Ludovico Sforza

Ludovico Sforza

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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
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 and other artists, and presided over the final and most productive stage of the Milanese Renaissance. He is probably best known as the man who commissioned the The Last Supper.

Early life



Ludovico Sforza was born on July 27, 1452, at Vigevano
Vigevano
Vigevano is a town and comune in the province of Pavia, Lombardy, northern Italy, which possesses many artistic treasures and runs a huge industrial business. It is at the center of a district called Lomellina, a great rice-growing agricultural centre...

, in what is now Lombardy
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

. He was the fourth son of Francesco I Sforza
Francesco I Sforza
Francesco I Sforza was an Italian condottiero, the founder of the Sforza dynasty in Milan, Italy. He was the brother of Alessandro, with whom he often fought.-Early life:...

 and Bianca Maria Visconti
Bianca Maria Visconti
Bianca Maria Visconti was Duchess of Milan from 1450 to 1468.-Early years:Born near Settimo Pavese, Bianca Maria was the illegitimate daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan and last of the Visconti rulers, and Agnese del Maino, the only person the shy, secluded Filippo ever loved...

 and, as such, was not expected to become ruler of Milan. Nevertheless his mother, Bianca, prudently saw to it that his education was not restricted to the classical languages. Under the tutelage of the humanist Francesco Filelfo
Francesco Filelfo
Francesco Filelfo was an Italian Renaissance humanist.-Biography:Filelfo was born at Tolentino, in the March of Ancona. He is believed to be a third cousin of Leonardo Da Vinci. At the time of his birth, Petrarch and the students of Florence had already brought the first act in the recovery of...

, Ludovico received instruction in the beauties of painting, sculpture, and letters, but he was also taught the methods of government and warfare. He later helped Leonardo paint with pastels.

Regent of Milan


When their father Francesco died in 1466 (the Last Supper was painted next to his burial place in Santa Maria delle Grazie
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan)
Santa Maria delle Grazie is a church and Dominican convent in Milan, northern Italy, included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list...

), he was succeeded by the dissolute Galeazzo Maria
Galeazzo Maria Sforza
Galeazzo Maria Sforza was Duke of Milan from 1466 until his death. He was famous for being lustful, cruel and tyrannical....

, Ludovico's older brother. Galeazzo Maria ruled until his assassination in 1476, leaving his throne to his seven-year-old son, Gian Galeazzo Sforza
Gian Galeazzo Sforza
Gian Galeazzo Sforza was the sixth Duke of Milan.Born in Abbiategrasso, he was only 7 years old when in 1476 his father, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, was assassinated and Gian Galeazzo became the Duke of Milan...

, Ludovico's nephew. A bitter struggle for the regency with the boy's mother, Bona of Savoy
Bona of Savoy
Bona of Savoy, Duchess of Milan was a the second spouse of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan and a member of the noble Italian House of Savoy. She served as regent of Milan during the minority of her son 1476–1481....

, followed; Ludovico emerged as victor in 1481 and seized control of the government of Milan, despite attempts to keep him out of power. For the next 13 years he controlled Milan as regent.

Marriage and private life


In January 1491, he married Ercole I d'Este's youngest daughter Beatrice d'Este
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....

 (1475–1497) in a double Sforza-Este marriage, while Beatrice's brother, Alfonso d'Este, married Anna Sforza
Anna Sforza
Anna Sforza was the daughter of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan. She married Alfonso I d'Este, future Duke of Ferrara.-Biography:...

, Lodovico's niece. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 orchestrated the wedding celebration. Beatrice and Alfonso’s sister, Isabella d'Este
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...

 (1474–1539) was married to Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua
Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua
Francesco II Gonzaga was the ruler of the Italian city of Mantua from 1484 until his death.-Biography:Gonzaga was born in Mantua, the son of Marquess Federico I Gonzaga. He had a career as a condottiero acting as Venice's commander from 1489 to 1498...

.

