Ludovico il Moro in the Nineteenth Century The two faces of Renaissance during the Risorgimento This contribution aims to illustrate the ambivalent attitude towards the Renaissance that characterized Italian Romanticism. The most eloquent example of this ambiguity is the reputation of the Milanese, late sixteenth-century duke Ludovico Sforza ‘Il Moro’ and his court. On the one hand, the new pantheon of great Italians which began to arise in the early nineteenth century, building on older cults of uomini illustri, and a growing European interest for Renaissance culture shed a positive light on Il Moro’s court. After all, he had been a most generous and sensitive patron to great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante, and could therefore serve as a timeless emblem of the ideal Maecenas through the eyes of various artists and their patrons, both in Milan as elsewhere. At the same time, however, his reign marked, as Guicciardini had already written, a turning point in Italian history, for cool calculation and sheer self interest had made him open the gates of the peninsula to the French king Charles VIII, a decision which proved fatal for Italian independence. In the increasingly black-and-white view of the Risorgimento, this behaviour would bring him the title of archtraitor. Due to the strongly politicized historical perspective that would dominate Italian historiography long after national unification, the European admiration for the Italian Renaissance following Burckhardt’s ideas would never be wholly embraced and the reputation of this crucial era in national history would remain problematic until well into the twentieth century
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