Ercole d'Este I

Ercole d'Este I

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Ercole I d'Este was Duke of Ferrara from 1471 until 1505. He was a member of the house of Este
Este
The House of Este is a European princely dynasty. It is split into two branches; the elder is known as the House of Welf-Este or House of Welf historically rendered in English, Guelf or Guelph...

. He was nicknamed North Wind and the Diamond.

Biography


Ercole was born at Ferrara
Ferrara
Ferrara is a city and comune in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy, capital city of the Province of Ferrara. It is situated 50 km north-northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano, a branch channel of the main stream of the Po River, located 5 km north...

 to Nicolò III and Ricciarda da Saluzzo. His maternal grandparents were Thomas III of Saluzzo
Thomas III of Saluzzo
-Biography:He was born in Saluzzo in north-western Italy to Frederick II del Vasto and Beatrice of Geneva. His maternal grandfather was Hugh of Geneva, Lord of Gex, Anthon and Varey....

 and Marguerite of Roussy.

He was educated at the Neapolitan
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 court of Alfonso, king of Aragon and Naples, from 1445 to 1460; there he studied military arts, chivalry, and acquired the appreciation for architecture all'antica and the fine arts, which would result in his becoming one of the most significant art patrons of the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

.

In 1471, with the support of the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, he became Duke on the death of his half-brother Borso, profiting of the absence of the latter's son, Niccolò, who was in Mantua.
During an absence of Ercole from Ferrara, Niccolò attempted a coup, which was however crushed; Niccolò and his cousin Azzo were beheaded on September 4, 1476. Ercole married Eleonora d'Aragona
Leonora of Naples
Eleanor of Naples was, by marriage, the first Duchess of Ferrara....

, daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples
Ferdinand I of Naples
Ferdinand I , also called Don Ferrante, was the King of Naples from 1458 to 1494. He was the natural son of Alfonso V of Aragon by Giraldona Carlino.-Biography:...

, in 1473. The Este alliance with Naples was to prove a powerful one.

In 1482-1484 he fought a war with the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, which was allied with Ercole's nemesis, the Della Rovere Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV , born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age,...

, occasioned by the salt monopoly, the War of Ferrara. Ercole was able to end the war by ceding the Polesine
Polesine
Polesine is a geographic and historic area in the north-east of Italy corresponding nowadays with the province of Rovigo; it is a strip of land about 100-km long and 18-km wide located between the lower courses of the Adige and the Po rivers.- Geography :...

 at the Peace of Bagnolo
Peace of Bagnolo
The War of Ferrara ending with the Peace of Bagnolo, was fought in 1482-1484 between Ercole I d'Este, duke of Ferrara, and the Papal forces mustered by Ercole's personal nemesis, Pope Sixtus IV and his Venetian allies...

, and Ferrara escaped the fate of destruction or absorption into the papal dominions, but the war was a humiliation for Ercole, who lay sick and immobilized while the besieging army destroyed Este properties in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

After this, he remained neutral in the Italian War of 1494-1498, and tried for the rest of his rule to improve relations with the Papal states
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

. He reluctantly agreed to the marriage of his son Alfonso to Lucrezia Borgia
Lucrezia Borgia
Lucrezia Borgia [luˈkrɛtsia ˈbɔrʤa] was the illegitimate daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, the powerful Renaissance Valencian who later became Pope Alexander VI, and Vannozza dei Cattanei. Her brothers included Cesare Borgia, Giovanni Borgia, and Gioffre Borgia...

, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, a marriage that brought notable territorial donations.

His subsequent career as a patron may be seen to some extent as compensation for the early military setback: significantly, Ercole was the only Italian ruler who characterized himself as divus on his coinage, like a Roman emperor.

The scale and consistency of Ercole's patronage of the arts was in part a political and cultural statement. He hosted theatrical representations with elaborate scenery and musical intermezzi, some of the first purely secular theatre in Europe since Antiquity and was successful in setting up a musical establishment which was for a few years the finest in Europe, overshadowing the Vatican chapel itself. For the next century Ferrara was to retain the character of a center of avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 music with a decidedly secular emphasis. In music history Ercole was one of the Italian nobles most responsible for bringing the talented Franco-Flemish
Franco-Flemish School
In music, the Franco-Flemish School or more precisely the Netherlandish School refers, somewhat imprecisely, to the style of polyphonic vocal music composition in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, and to the composers who wrote it...

 musicians from northern Europe into Italy. The most famous composers of Europe either worked for him, were commissioned by him, or dedicated music to him, including Alexander Agricola
Alexander Agricola
Alexander Agricola was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance. A prominent member of the Grande chapelle, the Habsburg musical establishment, he was a renowned composer in the years around 1500, and his music was widely distributed throughout Europe...

, Jacob Obrecht
Jacob Obrecht
Jacob Obrecht was a Flemish composer of the Renaissance. He was the most famous composer of masses in Europe in the late 15th century, being eclipsed by only Josquin des Prez after his death.-Life:...

, Heinrich Isaac
Heinrich Isaac
Heinrich Isaac was a Franco-Flemish Renaissance composer of south Netherlandish origin. He wrote masses, motets, songs , and instrumental music. A significant contemporary of Josquin des Prez, Isaac influenced the development of music in Germany...

, Adrian Willaert
Adrian Willaert
Adrian Willaert was a Flemish composer of the Renaissance and founder of the Venetian School. He was one of the most representative members of the generation of northern composers who moved to Italy and transplanted the polyphonic Franco-Flemish style there....

, and Josquin des Prez
Josquin Des Prez
Josquin des Prez [Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez] , often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance...