The 15-year-old princess quickly charmed the Milanese court with her joy in life, her laughter, and even her extravagance. She helped to make the Sforza castle a center of sumptuous festivals and balls and she loved entertaining philosophers, poets, diplomats, and soldiers. Beatrice had good taste, and it is said that under her prompting her husband's patronage of artists became more selective and the likes of Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 and Donato Bramante
Donato Bramante
Donato Bramante was an Italian architect, who introduced the Early Renaissance style to Milan and the High Renaissance style to Rome, where his most famous design was St...

 were employed at the court. She would become the mother of Maximilian Sforza
Maximilian Sforza
Maximilian Sforza was a Duke of Milan from the Sforza family, the son of Lodovico Sforza. He ruled between the occupations of Louis XII of France , and Francis I of France in 1515...

 and Francesco II Sforza
Francesco II Sforza
Francesco II Sforza , also known as Francesco Maria Sforza, was the last Duke of Milan from 1521 until his death.He was the son of Ludovico Sforza and Beatrice d'Este...

, future Dukes of Milan.

Despite his marriage, Ludovico had at least two mistresses. Cecilia Gallerani
Cecilia Gallerani
Cecilia Gallerani , born in Siena, Italy, was the favourite and most celebrated of the many mistresses of Ludovico Sforza, known as Lodovico il Moro, Duke of Milan. She is best known as the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Lady with an Ermine...

  gave birth to his child, a son named Cesare, on 3 May 1491, in the same year in which he married Beatrice d'Este. Gallerani is thought to be the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine
Lady with an Ermine
Lady with an Ermine is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, from around 1489–1490. The subject of the portrait is identified as Cecilia Gallerani, and was probably painted at a time when she was the mistress of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Leonardo was in the service of the Duke.The painting is...

– the ermine was the heraldic animal of Ludovico il Moro. Another mistress was Lucrezia Crivelli
Lucrezia Crivelli
Lucrezia Crivelli was a mistress of Ludovico Sforza, il Moro, Duke of Milan . Lucrezia was thought to be the model Leonardo da Vinci used for La belle ferronnière, which is now in the Louvre, in Paris...

, who bore him another illegitimate son, Giovanni Paolo
Giovanni Paolo I Sforza
Giovanni Paolo I Sforza was an Italian condottiero, the first in the Sforza family line of the Marquesses of Caravaggio....

, born in the year of Beatrice's death. He was a condottiero.

Rule as Regent


Ludovico contented himself with the realities rather than the appearance of power. He invested in agriculture, horse and cattle breeding, and the metal industry. Some 20,000 workers were employed in the silk industry. Artists and craftsmen labored to make the court of Milan the most splendid in Italy. Lodovico continued work on the Cathedral of Milan and had the streets of his capital widened and adorned with gardens. The universities of Pavia
Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

 and Milan flourished under him. There was some grumbling at the heavy taxation necessary to support these ventures, and a few riots resulted.

Ascension as Duke of Milan and the Italian Wars


In 1494 the new king of Naples, Alfonso, allied himself with Pope Alexander VI, posing a threat to Milan. Ludovico decided to fend him off using France, then ruled by the powerful Charles VIII
Charles VIII of France
Charles VIII, called the Affable, , was King of France from 1483 to his death in 1498. Charles was a member of the House of Valois...

, as his ally. He permitted the French troops to pass through Milan so that they might attack Naples. However Charles's ambition was not satisfied with Naples,and he subsequently laid claim to Milan itself. Bitterly regretting his decision, Ludovico then entered an alliance with Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

, by offering him in marriage his niece Bianca Sforza and receiving, in return, imperial investiture of the duchy and joining the league against France.

Gian Galeazzo, his nephew, died under suspicious conditions in 1495, and the throne of Milan fell to Ludovico, who hastened to assume the ducal title and received the ducal crown from the Milanese nobles on 22 October. But by then, his luck seemed to have run out. On 3 January 1497, as the result of a difficult child-birth, Beatrice, his wife, died. Ludovico was inconsolable, and the entire court was shrouded in gloom. Ludovico had also hoped that by involving France
The French
The French are a British rock band, formed by Darren Hayman and John Morrison after the band Hefner declared an indefinite hiatus. Musically there is a specific continuity between Hefner and The French, which is manifested not only in the lyrics and compositions but also in the use of vintage drum...

, and the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

, Maximilian I
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

, in Italian politics, he could manipulate the two and reap the rewards himself, and was thus responsible for starting the Italian Wars
Italian Wars
The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Italian Wars or the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559 that involved, at various times, most of the city-states of Italy, the Papal States, most of the major states of Western...

