Montefeltro, Federico da

(1422-1482)
   Ruler of Urbino from 1444; appointed duke in 1474 by Pope Sixtus IV. Federico was the illegitimate son of Guidantonio, Count of Montefeltro and Urbino, who in 1435 turned him over as a hostage to Venice to guarantee the peace of Ferrara signed between Pope Eugenius IV and the Visconti, then rulers of Milan. In the following year, Federico was transferred to the Gonzaga court in Mantua where he received a humanistic education and where he was knighted by Emperor Sigismund. He took the rulership of Urbino in 1444 when his half-brother Oddantonio was murdered. To support Urbino's economy, Federico served as condottiere to the papacy, the king of Naples, and several Italian princes, including the Sforza of Milan for whom he obtained the territory of Pesaro. For himself, he took Fossombrone and married Battista Sforza in 1450. His daughter Giovanna's marriage to Sixtus IV's nephew, Giovanni della Rovere, resulted in the pope raising Urbino to a duchy (1474). Federico died in Ferrara in 1482 while fighting for the Venetian Republic. For over 30 years, Federico expended great effort in the building and decoration of his Ducal Palace. As a result, Urbino became one of the most important artistic centers of the Renaissance where sculptors, painters, and architects from other regions came to work. The Tuscan Piero della Francesca painted the portraits of Federico and his wife Battista Sforza in 1472 (both in Florence, Uffizi). Luciano Laurana, from Dalmatia, executed a posthumous bust of Battista in about the same year. He is also credited with some of the architectural design of the Ducal Palace as he is named its chief architect in a document of 1468. The Sienese architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who arrived in Urbino in 1476, continued work on the palace. He also built a number of fortresses in Urbino and worked for Montefeltro as sculptor. His Deposition in bronze relief (c. 1477; Venice, Santa Maria del Carmine) originally formed part of an altarpiece in the Oratory of Santa Croce, Urbino. The Spanish painter Pedro Berruguete and the Netherlandish Joos van Ghent worked for the duke on the decoration of his study and library (1477). In 1480-1481, Berruguete also rendered a portrait of Federico and his son, now in Urbino's Gallería Nazionale.
   See also Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, portraits of.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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