She had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a deep love for all the arts. Her father arranged for her to have the best teachers of the day and she received an education in the classics, philosophy, Latin, French and Spanish. As she grew from youth into maturity, and no doubt through her education in the arts, she became recognized for her great inward and outer beauty. She was married at 16 to Giovanni Francesco Gonzaga, who was the eldest son of the marquis of Mantova.
When she first arrived at her husband’s estate, he set aside several rooms for her private use. In these rooms, Isabella created her rooms of beauty. She called her rooms the Studiolo and the Grotta. She filled these rooms with antiques and paintings, which she personally commissioned from the greatest artists, in numerous fields. She had works of art from Mantegna, da Vinci, Bellini, Titian, Raphael, Dossi, Correggio, Costa and many others.
A most remarkable fact, is that she told these artists how to paint their mythological scenes. She would tell the artists, what figures should be displayed in their painting, and the sizes each figure should be relative to each other. She was extremely well-versed in allegories and ancient mythology. To some of the artists she wrote up to one hundred letters explaining the height of certain figures and the angles and coloring of many of the elements within the paintings.
Years ago I wondered how the Renaissance artists were so wise regarding the subjects of their paintings. I came to discover, they were commissioned and followed the guidance of some of their patrons. Isabella was a great inspiration for numerous Renaissance paintings. The most precious painting she possessed, according to her own words, was Parnassus: Mars and Venus, by Mantegna, in which she and her husband Francesco are presented in the guise of Venus and Mars.
Michelangelo visited Isabella in Mantova and drew a beautiful portrait of Isabella in pastels. Isabella collected the greatest jewelry, woodcarvings, metals, poetry, literature, and musical instruments directly from the artists. Each item had a particular vibration that she wanted added to her Studiolo.
According to her writings, the concept of her ‘Beauty Room,’ the Studiolo, was not to gather and show off possessions for the sake of ego, but to surround guests with particular vibrations relative to each object. Isabella wanted to surround her guests with beauty, truth, harmony, balance and proportion. Isabella knew that the proper vibrations could be garnered through visual and auditory experiences during listening to music, gazing at art, flowing through dance, and the contemplation during the reading of literature and poetry. The walls of her Studiolo contained allegorical paintings, and she commissioned artists to create inlaid architectures of imaginary cities and palaces, musical instruments and court scenes on wooden panels.
To become beautiful, you surround yourself in, with, and through beauty. Her Studiolo was a momentary retreat from the world -- to bring an individual to the highest ideals of culture, and to guide and support the mind in pure and noble thoughts. Isabella believed, as a person’s thoughts and vibrations become more beautiful, the physical body will follow. Through her discussions with the brightest philosophers of her day, she incorporated the highest philosophy into the art work that she commissioned.
I believe that each of us longs for greater peace and well-being and we recognize how something beautiful makes us feel. It doesn’t matter what the size of your Studiolo might be. It is a concept of aligning yourself with something that carries you to a loftier vibration. It can be a chair next to a beautiful painting or your spot in nature. Isabella was sharing; that surrounding yourself with vibrations of beauty, carries you to becoming one with the Beautiful. To inspire and empower.