WCW: Lucrezia Borgia

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Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI, a member of the House of Borgia, and famous for her beauty, possibly incestuous relationship with her brother Cesare Borgia, and rumored to be a poisoner. In reality, she was highly educated, married a number of prominent Italian nobles for her family’s political ambitions, had more than one affair, gave birth to 10 children, and died shortly after childbirth at the age of 39.

Given the rumors surrounding Lucrezia and her family, she’s been the subject of many films and TV series — most notably, Showtime’s The Borgias, but also several hilariously softcore porn-type films. Let’s see how she’s looked on screen!

 

Lucrezia Borgia (1922)

A silent German film that makes Cesare evil and Lucrezia good, with Austrian actress Liane Haid in the title role.

1922 Lucrezia Borgia

Apparently Lucrezia has a lot of hair?

 

Don Juan (1926)

A silent-dialogue, musically-soundtracked film starring John Barrymore as the famed womanizer. Lucrezia Borgia (American Estelle Taylor) has the hots for him, but he’s into Adriana (Mary Astor).

1926 Don Juan

Check those cupid lips and finger-waved hair!

 

Lucrezia Borgia (1935)

A French film starring future-legend Edwige Feuillère, whose reputation was greatly enhanced by this role.

1935 Lucrezia Borgia

It’s so not accurate…

1935 Lucrezia Borgia

But it sure is pretty!

 

Lucrezia Borgia (1940)

An Italian film starring Isa Pola in the title role.

1940 Lucrezia Borgia

I’m not sure a better photo would improve the costumes. Check those princess seams!

 

Bride of Vengeance (1949)

An American film starring Paulette Goddard (with Days of Our Lives star Macdonald Carey as Cesare!). Cesare is bad and leads Lucrezia astray.

1949 Bride of Vengeance

THE HAIR! WHAAAAAT? (Also, what is on her head?)

1949 Bride of Vengeance

This feels very Flash Gordon

 

Lucrèce Borgia (1953)

Another French take, with Martine Carol (1954’s Madame du Barry) as Lucrezia.

1953 Lucrèce Borgia

I just… NO.

1953 Lucrèce Borgia

Okay, this looks acceptable, even if I want to yoink the whole thing up at the shoulders!

1953 Lucrèce Borgia

I have NO IDEA WHAT’S UP WITH THAT HAT

1953 Lucrèce Borgia

Now suddenly we’re Venetian Renaissance Barbie?

 

The Nights of Lucrezia Borgia (1959)

The first of many possible-softcore takes on Lucrezia, with English Belinda Lee in the title role.

1959 The Nights of Lucrezia Borgia

I’m glad to see they kept the winged eyeliner.

 

Pleasant Nights (1966)

An Italian comedy film, with Maria Grazia Buccella as Lucrezia.

1966 Pleasant Nights

???

 

The Man Who Laughs (1966)

One of many adaptations of the Victor Hugo novel, this one setting the story amongst the Borgia family. Lisa Gastoni plays Lucrezia.

1966 The Man Who Laughs

It’s a look! Not a great one. But it is a look.

 

Lucrezia (1968)

The film that inspired this post! Because, WHAT THE FROCK. Ahem. An Italian-Austrian production that has to be minimum softcore, with Czech actress Olga Schoberová as Lucrezia.

1968 Lucrezia

WHAT THE HELL IS SHE GOING TO EAT ME

1968 Lucrezia

The millinery department clearly got to have WAY TOO MUCH FUN

1968 Lucrezia

SUBTLE.

 

Immoral Tales (1973)

“Four erotic-themed stories that involve the loss of virginity, masturbation, bloodlust, and incest” per Wikipedia, guess which one is about Lucrezia (Florence Bellamy)?

1973 Immoral Tales

Because who can resist a bearded lady?

 

Lucrezia Giovane (1974)

An Italian film in which Lucrezia (Simonetta Stefanelli) kills all of Cesare’s love interests.

1974 Lucrezia giovane

I can’t even.

 

The Borgias (1981)

A BBC miniseries that was something of a flop, with Australian Anne-Louise Lambert as Lucrezia.

1981 The Borgias

Alright, this looks semi-decent!

1981 The Borgias

PUPPER

 

The Secret Nights of Lucrezia Borgia (1982)

An Italian-Spanish production, with Finnish Sirpa Lane as Lucrezia.

1982 The Secret Nights of Lucrezia Borgia

I’m sensing lesbian themes.

 

E ridendo l’uccise (2005)

“And laughing he killed her,” an Italian film focused on the Este brothers, with Marianna De Micheli as Lucrezia.

2005 E Ridendo L'uccise

Did they start with a Lord of the Rings pattern?

 

Imperia, la Grande Cortigiana (2005)

I love that someone made a movie about Roman courtesan Imperia Cognati, because That Name! Sadly I don’t think I’ll be going out of my way to watch this, just based on these photos. Imperia crosses paths with the Borgias, including Chiara Claudi as Lucrezia.

