Honorable Mention

Poem by Carolyn Raphael

Venice, 21 March, 1496, the dedication of Verrocchio’s equestrian statue of the mercenary, Bartolomeo Colleoni. Alessandro Leopardi, who cast and finished the bronze statue after Verrocchio’s death, is listening to the speeches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verrochio’s statue, hah! The work is mine.
I carved my name across the horse’s girth,
Designed the base with capitals and frieze
To echo buildings in the square. These hands
Adorned the helmet and the armor—my hands.
But who will know, and who will praise my name?
Look at the face Verrocchio left unfinished.
I drilled the pupils’ fierceness in the eyes,
Raked lines of mettle on the brow, then fused
The pieces so that horse and man were one.

They say this statue is a masterpiece,
As fine as Donatello’s Gattamelata.
Absurd! My statue puts his in the dark.
His horse’s hoof rests on an orb for balance,
While my horse lifts his hoof in open air,
As if about to charge into the fray.
His condittiere sits with classic calm;
Mine stands erect, one armored shoulder raised,
Thrust forward in belligerent pursuit.
His head turns to the left, his torso, right—
A terrifying aspect of attack.

They call me to the stand for all to hear
Leopardi’s name, my new post in the mint;
To see the plaque that hails a son of Venice,
Who brought to birth this noble monument.
As the cheers grow, the piazza walls resound….
But history will crown Verrocchio.

 

 

 

Notes on Leopardi and Verrocchio

I. Leopardi’s contributions to Colleoni

A. Furnished the horse’s tail (original was lost or broken)
B. Worked up the lineaments of Colleoni’s head
C. Added the decorative elements of Colleoni’s armor and helmet
D. Did the horse’s reins, harness, saddle (possibly based on drawings by Verrocchio)
E. Designed the base on which the statue rests (the designs are similar to Leopardi’s flagpole bases at San Marco, which he designed)
F. Added the chasing (ornamentation on the bronze by engraving or embossing)

 

 

II. Clearly Verrocchio’s work

A. The mane of the horse (similar to the hair of Christ and St. Thomas)
B. Colleoni’s face is idealized and was designed by V., but the final surface of the wax casting model plus the chasing of the bronze was done by Leopardi