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Monday, November 26, 2012

'The Borgias' lush costuming

Well I finally watched 'The Borgias' which gets the thumbs up from me.  
Starring the always incredible Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander Sixus, (Rodrigo Borgia) this series is full of lush Roman/Italian costume of the late 1400s and early 1500s.  
This is not an era I know much about, so aside from some glaring things like playing Zadok the Priest (written by Handel for the coronation of George II in 1727) during the papal enthronement I could happily enjoy the show without getting too antsy about historical inaccuracies. 
And it is a lush feast of eye candy.  The Pope's son Cardinal Cesare (Ches-aray) Borgia played by Francois Arnaud (left) is easy on the orbs. 
The real Cesare didn't look half as good from portraits and was not nearly as sympathetic a character as in the show. 
He was from all I have read, a nasty piece of work, happy to slaughter anyone who got in his way and is reported to have been the basis for Machiavelli's 'The Prince'!  He was the ultimate pragmatist.
The lovely Holliday Grainger makes an angelic Lucrezia Borgia - the Pope's daughter who has been seen historically as a master poisoner although in recent scholarship there is a move away from that view to one of her being more of a pawn of her family. 
She was married very unhappily into the powerful Sforza family. A marriage which was later annulled (laughably because it was not consummated in spite of her being pregnant at the time). In the show she is repeatedly brutally raped by her husband but has a child to a very attractive, gentle groom. Whether this is accurate I don't know but it makes for a good story.
Brother Juan was another nasty piece of work and didn't quibble at killing, maiming, raping or being generally unpleasant.
Whichever way you looked at it they were a family to be avoided for health's sake. 
But thoroughly enjoyable to watch with enough skullduggery and lush costume for anyone.


  1. Cesare Borgia was actually noted for his good looks until he succumbed to syphilis - one chronicler described him as 'the handsomest prince in Europe' - surviving portraits of him can't exactly be described as unhandsome even by today's standards so I'm surprised by the above. Still he was unlikely to have been as gorgeous as the exquisite Monsieur Arnaud - he is just breathtakingly scrumptious isn't he!

    1. Hi Kim,
      I think it's just a matter of personal taste. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder and so on. I didn't say the real Cesare was unhandsome - just that he didn't look half as good as M. Aranaud based on the portraits I had seen. And that's to my eyes. Said M. Arnaud being, as you mentioned, scrumptious!
      People also said Henry VIII was handsome when he was young, but I never saw it from the portraits. Pleasant enough perhaps but not handsome to my eyes.
      Of course we are also comparing someone we can see living and breathing (albeit in a movie) with portraits painted in an era which prized different ideals of beauty. In real life the original Cesare might have knocked my socks off!
      But yes M. Arnaud can come to tea any time! : )
      Thanks for commenting, it's nice to get other people's take on things.

  2. Madam,

    What a vile family they were, indeed. I thank you for alerting the good people to their machinations. If there's any moral to be found here, 'tis that wretchedness and beauty may be intermingled in one person.

    I bid you adieu,

    1. La sir, I have often said so. Sadly beauty of form is often mistaken for virtue and worth. I often decry it as I add another patch to my face!
      Au revoir