Shirley Smith

Renaissance Art Historian

Tel. +44 (0)1728 638 271

Email. [email protected]


The Garden House, Bruisyard,

Saxmundham, Suffolk, IP17 2ED

Isabelle d'Este, Collector and Patron of Art:

By Fair Means or Foul?


Isabella d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua, could be called autocratic: she wrote a letter 70 pages long to the artist Perugino to ensure that his painting conform to her wishes and even included a piece of string to denote the size of the figures. She has also been accused of being less than honest in her methods of acquiring her precious antiques. Yet she became renowned as one of the greatest patrons of art in the early 16th century despite the fact that, unlike her male counterparts, it was not deemed fitting for a woman to commission vast buildings decorated with magnificent fresco cycles.


So how did this remarkable lady achieve this renown and how did she overcome the strictures of her gender and of her often somewhat limited purse?

Tiziano Vecellio Isabella d'Este, Duchess of Mantua 1536

Image source: Web Gallery of Art