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The Long Journey of Gracia Mendes

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Marianna D. Birnbaum

Chapter 5. Gracia and Jewish patronage in sixteenthcentury Ferrara

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  • 1 Curiously, one of the families’ name was Franco.

1Beginning in February 1493, when Ercole I Este admitted 21 Spanish-Jewish families, until the state fell under the direct dominion of the Church a century later, many European Jews found a haven in Ferrara.1

  • 2 Werner L. Gundersheimer, Ferrara: The Style of a Renaissance Despotism (Princeton, 1973), p. 202.

2The Jewish community developed rapidly under the dukes, who needed credit from moneylenders, the first Jews to have been admitted. Later, Jewish residents participated actively in community life as manufacturers, traders, and retailers. In order to cover the expense of his lavish lifestyle, Ercole frequently borrowed from Jewish bankers.2 Similarly, the Estes welcomed Portuguese Jews in the hope that through their trade with the colonies and India, Ferrara’s commerce would flourish.

3Yet, under Ercole I, Jews had to participate in public “religious disputations” with monks, and in 1507, a “monte di pietà” was established to counteract Jewish banking. Also, Alfonso I decreed that Jews had to wear a badge, an “O” with an orange-yellow stripe “as wide as a palm.” That order was never fully enforced.

4It wasn’t until 1626 that Jews were confined to a ghetto, although the “ghetto initiative” dated from 1624. While the Jews had autonomy to live wherever they wished, most of them chose to inhabit a section of neighboring streets. The locals called the area “La Zuecca.”

  • 3 This formulation is based on Bonfil’s observations. See Roberto Bonfil, Jewish Life in Renaissance (...)

5Most probably the area designated as ghetto coincided with the already established Jewish neighborhood: right behind the cathedral. Thus a paradox emerged, as in all cities which had mandated ghettos for the Jews: while Jews were socially marginalized, physically they lived in the very center of town, a situation that profoundly changed the configuration of a number of cities as it did in Ferrara.3 Above all, instead of the dreaded expulsion, in Ferrara too, the ghetto promised Jews permanent residency.

6In the mid-sixteenth century, Ferrara had a population of about 10,000. Beatrix (Beatrice) de Luna, alias Gracia Mendes, or as it later turned out, Gracia Benveniste, arrived there a prosperous newcomer, with Reyna, in late 1549.

  • 4 Maria Guiseppina Muzzarelli, “Ferrara, ovvero un porto placido e sicuro ta xv e xvi secolo,” Vita (...)
  • 5 Cecil Roth, Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi (Philadelphia, 1948), pp. 63–4. The fact that Brianda (...)
  • 6 In addition, when in 1556, Thomas Fernandes was accused of Judaizing in Bristol, England, and char (...)

7On February 12, 1550, Ercole II proclaimed a general safe conduct for Spanish and Portuguese Jews (“natione hebraica, lusitana et spagnola”). Gracia received a special brief that permitted her and those accompanying her “venire, habitare, conversare, haver synagoga particulare per sua comodità, negotiare ed esercitar suoi trafichi et mercanzie … securi e senza impedimento.”4 The brief marks the first public use of their Jewish names. The document was issued in the names of “Donna Vellida (wife) of Don Semer Benveniste and Donna Reina (wife) of Don Meir Benveniste, with all their families and households.”5 These names notwithstanding, she might have already also been known as Nasi, as is clear from a book dedicated to her in Ferrara.6

  • 7 Roth, p. 64.

8According to the ducal safe conduct, the women and their families were permitted to practice Judaism freely and to keep slaves. In case the privileges were withdrawn, they would have eighteen months to leave and carry away their assets, duty-free.7

9Although she had frequented sophisticated circles in Antwerp and in Venice and had even visited royalty, until her arrival in Ferrara Gracia had never thought to follow the example of her Christian acquaintances and become a patron of the arts. It is known from inventories that the Mendes households were luxuriously appointed. Yet, there are no identified artists or artisans who worked for them, nor has any book collection been recognized among the belongings seized after their flight from Antwerp. As international traders, the Mendeses should have supported cartographers, and it is probable that they had maps made for them; yet there are no extant extant showing their name.

