Equestrian Monument of Erasmo Da Narni
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Equestrian Monument of Erasmo da Narni (Gattamelata)
The Italian Renaissance was a defining time period in what today is a stable and healthy modern Europe. Between the 14th and 16th century, Europe experienced war, societal, political and cultural change, and technological achievements; all of which signified the transition from “Medieval” Europe, to early modern Europe. Another significant transition made was through sculpting and art. Art during the Italian Renaissance was widely considered an advancement not only through the Italian Renaissance but through history of art. This era featured famous artists such as Pontormo, Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino, Parmigianino, and Donato Di Niccolo Di Betto Bardi better known as Donatello. While all these artists made a significant impact to the advancements in art and the Renaissance, it was Donatello who made a sculpture of one of the defining leaders and mercenaries of this era, Erasmo da Narni (Gattamelata). The life size, free standing statue of Gattamelata is located in Piazza del Santo, Padua, Italy. The 340 centimeter tall bronze statue portrays Gattamelata as a very attentive and vigilant leader. He sits atop his horse in an upright stature looking off into the distance in his military attire. In one hand, he holds a baton of command which is crossing the horse’s neck. He is holding the baton away from his chest and crossing the horse’s neck signifying his leadership, poise and elegance. In the other hand, he grasps the harness of the horse as signifying his control and direction. He carries his sword in his left socket which stretches down to the horse’s thigh. The horse has one leg taking a step forward showing the direction of the two. The statue itself has momentous meaning to it as it defines a significant time to the country when it was built. In this essay, I will analyze the history of the time it took place and the story behind the artist, Donatello. The statue still stands today, and gives Italians a reminder as to the history and change that took place almost six centuries ago.
Erasmo of Narni (1370 – January 16, 1443), better known as “Gattamelata” (The nickname means “The Honeyed Cat”), was among the most famous of the condottieri or mercenaries in the Italian Renaissance. He was born in Narni, and served a number of Italian city-states. He began with Braccio da Montone, served Pope and Florence equally, and served Venice in 1434 in the battles with the Visconti of Milan. The Gattamelata was built in 1453, during the middle of the Italian Renaissance. With technological and cultural advancements, there were also drastic financial increases in various city states like Venice, Florence, and Genoa. A lot of revenues and resources came from trade routes with a country then known as Levant, a region of the crossroads of Eastern Mediterranean and Western Europe. Levant at the time was experience rapid economic growth due to valuable minerals, textiles and mining. The high demand but limited supply of these resources orchestrated trade with other Mediterranean nations. While trade was limited, other city-states wanted to get a hand on resources as well as take over other enriched regions like Venice and Florence. The enriched city-states hired mercenaries to protect their resources as well as their way of life. For Venice, it was that of Erasmo De Narni, a distinguished war leader who was hired to watch and protect Venice. His presence is featured through a formal analysis of the statue itself. You can see a very confident and powerful mercenary looking out into the distance to protect the city.
Donatello is best known for integrating elements of Classical art with that of the Renaissance like naturalism, humanism, and individualism. He was known for his sculptures featured all around Florence and Venice depicting famous mercenaries who protected the cities. His sculpture of Gattamelata was the first of numerous ones of military hero’s. His background consisted of mostly nude sculptures, which are still popular to this day. Donatello was also a homosexual and he was not afraid to express that personally as well as through his artwork. His sculpture of Gattamelata was not his most famous piece of work, however in many eyes of Italians it was one of the most significance. The fact that it is of Gattamelata, a very famous mercenary to the city, gives the sculpture good reputation.
After strong financial times through trade, Italy experienced a recession in the 14 century. The 14th century consisted of many issues which resulted in financial troubles. The Plague emerged which cut Europe’s population by 33%, there was a drastic climate change which contributed to a downfall in agricultural production. Also at this time, was the introduction of central banks. At the time, it was considered high risk, but high reward as well. Citizens trusted these newly appointed banks to hold their money and provide interest rates to further their savings. When these banks failed, Italian citizens lost their money and Europe fell into a recession. It was at this point of instability that poetry and art took off and had a profound impact on the Renaissance. With shortage on jobs and decreases in population, people turned to making art and poetry, as well as the appreciation of art. While the economy was going down, the art industry really made strides and that is when we saw vast changes and innovation in sculptures, architecture, and paintings. The recession and plague actually helped the Italian economy recover quickly and regain itself after it saw decreases in population. This resulted in labor shortages and increases in wages. The Italian government then had more money to spend on luxury goods which were invested into banks, and more jobs were created as an outcome. While the Italian economy fluctuated in the 14th century, art emerged during the recession and boosted during the re-growth