Herculean Ferrara: Ercole d'Este (1471-1505) and the Invention of a Ducal Capital

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Ercole d'Este (1471-1505) is perhaps best known as the father of Isabella d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, but his court in Ferrara was one of the most glittering in Renaissance Italy. He was an extremely prolific builder and laid out plans which doubled the size of the city. He was also the leader in the revival of classical theatre, an enthusiastic patron of musicians, and a creator of magnificent court spectacles. Very little survives to testify to Ercole's achievements, largely on account of a devastating earthquake in 1570, but considerable archival evidence has been used to re-establish the duke's achievements and the extent to which he was personally involved in his patronage. This evidence runs contrary to many currently held assumptions, and although Herculean Ferrara deals with one court and one ruler it also challenges some of the basic notions about the relationship between artist and patron during the Renaissance.