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The Sforzas of Milan


Link to page on the Certosa di Pavia



Condottiere Muzio Attendolo Sforza (1369 - 1424 (55)), a farmer from Romagna, became a sought after condottiere through service to the Angevin Kings of Naples and  took the name "Sforza" (the (en)forcer)



Muzio's son Francesco and Bianca Visconti (below) married in 1441 in the Church of San Sigismondo in Cremona, where the beautiful carved walnut doors include a panel showing a set of Borromean Rings, which became a Sforza emblem (they were also appropriated by the Medici).


Muzio's illegitimate son Francesco Sforza (1401 - 1450 - 1466 (65)), painted by Bonifazio Bembo wearing his favourite old "campaigning hat" (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan).  Francesco married Bianca Visconti (1423 - 1468 (45)) (right), illegitimate daughter of the last Visconti Duke of Milan (whose particular take on nastiness was to enjoy watching prisoners being devoured by dogs), and thus became Duke of Milan himself in 1450.  He was an outstanding field commander, and this and his raw strength (he could bend iron bars with his bare hands, and his wife looks as though she could probably do the same) ensured widespread respect. 


Francesco I was subsequently a popular and enlightened ruler of Milan, and became good friends with Cosimo (il Vecchio) de'Medici.  Which must have been a relief (though sadly only a short lived one) for the Milanese, who had been putting up with the Visconti family - variously labelled cruel, tyrants, sexual deviants, poisoners,  insane  etc - for the nearly 200 years since Oddone Visconti had become Archbishop of Milan in 1277.



Gian Galeazzo Maria Sforza  (1444 - 1466 - 1476 (32)) by Piero Pollaiuolo (Uffizi).  Son of Francesco and Bianca and a reversion to Visconti typology - an unstable, cruel, lustful and tyrannical ruler, who ended up being murdered on the steps of Milan Cathedral by three noblemen re-enacting the death of Julius Caesar. 


On the other side of the balance sheet he was a great patron of musicians and composers, and was the first of the Italian Renaissance  leaders to promote this form of creative art by importing artists from northern Europe (whose composers led the European field in the same way that Italian artists did).  He also had a go at getting his genes into the Habsburg line by marrying his daughter (his wife was a Gonzaga from Mantova) to Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I.



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All original work Adrian Fletcher 2000-2015 - not to be reproduced without permission