Bergamo And Bartolommeo Colleoni
( Originally Published 1910 )
FROM the new town of commerce to the old town of history upon the hill the road is carried along a rampart lined with horse-chestnut trees—clumps of massy foliage and snowy pyramids of bloom expanded in the rapture of a Southern spring. Each pair of trees between their stems and arch of intermingling leaves includes a space of plain checkered with cloud-shadows, melting blue and green in amethystine haze. To right and left the last spurs of the Alps descend, jutting like promontories, heaving like islands from the misty breadth below; and here and there are towers half lost in airy azure, and cities dwarfed to blots, and silvery lines where rivers flow, and distant, vapor-drowned, dim crests of Apennines. The city walls above us wave with snap-dragons and iris among fig-trees sprouting from the riven stones. There are terraces over-rioted with pergolas of vine, and houses shooting forward into balconies and balustrades, from which a Romeo might launch himself at daybreak, warned by the lark's song. A sudden angle in the road is turned, and we pass from air-space and freedom into the old town, beneath walls of dark-brown masonry, where wild valerians light their torches of red bloom in immemorial shade. Squalor and splendor live here side by side. Grand Renaissance portals grinning with satyr masks are flanked by tawdry frescos shamming stone-work, or by doorways where the withered bush hangs out a promise of bad wine.
The Cappella Colleoni is our destination—that masterpiece of the sculptor-architect's craft, with its variegated marbles—rosy and white and creamy yellow and jet-black—in patterns, bass-reliefs, pilasters, statuettes, incrusted on the fanciful domed shrine. Upon the façade are mingled, in the true Renaissance spirit of genial acceptance, motives Christian and Pagan with supreme impartiality. Medallions of emperors and gods alternate with virtues, angels, and cupids in a maze of loveliest arabesque ; and round the base of the building are told two stories—the one of Adam from his creation to his fall, the other of Hercules and his labors. Italian craftsmen of the quattrocento were not averse to setting thus together, in one framework, the myths of our first parents and Alcmena's son ; partly, perhaps, because both subjects gave scope to the free treatment of the nude ; but partly, also, we may venture to surmise, because the heroism of Hellas counterbalanced the sin of Eden. Here, then, we see how Adam and Eve were made and tempted and expelled from Paradise and set to labor, how Cain killed Abel, and Lamech slew a man to his hurt, and Isaac was offered on the mountain. The tale of human sin and the promise of redemption are epitomized in twelve of the sixteen bass-reliefs. The remaining four show Hercules wrestling with Anteaus, taming the Nemean lion, extirpating the Hydra, and bending td his will the bull of Crete. Labor, appointed for a punishment to Adam, becomes a title to immortality for the hero. The dignity of man is reconquered by prowess for the Greek, as it is repurchased for the Christian by vicarious suffering. Many may think this interpretation of Amadeo's bass-reliefs far-fetched; yet, such as it is, it agrees with the spirit of humanism, bent ever on harmonizing the two great traditions of the past. Of the workmanship little need be said, except that it is wholly Lombard, distinguished from the similar work of Della Quercia at Bologna and Siena by a more imperfect feeling for composition and a lack of monumental gravity, yet graceful, rich in motives, and instinct with a certain wayward improvvisatore charm.
This chapel was built by the great Condottiere Bartolommeo Colleoni, to be the monument of his puissance even in the grave. It had been the Sacristy of S. Maria Maggiore, which, when the Consiglio della Misericordia refused it to him for his half-proud, half-pious purpose, he took and held by force. The structure, of costliest materials, reared by Gian Antonio Amadeo, cost him fifty thousand golden florins. An equestrian statue of gilt wood, voted to him by the town of Bergamo, surmounts his monument inside the chapel. This was the work of two German masters called Sisto figlio di Enrico Syri da Norimberga and Leonardo Tedesco. The tomb itself is of marble, executed for the most part in a Lombard style resembling Amadeo's, but scarcely worthy of his genius. The whole effect is disappointing. Five figures representing Mars, Hercules, and three sons-in-law of Colleoni, who surround the sarcophagus of the buried general, are, indeed, almost grotesque. The angularity and crumpled draperies of the Milanese manner, when so exaggerated, produce an impression of caricature. Yet many subordinate details—a row of putti in a Cinque Cento frieze, for instance—and much of the low relief work, especially the Crucifixion, with its characteristic episodes of the fainting Marys and the soldiers casting dice, are lovely in their unaffected Lombardism.
