While all this construction had flown up around her, Isabella had felt that, along with the old-fashioned city of pointed arches and endless spires, life itself was spreading out in broader directions. Narrow streets, dark halls with low ceilings, and cramped corridors were things of the past. Lamps and candles illuminated rooms once kept dark. People were reading and talking in these well-lit drawing rooms late into the night. Ancient manuscripts, once the property of the church and private collectors alone, were being translated from Greek and Latin into Italian right here at Ferrara's university, and Venetian and Milanese printers were making copies of them and selling them all over the country. In the years after her father had defeated and executed his rivals and made peace with the Venetian Republic, the old Castello d'Este with its famous four towers was quickly transformed from fortress to grand residential palazzo. The soldiers, along with their weapons and artillery, were moved to the older, colder, more stern quarters, while the family and members of the court occupied the newer and more spacious halls and apartments, decorated with the works of the greatest artists of the decades, all of whom had passed through Ferrara in the service of the Este family--Pisanello, Piero della Francesca, the Venetian Jacopo Bellini, Cosimo Tura.
Excerpted from Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex, pages 5-12. Copyright © 2006 by Karen Essex. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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