a superb storyteller, and her fast-paced narrative captures the
intrigue, the scandal, the romantic affairs, and the violence that were
commonplace in the Florentine court. She brings to life an
extraordinary woman, fluent in five languages, a free-spirited patron
of the arts, a daredevil, a practical joker, and a passionate lover.
Isabella, in fact, conducted numerous affairs, including a ten-year
relationship with the cousin of her violent and possessive husband. Her
permissive lifestyle, however, came to an end upon the death of her
father, who was succeeded by her
disapproving older brother
Francesco. Considering Isabella's ways to be licentious and a disgrace
upon the family, he permitted her increasingly enraged husband to
murder her in a remote Medici villa.
To tell this dramatic story,
Murphy draws on a vast trove of newly discovered and unpublished documents,
ranging from Isabella's own letters, to the loose-tongued dispatches of
ambassadors to Florence, to contemporary descriptions of the opulent
parties and balls, salons and hunts in which Isabella and her
associates participated. Murphy resurrects the exciting atmosphere of
Renaissance Florence, weaving Isabella's beloved city into her
story, evoking the intellectual and artistic community that thrived
during her time. Palaces and gardens in the city become places of
creativity and intrigue, sites of seduction, and grounds for betrayal.
Here then is a narrative of compelling and epic proportions, magnificent and alluring, decadent and ultimately tragic.