Alfonso d'Este (1476-1534)

The d'Este family ruled the city-state of Ferrara throughout the Renaissance. When Alfonso d'Este became the Duke of Ferrara in 1505, he was as ambitious as any Renaissance prince, achieving wealth and influence through alliances with France and Spain against the Pope. Alfonso married the controversial Lucrezia Borgia who was the daughter of the Pope. Alexander VI, and who was falsely accused of poisoning her previous husband and of incestuous relations with her father.

In the Italian Wars Alfonso entered the League of Cambrai against Venice and remained an ally of Louis XII of France even after Pope Julius II had made peace with Venice. The pope declared Alfonso's fiefs forfeited and excommunicated him (1510); Modena and Reggio were lost. However, in 152627 Alfonso participated in the expedition of Charles V, Holy Roman emperor and king of Spain, against Pope Clement VII, and in 1530 the pope again recognized him as possessor of those duchies.

Alfonso created at Ferrara a truly magnificent court, attracting there famous writers, poets and painters. For his palace at Ferrara, Alfonso commissioned art from the most gifted artists of the age, the jewel of his collection being a painting by Giovanni Bellini, the acknowledged leader of Venetian art. The Feast of the Gods was the last painting which Bellini was to complete before his death in 1516. Ariosto lived at his court in Ferrara after a long employment by Alfonso's brother, Ippolito I, Cardinal d'Este, 14791520, to whom Ariosto's Orlando Furioso is dedicated.