Equestrian monument of Gattamelata, Piazza del Santo, Padua

(c. 1445-1453)
   This work was commissioned from Donatello by the Venetian Senate to honor the condottiere Erasmo da Narni, known as Gattamelata, who served as chief commander of the Venetian army and left funds in his will for his own monument. Donatello based his work on the ancient equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (Rome, Capitoline Museum), then thought to represent Constantine the Great. He also was inspired by Paolo Uccello's Sir John Hawkwood on Horseback (1436) in the Cathedral of Florence. Gattamelata is shown as a forceful commander, stressed by the ferocious Victory figure on his breastplate. The tension on the man's jaw and neck muscles, his piercing gaze, and lines on his fore-head grant him an aura of authority. The noble nature of the animal serves to enhance Gattamelata's heroism. Donatello was as comfortable rendering the anatomy of the man as that of the horse. The animal's well-defined tendons and muscles, its flaring nostrils, and opened mouth are the details that denote Donatello's mastery.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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