Leonello D'Este (1407 - 1450) - his years till 1442

21st of January, 1407: Leonello is born as the second of the three Sienese sons by Stella dell Assassino, the beloved mistress of Niccolo. Ugo Aldobrandino, the first heir, was born in 1405, Leonello was born in 1407 and Borso was born in 1413. In between, stepbrother Meliaduse, the son of Caterina delgli Albaresani, the daughter of a Ferarrese physician. Leonello is written to have been close to Borso and Meliaduse.

Till 1412: Francesco Sforza, 6 years older, is educated at the court of Ferrara. Later he will be the concurrent of Leonello in the marriage-question about Bianca Maria Visconti.

24th of July, 1413: Borso d'Este is born, from the same mother. 6 years younger than Leonello, he will become his successor in 1450.

23th of February, 1416: Cecilia Carrara, the childless wife of Niccolo, dies at the plague.

1418: Niccolo marries Parisina. Probably male children of Parasina would have effected the question of the follower of Niccolo. But her only male child dies after 21 years in 1421.

1422: Leonello, 15 years old, leaves Ferarra, having been sent under the care of Nanni Strozzi to study the art of war at Perugia under the famous condottiere, Braccio da Montone. In the contrast to this Meliaduse (*1406) and Borso are send to studies in Bologna and Padua, probably both dedicated to positions in the church. Ugo, the oldest, is held as a prince (compare: Gardener). So Leonello was seen in the function as the new condottieri in the family plan of Niccolo, probably due to some personal talents as fighter (later Borso got the condottieri role, but failed to do it very impressively and lost a great battle).

1422: The first note about playing cards in Ferrara. Some other playing card notes appear around Parisina. It seems, that the young people in Ferrara are well acquainted with the game, probably also Leonello.

Summer 1424: Bracchio da Montone is wounded at the battlefield and dies. Leonello's stay is affected by this development. Soon he returns home. About his activities till 1429 we do not know much.

Autumn 1424: Plague in Ferrara, Ugo leaves with Parisina to the country....

May, 1425: Parisina and Ugo, Leonellos's older brother, are beheaded. Now the place of the heir of the throne in Ferrara is free. After 1425 there is no further note about playing cards in Ferrara till 1434, when a deck is imported from Florence. Perhaps the death of Ugo and Parisina caused playing card prohibition at the court. After Ugos death (probably) Leonello jumps in the position of the possible follower of Niccolo, Borso is kept in reserve and Meliaduse stays on his way to become an abbot.

1429: A marriage contract between Este and the Gonzagas von Mantua is discussed, concerning Leonello and Margherita, a Gonzaga daughter. Part of the conditions of Gonzaga's side is, that Leonello should become declared heir, which is arranged by Niccolo. Leonello becomes legitimised by the payment of 1200 ducatos. Leonello (22 years old) then urged his father to engage him a new tutor to teach him letters. Lodovico Carbone noted that Leonello's father, Niccolo, sought a grammarian, rhetorician and a poet. Leonello suggested Guarino Veronese, a student of Chrysoloras and noted teacher of other students in other main Italian cities of the time.  From 1429 to 1436, Guarino was devoted to the teaching of Leonello. The studies were accompanied by others, also the old Feltrino joined the lessons. An example of the changed climate in Ferrara is noted by Aurispa, a humanistic manuscript-collector and poet, who proceeded as teacher of Greek and secretary of popes, came to Ferarra in 1427.  He could hardly wait to leave Ferarra (although he ended up staying over 30 years).

26th of October, 1431: Ercole d'Este is born. He will 1471 become the successor of Borso.

1433: Ginevra, the 14-years-old half-sister of Leonello and daughter of Parisina marries Sigismondo Malatesta. She is the first of the known younger daughter daughters of Niccolo, who marries (older is is only Margherita, but she is already widow). Years later the marriage will end in tragedy, Sigismondo will kill his wife (October 1440), just during the time of Bianca Maria's visit.

1433: The Emperor Sigismondo is at visit in Ferrara, one of his last stations in Italy after a long 2 years stay (compare the article to the printing press in Ferrara).

1433: Ginevra, the 14-years-old half-sister of Leonello and daughter of Parisina marries Sigismondo Malatesta. She is the first of the known younger daughter daughters of Niccolo, who marries (older is is only Margherita, but she is already widow). Years later the case will end in tragedy, Sigismondo will kill his wife.

