Lucrezia Borgia’s Triumphal Chariot: Notes on Performance Documentation


  • Sergio Costola Southwestern University



This paper explores Lucrezia Borgia’s engagement with ancient forms at the Este court, focusing on her utilisation of the triumph. It argues that conventional labels such as ‘actress’ or ‘playwright’ fail to encapsulate the rich and varied theatrical contributions of women in this era, who, during this period, constantly overstepped the bounds of traditional theatre moving into broader fields of cultural and theatrical activity. Together with traditional categories of theatre production, then, it’s important to also consider modes of performance, on one hand, located in the domestic and personal spheres and, on the other, to the ways in which they were connected to both the circulation and use of objects. By examining entries from account books detailing expenses for a ‘carro triunfante de la Duchessa’ in December 1507 and October 1508, the paper investigates how Lucrezia Borgia employed the triumph as a strategic means to navigate and construct her social identity. It focuses on two specific events: the celebrations organized for the wedding of Camillo Costabili and Bianca Martinengo in 1507, and the triumph over the river Po, organized to celebrate Ferrara’s victory over Venice at the battle of Polesella in 1509. This approach not only offers fresh insights into historical performance but also prompts a reassessment of the role of archival documents in shaping and preserving meaning.

Keywords: Lucrezia Borgia, triumphal chariots, Este court, Performance documentation, Celio Calcagnini