. At first, Ludovico defeated the French at the Battle of Fornovo
Battle of Fornovo
The Battle of Fornovo took place 30 km southwest of the city of Parma on 6 July 1495. The League of Venice was able to temporarily expel the French from the Italian Peninsula. It was the first major battle of the Italian Wars.-Antecedents:...

 in 1495 (making weapons from 80 tons of bronze originally intended for Leonardo da Vinci's equestrian statue of the duke).
However, with the death of Charles, the French Throne was inherited by his cousin, Louis of Orléans, who became Louis XII of France
Louis XII of France
Louis proved to be a popular king. At the end of his reign the crown deficit was no greater than it had been when he succeeded Charles VIII in 1498, despite several expensive military campaigns in Italy. His fiscal reforms of 1504 and 1508 tightened and improved procedures for the collection of taxes...

. The new king had a hereditary claim to Milan, as his paternal grandmother was Valentina Visconti
Valentina Visconti
Not to be confused with Valentina Visconti, Queen of CyprusValentina Visconti was the wife of Louis de Valois, Duke of Orléans, a younger brother of Charles VI of France....

, daughter of Giangaleazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan. Hence in 1498, he descended upon Milan. As none of the other Italian states would help, the ruler who had invited the French into Italy four years earlier, Louis, was successful in driving out Ludovico from Milan. Ludovico managed to escape the French armies and, in 1499, sought help from Maximilian and meanwhile the French had entered Milan.

Ludovico returned with an army of mercenaries and reentered Milan in February 1500. Two months later, Louis XII laid siege to the city of Novara
Novara
Novara is the capital city of the province of Novara in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy, to the west of Milan. With c. 105,000 inhabitants, it is the second most populous city in Piedmont after Turin. It is an important crossroads for commercial traffic along the routes from Milan to Turin...

, where Ludovico was based. The armies of both sides included Swiss mercenaries. The Swiss did not want to fight each other and chose to leave Novara. Ludovico was handed over to the French
Treason of Novara
The so-called Treason of Novara was an incident which took place in 1500 in the context of the involvement of the Old Swiss Confederacy in the Italian Wars....

 in April 1500. Deprived of all the amenities of life, he spent his last years in the underground dungeon at Loches
Loches
Loches is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France.It is situated southeast of Tours by railway, on the left bank of the Indre River.-History:...

, where he died on 17 May 1508. The Swiss later executed a soldier from Uri
Canton of Uri
Uri is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and a founding member of the Swiss Confederation. It is located in Central Switzerland. The canton's territory covers the valley of the Reuss River between Lake Lucerne and the St. Gotthard Pass. German is the primary language spoken in Uri...

, called Hans Turmann, who had, they claimed, betrayed his employer for money.

The Swiss later restored the duchy of Milan to Ludovico's son, Maximilian Sforza
Maximilian Sforza
Maximilian Sforza was a Duke of Milan from the Sforza family, the son of Lodovico Sforza. He ruled between the occupations of Louis XII of France , and Francis I of France in 1515...

. His other son, Francesco II
Francesco II Sforza
Francesco II Sforza , also known as Francesco Maria Sforza, was the last Duke of Milan from 1521 until his death.He was the son of Ludovico Sforza and Beatrice d'Este...

, also held the Duchy of Milan
Duchy of Milan
The Duchy of Milan , was created on the 1st of may 1395, when Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, purchased a diploma for 100,000 Florins from King Wenceslaus. It was this diploma that installed, Gian Galeazzo as Duke of Milan and Count of Pavia...

 for a short period. Francesco II died in 1535, sparking the Italian War of 1535
Italian War of 1535
The Italian War of 1536-1538 between Charles V and Francis I of France began with the death of Francesco Maria Sforza, the duke of Milan. When Charles' son Philip inherited the duchy, Francis invaded Italy, capturing Turin, but failed to take Milan...

, as a result of which Milan passed to the Spanish Empire
Habsburg Spain
Habsburg Spain refers to the history of Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries , when Spain was ruled by the major branch of the Habsburg dynasty...

.

Treatments and references


In the American 2011 Showtime series The Borgias
The Borgias (2011 TV series)
The Borgias is a 2011 historical fiction television series created by Neil Jordan.The series is based on the Borgia family, an Italian dynasty of Spanish origin, and stars Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI with David Oakes, François Arnaud, Holliday Grainger and Aidan Alexander as Juan, Cesare,...

, Ludovico is played by British actor Ivan Kaye
Ivan Kaye
Ivan Kaye is a British actor. He previously played Dr. Johnathon Leroy in a recurrent role in EastEnders, and he played Bryan in The Green Green Grass...

.

External links