Lucrezia Borgia was the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, the powerful Renaissance Spaniard who would later become Pope Alexander VI and Vannozza dei Cattani. Lucrezia's family later came to epitomise the ruthless Machiavellian politics and sexual corruption alleged to be characteristic of the Renaissance Papacy. In this story Lucrezia was cast as a femme fatale, a role she has played in many artworks, novels and films. No authentic portrait of Lucrezia is known, though several paintings, such as Bartolomeo Veneziano's fanciful portrait (see illustration) have been said to depict her. Often these images are simply part of Lucrezia's myth.
Not enough is known about the historical Lucrezia to be certain whether any of the stories about her active involvement in her father's and brother's crimes are true.
Was she a "monster of cruelty and deceit"? Or a pawn of her power-hungry father and brother? Was she a poisoner or simply the victim of some very bad press? Once again, the differing perceptions of history are fascinating.