1434: A playing card deck is imported from Florence. It is just one sign of increasing cultural exchange between Florence and Ferrara, just a small part of the increasing cultural interests of young Leonello.

1st of January, 1435: Leonello marries Margaretha Gonzaga from the Court of Mantua. Perhaps the marriage of Leonello (and also that of Ginevra) has a relation to the new playing card freedom in Ferrara again, it seems, that card playing was especially attractive for young women. The marriage was lavish enough to require a special and substantial tax for the enormous festivities that were held at public expense. Source: ASCF, Deliberazioni, D, 4, 9, ffl.13-14 (November 12 and 22, 1434) record a communal collection of 12,000 lire for Leonello's wedding and repairs to fortifications. Four years earlier, in anticiation of the wedding (1431), the commune collected a special tax of 2,000 lire, and the savi were authorized to raise additional funds, "per usura" if necessary (see ASCF, Deliberatzioni, C, 4, 1, f.17

1435: A literary discussion between Poggio and Guarino demonstrates the intellectual climate of the court in Ferrara. Contacts between Florence and Ferrara are regularely, Leonello himself briefly visited Florence in 1435.

1436: Guarino accepted the chair of Eloquence, Greek and Latin Letters at the Studio (University). The appointment was renewed every five years of his life.

By 1436 Marquis Niccolo gathered a library that included 279 manuscripts. The inventory was stored at the chief tower of the Corte Vecchia in the Torre di Rigobello, according to Adriano Capelli who wrote La Biblioteca Estense nella prima meta del secolo XV on pages 12-30 (200 Latin; 58 French, 23 Italian).

1436: A printing press for playing cards is imported in Ferrara, probably by the new connections to the court in Mantua.

1437: Lucia, the other daughter of Parasina, 18-years-old, marries the brother of Leonello's wife, Carlo Gonzaga. Lucia dies already in the same year, at the 28th of June. The activities around the marriage are embedded in a serious family conflict inside the Gonzaga family, father Gian Francesco against Ludovico, the expected heir, which in first consequence lead first to a hastened departure of Ludovico from Mantua in late 1437 and in a second consequence to a lifelong hostility between Ludovico and his brother Carlo.

September 1437: Pope Eugen decides, that the council should take place in Ferara, after various other places had been suggested before. The political situation around the council question is dramatical and the choice of Ferrara stands in open papal opposition to the Council at Basel. The Council in Ferrara is prepared, probably a little hectical. Although the council is not really a success, it will become the major political event of the city, a mark stone of history.

1438: The council takes place, starting in January. It's said, that the Greek delegation alone consisted of 700 attendants. The visitors approach slowly, the real opening takes place in April. Private highlights of the council in Ferarra: Giovanni Aurispa obtained from the Pope the office of papal secretary. Leon Battista Alberti wrote the life of an imaginary child martyr, which was said to mystify the Patriach of Grado. Leonello d'Este presented a speech in Latin. Borso was said to have presented a love rich display that characterized his reign later as ruler of Ferarra. Marquis Niccolo attended a banquet by Ugo Benzi of Siena, professor of medicine at the Ferarra Studio. Niccolo went hunting with the Greek Emperor in June.

Autumn 1438: The plague broke out in Ferarra near the end of the year. Lorenzo de Medici (the older) arrived in Ferarra noting how healthy and ample the accomodations would be if the delegates were to move to Florence. Also, the Florentines would loan 1500 florins a month to the delegates as long as the Council remained in session. The delegates accepted the proposal immediately. In January 1439 the Ferrarese episode of the council finally ended.

1438: Leonello gets a son this year, Niccolo. Edmund Gardner writes, Leonello's first wife, Margherita Gonzaga, to whom he had been married in 1435, was a met companion for her husband, a learned princess tained in the Mantua school of Vittorino da Feltre (when later Borso's favor for a successor moves from the young Niccolo di Leonello to his half-brother Ercole, Niccolo di Leonello takes residence with his mother's relatives in Mantua, with the Gonzagas ...). He will later die similar to Obizzo IV., beheaded by an uncle (Ercole d'Este), who is now (1438) 8 years older them himself, living at the same court.