10In Antwerp, Gracia entertained rich merchants and aristocrats from the Low Countries. In Ferrara, however, she began to move openly in Jewish circles. She became a popular hostess, and her house was patronized by Jewish scholars and Talmudists. Ferrara was to be Gracia’s “intellectual birthplace.”

THE FERRARA BIBLE

11Gracia’s name appears in the dedication of two important works. One is the famous Ferrara Bible, published on March 1, 1553, printed by Abraham Usque, a Portuguese who had moved to Italy, where was known by his Christian name, Duarte Piñel or Pinhel.

12Abraham Usque began to call himself by his Jewish name after his arrival in Ferrara (1543), and the person who founded a printing press and printed Judeo-Spanish as well as Portuguese texts, is known as Abraham Usque. Between 1551 and 1557 he published twenty-seven titles, but after much harassment limited his publication to Hebrew works. The Ferrara Bible, Biblia en Lengua Española traducita palabra por palabra de la verdad Hebrayca por muy excellentes letrados vista y examinada por el officio de la Inquisicion. Con privilegio del yllustrissimo Señor duque de Ferrara, was his most important production.

  • 8 See note 9 below. The volume I consulted contains marginal notes by an unidentified hand, marking (...)
  • 9 In a recent article, Aron di Leone Leoni called attention to a number of details, unnoticed before (...)
  • 10 I consulted that copy and a beautifully restored second copy in Lisbon.

13The Ferrara Bible was published in two versions: one dedicated to Duke Ercole, the other to Gracia. On the verso of the front page, two names appear, those of Yom Tob Atias and Abraham Usque, along with the dedication to Gracia, which dedication suggests that she supported, at least partially, the expense of the “Jewish” publication.8 Both editions received ducal permission and the “fiat” from the Inquisition’s censor. It was earlier believed that with the exception of the dedications, the translations differed little. For instance, words such as “virgin” in the Christian edition appear as “maiden” in the Jewish one. The Christian variant is dated March 1, 1553, whereas the “Jewish” version bears a Hebrew date: 14 Adar 5313. Other features distinguishing the two editions have been identified recently.9 On the front-page, a watercolor drawing of a sailboat is depicted with a broken mast, tossed on a choppy sea—perhaps a symbol of the fate of the Jews or of the New Christians?10

  • 11 For more on this appropriation, see Vita e Cultura Ebraica nello stato Estense. Atti del I convegn (...)

14This Bible was not, by any means, the first Jewish publication from that region. In addition to a large number of manuscripts and books now housed in the Estensi library in Modena, Italian archives hold thousands of earlier Hebrew manuscript fragments taken from registers and bindings. As Jewish gravestones were appropriated to pave streets, so were Jewish manuscripts re-used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—dismantled and fragmented for bindings and linings.11

  • 12 The first edition was published in 1553, but most copies were destroyed by the Inquisition shortly (...)

15A secular volume, published during the same year, points even more significantly to Gracia’s patronage: in Samuel Usque’s dedication of his great opus to Gracia. Consolaçam as Tribulaçoes de Israel (Consolation for the Tribulation of Israel).12

16As the title suggests, Samuel Usque’s book examines the trials and misfortunes of the Jewish people. A typical Renaissance pastoral, it is written in the form of a dialogue, three patriarchs presenting the issues. Icabo (Jacob), who appears as a shepherd and is the alter ego of the author, bemoans the fate of his children. The other protagonists are the patriarchs Numeo (Nahum) and Zicareo (Zecharia). A possible connection is that the Book of Zecharia contains a section (chapters 9–14) in which a contemporary recounts the terrible experience of the Jews after the exile in Babylon. In Zecharia also is the construction of the Temple (the rebuilding). The dialogues speak of its destruction. The Book of Nahum recounts events about a century earlier—the destruction of Nineveh.

17In the Ferrara Bible the first dialogues chronicle the destruction of the Second Temple and Jewish suffering under the Romans. The third section, in which the author describes through 37 chronological segments the martyrdom of the Jews in the Diaspora (France, Spain, Persia, Italy, England, and Portugal), also includes the story of their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula. All three patriarchs offer consolation derived from the Bible.

18Most of the sixteenth-century Jewish chroniclers came from Spanish and Portuguese expellees and their descendants. Especially after the Expulsion, Jewish historians tried to explain Jewish sufferings throughout the centuries, focusing mainly on the catastrophe that had uprooted them and their families from the Iberian Peninsula. A religious allegory, Usque’s description of the contemporary situation is more realistic than that of the overzealous rabbis.

