Private Renaissance

Maria Bellonci, Author, Maria Bellorci, Author, William Weaver, Editor William Morrow & Company $24.95 (462p) ISBN 978-0-688-08188-1
Narrated from the viewpoint of the accomplished Isabella d'Este, who at 16 became Duchess of Mantua and presided over a 15th-16th century court with cultural and political finesse, this stately novel by Renaissance historian Bellonci was awarded Italy's Strega prize. Isabella dealt skillfully with her relatives, the Borgias, and parried with a succession of churlish popes and foreign monarchs during the stormy years when France, Germany and Spain preyed on the warring Italian kingdoms. Rome was sacked in 1527, forcing Isabella to flee. The novel explores Isabella's roles as herbalist, musician, connoisseur of painting and friend to writers like Ariosto and Castiglione, whose principles of elegance she embodied. When her wayward husband Francesco Gonzaga died, Isabella lavished her controlling love on her favorite, though resisting son Federico. The novel's wealth of period detail should please readers with a patient interest in history, but the flow of the story is, alas, turgid. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
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