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Matteo Maria Boiardo (1434/1440/1441(?) - 1494


Feltrino, Boiardo's grandfather, was active as guerriero with humanstic tendencies. He took part in the fights after Giangaleazzo Viscontis death in Milano (1403), in the upraising against the tyrant Ottobuono Terzo in Reggio together with Muzio Attendola and in the action to free Muzio Attendola in 1416 in Naples. Probably this romantic adventurous phase in the life of the grandfather did lead Matteo Maria Boiardo to be enthusiastic about the life of knights and fighters and much later to develop the figure of the Orlando Innamorato, which became his main work.

At April 6 - July 6, 1412 Niccolo D'Este made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Sometime around May 11, at Mass at the Holy Sepulchre, Niccolo dubbed five knights of his retinue, including Feltrino Boiardo.

In 1423 Feltrino ceded Rubiera to Niccolo and received Scandiano instead with other smaller townlets and the title Count. Feltrino married Guidduccia, daughter of the Count Gherarado da Goreggio, with two sons resulting, Giovanni and Guilulio Ascanio.

Giovanni married Lucia Strozzi, the sister of the poet Tito Vespasiano Strozzi, and had from her one son, Matteo Maria and four daughters. The poet Tito Vespasiano, uncle to Matteo Maria, probably took influence on his nephew and prepared the later poetical career (Feltrino himself participated in the lessons of Guarino for the Ferrarese heir Leonello at the begon of the 30's of 15th century, he also showed humanistc interests).

Giulio Ascanio married Cornelia Taddea, the sister of Marco Pio da Carpi, by which he had a son Giovanni

One daughter of Feltrino, Giulia, married Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola, by which she had the famous Giovanni and Galeotto Pico. Giovanni Pico de Mirandola (1463- 1494), by this way the much younger cousin of Matteo Maria Boiardo, became known as the first Christian kabbalist.

Two others daughters married to the Rangoni family of Modena.

Time Line of Boiardo's Life

  • 1441 - Matteo Maria Boiardo is born, probably in May, in the castle of Scandiano as grandson of Feltrino Boiardo and first son of Giovanni Boiardo and Lucia Strozzi (sister of the poet Tito Vespasiano Strozzi) - other datings of the birth assume 1440 or 1434. The family moves to Ferrara.
    In the case that Boiardo was borne 1434, he had a similar age with Ercole (* 1431) and Sigismondo (* 1433), those both sons of Niccolo III., which received at a rather young age in July 1442 a Tarocchi game, bought by their servant from a merchant. In that case, Boiardo has a good chance to know the Trionfi deck already as a child, and also he has a chance to have been present at the birth hour of the first 5x14-deck.

    (Scandiano is in 12 km distance to Reggio, it's ca. 25 km to Modena and around 100 km to Ferrara. The distance Reggio-Milan is 150 km, the distance Milan-Ferrara is around 250 km with Reggio lying at the main route between the cities. So it seems, that in Reggio and in the near Modena and Scandiano exchanged Milanese and Ferrarese influences.)

  • December 26, 1441 - Niccolo III. d'Este died, possibly poisoned. He was followed by Leonello, who is praised as one of the most modern princes in Italy.

    Sagramoro produces 4 Trionfi-decks in Febuary 1442, in the same year the 9 and 11 years-old sons of Niccolo Ercole and Sigismondo receive a far cheaper Trionfi-deck.

    Probably the political change connected to the death of Niccolo gave a reason for the family to move to Ferrara. Boiardo in his early youth enjoyed the most modern humanistic influences. His uncle Tito Vespasian Strozzi in Ferrara is assumed to have taught and influenced his nephew to develop poetic sensibilities. The political atmosphere in Ferrara were already friendly to Jewish immigrants at this time. Later MM Boiardo was known to be acquainted with "Oriental languages", which might be related to influences after Niccolo and Feltrino visited Jerusalem in 1412, and that Jewish teachers were hired to educate Matteo Maria. Scandiano, home place of the Boiardo family, also shows signs of special good conditions for a settled community of Jewish people.

