Court Life at Ferrara

F.M. Godfrey describes how, during the fifteenth century, the courtly civilization of Ferrara gave birth to splendid works of art.

The castello d’estense, “the most impressive sight which Italy offers in this genre,” was built in 1385 by Bartolino da Novara, also the architect of the Gonzaga fortress at Mantua. Rising out of the flat marshy plain of the Polesina, the gigantic citadel, with its four square towers and moat, was originally designed for the Obizzi lords as a refuge against popular risings, and stands in dramatic contrast with the white garden-city beneath, its straight network of roads and dignified palaces such as “Diamante” or “Schifanoia,” where Borso d’Este went into villegiatura. For only during the fifteenth century did the courtly civilization of Ferrara come to fruition. After a barbarous period of bloodshed and family feuds, the natural sons of Niccolo III, Lionello and Borso d’Este, and after them dukes Ercole and Alfonso, encouraged in Ferrara a humanist and artistic flowering equal to that of Mantua under the Gonzaga, Ravenna under the Malatesta and Urbino under the Montefeltro.

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