Beyond Isabella: Secular Women Patrons of Art in Renaissance Italy

By Sheryl E. Reiss; David G. Wilkins | Go to book overview

Fina da Carrara, née Buzzacarini: Consort, Mother, and
Patron of Art in Trecento Padua

Benjamin G. Kohl

On 7 May 1345, the morning after Giacomo II da Carrara murdered his distant cousin Marsilietto Papafava dei Carraresi to claim the lordship of Padua, he married his eldest son, Francesco, to Fina Buzzacarini, daughter of Pataro Buzzacarini. The marriage probably came as no surprise to the people of Padua, for it was part of Giacomo's policy to win support for his new rule. This included the dismissal of Marsilietto's unpopular vicar, Pietro da Campagnola, the release of clergy and laity unjustly imprisoned by the previous lord, the encouragement of the return of exiles to Padua, and gifts of land, clothes, money, and horses to powerful would-be supporters.1 Fina Buzzacarini functioned as a trophy consort, uniting an aspiring branch of the Carrara dynasty with a local noble family of wealth and standing. In the early years of marriage, Fina gave birth to four healthy offspring, three daughters and eventually in 1359 a son and heir, Francesco Novello. Finally, her deep piety and hope for memorialization made Fina a major art patron, who converted Padua's Baptistery into a mausoleum for herself and her husband, and for which she commissioned major fresco cycles by Giusto de' Menabuoi with a depiction of Paradise in the dome, scenes from Genesis on the drum, and moments from the lives of John the Baptist, Christ, and the Virgin to adorn its walls.2


Consort

Giacomo had claimed the lordship as son of the disfavored Niccolò da Carrara, who had died in exile in 1344, and he badly needed the prestige and stability that the marriage of his son into a powerful (and favorable) local family would bring. Fina was the granddaughter of the loyal and astute Dusio Buzzacarini, whose support of the Carrara regime stretched back to their first election as lords of Padua in 1318. Moreover, the Buzzacarini had overcome criticism of base origins and ill-gotten wealth voiced by such conservative Paduan historians as Giovanni da Non and Albertino Mussato. Their magnificent palace in the contrada of San Urbano was now the showpiece of one of the major families of Padua's legal profession. Da Non's jibes at the family as tavern singers, skinners, and gamblers rang hollow when confronted with the Buzzacarini's achievements as magistrates, jurists, and diplomats.3

Dusio Buzzacarini had been podestà of Rovigo in 1310, of Bassano in 1319, and of Treviso in 1320. His secretive and deceitful ways and his willingness—even eagerness—to attach his fortunes to any rising star, Dusio had chosen his patrons well and was knighted, along with his crony Marsilio da Carrara, by Cangrande della Scala in 1328 when the lord of Verona assumed the lordship of Padua. Dusio's unswerving loyalty to the Carrara cause eventually paid off. In the treaty concluded between Venice, Florence, and Marsilio da Carrara in 1337, which spelled out the conditions for the reconquest of Padua from the now much-hated Scaliger lords.4 Marsilio's cousin and heir, Ubertino da Carrara, was to succeed him if he were

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