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Paolo Giovio
Italian, 1483­–1553
La Vita di Ferrando Davalo Marchese di Pescara
(The Life of Ferrando d’Avalo, Marquis of Pescara)

Florence: Lorenzo Torrentino, translated from Latin into Italian, 1551.
From the library of Diane de Poitiers
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

This romanticized biography of a famous Spanish-born Renaissance general, Ferrando, Marquis of Pescara (1490-1525) was written by Paolo Giovio, a popular chronicler of the Italian Wars. Based on the monograms and heraldic symbols which adorn the refined “Venetian” binding (interlaced initials H+D on the border, three royal lilies in the center), it may have been offered by King Henry II of France to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, possibly as a way to draw a flattering parallel between them and another glamorous couple: the intrepid and chivalrous Ferrando and Vittoria Colonna, one of the most beautiful ladies of her time, who was also a poetess and a patron of the arts who corresponded with Marguerite de Valois and counted Castiglione and Michelangelo among her admirers. Vittoria wrote sonnets to Pescara, as did Diane to Henri II. The same motives were to be found in Anet and Chenonceau castles, offered by Henri II to his mistress.