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Antonio Foscarini

A patrician executed for love

Rubens, Portrait of Alatheia Talbot

Antonio di Niccolò Foscarini was a dashing patrician who served as ambassador to England from 1610. He got into trouble when enemies back home accused him of spying for Spain. The government recalled him, and imprisoned him for three years under suspicion of treason.

After he was finally cleared of the charge and released, Foscarini secretly paid frequent visits to the Palazzo Mocenigo-Nero, then the residence of the formidable Alatheia Talbot, Lady Arundel, wife of one of the most powerful nobles in King James’ court (and one of the first serious English collectors of Italian art). Renewed accusations of treason reached the Council of Ten in 1622, which accused Foscarini of

… having secretly and frequently been in the company of ministers of foreign powers, by day and by night, in their houses and elsewhere, in this city and outside it, in disguise and in normal dress, and having divulged to them, both orally and in writing, the most intimate secrets of the Republic, and having received money from them in return …

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History and Anecdotes


Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by PD Art