  • 13 Perhaps influenced by Samuel Usque, João Baptista d’Este wrote Consolaçao christae, e luz para poy (...)
  • 14 It was believed that, still in Lisbon and using the name of Duarte Piñel, Usque wrote a Latin gram (...)

19As is clear from his oeuvre, Usque, a poet and historian, was thoroughly versed in the Bible. He wrote elegant Portuguese, knew Spanish and Latin, had read Plato, Ovid, and Lucan, and was familiar with contemporary philosophy.13 Samuel Usque must have known French as well as Italian. Where he acquired his Hebrew is a puzzle, since Jews were not supposed to own Hebrew texts, except for medical books. He might have studied in Lisbon or in Coimbra; his description of the 1506 massacre there seems based on first hand experience.14 He moved to Ferrara via England, France, and Germany, crossed the Alps, and wound up in Naples, where he befriended the Abravanels who preceded him into Ferrara by a decade.

  • 15 For more, see the volume L’Ebreu au Temps de la Renaissance, ed. Ilana Zinguer (Leiden, 1992) (Bri (...)

20Samuel Usque’s intended readers were the converses. The recurring charges against the Jews depicted in his history could only remind the New Christians of their own fate. One of Usque’s messages is that the Jews were enslaved by the very peoples they tried to emulate. Yet, when he speaks about “one of the chief gates” through which God’s compassion reaches the world, his tone seems more Christian than Jewish. Usque’s purpose is to urge New Christians to return to Judaism. One may read him as the first modern writer on Jewish history.15

21Samuel Usque’s dedication to Gracia abounds in praise of her virtues; he calls her “the heart in the body of her people.” Moreover, her existence counts among the major consolations of the Jews in exile. He claims that she has inherited Miriam’s innate compassion, Deborah’s prudence, and Esther’s boundless virtues. Her chastity and generosity are compared to Judith’s: “The Lord has sent you such a woman in our own days from the supreme choir of His hosts. He has treasured all these virtues in a single soul. To your happy fortune, He chose to infuse them in the delicate and chaste person of the blessed Jewess (Gracia) Nasi.”

  • 16 See pp. 37 and 230. Some scholars, following Roth’s romantic reading, believe that this statement (...)

22One passage—“What you have done and still do to bring to the light the fruits of those plants that are buried there in darkness”—may refer to Gracia’s efforts to bring back New Christians, like herself, from crypto- to open Judaism.16

  • 17 The family’s name is also spelled Abrabanel, and in some sources, Benvenida’s name is found as Bie (...)

23The vigorous intellectual and social ambience of Ferrara certainly affected Gracia’s attitudes. One person, in particular, served as her immediate intellectual and spiritual model: Benvenida (Bienvenida) Abravanel, wife and later widow of Samuel, the younger son of the famed Jewish philosopher Isaac Abravanel. Like Gracia’s, that family, too, was of Spanish background, originally from Seville. In 1391, Samuel’s grandfather converted, changing his name to Juan de Sevilla, but shortly thereafter he returned to Judaism. His son, Isaac, Samuel’s father, became a leading intellectual among the Portuguese émigrés in Italy.17

  • 18 See Pnina Nave Levinson, Was wurde aus Saras Töchtern? Frauen im Judentum (Gutersloh, 1989), p. 11 (...)

24Benvenida, one of the most popular Jewish women of her time, was praised for her religious devotion, wisdom, and benevolence. She was celebrated by Immanuel Aboab, her family’s chronicler, as “one of the noble and high-spirited matrons who have existed in Israel since the time of our dispersion … [a] pattern of chastity, of piety, of prudence and of valor.”18 This text so echoes Usque’s eulogy that Gracia’s name could easily by substituted for Benvenida’s.

  • 19 Meyr Kayserling, Die jüdischen Frauen in der Geschichte, Literatur und Kunst (New York, 1980 [Leip (...)