There is another portrait of Colleoni in a round above the great door, executed with spirit, though in a bravura style that curiously anticipates the decline of Italian sculpture. Gaunt, hollow-eyed, with prominent cheek-bones and strong jaws, this animated half -length statue of the hero bears the stamp of a good likeness, but when or by whom it was made I do not know.
Far more noteworthy than Colleoni's own monument is that of his daughter Medea. She died young in 1470, and her father caused her tomb, carved of Carrara marble, to be placed in the Dominican Church of Basella, which he had previously founded.
It was not until 1842 that this most precious masterpiece of Antonio Amadeo's skill was transferred to Bergamo. Hic jacet Medea virgo. Her hands are clasped across her breast. A robe of rich brocade, gathered to the waist and girdled, lies in simple folds upon the bier. Her throat, exceedingly long and slender, is circled with a string of pearls. Her face is not beautiful, for the features, especially the nose, are large and prominent; but it is pure and expressive of vivid individuality. The hair curls in crisp, short clusters; and the ear, fine and shaped almost like a Faun's, reveals the scrupulous fidelity of the sculptor. Italian art has, in truth, nothing more exquisite than this still-sleeping figure of the girl who, when she lived, must certainly have been so rare of type and lovable in personality. If Busti's Lancinus Curtius be the portrait of a humanist, careworn with study, burdened by the laurel leaves that were so dry and dusty ; if Gas-ton de Foix in the Brera, smiling at death and beautiful in the cropped bloom of youth, idealize the hero of romance ; if Michael Angelo's Penseroso translate in marble the dark broodings of a despot's soul ; if Della Porta's Julia Farnese be the Roman courtesan magnificently throned in nonchalance at a pope's footstool ; if Verocchio's Colleoni on his horse at Venice impersonate the pomp and circumstance of scientific war—surely this Medea ex-hales the flower-like graces, the sweet sanctities of human life, that even in that turbid age were found among high-bred Italian ladies. Such power have mighty sculptors, even in our modern world, to make the mute stone speak in poems and clasp the soul's life of a century in some five or six transcendent forms.
The Colleoni, or Coglioni, family were of considerable antiquity and well authenticated nobility in the town of Bergamo. Two lions' heads conjoined formed one of their canting ensigns ; an-other was borrowed from the vulgar meaning of their name. Many members of the house held important office during the three centuries preceding the birth of the famous general Bartolommeo. He was born in the year 1400 at Solza in the Bergamasque Contado. His father, Paolo, or Pùho as he was commonly called, was poor and exiled from the city, together with the rest of the Guelf nobles, by the Visconti. Being a man of daring spirit, and little inclined to languish in a foreign state as the dependent on some patron, Pùho formed the bold design of seizing the Castle of Trezzo. This he achieved in 1405 by fraud, and after-wards held it as his own by force. Partly with the view of establishing himself more firmly in his acquired lordship, and partly out of family affection, Pùho associated four of his first-cousins in the government of Trezzo. They repaid his kindness with an act of treason and cruelty only too characteristic of those times in Italy. One day while he was playing at draughts in a room of the castle, they assaulted him and killed him, seized his wife and the boy Bartolommeo, and flung them into prison. The murdered Pùho had another son, Antonio, who escaped and took refuge with Giorgio Benzone, the tyrant of Crema. After a short time the Colleoni brothers found means to assassinate him also; therefore Bartolommeo alone, a child of whom no heed was taken, remained to be his father's avenger. He and his mother lived together in great indigence at Solza, until the lad felt strong enough to enter the service of one of the numerous petty Lombard princes, and to make himself if possible a captain of adventure. His name alone was a sufficient introduction, and the Duchy of Milan, dismembered upon the death of Gian Maria Visconti, was in such a state that all the minor des-pots were increasing their forces and preparing to defend by arms the fragments they had seized from the Visconti heritage. Bartolommeo therefore had no difficulty in recommending himself to Filippo d' Arcello, sometime general in the pay of the Milanese, but now the new lord of Piacenza. With this master lie remained as page for two or three years, learning the use of arms, riding, and training himself in the physical exercises which were indispensable to a young Italian soldier. Meanwhile Filippo Maria Visconti reacquired his hereditary dominions ; and at the age of twenty, Bartolommeo found it prudent to seek a patron stronger than D' Arcello. The two great Condottieri, Sforza Attendolo and Braccio, divided the military glories