4th Marchese of Mantua
(b Mantua, 1466; reg 1484–1519; d Mantua, 29 March 1519).
Son of Federico I Gonzaga. He made his career and reputation as a condottiere and was involved in turbulent political and military events. When Charles VIII, King of France, invaded Italy in 1494, Francesco assisted in the formation of a league to defeat him, and, as commander of the league’s forces, joined battle with Charles at Fornovo on 6 July 1495. He gained the victory but only with heavy loss of life. Despite skilful diplomatic manoeuvring, the security of Mantua was under threat from the French until Francesco’s death. Francesco’s patronage of the arts, which was surpassed by that of his wife, Isabella d’Este, was supported by state revenues and military stipends. It was essentially strategic and pragmatic in nature, a characteristic most strongly expressed in the sculpture, music and the applied arts that Francesco patronized.
Gordon Marshall Beamish