, whose Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae
Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae
The Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae is a setting of the Ordinary of the Mass composed by Josquin des Prez, and dedicated to Ercole d'Este I, Duke of Ferrara...

not only is dedicated to him, but is based on a theme drawn from the syllables of the Duke's name.

Ercole is equally famous as a patron of the arts, as much an expression of his conscious magnificence as his cultivated aloofness, grave and stern as befitted the new ducal rank of Ferrara (Manca 1989:524ff). He made the poet Boiardo
Matteo Maria Boiardo
Matteo Maria Boiardo was an Italian Renaissance poet.Boiardo was born at, or near, Scandiano ; the son of Giovanni di Feltrino and Lucia Strozzi, he was of noble lineage, ranking as Count of Scandiano, with seignorial power over Arceto, Casalgrande, Gesso, and Torricella...

 his minister, and also brought the young Ludovico Ariosto
Ludovico Ariosto
Ludovico Ariosto was an Italian poet. He is best known as the author of the romance epic Orlando Furioso . The poem, a continuation of Matteo Maria Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato, describes the adventures of Charlemagne, Orlando, and the Franks as they battle against the Saracens with diversions...

 into his household.

Under Ercole Ferrara became one of the leading cities of Europe; it underwent substantial growth in the Ercolean Addition, approximately doubling in size, under Ercole's direct guidance, producing the first planned and executed urbanistic project of the Renaissance. To enclose it, he extended the city's walls, hiring architect Biagio Rossetti
Biagio Rossetti
Biagio Rossetti was an Italian architect and urbanist from Ferrara. A military engineer since 1483, and the ducal architect of Ercole I d'Este, in 1492 Rossetti was assigned the project of enlarging the city of Ferrara....

 for the work. Many of Ferrara's most famous buildings date from his reign.

Ercole was an admirer of church reformer Girolamo Savonarola
Girolamo Savonarola
Girolamo Savonarola was an Italian Dominican friar, Scholastic, and an influential contributor to the politics of Florence from 1494 until his execution in 1498. He was known for his book burning, destruction of what he considered immoral art, and what he thought the Renaissance—which began in his...

, who was also from Ferrara, and sought his advice on both spiritual and political matters. Approximately a dozen letters between the two survive from the 1490s. Ercole attempted to have Savonarola freed by the Florentine church authorities, but was unsuccessful; the reformist monk was burned at the stake in 1498.

In 1503 or 1504, Ercole asked his newly-hired composer Josquin des Prez
Josquin Des Prez
Josquin des Prez [Josquin Lebloitte dit Desprez] , often referred to simply as Josquin, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance...

 to write a musical testament for him, structured on Savonarola's prison meditation Infelix ego
Infelix ego
Infelix ego is a Latin meditation on the Miserere, Psalm 51, composed in prison by Girolamo Savonarola by 8 May 1498, after he was tortured on the rack, and two weeks before he was burned at the stake in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence on 23 May 1498...

. The result was the Miserere
Miserere (Josquin)
The Miserere, by Josquin des Prez, is a motet setting of Psalm 51 for five voices. He composed it while in the employ of Duke Ercole I d'Este in Ferrara, most likely in 1503 or 1504...

, probably first performed for Holy Week in 1504, with the tenor part possibly sung by the Duke himself.

Ercole died in 1505, and his son Alfonso became Duke.

Family and issue


Ercole and Eleonora had six children:
  • Alfonso (who would later marry the infamous Lucrezia Borgia
    Lucrezia Borgia
    Lucrezia Borgia [luˈkrɛtsia ˈbɔrʤa] was the illegitimate daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, the powerful Renaissance Valencian who later became Pope Alexander VI, and Vannozza dei Cattanei. Her brothers included Cesare Borgia, Giovanni Borgia, and Gioffre Borgia...

    )
  • Isabella
    Isabella d'Este
    Isabella d'Este was Marchesa of Mantua and one of the leading women of the Italian Renaissance as a major cultural and political figure. She was a patron of the arts as well as a leader of fashion, whose innovative style of dressing was copied by women throughout Italy and at the French court...

     born 1474 (who would later prove to be one of the most powerful women of the Renaissance
    Renaissance
    The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

    )
  • Beatrice
    Beatrice d'Este
    Beatrice d'Este , duchess of Milan, one of the most beautiful and accomplished princesses of the Italian Renaissance, was the daughter of Ercole I d'Este and younger sister of Isabella d'Este and Alfonso d'Este....

     born 1475 (who would marry Ludovico Sforza
    Ludovico Sforza
    Ludovico Sforza , was Duke of Milan from 1489 until his death. A member of the Sforza family, he was the fourth son of Francesco Sforza. He was famed as a patron of Leonardo da Vinci and other artists, and presided over the final and most productive stage of the Milanese Renaissance...

    , the future Duke of Milan)
  • Ferrante (who was thrown in prison by his brother Alfonso in 1506, where he died 34 years later)
  • Ippolito
    Ippolito d'Este
    Ippolito d'Este was an Italian Roman Catholic cardinal, and Archbishop of Esztergom. He was a member of the House of Este.-Biography:...

     (cardinal, army commander and patron of the arts)
  • Sigismondo


Ercole had two illegitimate children:
  • Lucrezia d'Este
    Lucrezia d'Este
    *Lucrezia d'Este, born ca 1477. daughter of Ercole I d'Este. Married Annibale II Bentivoglio .*Lucrezia d'Este , daughter of Ercole II d'Este....

    , born ca 1477. Married Annibale II Bentivoglio
    Annibale II Bentivoglio
    Annibale II Bentivoglio was an Italian condottiero, who was shortly lord of Bologna in 1511–1512. He was the last member of his family to hold power in the city. He was the son of Giovanni II Bentivoglio....

  • Giulio

External links