of Italy at this period; and any youth who sought to rise in his profession had to enroll himself under the banners of the one or the other. Bartolommeo chose Braccio for his master, and was enrolled among his men as a simple trooper, or ragazzo, with no better prospects than he could make for himself by the help of his talents and his borrowed horse and armor. Braccio at this time was in Apulia, prosecuting the war of the Neapolitan Succession disputed between Alfonso of Aragon and Louis of Anjou under the weak sovereignty of Queen Joan. On which side of a quarrel a condottiere fought mattered but little, so great was the con-fusion of Italian politics, and so complete was the egotism of these fraudful, violent, and treacherous party leaders. Yet it may be mentioned that Braccio had espoused Alfonso's cause. Bartolommeo Colleoni early distinguished himself among the ranks of the Bracceschi. But he soon perceived that he could better his position by deserting to another camp. Accordingly he offered his services to Jacopo Caldora, one of Joan's generals, and received from him a commission of twenty men-at-arms. It may here be parenthetically said that the rank and pay of an Italian captain varied with the number of the men he brought into the field. His title " Condottiere " was derived from the circumstance that he was said to have received a Condotta di venti cavalli, and so forth. Each cavallo was equal to one mounted man-at-arms and two attendants, who were also called ragazzi. It was his business to provide the stipulated number of men, to keep them in good discipline, and to satisfy their just demands. Therefore an Italian army at this epoch consisted of numerous small armies varying in size, each held together by personal engagements to a captain, and all dependent on the will of a general-in-chief, who had made a bargain with some prince or republic for supplying a fixed contingent of fighting-men. The condottiere was in other words a contractor or impresario, undertaking to do a certain piece of work for a certain price, and to furnish the requisite forces for the business in good working order. It will be readily seen upon this system how important were the person-al qualities of the captain, and what great advantages those condottieri had who, like the petty princes of Romagna and the March, the Montefeltri, Ordelaffi, Malatesti, Manfredi, Orsini, and Vitelli, could rely upon a race of hardy vassals for their recruits.
It is not necessary to follow Colleoni's fortunes in the Regno, at Aquila, Ancona, and Bologna. He continued in the service of Caldora, who was now General of the Church, and had his condotta gradually increased. Meanwhile his cousins, the murderers of his father, began to dread his rising power, and determined, if possible, to ruin him. He was not a man to be easily assassinated ; so they sent a hired ruffian to Caldora's camp to say that Bartolommeo had taken his naine by fraud, and that he was himself the real son of Pùho Colleoni. Bartolommeo defied the liar to a duel; and this would have taken place before the army, had not two witnesses appeared who knew the fathers of both Colleoni and the bravo, and who gave such evidence that the captains of the army were enabled to ascertain the truth. The impostor was stripped and drummed out of the camp.
At the conclusion of a peace between the Pope and the Bolognese, Bartolommeo found himself without occupation. He now offered himself to the Venetians, and began to fight again under the great Carmagnola against Filippo Visconti. His engagement allowed him forty men, which, after the judicial murder of Carmagnola at Venice in 1432, were increased to eighty. Erasmo da Narni, better known as Gattamelata, was now his general-in-chief—a man who had risen from the lowest fortunes to one of the most splendid military positions in Italy. Colleoni spent the next years of his life, until 1443, in Lombardy, manoeuvring against Il Piccinino, and gradually rising in the Venetian service, until his condotta reached the number of eight hundred men. Upon Gattamelata's death at Padua in 1440, Colleoni be-came the most important of the generals who had fought with Caldora in the March. The lordships of Romano in the Bergamasque, and of Covo and Antegnate in the Cremonese, had been assigned to him ; and he was in a position to make independent engagements with princes. What distinguished him as a general was a combination of caution with audacity. He united the brilliant system of his master Braccio with the more prudent tactics of the Sforzeschi ; and thus, though he often surprised his foes by daring stratagems and vigorous assaults, he rarely met with any serious check. He was a captain who could be relied upon for boldly seizing an advantage, no less than for using a success with discretion. Moreover he had acquired an almost unique reputation for honesty in dealing with his masters, and for justice combined with humane indulgence to his men. His company was popular, and he could always bring capital troops into the field.