25While the Abravanels resided in Naples, Samuel served as the financial advisor of Viceroy Don Pedro. Welcomed at the court, Benvenida befriended Lenora, Don Pedro’s daughter, and even after Lenora married Cosimo Medici, she remained in touch with Benvenida, calling her a second mother. Allegedly, when Charles V wanted to expel the Jews from Naples, Benvenida, supported by her friend Lenora and other ladies of the local aristocracy, appeared before the emperor and pleaded for her co-religionists.19 When Charles V ordered the Jews either to wear a “Jew badge” or to leave Naples, Benvenida and her husband moved to Ferrara.

  • 20 Widdmanstadt was an expert on Syriac, but also knew Greek and Hebrew. He met Charles V in Italy an (...)

26Unlike the Mendes-Nasi family, the Abravanels were not only wealthy but also famously learned. Their home became a meeting place of Jewish and Christian scholars, including visitors to Ferrara such as the German humanist Johann Albrecht von Widdmanstadt (1506–57), but also of the poor and the orphaned.20

27Benvenida died in 1554, surviving her husband by three years. During those three years after her husband’s death, Benvenida managed the family business on an even grander scale than Gracia had hers. She also maintained the role her husband had played in scholarship and patronage. Her friendship with Gracia is documented. In addition to the general ambience of Ferrara, the direct influence of the much-admired Benvenida motivated Gracia to become a patroness of literature. Two other Jewish women in Ferrara, Pomona and Bathsheba of the Modena family, were versed in Jewish studies, although not in the arts. At that point in her life Gracia was however not actively studying Talmud or cabbala.

  • 21 See Constance H. Rose, “New Information on the Life of Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos; The Venetian Ph (...)
  • 22 He could have been one of those who as refugees received help from the Mendeses. Núñez was probabl (...)

28New information points to the Mendes family’s deeper involvement in publishing than was known earlier. In addition to the publications in Ferrara (all Jewish, except for one), the Mendeses were at the same time involved in non-Jewish printing in Venice. In 1552, an exiled Spaniard, Alonso Núñez de Reinoso, dedicated a volume of poetry and prose, “Al muy magnifico Juan Micas.” The same author’s Clareo y Florisea, a roman à clef, figures Doña Gracia.21 The volume, published in Venice, by the Gabriel Giolito de Farrari Press in 1552, consists of a novel and poetry. Both, separately paginated, were dedicated to “Juan Micas.” The first is in a form of a letter, dated January 24, 1552. Núñez knew both Gracia and João, and it is possible that he was for a time employed by the family as tutor.22

  • 23 It seems that Lando was introduced to the Mendes household by Núñez.
  • 24 Rose, p. 337. Rose assumes that Núñez de Reinoso could have denounced João, because among the Inqu (...)

29Ortensio Lando’s Due Panegyrici (1552) bears two dedications: one to “Gioan Michas,” the other to his brother, Bernardo.23 Lando dedicated yet another work to “Beatriz de Luna” (and to Ruscelli) in which he claims that Gracia was born in Venice.24 He also stated that one of the two richest families were the “Mendesi.” In a letter to “S. Giovanni Michas a Vinegia,” praising Charles V, Lando refers to João’s friendship with the emperor.

30There is a third work worth mentioning, written by the poet and courtier Bernardim Ribeiro (1482–1552). His novel Suadades, better known as Hystoria de Menina e Moça (1554), was the only Portuguese language fiction published in the sixteenth century. Its first publication occurred in Ferrara, in 1554, by Abraham Usque. Menina e Moça is of a mixed genre, showing the influence of the chivalric romances and the pastoral novel. Since there are some notable similarities between Suadades and Consolaçam, it has been conjectured that the same person wrote both works.

31By the time the book was completed, Gracia was already living as a Jew in Ferrara. Dedicating it to João, who was still a Christian in Venice, would therefore have been less suspicious. In the novel a self-portrait of the converso emerges, a man divided in life, memories and loyalties.

MEETING AN OLD FRIEND

  • 25 See more on his life in Maximiano Lemos, Amato Lusitano: A sua vida e a sua obra (Porto, 1907).
  • 26 See more on him in chapter 7.

