The famous Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata stands in front of the Basilica del Santo in Padua. It would take Donatello six years to sculpt the statue exactly the way he wanted it. It turned out to be worth it, since it is now considered one of the most beautiful equestrian statues ever made.
Gattamelata Monument Padua
The Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata was placed in the Piazza del Santo in 1453. It represents the former leader of the troops of Padua, Erasmo da Narni. His nickname, Gattamelata, might either refer to his “sweet, but devious” character, or to his mother’s maiden name, Gattelli.
Gattamelata was born in Narni in 1370 and died in Padua in 1443. According to one theory his mother and son paid 1650 ducats to have the statue built, but according to another hypothesis it was the Venetian Republic that paid for it.
The statue was sculpted by Donatello. It was the first time since antiquity that an equestrian statue of this size had been made. Both horse and rider, however, are depicted as more powerful than the ones sculpted by the ancient masters. This also made the sculpture heavier, so Donatello had to place a sphere underneath the horse’s front left hoof, in order to keep the equilibrium intact.
The monument was meant to be a sepulchre. The tall pedastal has the shape of a sarcophagus. The doors on the side are those of life and death. The first one is closed, the second open.
Gattamelata is depicted in a very forceful manner, with a heavy harness and a raised truncheon.
There are some allusions to antiquity. Gattamelata has a head of Medusa depicted on his harness and some musician cupids around his belt.