    Leonello d'Este made Count Giovanni independent of his father Count Feltrino, granting him certain tolls and duties in the townlets of Feltrino's fief.

  • October 1, 1450 - Leonello d'Este died and is succeeded by his brother Borso.

  • July 1451 or 1452 - Giovanni Boiardo, Matteo's father, died. His widow and son returned to live with the old Feltrino in Scandiano. A lot of other people leave the now a little more conservative state under Borso, between them for instance Angelo Decembrio.

  • 1452 or 1453 - Feltrino Boiardo has guests Duke Borso d'Este and the brothers Sigismondo and Ercole at the castle of Scandiano. Borso is on his triumphal procession tours through his duchies, especially of course in Reggio and Modena (he is now duke of Reggio and Modena). He renewed Feltrino's investiture, adding Casalgrande and other places to his fiefs and confirmed the privilege to Matteo Maria.

  • 1456 - Feltrino died, also his wife Giuduccia (1457). The heirs are his son Giulio Ascanio and Matteo Maria as his grandson. In their last will, they compelled Matteo Maria to share profits with uncle Guilio Ascanio, otherwise Matteo Maria would lose their inheritance. The father's family resentment to Matteo Maria would surface throughout the poet's life. The uncle governed the fiefs after Feltrino died and completely ignored Matteo Maria in all the official letters.

    In contrast, the relations with the house of Strozzi (mother's side in the case of Boiardo) were very cordial. He probably got much influence of Tito Vespasiano Strozzi, a poet with preferences for erotic themes.

  • 1460 - Giulio Ascanio, the mentioned unpleasant uncle, died. Giulios' widow, the Countess Cornelia Taddea was an ambitious and domineering woman and shared the title and administration of the Boiardo fiefs. Matteo Maria and his cousin share their patrimony until 1474.

  • October 1461 - Boiardo moves to Ferrara.

  • February 1462 - Boiardo returns to Scandiano, his main residence till 1468. There he resides with his Aunt Taddea de' Pio (of Carpi) and her sons Giovanni and Giulio, hunting and entertaining and managing the waters of the Secchia, which was a source of contention between the Boiardi and Commune of Reggio.

    Cornelia's kinsman, Pio of Carpi, disputed the rights of Reggio ... two letters exist from Boiardo to Borso. The Duke Borso is said to have highly favored Boiardo, but Boiardo seems to have a warmer relationship later with the younger Ercole D'Este (duke since 1471.

  • December 1462 - Borso appoints Sigismondo as governor of Reggio and Ercole as governor of Modena. Ercole D'Este was recalled from Naples, where he spend part of his youth, finally involved in the fights about the succession. Boiardo is a constant visitor at Modena, also to the smaller Court that Sigismondo held in Reggio.

  • Between 1458 and 1463, the ten Latin eclogues or Pastoralia and the Italian Lyrics or Canzoniere are made. The Pastoralia appears after Ercole returned from Naples and during his presence in Modena. The subjects are partly amorous, partly political and heroic, dealing with the peaceful reign of Borso and martial exploits of Ercole in Apulia. The friendship and admiration expressed for Ercole is evident in the 10th eclogue of Pastoralia, titled Orpheus.

  • 1465 - Boiardo's presence in Reggio is indicated by court documents. According to an unproven source, Boiardo dedicated in 1465 his Tarocchi-poem to Borso d'Este. Other researchers believe, that the style of the poem indicates a "young" poet with only few experiences and assume a production time of ca. 1461. Others against these statements assume, that it is a late work and they date it in the 80ies.

  • March 1466 - the death of Francesco Sforza in Milan. The relative stable and peaceful connection between Milan and the Este states became more stressed during the following years. Ercole is involved in an attack of Colleoni and Florentines emigrants on Florence and the regency of the Medici.