32In Ferrara, Gracia encountered again Amatus Lusitanus, a scholar whom she had met earlier in Antwerp. No record exists of her patronage of Amatus in Antwerp, but after they reestablished their relationship in Ferrara, their paths often crossed.25 This famous man was born in Castello Branco in 1511 as Don Ioão Roderigues. He studied in Salamanca, where he practiced medicine at the age of eighteen, from whence he moved to Santerem and later to Lisbon. In order to avoid persecution, his friend Didacus Pyrrhus and he first went north to Antwerp, where he had met Jewish merchants from Ragusa. He did not relocate there immediately after he left Antwerp, but moved to Italy, first to Venice (where he declared himself a Jew); thereafter to Ferrara and Florence; later to Rome, Ancona, and thence to Pesaro.26

  • 27 Maren Frejdenberg, Židovi na Balkanu na isteku srednjeg vijeka (Zagreb, 2000), p. 113, and Jorjo T (...)
  • 28 Centuriae became a genuine bestseller. Three editions were published in Venice in the sixteenth ce (...)
  • 29 Elias Hiam Lindo, History of the Jews in Spain (London, 1848), pp. 359–60. He was also appreciated (...)

33Amatus allegedly received a secret Jewish education from his parents. He knew Hebrew, and early in his career he was translating from Hebrew into Latin. He quoted frequently from the Torah and cited examples from Jewish history and the Halakah. Although he was officially still a Christian when he took his medical oath, he recorded the date according to the Hebrew calendar: 5319.27 When he published his most famous work, Curationum Medicinalium Amati Lusitani Medici Physici praestantissimi Centuriae (Florence, 1551), he dedicated the first “Centuria” to Cosimo Medici.28 Amatus also wrote Latin commentaries on Avicenna and translated The History of Utopia into Spanish.29

34He was Gracia’s doctor and was known to have treated many members of the Italian aristocracy. Modern scholarship credits Amatus with the first research on blood circulation. He was also a passionate botanist, using herbs and spices to heal specific, primarily gastric, ailments. Amatus was a highly respected physician who counted among his patients the widows Mendes, as well as such dignitaries like Jacoba de Monte, the sister of Pope Julius III. He translated the five books of Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica, a work that had remained for 1,500 years the authority in botany. Amatus’s integrity vouches for his truthfulness in his expression his high regard for Gracia.

THE MEDAL CONTROVERSY

35With all the praise heaped upon Gracia Mendes, it is noteworthy that none of her contemporaries mentioned her beauty. Perhaps this too explains why Diogo married her younger sister. While there is no identifiable depiction of Gracia, a medal exists, struck in Ferrara in 1558, which for a long time was mistakenly thought to have been her portrait. The uniface bronze medal portrays a beautiful member of her family, her niece, Gracia la Chica, at the time of her engagement to Samuel. Gracia probably arranged that marriage either before leaving Ferrara for Constantinople, or already from the Empire, employing one of her agents. The medal is further proof of a relatively peaceful symbiosis of Christians and Jews in sixteenth-century Ferrara. A minority of scholars claim that Giovanni Paolo Poggini designed the medal; attribution should however be given to Pastorino di Pastorini.

  • 30 Regarding Gracia the elder as the alleged model, the claim is entirely without merit, and therefor (...)

36Pastorino di Pastorini (1508–1572) worked as painter, glass painter, and stucco artist, and as coin and medal engraver. Although he lived in Siena, during Ercole II’s rule he was active in Ferrara. Vasari would later hail him for his portrait medals in painted stucco. Some early scholars mistook the impression for Gracia’s profile and became involved in complicated calculations to account for the fact that the medal was struck several years after Gracia left Ferrara, or that in 1558 Gracia would not have been eighteen but about forty-eight years old.30

37Here the identity of the model is less important than the fact that the likeness of a young Jewish woman appears on a medal, wearing the same elegant, lace-trimmed costume, hairstyle, and jewelry as that worn by aristocratic Christian ladies of the period.

38The text surrounding the portrait is in both Hebrew and Latin. It is possible that even the Hebrew letters were done by Pastorino. A transliteration reads “Gratzia Nasi” in keeping with the Hebrew letter “tzadi” instead of a “c.” The artist would not need to know the Hebrew alphabet; he could merely have copied it from a sample, as was the habit of many Renaissance painters of biblical scenes.

39The existence of the medal is remarkable since Judaism did not permit the depiction of human images. Yet it is known that Jews who had been Christians earlier, incorporated some Christian rites in their services. This practice resulted in part from their ignorance of the Mosaic laws, but also because of the prestige of their Christian surroundings. One may claim that Gracia and her family’s new-found Judaism was influenced not only by the vigorous Jewish community of Ferrara, but also permitted by the lively cultural life of the Renaissance city to which they had free access.

