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The cardinal had sent Ariosto to visit Isabella in Mantua.She wrote that she had derived “the greatest satisfaction from the recitation of the work that he is composing, which made the last two days pass not only without tedium, but with the greatest of pleasure.”Whether on this or another visit to Mantua, Ariosto evidently saw Mantegna’s “Minerva Expelling the Vices From the Garden of Virtue,” the monstrous figures Ariosto used in his description of the wicked sorceress Alcina’s grotesque minions, who attack Ruggiero when he arrives on her island. A magnificent navigation map of around 1501-2 shows all the latest geographical discoveries in Africa, the Indies and the New World (where the shores of Brazil are exotically adorned with jungles and parrots).

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The first version of his “Orlando Furioso” — in which Orlando’s madness is brought on by his unrequited love of Angelica — was finally printed a decade later.

The theme of the second section of the exhibition, “Jousts and Battles,” is the contemporary artistic equivalent of the countless battle scenes in “Orlando Furioso.” It includes an enormous late-15th-century French tapestry, still strongly medieval in flavor, of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, as well as a Roman sarcophagus from the second or third century of the kind that inspired the graphic works featuring naked combatants by Ercole de’ Roberti and Antonio del Pollaiolo, also on show, along with a bronze frieze in the classical style by Bertoldo di Giovanni, from around 1480.

There is also a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of a martial melee, “A Battle Scene With Men, Horses and Elephants,” from the Royal Collection at Windsor.

A letter of 1507 on display here from the connoisseur and collector Isabella d’Este to Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, her brother and Ariosto’s patron, is the first news that Ariosto was working on the poem.

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Titian’s “Bacchanal of the Andrians,” has returned to Ferrara for the first time since it was sold in 1598.

Duke Alfonso I of Ferrara had hopes of obtaining works by these artists for his private art gallery.

He failed in respect of Michelangelo and Raphael, but managed to commission a spectacular cycle of works, based on classical mythology, by Bellini and Titian (which are scattered in collections on both sides of the Atlantic).

But it is typical of Dossi’s wit that, as X-rays have revealed, having depicted a knight standing beside the enchantress, Dossi repainted this part of the picture replacing the warrior with a large, mournful dog and an empty suit of armor.

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