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Italian family, rulers of Ferrara, Modena, and Reggio from the late 13th century until 1598, when Ferrara was annexed by the papacy, and thereafter of Modena and Reggio until 1796, when the family was deposed by the invading French. Various members were notable patrons of arts and letters. Leonello (1407–50; reigned from 1441) made Ferrara into an important cultural centre. He was the friend of Alberti, and a patron of Jacopo Bellini, Piero della Francesca, and Pisanello; Rogier van der Weyden painted his illegitimate son Francesco (Met. Mus., New York), who spent most of his life in the Netherlands. Leonello's brother Borso (1413–71; reigned from 1450) commissioned the outstanding work of 15th-century Ferrarese painting—the series of frescos in the Hall of the Months in the Palazzo Schifanoia, attributed mainly to Francesco del Cossa. Isabella (1474–1539), daughter of Ercole I (1431–1505), the half-brother of Leonello and Borso, was the greatest of the Este patrons and one of the most brilliant women of her time. She secured paintings from Mantegna, Perugino, Costa, and later Correggio to decorate her famous Studiolo in Mantua (she was married to Francesco Gonzaga) and is said to have implored art dealers not to show her their wares so she would not spend herself even further into debt. A portrait drawing of her by Leonardo is in the Louvre, Paris. Her brother Alfonso I (1476–1534; reigned from 1505) commissioned mythological paintings by Giovanni Bellini and Titian for his Studiolo. Dosso and Battista Dossi, Garofalo, and Scarsellino were among the other painters employed by the Estes during the 16th century. In the next century they continued their activities in Modena. Francesco I (1610–58; reigned from 1629) commissioned portraits of himself from Bernini and Velázquez. Both portraits are now in the Galleria Estense in Modena, which houses many other works from the Este collections. However, in 1744 Francesco III (1698–1780; reigned from 1737) sold 100 of his finest pictures to Augustus III of Poland (as Elector of Saxony he had his court in Dresden and these paintings are now among the treasures of the city's Gemäldegalerie).

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