This program is over.

Hope you didn't miss it! Use the links in the left-hand column to find upcoming programs.

Art, Power, and Pleasure in Italy’s Renaissance Courts

All-Day Program

Saturday, August 5, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Code: 1H0250
Text Size
- +
The Court of Gonzaga, fresco, ca. 1465–1474, by Andrea Mantegna (Ducal Palace, Mantua)

Many a museumgoer has spent time appreciating a Renaissance painting of beautiful Florence perhaps, or a glorious scene set in ancient Rome. But in another Renaissance world in northern Italy, mercenary soldiers and humanist courtiers populate an art created for families who used every means necessary to assert their right to rule. Join art historian Lisa Passaglia Bauman for an exploration of Italy’s four northern court cities—Ferrara, Urbino, Mantua, and Milan—where artists as famous as Da Vinci and Mantegna, and patrons as notorious as the fearsome Federico da Montefeltro and the elegant Isabella d’Este  lived and worked. Along the way, discover how art played a role in constructing family identity and the politics of style.

9:30–10:45 a.m.  Ferrara and the Invention of a Court Culture

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Ferrara was a cultural center renowned for its music and art, as well as the discriminating tastes of its patrons, the d’Este family. The National Gallery’s own Feast of the Gods by Giovanni Bellini was painted for them.

11 a.m.–12 noon  Art and Ambition in Urbino

Federico da Montefeltro was nicknamed “The Light of Italy” for his contributions to Renaissance culture. He and his beloved wife, Battista Sforza, are immortalized in a magnificent double portrait by the enigmatic painter Piero della Francesca.

12:15–1:15 p.m.  Lunch (participants provide their own.)

1:15–2:30 p.m.  Mantua: a Renaissance Partnership

When Mantua’s ruler Francesco Gonzaga was away, fighting as a mercenary, his wife, Isabella d’Este, ruled in his absence. Under their reign, Mantua experienced a great age of cultural splendor, graced by the presence of artists such as Andrea Mantegna and Leonardo da Vinci.

2:45–4 p.m.  Milan: Art and Authority 

Similar to the Medici in Florence, the Sforza family ruled Milan by force, ruse, and a well-developed program of propaganda, provided by none other than the acclaimed Leonardo da Vinci. 

Bauman is an assistant professor of art history at George Mason University.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit

Smithsonian Connections

Learn more about Lisa Passaglia Bauman.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)