In the year 1443, Colleoni quitted the Venetian service on ac-count of a quarrel with Gherardo Dandolo, the Proveditore of the Republic. He now took a commission from Filippo Maria Visconti, who received him at Milan with great honor, bestowed on him the Castello Adorno at Pavia, and sent him into the March of Ancona upon a military expedition. Of all Italian tyrants, this Visconti was the most difficult to serve. Constitutionally timid, surrounded with a crowd of spies and base informers, shrinking from the sight of men in the recesses of his palace, and controlling the complicated affairs of his duchy by means of correspondents and intelligencers, this last scion of the Milanese des-pots lived like a spider in an inscrutable network of suspicion and intrigue. His policy was one of endless plot and counter-plot. He trusted no man ; his servants were paid to act as spies on one another ; his body-guard consisted of mutually hostile mercenaries; his captains in the field were watched and thwarted by commissioners appointed to check them at the point of successful ambition or magnificent victory. The historian has a hard task when he tries to fathom the Visconti's schemes, or to understand his motives. Half the duke's time seems to have been spent in unravelling the webs that he had woven, in undoing his own work, and weakening the hands of his chosen ministers. Conscious that his power was artificial, that the least breath might blow him back into the nothingness from which he had arisen on the wrecks of his father's tyranny, he dreaded the personal eminence of his generals above all things. His chief object was to establish a system of checks, by means of which no one whom he employed should at any moment be great enough to threaten him. The most formidable of these military adventurers, Francesco Sforza, had been secured by marriage with Bianca Maria Visconti, his master's only daughter, in 1441 ; but the duke did not even trust his son-in-law. The last six years of his life were spent in scheming to deprive Sforza of his lordships ; and the war in the March, on which he employed Colleoni, had the object of ruining the principality acquired by this daring captain from Pope Eugenius IV. in 1443.
Colleoni was by no means deficient in those foxlike qualities which were necessary to save the lion from the toils spread for him by Italian intriguers. He had already shown that he knew how to push his own interests, by changing sides and taking service with the highest bidder, as occasion prompted. Nor, though his character for probity and loyalty stood exceptionally high among the men of his profession, was he the slave to any questionable claims of honor or of duty. In that age of confused politics and extinguished patriotism, there was not indeed much scope for scrupulous honesty. But Filippo Maria Visconti proved more than a match for him in craft. While Colleoni was engaged in pacifying the revolted population of Bologna, the duke yielded to the suggestion of his parasites at Milan, who whispered that the general was becoming dangerously powerful. e recalled him, and threw him without trial into the dungeons of the Forni at Monza. Here Colleoni remained a prisoner more than a year, until the duke's death, in 1447, when he made his escape, and profited by the disturbance of the duchy to reacquire his lordships in the Bergamasque territory. The true motive for his imprisonment remains still buried in obscure conjecture. Probably it was not even known to the Visconti, who acted on this, as on so many other occasions, by a mere spasm of suspicious jealousy, for which he could have given no account.
From the year 1447 to the year 1455, it is difficult to follow Colleoni's movements, or to trace his policy. First, we find him employed by the Milanese Republic, during its brief space of independence ; then he is engaged by the Venetians, with a commission for fifteen hundred horse ; next, he is in the service of Francesco Sforza; once more in that of the Venetians, and yet again in that of the Duke of Milan; His biographer relates with pride that, during this period, he was three times successful against French troops in Piedmont and Lombardy. It appears that he made short engagements, and changed his paymasters ac-cording to convenience. But all this time he rose in personal importance, acquired fresh lordships in the Bergamasque, and accumulated wealth. He reached the highest point of his prosperity in 1455, when the Republic of St. Mark elected him generalin-chief of their armies, with the fullest powers, and with a stipend of one hundred thousand florins. For nearly twenty-one years, until the day of his death, in 1475, Colleoni held this honorable and lucrative office. In his will he charged the Signory of Venice that they should never again commit into the hands of a single captain such unlimited control over their military resources. It was indeed no slight tribute to Colleoni's reputation for integrity that the jealous republic, which had signified its sense of Carmagnola's untrustworthiness by capital punishment, should have left him so long in the undisturbed disposal of their army. The standard and the baton of St. Mark were conveyed to Colleoni by two ambassadors, and presented to him at Brescia on June 24, 1455. Three years later he made a triumphal entry into Venice, and received the sane ensigns of military authority