THE GROWING INTOLERANCE IN FERRARA

  • 31 See Norman Rosenblatt, “Joseph Nasi: Court Favorite of Selim II,” Diss. University of Pennsylvania (...)

40After the wedding, Samuel had to wait for a safe conduct to leave Ferrara with his family. First he had to obtain safe transit from Venice, where he had been banished for having participated in the kidnap of his— by then—own wife. João made most of the arrangements for him from Constantinople. Finally, on March 6, 1558, Samuel, his wife, and household were permitted to leave. But Ferrara remained in debt to the family; it took years to recover the 40,000 crown lent to the late duke.31 At this time, Gracia got entangled in a long and unpleasant business quarrel with Agostino Enriques, who had retained some of her money, claiming that he had needed it to bribe Ferraran officials in order to secure freedom for Samuel and his family.

  • 32 See the sub-chapter “The Crises in Ancona and Pesaro.”

41In 1553, the Inquisition was again permitted to function in Ferrara; the Talmud and rabbinical texts were publicly burned. Later, Pope Paul IV prevailed upon Ercole II to introduce new anti-Jewish legislation. During his papacy Paul IV reorganized and expanded the activities of the Inquisition.32

42Having seen the handwriting on the wall, Gracia accepted the repeated invitations of the Porte, and continued her patronage of Jews and Jewish studies from the safety of Constantinople.

43In mid-August, 1552, Sı-nan Chaus put Gracia, Reyna and their entourage on elegant galleys bound for Ragusa, a most important stopover for Gracia’s future business dealings.

Notes

1 Curiously, one of the families’ name was Franco.

2 Werner L. Gundersheimer, Ferrara: The Style of a Renaissance Despotism (Princeton, 1973), p. 202.

3 This formulation is based on Bonfil’s observations. See Roberto Bonfil, Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1994), pp. 71–75, and passim.

4 Maria Guiseppina Muzzarelli, “Ferrara, ovvero un porto placido e sicuro ta xv e xvi secolo,” Vita e cultura Ebraica nello stato Estense. Atti del I convegno internazionale di studi Nonantolana 16–17 maggio 1991, ed. Euride Fregni e Mauro Perani (Bologna, 1992), esp. p.252. The text distinguishes Hebrews, Portuguese and Spaniards. It promises the immigrants to prosper, and practice their religion, and national customs in freedom, without any impediment.

5 Cecil Roth, Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi (Philadelphia, 1948), pp. 63–4. The fact that Brianda’s Hebrew name is recorded as Reyna proves that the sisters “crossnamed” their daughters.

6 In addition, when in 1556, Thomas Fernandes was accused of Judaizing in Bristol, England, and charged by the Lisbon Inquisition, he referred to the book Consolaçam, but mixed up the names, claiming that it was dedicated to “Beatrix de Luna, wife of Diogo [sic] Mendes,” although that name does not appear in the book that refers only to Gracia Nasi.

7 Roth, p. 64.

8 See note 9 below. The volume I consulted contains marginal notes by an unidentified hand, marking where an idea or a name occurs more than once in the text, or when a name appears in more than one form, e.g., “Samuel” and “Semuel.” For more on the subject see Introduccion a la Biblia de Ferrara. Actas del Simposio Internacional sobre la Biblia de Ferrara (Madrid, 1994).

9 In a recent article, Aron di Leone Leoni called attention to a number of details, unnoticed before (11a). Even prior to Leoni’s findings, Uriel Macias Kapon identified two insertions in the so-called “Jewish” version: two folios with the “Tabla de las haphataroth de todo el ano” (11a), (“La Biblia de Ferrara en bibliotecas y bibliografias espanolas” in Introduccion a la Biblia Ferrara, pp. 473–502). Also, Yerushalmi expressed doubt regarding the identification of Abraham Usque with Duarte Pinel (Pinhel) and of Jeronimo de Vargas with Jom Tob Atias. See AJewish Classic in the Portuguese Language: Introduction to Samuel Usque’s Consolacam as Tribulacoes de Israel, reprint ed. (Lisbon, 1989), pp. 86–87. Leoni found a copy of a l556 notary deed that made it clear that Yom Tob Atias’s Christian name was Alvaro Vargas and that he was not identical with Jeronimo, but was the man’s father. See “New Information on Jom Tob Atias (alias Alvaro Vargas), Co-Publisher of the Ferrara Bible,” Sefarad. 57, fasc. 2 (1997): 271–76. Earlier scholarship relied heavily on Cecil Roth’s “The Marrano Press at Ferrara, 1552–1555,” Modern Language Review 38 (1943).

