City of north-central Italy, the capital of a duchy ruled from the 13th to the end of the 16th century by the princely house of Este. In theory the city was subject to the popes, and the papacy took direct control in 1598. The city grew and prospered during the Renaissance, reaching nearly 33,000 inhabitants in 1601. The Este dynasty conducted an ambitious program of building, not only of their own palaces but also of churches and charitable institutions. The rulers purchased or commissioned paintings by Italian masters and also by artists of the Flemish school such as Rogier van der Weyden. In the middle of the 15th century, a distinct Ferrarese school of painting developed, of which Cosmè Tura (1430-1495) and Francesco della Cossa (ca. 1435-ca. 1477) were the most prominent.
   Probably the outstanding achievement in the city's cultural life was the creation of a famous school of humanistic studies at the ducal court by the renowned teacher Guarino Guarini under the patronage of Duke Niccolö III in 1429. This school attracted students from princely and wealthy mercantile families throughout Italy and even from north of the Alps. In the middle of the 15th century, the school was further expanded into a university, though its original reputation rested largely on the teaching of Guarino.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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