Courtiers and Courtesans in High Renaissance Literature
While other regions of Europe were coalescing into large, powerful states,
Italy remained divided into many independent city-states and principalities.
Here are two early portraits of the vigorous young Spanish and French monarchs c. 1515:
Charles V Habsburg Francis I Valois
Here are portraits of these two later in life.
On the left is Charles V painted by Titian and on the right is Francis I painted by Jean Clouet:
Both of these powerful rulers had designs on Italy; the fate of the peninsula in the 16th century would depend on the political relations of Spain and France with the Italian states – especially with the papacy.
Popes Leo X and Clement VII had to walk a fine line between siding with Spain or France.
Raphael Portrait of Pope Leo X de Medici
Raphael has portrayed the pope flanked by two cardinals who are also his relatives. On the left is Giulio de’ Medici…
…who later became Pope Clement VII
Sebastiano del Piombo, Portrait of Clement VII c.1531
Eventually Pope Clement VII chose to side with France and when the French king was captured by the Spanish at the Battle of Pavia, Italy was again in danger of invasion, this time by imperial troops .
Battle of Pavia in 1525
Charles V, who had inherited not only the crown of Spain, but also the title of Holy Roman Emperor was suddenly the most powerful man in Europe and he turned his sights on Italy.
Titian Portrait of Emperor Charles V
The pope assembled forces led by general Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino
Titian Portrait of Francesco Maria della Rovere
With Francesco Guicciardini as lieutenant-general of the papal troops and the condottiero Giovanni de’ Medici in command of a striking force known as the “Black Bands”
Gian Paolo Pace, Portrait of Giovanni de’ Medici
Imperial forces were comprised of multi-national mercenary soldiers led by French nobleman Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
and German military commander Georg von Frundsberg
Frundsberg commanded 14,000 pikesmen known as Landsknechts
Hans Holbein the Younger, Infantry Battle c. 1530
Papal troops were able to hold the invaders off for a time, but Federico II Gonzaga Marquess of Mantua provided imperial troops with supplies and safe passage though his territory, while Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara supplied the enemy with artillery.
Federico II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara
One of the weapons Alfonso d’Este provided to the German troops was a small canon known as a falconet, one of which shot and killed Giovanni de’ Medici.
After crossing the Po River, the imperial troops headed south to Rome, growing in number along the way, excited by the prospect of riches to be looted from the city of Rome.
On 5 May, Bourbon and his armies camped in the fields of Monte Mario on the Janiculum hill, south of the walls of Rome
On the morning of 6 May 1527 at dawn around 35,000 imperial troops attacked Rome.
The city walls of Rome were old and crumbling…
The attackers broke through at the walls on the north side of the city (upper-left corner of map):
The Pope and all his Curia were forced to flee along the narrow connecting passageway known as the Passetto di Borgo, which connects the Vatican to the fortified Castel Sant’Angelo
Thousands died in the bloodbath on the streets of Rome…
…while the pope remained a virtual prisoner within the Castel Sant’Angelo
The Castel Sant’Angelo
Traces of graffiti left by imperial troops on Raphael’s frescoes on the walls of the Sala della Segnatura in the Vatican
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