10 I consulted that copy and a beautifully restored second copy in Lisbon.

11 For more on this appropriation, see Vita e Cultura Ebraica nello stato Estense. Atti del I convegno internazionale di studi Nonantolana. 16-17 maggio, 1991. See also Cecil Roth, “The Marrano Press at Ferrara, 1552–1555,” Modern Language Review, 38 (1943).

12 The first edition was published in 1553, but most copies were destroyed by the Inquisition shortly after publication. Ordered by Julius III, a large number of Talmuds, Hebrew works, and other publications were burned in the middle of the Campo di Fiori, Some fifty years later, Giordano Bruno was burned alive on the same spot. The second edition appeared in Amsterdam, in 1599. Although Samuel Usque’s work was published by Abraham Usque, one cannot demonstrate that the two men were closely related. There are three men named Usque active during that period, connected with the same patrons. Abraham Usque the liturgical author in Hebrew and printer, Solomon Usque the playwright and translator of Petrarch, and Samuel Usque the author of Consolaçam. Quotations here are from the English translation of Martin A. Cohen (Philadelphia, 1965). Usque’s exact dates are not known; in 1577 he is referred to as having died. He claimed that his ancestors came from Spain to Portugal and were forcibly baptized in 1497, possibly at the same time as the Mendeses and the Benvenistes.

13 Perhaps influenced by Samuel Usque, João Baptista d’Este wrote Consolaçao christae, e luz para poyo hebreo in 1616. It should be mentioned here that information transmitted in the form of conversation, was one of the preferred genres during the Renaissance. Benedictus Kuripešić of Slavonia, who in 1530–32 served as interpreter to Ferdinand‘s envoy, produced a highly sophisticated piece of fiction, written in the form of a dialogue between two stable boys, discussing the military, political, and moral state of the Ottoman Empire. For more on this, see Marianna D. Birnbaum, Croatian and Hungarian Latinity in the Sixteenth Century (Zagreb and Dubrovnik, 1993), pp. 335– 336, and passim.

14 It was believed that, still in Lisbon and using the name of Duarte Piñel, Usque wrote a Latin grammar, Latinae grammaticae compendium tractatus de calendis (Lisbon, 1543). Meyr Kayserling claimed that Piñel was Usque’s Christian name (Geschichte der Juden im Portugal [Leipzig, 1967], p. 268.) Several scholars accepted his view.

15 For more, see the volume L’Ebreu au Temps de la Renaissance, ed. Ilana Zinguer (Leiden, 1992) (Brill’s Series of Jewish Studies, 4), which includes a translation of a Hebrew text into Ladino by converso scholars situated in Ferrara in the middle of the sixteenth century. See also the seminal paper by Aron Di Leone Leoni,” “Gli ebrei sefarditi a Ferrara da Ercole I à Ercole II. Nuove richerche e interpretazioni,” La rassegna mensile di Israel 52 (1987): 407–46.

16 See pp. 37 and 230. Some scholars, following Roth’s romantic reading, believe that this statement alluded to Gracia’s helping Marranos secretly escape from Spain and Portugal. The translation is from Roth (p. 76). See the relevant page, in Cohen’s translation, in the Appendix.

17 The family’s name is also spelled Abrabanel, and in some sources, Benvenida’s name is found as Bienvenida. Called Isacco Abarbanello, he is praised by Antonio Frizzi for his commentaries to the Prophet Daniel, which were published in “Lingua e caratteri ebraici si stampo in Ferrara,” Memorie per la storia di Ferrara, 4.323 in the 1847–58 Bologna edition. The first publication of this five-volume work was 1791–1809, and there exists a 1975 reprint of the Bologna edition. He was involved in contemporary issues such as the discussion regarding the ideal form of government. Using the Bible as the basis of his arguments, Abravanel claimed that the Venetian republic reflected the perfect Mosaic concept. For the most complete assessment of his life, see Benzion Netanyahu, Don Isaac Abravanel: Statesman and Philosopher (Philadelphia, 1968).

