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Briefe zwischen Sud und Nord: Die Hochzeit und Ehe von Paula de Gonzaga und Leonhard von Gorz im Spiegel der furstlichen Kommitnikation (1473-1500).

Christina Antenhofer. Briefe zwischen Sud und Nord: Die Hochzeit und Ehe von Paula de Gonzaga und Leonhard von Gorz im Spiegel der furstlichen Kommitnikation (1473-1500).

Schlern-Schriften 336. Innsbruck: Universitatsverlag Wagner, 2007. 330 pp. + 1 6 color pls. index. illus. tbls. bibl. [euro]35. ISBN: 978-3-7030-0433-9.

Christina Antenhofer presents us in a neatly-wrapped package a splendid gift from the archives: an intricate and thoroughly grounded account of a Renaissance marriage, based on documents found in Mantua's Archivio Gonzaga and the Tiroler Landesarchiv (Innsbruck, Austria). She focuses on the hundreds of letters exchanged by principals and functionaries at the two courts, which were linked by the marriage of Paula Gonzaga (1463-96)--youngest child (of ten, excluding one who died in infancy) and youngest daughter (of five) of marchese Ludovico and his wife Barbara (Hohenzollern) of Brandenburg--to Leonhard (1462-1500), the last Count of Gorz. Her analysis of the letters and related documents provides a portrait of a Renaissance marriage, an insight into the diplomatic networks founded on princely marriage alliance, and a theoretical exploration of epistolary communication made possible by this unusually rich trove.

After a year of postponements and nearly two years of negotiation, the fifteen-year-old Paula married sixteen-year-old Leonhard on 15 November 1478: they were two children. Paula immediately began her bridal journey to her new home, accompanied by scores of companions and servants, her rich bridal gifts in tow, and a not insubstantial library containing volumes of Virgil and Dante, two Latin grammars, and a German-Italian wordlist to help her acquire the "welsch" language that must now be hers.

The journey of less than 1 50 miles took twenty-four days, during which Paula fell sick, as she did frequently once she arrived at Bruck castle, her new home in the village of Lienz, Gorz. She was soon pregnant, and gave birth in August 1479, nine months after her wedding. The female neonate, described in the same letter as a stillborn fetus, an abortus, and as a premature infant, immaturus fructus, lived only long enough to receive, in quick succession, baptism and last rites. Paula gave birth to no more children, despite the epistolary efforts of her concerned mother to promote that occurrence. Barbara of Brandenburg died in 1481, not having yet seen the successful result of the marriage she had encouraged. Paula's father Ludovico had predeceased in June 1478, a few months before Paula's wedding. An orphan, she was stranded in Gorz.

She was also vulnerable, as her brother Federico Gonzaga, Ludovico's successor, saw no need to pay her dowry; still less so his son Francesco, Paula's nephew, who succeeded in 1484. The correspondence between the couple in Gorz and Federico, then Francesco, is largely devoted to the tragedy of the unpaid dowry: in 1483, Paula asks for 100 ducats; in 1485, for 250; in 1486, she thanks Francesco for sending 150 ducats, but asks for 100 more; in 1487 and 1488, she asks for 200, then 400 ducats; later in 1488, for the 5000 ducats that constituted the balance owed. That balance was not paid; in 1492, again, Paula begged Francesco for 200 ducats. This request was the last recorded, four years before her death.

The circumstances of Paula's death are clouded. Antenhofer can establish an approximate date of October-November 1496, when Paula was thirty-three years old. Her husband, who had not remarried, died four years later, in 1500, at age thirty-eight. The failure of Paula and Leonhard to reproduce meant that Gorz fell into the hands of the Habsburgs. There it remained until 1919, when it was assigned to Italy as partial return of the terra irredenta for which so many died in the multiple battles at the river Isonzo. Gorz became Gorizia, hard against the Slovenian border, on the far side of which, in 1948, a Nova Gorica rose.

This is the sad story told by the 200 extant letters exchanged between the principal participants. The most vigorous letter-writer was Barbara of Brandenburg, prime executrix of the Gonzaga strategy to enhance their tank by linking their Italian court with noble families of the Holy Roman Empire: Barbara's own marriage had answered this need, as did the marriages of three of her children, including Paula's. In just three years, Barbara addressed fifty-three letters to her new son-in-law, larded with expressions of maternal concern, variously in Latin, German, and Italian, constituting one-quarter of all the letters exchanged. Except for three autograph letters (one Italian, two German), these were all sent through the intermediary of the chancellery, as was normal. Antenhofer is a most skillful guide to the elaborate relationships between authors, scribes, and recipients, and to the art of indirection of the epistolary rhetoric of the period that nonetheless permits the expression of demands and responses, if nor of authentic personal feeling.

Antenhofer's important and well-wrought study rewards the reader equipped with the necessary languages with a richer understanding of the dynamics of inter-court relations in the High Renaissance, and of the workings of a Renaissance princely marriage.


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Author:King, Margaret L.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2008
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