  • 1467-1471 (?) Boiardo translates Vitae Excellentium Imperateum of Cornelius Nepos and Xenphon's Ciropedia (The Education of Cyrus) for Ercole d'Este. Ercole is recovering from a bullet wound received at the Battle of Molinella (Forces from Venice and Ferrara against an alliance between Florence and Milan) in June 1467, which endangered his life. A Jewish physician got merits, when saving his life.

  • End of April 1468: A peace is signed between the fighting parties. Milan has a triumphal festivity.

  • In June 1468 Galeazzo Maria Sforza, new duke in Milan, married Bona of Savoia (sister of the French queen in this moment, living till recently at the French king's court). Various arguments, based upon the 5x14-theory, make it plausible, that at this occasion a Trionfi deck was produced, that contained 22 special cards, one Fool card and 21 trumps.

  • January 1469 - Boiardo spends a week in Ferrara as the guest of Duke Borso during an entertainment for the Emperor Frederick III, who is at a visit in Italia. Frederick III sells many titles at Ferrara. At this opportunity, though not in Ferrara, the young Ludovico Lazzarelli got the title "poetus laureatus" from the Emperor; Lazzarelli is the poet of a poem that uses motives of the Mantegna-Tarocchi as illustrations. The fame building moment for the young Lazzarelli might have given some impressions for the some years older Boiardo, whose poetical experiments were in this moment likely not similar successful. Lazzarelli is suspected by us to have had influence on the construction of the Mantegna Tarocchi, by us estimated for the year 1475; the conventional theories to the Mantegna Tarocchi suggest a date around 1465.

  • April 1469 - Boiardo meets Antonia di Bartolomeo Caprara (b. 1451), a girl of Reggio, at Sigismondo's court and later dedicates to her his sequence of 180 lyrics in three books titled Amorum Libri, first published as Sonnetti e Canzone (Songs and Sonnets) in 1499. He also addresses a mysterious Rosa and also two other ladies, as they are confidants in his love for Antonia - they are said to have been Marietta and Ginevra Strozzi, the former being the wife of Teofilo Calgnino. The lyrics are sonnets, various canzoni, different madrigals and other lyrics of perculiar metrical structure. The third book of the Canzoniere has at its close a mention of the summons to Rome in 1471 to attend to Borso in his coronation as Duke.

    The Boiardo Tarocchi poem has 21 trumps and a Fool - when the marriage of Galeazzo Maria invented the feature of the "21 trumps + Fool", Boiardo was able to imitate it since then. The Boiardo Tarocchi is unusual and has its focus on matters of love (for instance is jealousy a suit), so the poem is suitable to somebody just fallen in love, which seems to be a fact in the case of Boiardo just in this month. The choice of the Milanese system (with 21 trumps + Fool) would be logically a polite gesture against Milan, which is just likely in this moment, but not 3 monthes later, cause ...

  • August 1469: Galeazzo Maria in cooperation with Piero de Medici and Naples tried to feed a rebellion in Ferrara against Borso - the rebellion is suppressed in short time, but after it the relation between Ferrara and Milan should have been stressed again. Galeazzo Maria tries various operations against the Venetian condottieri Colleoni (some paid killers are captured in time and leave life after this) in the following years´and tried even the phantasy to arrange a duel between both (which wasn't realized).

  • 1471: The interest in fighting had passed away, already in spring: Galeazzo Maria Sforza has a costly visit in Florence. In Venice the printing revolution starts. The new ways of informations will raise revolutionary changes which will have some victims soon.

  • March 1471: Borso d'Este's coverted desire to be crowned by the Pope as Duke of Ferrara is realized shortly before his death. The journey of Borso (Boiardo is said to have accompanied Borso (?) leads to a visit in Camerino (a very common place for the poet Lazzarelli - possibly Boiardo and Lazzarelli did meet here). There are signs, but not confirming concrete information, that Luigi Pulci as diplomatical messenger of Florence was present in Camerino, too (or in Rome during Borso's coronation ?). Luigi Pulci is suspected by us to have been involved in the Minchiate production in Florence, but already in about 1461 he started his major work "Morgante", a humorous long chivalry poem based on the Charlemain-legends and the Orlando topics, which in a first version was finished in ca. 1470. Central figure is Orlando (German name: Roland). Later - likely in 1476 - Boiardo will start his own major work, and this will be named Orlando Innamorato", so it's of general interest to know about the possible meetings between the both authors.

