Historical Context in My Last Duchess
Since it was fashionable for powerful men to patronize artists during the Renaissance, the Duke wants to show how artistic and cultural he is by having his wife memorialized by Fra Pandolf. Interestingly, the title Fra refers to an Italian monk or friar, likely indicating that the jealous Duke wanted his wife’s painter to have taken a vow of chastity.
Ferrara is a city in Italy. After marrying, Browning moved to Italy and was inspired by the country's art and atmosphere, calling it his "university." It features frequently in his work.