Year of creation:1453
- Rider(s):Narni, Erasmo da, (Gattamelata)
The oldest surviving bronze equestrian statue since antiquity is the statue in Padua of the condotierre Erasmo of Narni (1370-1443), better known with his nickname ‘Gattamelatta’ (the honeyed cat). His hair was blonde like honey and he was sly as a cat. Donatello sculpted this statue and finalized it in 1453. The statue was highly controversial at the time of its creation as it was an equestrian monument glorifying a man who was not a ruler. Gattamelata is the first Renaissance equestrian statue reintroducing, after more than a millennium, the grandeur of classical equestrian portraiture. It reflects the artistic trends of the Renaissance: naturalism and the careful depiction of forms.
Undoubtedly the Marcus Aurelius statue inspired Donatello. Instead of portraying Erasmo of Narni larger than life size (the usual way to demonstrate the subject’s power), Donatello makes a statement of the power, by the simple depiction of the real man, a stolid ruler, and a warrior in armour with a lengthy sword upon his waist, commanding a powerful horse. The front left hoof of the horse rests on an orb, symbolizing the earth, so representing his power in the entire world.
The Florentine artist Donatello (c. 1386-1466) stayed for a few years in Rome, together with Brunelleschi. Their Roman sojourn was decisive for the entire development of Italian art in the 15th century. Brunelleschi’s buildings and Donatello’s sculptures are both considered supreme expressions of the spirit of this era in architecture and sculpture, and they exercised a potent influence upon the artists of the age. Around 1430, Cosimo de’ Medici, the foremost art patron of his era, commissioned from Donatello the bronze David. It was to be the first major work of Renaissance sculpture. In 1433, Donatello was lured away to Padua to make the equestrian statue of Gattamelata.
The first Renaissance equestrian statue reintroducing the grandeur of classical equestrian portraiture is the statue in Padua of the condotierre known as ‘Gattamelatta’, by Donatello (1453). The statue reflects the artistic trends of the Renaissance: naturalism and the careful depiction of forms.