1439: Leonello's wife, Margherita, dies at the 7th of July. The sad occasion creates an attractive possible husband-in-spe and an interesting object on the marriage market.

June 1440: At Soncino a greater battle takes place in the Milanese-Venetian war. Astonishingly Borso d'Este seems to have had a leading role in the Milanese army (the Este generally are given as neutral in the war - it must have been an unusual situation then). The source gives the result as a militaric catastrophe: The Viscontis had 5000 cavallieri, 1000 are dead or wounded. 1500/2000 cavallieri are captured and also 2000 Fanti, a great sum of money is lost, too. Sforza had taken Brescia, but was not content with it. Borso becomes prisoner. How he was released ... no information in the moment.
There is not very much fighting for the rest of the year, the opponents seem to be near to become peaceful (however, Piccinino on the Milanese side starts an early attack in spring 1441 and surprizes the Venetians and Sforza, who is inactive then in Venetia).

September 1440: Maria Bianca Visconti comes to Ferrara, she is regarded as a potential marriage object for Leonello, but the political conditions are rather unclear. The question is: Francesco Sforza or Leonello d'Este? In the moment Francesco Sforza is engaged by Venetia to fight against the armies of Filippo Maria Visconti, Biancas father. Bianca Maria can serve as a tool to influence the powerful condottieri.

8th of October, 1440: A hospital for the poor in Ferrara is allowed by Pope Eugen. Short before the Savonarolas have entered Ferrara, a family of famous physicians (one of the descendants will cause much trouble to the city of Florence). Ferrara is often victim to the plague, probably due to near marshes. In the next years - under Leonello's reignment - a lot will be done to get the conditions more healthy.

9th of October, 1440: Sigismondo Malatesta killed his wife Ginevra, daughter of Niccolo. The news of this must have reached Ferrara within days. Now all four marriages of Niccolo's children had been very shortlived and ended in tragedy. Probably from that time on it must have been suspected by contemporaries, that the beheading action of 1425 with Ugo and Parasina might have caused bad spirits in the house of d'Este. Any new possible partner in marriage of the house of d'Este must have been a little reluctant to do this step. This "feeling" might have started with Bianca Maria, just on the way to marry Leonello (it's said, that Bianca Maria already expressed her will before the journey to Ferrara, not to marry Leonello). Although there are enough persons in the "right age" at the court of the d'Este, no new marriage takes place till 1444.

1.1.1441: Bianca Maria gets 14 paintings, probably by Leonello, probably Leonello still hopes for acceptance (this present is the reason for our special curiosity about Ferrara). Curiously the date, 1st of January, is the 6th anniversary of Leonellos first wedding date, 1.1.1435. This earlier marriage ended with the death of his first wife at 7.7.1439, a date, that increases the number-curiosity.

March 1441: Bianca Maria leaves Ferrara. Niccolo is raised to a governor in Milan, Leonello gets a stronger role in Ferrara

May (?) 1441: Pisanello in Ferrara paints Leonello in concurrence to Bellini. Bellini wins, but Pisanellos picture survives.

October 1441: Francesco Sforza marries Bianca Maria Visconti, the marriage is part of a peace contract between Milano and Venetia. The comments of Leonello didn't survive.

December 26, 1441: Marquis Niccolo D'Este died in Milan. He had variously taken a diplomatic mission to set up peace between Milan and the Venetians. He was friendly to both parties and it is said, that he was engaged short before the end of his life in the role of putting in order the state of the last of the Visconti, Filippo Maria. Death came so suddenly, that it was suspected, that Filippo did poison Niccolo. But the suspicions went in various directions. Niccolo's will named Leonello as his successor, then Borso, then Ercole and Sigismondo. The body was brought back to Ferrara and buried in January 1 in Santa Maria. (Diario Ferrarese, col. 191). Leonello is now Signore in Ferrara.

17th of January, 1441: Leonello has already plans for the Studiolo.

1442, 10th of February: The painter Sagramoro gets money for 4 painted Trionfi decks.

(Hoshizaki / Caldwell / autorbis)
Leonello - detail of a Bellini-Madonna
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Start: Ferrara 1441

Before 1441
Playing Cards 1422 - 1441
Cultural Change 1430 - 1441
Bianca Maria's Visit 1440 - 1441
After 1442
New Political Change 1450