  • Same Year: After Borso's illness and death, Ercole became the new duke, although there was a strong opposition from Niccolo, the son of Leonello, the former Signore of Ferrara and elder half-brother of Borso and Ercole.
    Boiardo is assumed to be present in Ferrara at the overthrow of the Veleschi and he is said to have written epigrams of this event.

  • For the moment we've young regents everywhere, especially when the old Borso dies later this year. Then:
    • Ferrante (Naples) with 48 years the oldest and he has some children, which shall marry soon.
    • In Ferrara now Ercole, 40 years old in concurrence to his nephew, the son of Leonello, Niccolo, 33 years old.
    • In Milan Galeazzo Maria Sforza, 27 years old.
    • In Florence Lorenzo de Medici, 22 years old, accompanied by his younger brother.
    • The old pope dies and a new one comes, from the Riario family, Sixtus IV., and he has many young nephews, who enjox the new importance of their uncle, the oldest 28 years old. So the signs are good for festivities everywhere.

  • In 1472 or 1479 (insecurities about the date) - Boiardo married Taddea Gonzaga, the daughter of the Count of Giorgio of the Gonzaga of Novellara. The marriage is said to have been a happy one.

  • April 1473 - Boiardo joins a procession that travels to Naples to accompany Eleanora of Aragon to Ferrara to marry Duke Ercole. The way leads via Rome, where an exessive and famous festivity on costs of the leading papal nephew took place (again perhaps an opportunity, when Pulci and Boiardo might have met).

  • Sept. 1473 - A quarrel between Reggio and Pio of Carpi on the water supply in the canal.

  • 1474 - Boiardo's aunt Taddea and her brother are very unhappy that Boiardo had sided with Reggio. Armed forces are used to drive his aunt's soldiers away. A plot to poison Matteo Maria came to light. Evidence was obtained and the plot was presented to Duke Ercole.
    While Count Marco Pio was put under arrest, the Countess was not put to account, although it was known that she was her brother's accomplice. After some appeals, Matteo Maria and the Duke of Ferarra mitigated punishment to banishment, which was also remitted.
    Duke Ercole offered to give Matteo Maria double the size of territory if Matteo Maria would relinquish Scandiano ... Matteo Maria declined.

  • 1475 - Boiardo and his cousin Giovanni divide their inheritance; Giovanni chooses Arceto, Casalgrande, Dinazzano with Salvaterra and Montebabbio. Matteo Maria gets Scandiano, Gesso and Torricella.
    After the poison attempt MM Boiardo lived from 1475 to 1478 (with his family ?) at Ferarra, filling a position at the court of Ercole. Countess Cornelia Taddeo and her son made themselves disagreeable to Reggio and still disputed the water supply. Boiardo translated Herodotus from the Greek (of which he knew a little but not enough for his task) and wrote an abbreviation of the Golden Ass of Apuleious.

  • January 1476 - Boiardo keeps a room in the ducal palace in Ferrara.

  • ? 1476 - The precise date when Boiardo started the Orlando Innamorato, is of special interest. Especially, as it seems possible, that Luigi Pulci was in Ferrara just in 1476 (a suggested date for the begin of the work).

  • June 1476: Ercole d'Este has a greater festivity in Modena, likely in context of his just first born son in his marriage to Eleanora of Aragon. The Milanese Condottieri Roberto Sanseverino is recorded to have visited it, from Boiardo it should be assumed, that he attended it. Luigi Pulci had gotten serious trouble in Florence cause of personal anger between him and Marsilio Ficino, which it fought and recorded in very humilating letters. He changes to the service of Sanseverino (likely early 1476) and it's likely that he also attended the festivity, accompanying Sanseverino. Again an opportunity exists for a talk between the poets, and when it is true, that Boiardo started his Orlando after this festivity, it might be probable, that something happened at this communicative occasion, which has a causal relation to Boiardo's start of the text. Which he probably read aloud as he proceeded, canto by canto to the Duke and courtly gatherings at the capital. The first two parts of his poetic romance occurred before the outbreak of the Venetian war.

