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Paradoxplace artists of the Italian Renaissance

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Federico da Montefeltro

1422 - 1482 (60)

Duke of Urbino, and his Palazzo







Reigned as Signore then Duke of Urbino from 1444.  A Condottiere, professionally trained by Niccolo Piccinino (regarded as the best around), he was strictly a (very successful) gun for hire - fighting for cash payments and looting rights on short term contracts and with no underlying allegiances (except expanding his own territory around Urbino).  All the portraits of Federico are from his left side - he had earlier lost his right eye in a jousting accident.  And the nose bridge was apparently created by surgeons to give the surviving left eye the ability to "see right".


Federico fought for Florence v the Pope, for the Pope v Florence, for Naples, Venice etc - whoever paid and booked a slot in his dairy!!   In 1472, under contract to the Florence of Lorenzo de' Medici, he sacked Volterra with an appalling brutality that is still remembered there today. 


Interesting then to find that the Duke is universally extolled in books as the ultimate model of a Renaissance man of culture and civility!   His profession was merely the cash flow generator for his passion for books (he had a larger manuscript library than most universities), art (he was the patron of Piero della Francesca amongst others), and  beautiful buildings (including the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, and also its little sister, the Palazzo Ducale in Gubbio) in which to house his "civilized court".


See his famous face painted by Piero della Francesca in about 1472 (in room 7 of the Uffizi - below right - it's much smaller than most people imagine).  The diptych also features his second wife - Battista Sforza (below left).  She married the 35 year old Duke when she was 13, bore him seven daughters then a son and died in 1472, aged just 26,  at the birth of the latter.


Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino


Federico's memorial to his wife (Battista Sforza 1446  - 1472 (26)) and of course to himself (1422 - 1482 (60)) (CHRONOLOGY LINK) painted by Piero c1474 and now famously exhibited in Room 7 of the Uffizi in Florence.



The Duke portrayed (with dented helmet) in the "Brera Alterpiece" by Piero della Francesca in around 1470 (Pinotecca di Brera, Milan)


Portrait of Duke Federico (with undented helmet) painted by Pietro Berruguette in 1480-81, now in the Palazzo Ducale, Urbino.


Portrait in one of the Duke's hundreds of manuscript books.  The Duke (who obviously liked the red "campaigning hat" look when not in knight's fatigues) is talking to the Florentine humanist writer Christofo Landino, whose best known work was a set of philosophical conversations between Lorenzo de'Medici, Leon Battista Alberti and Marsilio Ficino.







And this is what the Palazzo the Duke built between 1444 and 1472 looks like on a June evening 550 years' later (on the left is the Duomo)





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All original work Adrian Fletcher 2000-2015 - not to be reproduced without permission