Isabella d’Este’s tutor, Mario Equicola, wrote in his Libro de natura de amore that the ancient Greeks valued silence over speaking words that, once said, could never be revoked. These ideas, he wrote, are imitated in the impresa of
“la prudentissima Isabella da Este di Mantua marchesa, con tucte le pause della musica pratica, le quali ne admoniscono et quasi ad viva voce ne dicono: ‘Ad tempo taci ‘: Seneca commanda ad Lucilio sia tardiloquo; non essere cosa alcuna megliore che`l silentio Menandro scrive; Hesiodo ne prega la lingua servemo como thesoro; Tullio Quinto suo fratello exhorta che diligentemente habia in custodia la lingua.”
the most prudent Isabella d’Este, marchesa of Mantua, with all the rests of musica practica [that is, music as practiced, as opposed to music theory], which admonish and almost aloud say: “at times, hush.” Seneca commanded Lucilius to be slow to speak; Menandro wrote that there is nothing better than silence; and Tullio V exhorted his brother to diligently keep his tongue in check.
Mario Equicola, Libro de natura de amore (ms) (Biblioteca Italiana, 2003), V: 4.
Anne MacNeil has taken Equicola’s interpretation of Isabella’s musical impresa as the title for the film Ad tempo taci: Songs for Isabella d’Este in order to draw attention to the juxtapositions of sound and silence that run throughout the various artworks associated with the marchesa and her husband Francesco II Gonzaga.
❧ Link to the IDEA Video Archive here