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Title: The self-presentation and power sharing of Isabella D'Este (Marchesa of Mantua,1490-1539)
Author: Cockram, Sarah D. P.
ISNI:       0000 0000 5915 9316
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2007
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Isabella d'Este (marches a of Mantua, 1490-1539) has traditionally been studied for her importance as a female patron of art, music, and literature, in research often focussed on one discipline alone. In contrast the patronage of her husband, Francesco Gonzaga (fourth marchese of Mantua, 1484-1519), was largely dismissed until recently. Francesco has also been disadvantaged by the important studies of the late nineteenth-/ early twentieth-century historians Luzio and Renier, who saw the marches a as a talented stateswomen working in contrast to a politically inept husband. Although Francesco's significant cultural contributions have lately been proven, his diplomatic collaboration with Isabella has yet to be reassessed, and their power sharing relationship explored. This study addresses two key needs in Isabellian studies. In analysing Isabella's multifaceted patronage as a political activity, it demonstrates for the first time her comprehensive exploitation of a range of cultural products to promote her authority, projecting virility along with female virtue and fortifying her co-rule. It also shows power sharing in action, with shared human, material, and cultural resources, joint administration and exercise of authority and justice, and common diplomatic policy. In revealing or re-evaluating the Gonzaga response to domestic and international threats, a characteristic strategy emerges: the marchesi apparently dividing fronts, Francesco and Isabella appearing to back different factions in order to regroup behind the strongest. The bias against Francesco's political contribution is rebalanced, and a blueprint for the power sharing of ruling couples is provided, in what future research may reveal to be a far from rare scenario. This study quotes a considerable amount of unpublished archival material, also made accessible to an English-speaking readership through translation of key passages. It sheds light on episodes of intrigue, seduction, and masking, simulation and dissimulation, in court life and diplomacy. Chapter 1 provides a brief biography of the marchesi before giving an introduction to letter writing and epistolary networks. Isabella's self-presentation, projecting an authoritative right to co-rule in an image campaign for dynasty as well as self, is analysed in Chapter 2. In this context are re-evaluated her widespread cultural patronage, and her image making in visual and literary portraiture, through imprese, music, costume, and jewellery. The couple's power sharing is then illustrated. Chapter 3 shows that rather than being isolated the marchesi's activities and resources were to a great extent shared. The three opening chapters give an overview of trends and the remainder of the Thesis shows teamwork in action. Chapters 4 and 5 examine the influence of outsiders on the couple's relationship, including Francesco's possible sexual liaisons. Chapter 4 questions Isabella's role in the elimination of threats to her authority; Chapter 5 provides evidence of the marchesi dividing fronts, with each placating courtiers the other had offended. The final two chapters reveal cooperation in response to international threats. Chapter 6 shows Francesco and Isabella working together against the machinations of the Borgia. Chapter 7 considers the later years of the couple's co-rule and demonstrates continued power sharing despite periods of strain, as when Francesco was a prisoner of the Venetians or when Gonzaga/Este family interests clashed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available