Showing posts with label 1446. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1446. Show all posts

18 April 2018

Ippolita Maria Sforza – noble woman

Learned lady sacrificed happiness for a political alliance

Ippolita Maria Sforza's marriage helped  forge a strong link between Naples and Milan
Ippolita Maria Sforza's marriage helped
forge a strong link between Naples and Milan
Ippolita Maria Sforza, a cultured young noblewoman who wrote poetry, letters and documents in Latin, was born on this day in 1446 in Cremona.

She was married to Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, who later became King Alfonso II of Naples, because it was a politically advantageous alliance, but she did not live long enough to become his Queen consort.

Ippolita was the eldest daughter of Francesco I Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Bianca Maria Visconti.

She was tutored along with her six younger brothers and one younger sister by a Greek scholar who taught her philosophy and Greek.

When she was 14 years old she composed a Latin address for Pope Pius II, which became well known after it was circulated in manuscript form.

She wrote many letters, which were published in Italy in one volume in 1893. She also wrote poetry and a Latin eulogy for her father, Francesco.

Ippolita was married at the age of 19 to Alfonso, the eldest son of King Ferdinand I of Naples. The marriage created a powerful alliance between the Kingdom of Naples and the Duchy of Milan.

A copy of a 1472 bust by Francesco Laurana thought to be of Ippolita Maria Sforza
A copy of a 1472 bust by Francesco Laurana thought to
be of Ippolita Maria Sforza
But her husband, perhaps threatened by her high level of education, treated her with a lack of respect throughout their marriage.

Ippolita’s letters from this period display the adroit diplomacy she used to strengthen the alliance between Milan and Naples amid crises, such as her brother’s assassination in Milan and the Turkish invasion of Otranto.

The couple had three children. Their eldest son, Ferdinand, became King of Naples, their daughter, Isabella, married Gian Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, and their youngest son, Piero, died of an infection after surgery.

Ippolita died at the age of 38 in 1484 in Naples. Her husband then married his long-standing mistress by whom he already had two illegitimate children.

Soon after Ippolita’s death, the Naples-Milan alliance collapsed.

Cremona's bell tower, Il Torrazzo
Cremona's bell tower, Il Torrazzo
Travel tip:

Cremona is famous for having the tallest bell tower in Italy, il Torrazzo, which measures more than 112 metres in height. As well as the manufacture of violins, Cremona is also famous for producing confectionery. Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino specialises in the city’s famous torrone (nougat). The concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites was created in the city to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when Cremona was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

The Palazzo Reale was one of the residences of the  Kings of Naples
The Palazzo Reale was one of the residences of the
Kings of Naples

Travel tip:

In the area around Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples you can see buildings with royal connections. The impressive Palazzo Reale at the eastern end of the piazza was one of the residences of the Kings of Naples at the time the city was capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The palace is home to a 30-room museum and the largest library in southern Italy, both now open to the public. Close to the royal palace is one of the oldest opera houses in the world, built for a Bourbon King of Naples. Teatro di San Carlo was officially opened on 4 November 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice. In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

More reading:

Bianca Maria Visconti - powerful woman who ran Milan

How the despotic Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies ruled for 65 years

Ludovico III Gonzaga - 15th century ruler of Mantua

Also on this day:

1480: The birth of the notorious beauty Lucrezia Borgia

1911: The birth of car maker Ilario Bandini


15 April 2017

Filippo Brunelleschi – architect

Genius who designed the largest brick dome ever constructed

Brunelleschi's Dome dominates the Florence skyline
Brunelleschi's Dome dominates the Florence skyline
One of the founding fathers of the Renaissance, Filippo Brunelleschi, died on this day in 1446 in Florence.

He is remembered for developing a technique for linear perspective in art and for building the dome of Florence Cathedral.

However, his achievements also included sculpture, mathematics, engineering and ship design.

Brunelleschi was born in 1377 in Florence. According to his biographer, Antonio Manetti, and the historian Giorgio Vasari, his father was Brunellesco di Lippo, a notary. Filippo’s education would have equipped him to follow in his father’s footsteps but because he was artistically inclined he was enrolled in the silk merchants guild, which also included goldsmiths and metal workers, and he became a master goldsmith in 1398.

Luigi Pampaloni's 1838 statue of Brunelleschi in Piazza Duomo
Luigi Pampaloni's 1838 statue of
Brunelleschi in Piazza Duomo
In 1401 he entered a competition to design a new set of bronze doors for the Baptistery in Florence. His entry and that of Lorenzo Ghiberti are the only two to have survived.

In the first few years of the 15th century, Brunelleschi and his friend, Donatello, visited Rome together to study the ancient ruins. It is believed they were the first to study the physical fabric of the ruins in any detail.

Brunelleschi’s first architectural commission was the Ospedale degli Innocenti, (Foundling Hospital) in Florence. It had a long loggia and impressive high arches. Later he used similar features in his designs for chapels in Florence.

In 1418 a competition was held for a design for the dome of the new cathedral in Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore. The original designs made provision for a dome when building began in 1296 but no one had been able to work out how to construct one on such a scale. Again the two main competitors were Ghiberti and Brunelleschi, with Brunelleschi winning and receiving the commission.

The dome was to take up most of the rest of Brunelleschi’s life and its success has been attributed to his technical and mathematical genius. Hence it became known as Brunelleschi’s Dome.

The loggia within Brunelleschi's Ospedale degli Innocenti
The loggia is a feature of the Ospedale degli Innocenti
He used more than four million bricks in the construction and invented a new hoisting machine for raising the masonry to the dome, inspired by Roman machines used in the first century AD.

Away from his architectural work, Brunelleschi was also granted the first modern patent for his invention of a river transport vessel. In 1427, he built an enormous ship named Il Badalone to transport marble to Florence from Pisa up the Arno river. Unfortunately, the ship sank on its maiden voyage,

After Brunelleschi’s death, at the age of around 69, his body was placed in the crypt of the cathedral in Florence. Inside the entrance is his epitaph: ‘Both the magnificent dome of this famous church and many other devices invented by Filippo the architect, bear witness to his superb skill. Therefore, in tribute to his exceptional talents a grateful country that will always remember him buries him here in the soil below.’

Brunelleschi's Dome illuminated at night
Brunelleschi's Dome illuminated at night
Travel tip:

Brunelleschi’s Dome was finally put in place in 1436 and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV on 25 March that year. The dome remained the largest in the world until others were constructed using new materials that had been developed for building in modern times. But Brunelleschi’s Dome, the first in history to be built without a wooden frame, is still the largest brick dome ever constructed.  The sculptor Luigi Pampaloni created a statue of Brunelleschi in about 1838, placing it in Piazza del Duomo in a position from which Brunelleschi appears to be looking up at his work.

Hotels in Florence by

Travel tip:

The Ospedale degli Innocenti, literally Hospital of the Innocents, is a magnificent building that still stands in Florence. Brunelleschi was commissioned to design it in 1419 and it is now regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture. The loggia with its nine semi-circular arches faces on to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, a square that is not far from Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

More reading:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini - the Florentine who helped shape Rome

Why Carlo Maderno's facade of St Peter's attracted criticism

Antonio Palladio - the world's favourite architect

Also on this day: 

(Picture credits: Florence skyline by Rufus46; Ospedale degli Innocenti by Warburg; Dome at night by Petar Milosevic; all via Wikimedia Commons)