Cecilia! Cissy! Can you hear me, Sweet?
I’m here in the drapes close beside you
I shall love you forever, beautiful child
Sweetheart, I see that Leonardo smiled.
It is I, Milan, who adores you, fine beauty
With my people enraptured before you
My regal devotion is yours to command
Pray, accepting this Duke, take his hand.
O Cecilia, my hand embodies betrothal
A promise I grant you, pure angel divine
Come to me, come to me, true pure one
And let all others around us begone.
I spoke but blindly when first I spoke love to you
Two hearts broken that my heart spoke not true.
See Leonardo da Vinci’s famous 1490 painting of Cecilia Gallerani, as the 17-year-old
mistress of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. One of the most beautiful girls of the past 500 years, in my humble opinion. She came within the Duke’s circle because her father was in the employ of the Court.
Although Ludovico’s favourite, they could not marry even though she had given birth to their son, Cesare, as he had to make a dynastic alliance with another politically important family. Consequently, Ludovico reneged and married Beatrice D’Este instead. Sadly, Beatrice died in childbirth aged only 21. By this time Cecilia had married a friend of the Duke and one can only speculate on the levels of distress caused at this dreadful turn of events.
Cecilia was revered by the Duke, Leonardo and all the learned and outstanding men of Milan because she combined immense beauty with a powerful and creative intellect. To them, a creature so favoured by the gods must have been favoured by God Himself.
A Milanese poet of the time suggested that the portrait looked as if Cecilia was distracted by someone calling to her. Such is the power of the painting.
This gave me the idea for my sonnet.
Lady with an Ermine Leonardo da Vinci 1489-90
Owned by Poland and exhibited in Krakow