by Marie Ferranti
Translated by Andrew Brown
Who is the real Barbara von Brandenburg, that plain woman who looks at us from Mantegna's masterful painting, The Gonzaga Family? Using historical facts and documentary references, Marie Ferranti takes us through the backdoor of everyday fifteenth-century life into a world populated by some of the greatest men and artists of the age, at the end of which we find ourselves the victim of a very sophisticated trompe l'oeil.
It is 1433, and the ten year-old Barbara von Brandenburg leaves her native Germany to marry the Prince of Mantua, Ludovico Gonzaga. When her husband leaves for war immediately after, she finds herself at the centre of one of the most refined courts in Europe and when, seven years later, Ludovico returns victorious from his campaigns, she has to live with him through the most difficult trials - illnesses, mourning and the curse of his heredity: all Gonzaga women are born hunchbacked. Based on a series of letters between Barbara and her cousin Maria, in which she recounts her daily life, dramas and amusements, The Princess of Mantua is an example of docufiction at its most exquisite.
Publication date: 01/09/2006