top of page

#55 The World of Isabella d'Este, Marchesa of Mantua: Conversation with Prof. Deanna Shemek

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Saturday, January 28th on Zoom

10am Los Angeles, 11am Phoenix, 1pm NY & Toronto, 6pm London, 7pm Florence

Isabella d'Este (1474-1539), daughter of the Este dukes of Ferrara and wife of Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua, made history as a feminine counterpart to the "Renaissance man." In addition to governing, she was an important music patron and herself an accomplished musician. She planned gardens and raised animals. She oversaw a perfume and cosmetic pharmacy, and excelled in fashion design, creating a signature style that other women in Europe were eager to imitate. She was keenly interested in politics, government, and social life—and had evident gifts for all three—but it is chiefly for her activities as a patron and a collector that history remembers Isabella d’Este. She was the first woman to assemble a full-blown personal studiolo.

​While her role as a female patron was not unique, what made her truly extraordinary and garnered for her a lasting place in the history of art were the scope, richness, and coherence of her acquisitions, and her meticulous design of a special place in which to display them. In this talk, we will embark via virtual reality into the studiolo of Isabella d'Este. These two rooms are regarded as among the most spectacular instances of self-fashioning in the Italian Renaissance, the outward expression of one remarkable individual’s artistic, cultural, and philosophical values.

Deanna Shemek is Professor of Italian and European Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She is author of Ladies Errant: Wayward Women and Social Order in Early Modern Italy (1998) and In Continuous Expectation: Isabella d’Este’s Reign of Letters (2021). Her collaborative editing includes Phaethon’s Children: The Este Court and its Culture in Early Modern Ferrara (2005) and Writing Relations: American Scholars in Italian Archives (2008). Her translation of the Selected Letters of Isabella d'Este (2017) won the 2018 prize from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women for best translation of a woman’s work. She co-directs IDEA: Isabella d'Este Archive, an online project for the study of the Italian Renaissance, in collaboration with the State Archives of Mantua.


Minimum suggested donation: $20

This talk is free for Friends of Paola's Studiolo!

Look forward to seeing you on Zoom!

Warmest regards,


75 views0 comments


bottom of page