Lucrezia Borgia

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Lucrezia Borgia
Portrait of a Woman by Bartolomeo Veneto, traditionally assumed to be Lucrezia Borgia.
Born(1480-04-18)18 April 1480
Subiaco, Italy
Died24 June 1519(1519-06-24) (aged 39)
Noble familyHouse of Borgia
Spouse(s)Giovanni Sforza
Alfonso of Aragon
Alfonso d'Este
Rodrigo of Aragon
Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara
Ippolito II d'Este
Alessandro d'Este
Leonora d'Este
Francesco d'Este, Marchese di Massalombarda
Isabella Maria d'Este
FatherPope Alexander VI
MotherVannozza dei Cattanei
“Lucretia de Borgia” in a letter to his sister Isabella Gonzaga (March 1519)
Possible portrait of Lucrezia Borgia assumed to be by Dosso Dossi[1][2]
Lucrecia as St. Catherine of Alexandria in a fresco by Pinturicchio, in the Borgia apartments in the Vatican c. 1494

Lucrezia Borgia (18 April 1480 – 24 June 1519) was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI, and his long-term mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei. Her brothers included Cesare Borgia, Giovanni Borgia, and Gioffre Borgia.

Lucrezia's family was typical of the ruthless Machiavellian politics and sexual corruption of the times. It was alleged to be characteristic of the Renaissance Papacy. Lucrezia was cast as a femme fatale, a role seen in many artworks, novels, and films.

Very little is known for sure about Lucrezia. Whether she was involved in the political activities of her father and brothers is unclear. They certainly arranged several marriages for her to important and powerful men. Presumably, this helped their own political ambitions. Lucrezia was married to Giovanni Sforza (Lord of Pesaro), Alfonso of Aragon (Duke of Bisceglie), and Alfonso I d'Este (Duke of Ferrara). Tradition has it that Alfonso of Aragon was an illegitimate son of the King of Naples and that her brother Cesare may have had him murdered when his political value faded.

Appearance[change | change source]

Lucrezia is described as having heavy blonde hair which fell past her knees, a beautiful complexion, hazel eyes which changed colour, a full, high bosom, and a natural grace which made her appear to "walk on air".[3] These features were highly appreciated in Italy during that period. Another description said that "her mouth is rather large, the teeth brilliantly white, her neck is slender and fair, and the bust is admirably proportioned".[4]

One painting, Portrait of a Youth by Dosso Dossi at the National Gallery of Victoria, was identified as a portrait of Lucrezia in November 2008.[5][6][7][8][9] This painting may be the only surviving formal portrait of Lucrezia Borgia; however, doubts have been cast on that claim.[10] Several other paintings, such as Veneto's fanciful portrait, have also been said to depict her but none has been accepted by scholars at present.

Rumours[change | change source]

Several rumours have persisted throughout the years, especially about the extravagant parties thrown by the Borgia family. There were allegations of incest, poisoning, and murder on her part, but no historical basis for these rumours has ever been found. Most of the allegations were made by the rivals of the Borgias.

  • It is rumoured that Lucrezia was in possession of a hollow ring that she used to poison drinks.[11][12]
  • An early 20th century painting by Frank Cadogan Cowper that hangs in the London art gallery, Tate Britain, portrays Lucrezia taking the place of her father, Pope Alexander VI, at an official Vatican meeting. This apparently documents an actual event, although the precise moment depicted (a Franciscan friar kissing Lucrezia's feet) was invented by the artist.[13]

Biographies[change | change source]

  • Lucrezia Borgia: life, love and death in Renaissance Italy by Sarah Bradford; Viking 2004; ISBN 0-670-03353-7
  • Lucrezia Borgia: a biography by Rachel Erlanger; 1978; ISBN 0-8015-4725-3
  • Lucrezia Borgia by Maria Bellonci; Phoenix 2002; ISBN 978-1-84212-616-5
  • The Borgias (1971) by Michael Mallett
  • Lucretia Borgia (1874?) by Ferdinand Gregorovius; translated in 1903 by John Leslie Garner
  • The Borgias by Christopher Hibbert; Constable 2011; ISBN 978-1-84901-994-1

References[change | change source]

  1. "NGV's Renaissance mystery woman revealed". Brisbane Times. 25 November 2008.
  2. Maike Vogt-Luerssen: Lucrezia Borgia: The Life of a Pope's Daughter in the Renaissance, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4537-2740-9, pp. 90–91.
  3. Marek, George R. 1976. The bed and the throne: the life of Isabella d'Este, New York: Harper & Row, p. 142. ISBN 978-0-06-012810-4
  4. The Times Arts section page 14, 31 January 2011
  5. NGV's Renaissance mystery woman revealed, The Age, 25 November 2008, retrieved on 25 November 2008.
  6. Only known painting of Lucrezia Borgia discovered in Australian gallery The Times, London, 25 November 2008
  7. Infamous Renaissance woman subject of mystery portrait – Australian Broadcasting Corporation 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  8. Gallery unveils portrait of infamy, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  9. Portrait of Renaissance femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia found at NGV, The Age, 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  10. Art detective says the brother did it, The Age, 27 November 2008
  11. Lucretia Borgia | Pank (5 February 2002).
  12. BBC – h2g2 – A brief history of poisoning, 28 July 2005.
  13. "Tate Collection | Lucretia Borgia reigns in the Vatican in the absence of Pope Alexander VI: Frank Cadogan Cowper 1877–1958". Archived from the original on 2011-04-15. Retrieved 2013-07-01.