Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni
"I do not believe that there is a more glorious work of sculpture existing in the world," wrote John Ruskin (1819-1900).
The great Victorian writer was referring to the bronze equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni (1395-1475), which was modelled by a Florentine, Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-88), and cast by a Venetian, Alessandro Leopardi (1466-1512). Leopardi, rather cheekily, inscribed his own name, and his name alone, on the strap under the horse's belly.
The statue, which depicts man and horse as a formidable fighting machine, was unveiled to the public on March 21st, 1496.
Bartoloemo Colleoni was a successful condottiero (mercenary), who was employed for many years by the Venetian state. On his death, he bequeathed to the Republic of Venice a small fortune, on condition that it erected a statue of him in Piazza San Marco. A statue to an individual in the city's most prestigious public space was out of the question. However, as the Republic didn't want to lose the bequest, the powers-that-be ordered the statue to be erected outside the Scuola San Marco rather than the Basilica San Marco!
Colleoni was very proud of his family name, which comes from the Latin word coleus (testicle). As a general, he led his men into battle with the cry 'Coglia, coglia' and his coat of arms actually sports three pairs of testicles. In Italian, a slang word for testicles is coglioni.
Bartolomeo Colleoni is buried in his native city of Bergamo.