18 See Pnina Nave Levinson, Was wurde aus Saras Töchtern? Frauen im Judentum (Gutersloh, 1989), p. 112.

19 Meyr Kayserling, Die jüdischen Frauen in der Geschichte, Literatur und Kunst (New York, 1980 [Leipzig, 1879]), pp. 76–9.

20 Widdmanstadt was an expert on Syriac, but also knew Greek and Hebrew. He met Charles V in Italy and visited the emperor in the Low Countries. Although most scholars accept Samuel’s death date as 1551, Amatus Lusitanus puts it at 1547. (Dioscorides, 4.171).

21 See Constance H. Rose, “New Information on the Life of Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos; The Venetian Phase,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 60 (1969–70): 336. For more on Núñez, see ibid. The Life and Work of Alonso Núñez de Reinoso: The Lament of a Sixteenth-Century Exile (Rutheford, 197l).

22 He could have been one of those who as refugees received help from the Mendeses. Núñez was probably born in Guadalajara, and studied in Alcalà. He completed his degree in 1545. His stay in Portugal can only be culled from indirect evidence. He reached Italy before 1550. In the novel he uses the guise “Isea” for himself, and refers to tutoring the two sisters. These can be either Reyna and the younger Gracia, or (as a gender reversal) it could have been the Nasi brothers, in which case Núñez had to be with the family already in Antwerp. Rose mistakenly assumes that João had two brothers. She refers to “two or three nephews” leaving Portugal with Gracia (p.332). Bernardo was the Christian name of Samuel. Her claim that Nasi’s patronage was due to his desire, “to leave behind respected Italians for future need,” is unconvincing.

23 It seems that Lando was introduced to the Mendes household by Núñez.

24 Rose, p. 337. Rose assumes that Núñez de Reinoso could have denounced João, because among the Inquisitional records of Venice she found his name as “João Miches” in the file, as one of “Ebrei anonimi”, for the year 1550. She thought to have recognized Núñez de Reinoso’s style in the text of the denunciation, as similar to the beginning of his own novel. She deciphered the name as “Alphonsus spanuolo.” Rose claims that the charge was not followed up because of João’s connections. See Rose, p. 336.

25 See more on his life in Maximiano Lemos, Amato Lusitano: A sua vida e a sua obra (Porto, 1907).

26 See more on him in chapter 7.

27 Maren Frejdenberg, Židovi na Balkanu na isteku srednjeg vijeka (Zagreb, 2000), p. 113, and Jorjo Tadić, Jevreji u Dubrovniku do polovine XVII stoljeć a (Sarajevo, 1937).

28 Centuriae became a genuine bestseller. Three editions were published in Venice in the sixteenth century (1552, 1557, 1560), and the Basel (1556) and Leyden editions (1560 and 1570) followed soon thereafter.

29 Elias Hiam Lindo, History of the Jews in Spain (London, 1848), pp. 359–60. He was also appreciated by the Iberian Christian world: J. Lucio D’Azevedo in his Historia de Christaos Novos Portogueses (Lisbon, 1921) writes that “famoso Amato Lusitano, João Rodrigues de Castello Branco medico por Salamanca e um dos mais notaveis de suo tempo.” Quoted by Jaroslav Šik, Die jüdischen Ärzte in Jugoslawien (Zagreb, 1931), p. 11. Maximiano Lemos calls Amatus an excellent clinician, an important theoretician and practical healer of high quality, with a great knowledge of anatomy, diagnostics; a man who used rational methods of treatment.

30 Regarding Gracia the elder as the alleged model, the claim is entirely without merit, and therefore there is no need to refer to a bibliography on the subject. For the best treatment of the topic, see Daniel M. Friedenberg, Jewish Medals From the Renaissance to the Fall of Napoleon: 1503–1815 (New York, 1970), pp. 43–45 and 128, respectively. Pastorino’s signature “p” usually appeared on the garb. Some scholars claim to have found it also on the “Gratsia Luna” medal.

31 See Norman Rosenblatt, “Joseph Nasi: Court Favorite of Selim II,” Diss. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1957), p. 31.

32 See the sub-chapter “The Crises in Ancona and Pesaro.”

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