The loan of a jester

Federico II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua (1500-40) and son of Isabella d’Este (1474-1539), loaned the priest-jester Fra Stephano to a Duke Alfonso who wrote a letter on 14th November 1525 to:

… cordially thank you for the great service rendered to me by such a servant as yours, truly worthy of serving any great prince, for besides his pleasantries which suffice to provide ample entertainment at any great court and to keep the company merry and in good cheer, he has also the quick wittedness to be of worth in other circumstances.  In short I am most satisfied with him and feel obliged to your most serene and illustrious self whom I pray will pardon me if I have so long kept you without your Father Stephano.

Image credit: 'Portrait of Federico II Gonzaga' (c. 1525), Titian (1490-1576), oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

… la ringratio cordialmente de la comodità ch’ella mi ha fatto de un tal suo servitore, degno veramente di servire ad ogni gran Principe, perchè oltra le sue piacevolezze che bastano per dar spasso add ogni gran corte et per tener festante et in piacer una compagnia, esso ha ancho ingegno da possersene valere in altre occorrentie.  In summa io resto optimamente satisfatto di lui, et ne sento obligo a V. S. Ill.ma, la qual priego che mi perdoni se così longamente l’ho tenuta senza esso Pre’ Stephano.

Source: quoted in A. Luzio and R. Renier, `Buffoni, Nani e Schiavi dei Gonzaga ai Tempi di Isabella d’Este’, Estr. Nuova Ant., series 3 (1891), part 3, pp. 121-22, trans. by William Dolby

Image credit: ‘Portrait of Federico II Gonzaga’ (c. 1525), Titian (1490-1576), oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

Quotation: letter from Duke Alfonso to Federico II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, 1525, Italian text
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