; the best scholars supplied him with Greek and Latin epigrams to be inscribed upon his organs and clavichords. In his opinion both material and shape were of the utmost importance, because, as he wrote to Isabella d'Este, "beauty of form is everything," "perche ne la forma sta il tuto." The work of this gifted maker naturally acquired a rare value in the eyes of his contemporaries. Sabba da Castiglione and Teseo Albonese praise him as the man who, above all others, has learnt the secret of combining lovely melodies with beauteous form, just as a divine soul is enshrined in a fair body. Painters and scholars alike took delight in Lorenzo's company. He was the intimate friend of Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna, of Pietro Bembo and Aldo Manuzio, of Leonardo and Isabella d'Este. It was in these festive days, in the Castello of Pavia, that Lorenzo da Pavia first met both the great Florentine and the accomplished princess who set so high a store on his friendship. For more than twenty years Isabella corresponded regularly with this gifted artist, and employed him not only to make organs and lutes for her, but to buy antiques and cameos, Murano glass and tapestry, choice pictures and rare books. Whether she wished for a fantasia, or Holy Family from the hand of Gian Bellini, or a choice edition of Dante or Petrarch from the press of Aldo Manuzio, it was to Messer Lorenzo that the request was addressed. In 1494, the Pavian master moved to Venice, where he found it easier to procure materials for his trade, and was able to carry on his work on a larger scale. By this time his fame had spread far and wide through Italy. He made an organ for Matthias Corvinus, the King of Hungary, and another which he himself took to Rome for Pope Leo X. But his relations with Duchess Beatrice were not interrupted by this change of abode. In that same year he made her that clavichord which Isabella describes as the best and most beautiful which she had ever seen, and which she never ceased to covet until, after her sister's death and Lodovico's fall, she obtained possession of the precious instrument.

It was at Venice, in the early spring of 1500, that Leonardo da Vinci once more met this master, whom he had formerly known so well at Pavia and Milan. There the two artists who had lived together for many years in the Moro's service conversed sadly of the terrible catastrophe which had overwhelmed their old master in sudden and inevitable ruin, and mourned over the disastrous fate which had plunged the fair Milanese into confusion and misery. Then, as they looked back on the happy days of their former life, and talked of their old companions, the painter brought out a drawing which Lorenzo immediately recognized as the portrait of Isabella d'Este, the illustrious princess, who was proud to call herself their friend.

"Leonardo," he wrote the next day to the Marchesana, "is here in Venice, and has shown me a portrait of your Highness, which is as natural and lifelike as possible." This drawing, which the princess describes in a letter to the painter as being ni carbone and not in colours, is now one of the treasures of the Louvre, and has an inestimable value, both as the work of Leonardo and as a genuine portrait of the most brilliant lady of the Renaissance.