The Este Dynasty of Ferrara, Italy: Background information when reading The Marriage Portrait

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The Marriage Portrait

A novel

by Maggie O'Farrell

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell X
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2022, 352 pages

    Jul 11, 2023, 352 pages


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About this Book

The Este Dynasty of Ferrara, Italy

This article relates to The Marriage Portrait

Painting of Isabella d'Este by TitianIn The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O'Farrell captures the dark personality of Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara (a region in northern Italy), who lived from 1533 to 1597. Alfonso was the last in his family lineage, which stretched back to the 13th century. As monarchs around the world have experienced throughout history, a lack of male heirs doomed the Este dynasty — despite marrying three times, Alfonso fathered no children. Prior to the end of the line, however, the Este family produced some of the most colorful characters and generous art patrons of the Italian Renaissance.

The most notable members of the family include Ercole I (d. 1505), who became a leading patron by bringing artists to the court at Ferrara — he had a particular fondness for music and theater. His two daughters, Beatrice and Isabella, were famous in their time both for their love of fine art and for their political prowess. Beatrice died young, in 1497 at age 21, but she was the wife of the Duke of ...

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