Guido Mazzoni's Ferrara 'Lamentation' and the patronage of Duchess Eleonora D'Aragona

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University of Alabama Libraries

By 1485 the Modenese sculptor Guido Mazzoni (c. 1450–1518) had completed a terracotta Lamentation tableau for the church of Santa Maria della Rosa in Ferrara. The eight over-life-sized, polychromed figures include portraits of the duke and duchess of Ferrara, Ercole I d’Este (1431–1505) and Eleonora d’Aragona (1450–1493). While the afterlife of the Ferrara Lamentation is well-documented, its precise origins are not. No contract for the group survives, and it is mentioned only briefly in surviving correspondence from the Estense court. In this thesis, I suggest that the patron was Duchess Eleonora d’Aragona; recognizing this marks the group as the first independent, large-scale, terracotta Lamentation commissioned by a woman. To support my thesis, I survey Eleonora’s religious influences in her birthplace of Naples, particularly the art patronage of her mother, and especially their shared devotion to the Corpus Domini, or body of Christ. A re-examination of archival and material evidence reveals Eleonora’s relationship with Mazzoni and his family, including, I argue, Mazzoni’s gift of the modello for the Ferrara Lamentation to Eleonora. Finally, I contextualize Eleonora’s patronage within the wide-ranging methods elite women used for commissioning, paying for, and influencing production of art. In establishing Eleonora d’Aragona as patron, this thesis recovers a previously unrecognized example of female patronage in the Northern Italian courts. This offers, as well, new understandings of Eleonora’s patronage methods and scope; the influence of Mazzoni’s diverse patrons on his career trajectory; women’s relationship with large-scale terracotta sculpture; and the power of noble women’s influences and social networks.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Art history, European history, Women's studies