  • September 1476 - in a rebellious action Niccolo tries to gain power in Ferrara, in a a harsh and a quick reaction about 100 persons in Ferrara die and 200 others are punished in other ways. Niccolo is captivated. This time the establishment had won the fight.
    Boiardo composes his Epigrammata celebrating Ercole's victory over his nephew Niccolò, son of Leonello.

  • 1478 - While Ercole leads the league of Florence, Venice, and Milan against Pope Sixtus IV and the king of Naples, Boiardo returns to Scandiano but maintains his court stipend.

  • 1479 - Boiardo marries Taddea dei Gonzaga (compare contradiction to 1472) and works on his Orlando Innamorato in Scandiano.

  • July 1480 to 1482 - Ercole named Boiardo captain and the governor of Modena. Modena was the most turbulent city of the Estensian dominions. Boiardo seems to have been in constant contact by letter to the Duke Ercole.

  • November 1482 - Boiardo composes the fourth of his Ecloghi volgari after Nicolò da Correggio is captured by the Venetians during the war of Ferrara against Rome and Venice.

  • January 1483 - Boiardo leaves Modena; by February the Orlando Innamorato has been printed by Pietro Giovanni da San Lorenzo, a citizen of Modena. Boiardo is sometimes at Reggio and Scandiano, sometimes with the Duke at the capital. The first and second books of Orlando are completed. He was noted for turning to writing certain phases and episodes of the war in Italian ecologues in terza rima.

  • February 1485: After the peace of Bagolo, Boiardo attended Ercole on his visit to Venice. Matteo Maria is thought then to be at Scandiano preparing his book for the press, as the first two books of the Orlando Innomorato were published in Venice in 1487 with a dedication to the Duke of Ferrara.

  • January 1487 - Boiardo is appointed captain of the city and duchy of Reggio. On February 1, he made his state entry, was greeted with acclamation and enthusiasm. He was considered too mild in temperment, by not using the death penalty. He is subject to harassing lawsuits by some who he wrote to the Duke,"from me he will have nothing but kindness and good company."

  • 1491 - Boiardo causes Il Timone(Timon of Athens), based on Lukian's story, for the marriage of Alfonso, Ercole's eldest son.

  • 9. September 1494 - Charles VIII, King of France, invades Italy with an army of 90 000 men. His aim is the occupation of Naples, which belongs in the French opinion to Anjou and not to Aragon (compare Rene d'Anjou) Ferrara is neutral, but has to support the French troops. When the French invaded Italy, Boiardo has an almost continuous stream of letters to Duke Ercole. The French Captain of the Balesteieri, the royal and ducal troops are demanding and Boiardo has difficulty finding quarters and supplies for them. Antisemitic troubles were added, as the French maltreated and plundered the Jewish population. A friar of the French was notably abusive in public sermons of the Hebrew population. Boiardo, in Duke Ercole's name, cautioned him to moderate his words.

  • December 1494 - Boiardo's last act with the Ancients of Reggio was to try to secure the town and marchesato of Fivizzano for Duke Ercole under a cautious assent from the Duke. Florentine control of the area seemed to be at the point of dissolution and the population of Fivizzano had been maltreated by French invaders on their way down to Naples. However the Florentines made complaint to the Ferrarese Ambassador Manfredo. Manfredi and Duke Ercole gave a strongly worded dispatch that negated the move with strong disapproval.

  • December 19, 1494 - Boiardo dies in the second hour of the night. His nephew, Pico de Mirandola, has died shortly before in Florence (17th of November). Perhaps the bad news about his death together with all the unsecurities connected to the French-Naples war gave some cause for the death.

  • (Source)
    Portrait from a 1553 Boiardo edition, anonymous
    not necessarily similar to>
    the real person