2005 Imperia, la grande cortigiana

Sad trombone.

 

The Borgia (2006)

A Spanish-Italian film, with Spanish María Valverde as Lucrezia.

2006 The Borgia

Alright, she’s pretty, even if that dress doesn’t seem clear which era it’s from.

2006 The Borgia

I like the green and gold thingie?

2006 The Borgia

I feel like someone forgot to measure the sleeves correctly.

 

The Borgias (2011-13)

The Showtime miniseries that was so, so pretty, with Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI and Holliday Grainger as a nicely nuanced Lucrezia.

Holliday Grainger, The Borgias (2011-2013)

SUCH gorgeous costumes by Gabriella Pescucci!

Showtime's The Borgias

Like this wedding dress!!

Showtime's The Borgias

AND THE HAIR!!

Showtime's The Borgias

Just beautiful.

Showtime's The Borgias

No skimping on details here.

 

Borgia: Faith and Fear (2011-14)

Also just known as Borgia, this was a French-German-Czech-Italian TV miniseries, with German Isolda Dychauk as Lucrezia.

Borgia: Faith and Fear

Some of you are very attached to this show.

Borgia: Faith and Fear

I’m not screaming but I’m not bowled over.

Borgia: Faith and Fear

CLUNKY. Is she going to be steering a ship later?

Borgia: Faith and Fear

SO CLUNKY

 

What fresh horrors await poor Lucrezia Borgia?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

20 Responses

  1. mmcquown

    I don’t think there’s anything left to be said. Story — all over the place; costumes — ditto. Just goes to show there are/were a lot of beautiful actresses out there.

    Reply
  2. MoHub

    There’s a wonderful Donizetti opera—Lucrezia Borgia—in which she seduces and then poisons a young courtier who turns out to be her son. Terrible story, great music.

    Reply
  3. Susan Pola Staples

    Favourite Lucrezia on screen: Holliday Granger costumed by Gabriella Pescucci. Nuf said.

    Reply
  4. Roxana

    I have vague memories of the 1981 Borgias. Was pretty good both casting and costume wise as I recall.
    The real Lucrezia never poisoned anybody or had an incestuous affair with father or brother. She was on the evidence devoted to them and allowed herself to be married off repeatedly for Borgias advantage without protest, though she does seem to have taken exception to her second husband’s murder. She certainly did have lovers but the Roman Infant probably wasn’t hers. She was a great success as Duchess of Ferrera and her husband seems to have genuinely grieved her death though neither had been what you’d call faithful.

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Aren’t alternative facts and fake news the best? And this post might also be Kendra’s greatest achievement in stills curating. (I had no idea so many sultry European actresses had portrayed the Venetian Renaissance Barbie.) I’ve only seen “The Borgias,” and loved it for the fabulous dresses and hairstyles and sets, and Jeremy Irons sashaying about, mourning all the sins he has to commit for Mother Church.

      Reply
    • Roxana

      The few pictures believed to be of Lucrezia suggest flowing hair was a trademark of hers. Falling out of the bodices of her dresses not so much.

      Reply
  5. Alice Shortcake

    The only thing I can remember about the 1981 series is Adolfo Celi’s incomprehensible accent. Oh, and Anne Louise Lambert played Miranda in ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.

    Reply
  6. Kaite Fink

    “What’s on their head?” seems like a major theme here. Majorly hilarious! Is this a theme of its own? It should be.

    Reply
  7. Katie O.

    Even for the time, the eyebrows in Bride of Vengeance feels particularly crazy to me! They look like they’re about to take off from her face. Ah well, I’m sure our descendants will look at the eyebrow fashions of the last decade or two and laugh themselves silly

    Reply
  8. Roxana

    Movies always focus on Lucrezia’s supposed love life but there was more to her than sex and poison. She was the only one of Alexander’s children whose power and influenced survived his death. And she died honored and respected and much regretted.

    Reply
  9. Justme

    Gah! I remember the fights in the comments section over the head-necklace/nautically-themed frontlet band in that last one. So much cringe…

    Reply
  10. Caradoc

    I love Isolda Dychauck’s versión of Lucrezia, her evolution from a spoilt little girl to someone who is able to rule, ambitious, in charge of her sexuality, a good counselor… But also a good and compassionate woman. She’s not the most accurately dressed (Grainger is) but her evolution in the show is logic and interesting, I can’t help but live this Lucrezia. By the way, I read that from all the Borgia movies and shows, “Borgia: Faith & Fear” has the best cardinal outfits, especially those winter furry hats! And this series also has Mark Ryder as Cesare, not only does he a great job here, but also he’s the sexiest version of Cesare, Ryder in “Borgia” is the definition of period drama hotness!

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      As I discussed ad nauseum in my review of ‘Borgia: Faith & Fear’ — yes, but that show did a really crappy job by making it so huge & clunky, plus the original portrait is allegorical of “spring” showing her mostly naked so it’s not even contemporary fashion. So it’s wrong on multiple levels.

      Reply

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