Bradford's problem is that of all biographers working in the early modern period: the stories may be there, but the characters aren't.
Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy
Personal letters, which to us are carriers of private thought and feeling, were to the Borgias public documents, to be dictated to scribes. Contemporary chron iclers, meanwhile, were interested in the what and where of the story rather than the why. Even those witnesses who wrote apparently for their own eyes, such as the diarist Johannes Burchard, the Pope's master of ceremonies, seem to have thought in terms of spectacular set pieces rather than deep structure.
His account of the "Chestnut Orgy" in the Vatican - where naked courtesans scrabbled for chestnuts and prizes were offered to the man who could have sex with the most women - has probably done more to blacken Lucrezia's reputation than any other event.
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But did Lucrezia laugh at these ghastly sights, did she squirm, or turn away, or was she at the party simply for the dancing, which she loved? None of these Burchard sees fit to tell us, so neither, alas, can Bradford. In many places these public narratives deliver delicious detail, which Bradford makes the most of.
One of Lucrezia's main duties as a Renaissance princess was to cut a bella figura wherever she went, sending a loud message about her menfolk's worth and status. Filter reviews. Traveler rating. Excellent 5. Very good 1. Average 1. Poor 0.
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