The Renaissance

While pomp and power reigned at the Renaissance courts, rulers and men of power were honoured by large-scale equestrian statues. This practice, present even in ancient times (the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius at the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome is but one remnant), spread widely once again. Among the prominent bronze and stone figures was the figure of outstanding horsemen. Accordingly, the figure of the mercenary -an independent soldier working on behalf of lords to protect cities and states against invaders- would cover centuries and revel in glory thanks to the horse, since they battled in the saddle for the victory and honour of sovereigns compensating their services. Naturally, artists commemorated them in the saddle, setting in stone the greatness of their fame. Italy exhibited widespread praise for these independent warriors, as exemplified by the statue of Colleoni, which sits in Venice, and that of Gattamelata by Donatello in Padua.

The main quest for the rider in seeking to use his art and diligence to direct the horse to perfection in its finest exercises is to first make it calm and well in hand since this provides the foundation for clear moves and ease of all the nice airs and schools.

Salomon de La Broue, Principles of French Cavalry, 1593

This statuary both suggests the power of the men and lauded the rulers. As such, Marie de’ Medici commissioned an equestrian statue of Henry IV to be placed on the Pont Neuf in honour of the late king. Depictions also reach into equestrian portraits, pictorial works depicting the ruler on a horse.

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