Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Powers Behind an Artistic Revolution

Mary Hollingsworth. Pegasus, $35 (504p) ISBN 978-1-64313-546-5
Historian Hollingsworth (The Cardinal’s Hat) offers a lively and well-organized group portrait of nobles who patronized the artists of the Italian Renaissance. Members of the Sforza, de Medici, d’Este, and Borgia dynasties make frequent appearances as Hollingsworth details the alliances they built and broke in order to maintain power. Often, their status depended on staying in the good graces of the pope and his own extensive network of relatives and allies. For example, Hollingsworth describes how cardinal Ascania Sforza’s help in getting Rodrigo Borgia elected as Pope Alexander VI in 1492 helped Sforza to survive a later accusation that he murdered the pontiff’s son, Juan Borgia. Hollingsworth also profiles military commander Sigismondo Malatesta and shows how aristocrat Leonello d’Este’s reformation of the University of Ferrara, beginning in 1442, foreshadowed the humanistic direction of the Renaissance. Throughout, Hollingsworth shares memorable details about the period’s art and architecture, noting, for example, that Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Lady with an Ermine immortalizes the mistress of his patron, the Duke of Milan. Extensive color photographs enhance and reinforce Hollingsworth’s vivid biographical sketches and astute synthesis of the era’s tumultuous politics. The result is an accessible and entertaining introduction to a groundbreaking period in world and art history. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 10/16/2020
Release date: 03/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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