from the hands of the new doge, Pasquale Malipiero. On this occasion his staff consisted of some two hundred officers, splendidly armed, and followed by a train of serving-men. Noblemen from Bergamo, Brescia, and other cities of the Venetian territory, swelled the cortege. When they embarked on the lagoons, they found the water covered with boats and gondolas, bearing the population of Venice in gala attire to greet the illustrious guest with instruments of music. Three great galleys of the republic, called bucentaurs, issued from the crowd of smaller craft. On the first was the doge in his state robes, attended by the government in office, or the Signoria of St. Mark. On the second were members of the senate and minor magistrates. The third carried the ambassadors of foreign powers. Colleoni was received into the first state galley, and placed by the side of the doge. The oarsmen soon cleared the space between the land and Venice, passed the small canals, and swept majestically up the Canalozzo among the plaudits of the crowds assembled on both sides to cheer their general. Thus they reached the piazzetta, where Colleoni alighted between the two great pillars, and, conducted by the doge in person, walked to the Church of St. Mark. Here, after mass had been said, and a sermon had been preached, kneeling before the high-altar he received the truncheon from the doge's hands. The words of his commission ran as follows :
"By authority and decree of this most excellent city of Venice, of us the prince, and of the senate, you are to be commander and captain-general of all our forces and armaments on terra firma. Take from our hands this truncheon, with good augury and fortune, as sign and warrant of your power. Be it your care and effort, with dignity and splendor to maintain and to de-fend the majesty, the loyalty, and the principles of this empire. Neither provoking, nor yet provoked, unless at our command, shall you break into open warfare with our enemies. Free jurisdiction and lordship over each one of our soldiers, except in cases of treason, we hereby commit to you."
After the ceremony of his reception, Colleoni was conducted with no less pomp to his lodgings, and the next ten days were spent in festivities of all sorts.
The commandership-in-chief of the Venetian forces was perhaps the highest military post in Italy. It placed Colleoni on the pinnacle of his profession, and made his camp the favorite school of young soldiers. Among his pupils or lieutenants we read of Ercole d' Este, the future Duke of Ferrara; Alessandro Sforza, Lord of Pesaro; Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat; Cicco and Pino Ordelaffi, Princes of Forli; Astorre Manfredi, the Lord of Faenza ; three Counts of Mirandola ; two Princes of Carpi ; Deifobo, the Count of Anguillara; Giovanni Antonio Caldora, Lord of Jesi in the March ; and many others of less name. Hon-ors came thick upon him. When one of the many ineffectual leagues against the infidel was formed in 1468, during the pontificate of Paul II., he was named captain-general for the crusade.
Pius II. designed him for the leader of the expedition he had planned against the impious and savage despot Sigismondo Malatesta. King René of Anjou, by special patent, authorized him to bear his name and arms, and made him a member of his family. The Duke of Burgundy, by a similar heraldic fiction, conferred upon him his name and armorial bearings. This will explain why Colleoni is often styled "di Andegavia e Borgogna." In the case of René, the honor was but a barren show. But the patent of Charles the Bold had more significance. In 1473 he entertained the project of employing the great Italian general against his Swiss foes; nor does it seem reasonable to reject a statement made by Colleoni's biographer, to the effect that a secret compact had been drawn up between him and the Duke of Burgundy, for the conquest and partition of the Duchy of Milan. The Venetians, in whose service Colleoni still remained, when they became aware of this project, met it with peaceful but irresistible opposition.
Colleoni had been engaged continually since his earliest boy-hood in the trade of war. It was not therefore possible that he should have gained a great degree of literary culture. Yet the fashion of the times made it necessary that a man in his position should seek the society of scholars. Accordingly his court and camp were crowded with students, in whose wordy disputations he is said to have delighted. It will be remembered that his con-temporaries, Alfonso the Magnanimous, Francesco Sforza, Federigo of Urbino, and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, piqued them-selves at least as much upon their patronage of letters as upon their prowess in the field.
Colleoni's court, like that of Urbino, was a model of manners. As became a soldier, he was temperate in food and moderate in slumber. It was recorded of him that he had never sat more than one hour at meat in his own house, and that he never overslept the sunrise. After dinner he would converse with his friends, using commonly his native dialect of Bergamo, and entertaining the company now with stories of adventure, and now with pithy sayings. In another essential point he resembled his illustrious contemporary, the Duke of Urbino ; for he was sincerely pious in an age which, however it preserved the decencies of ceremonial religion, was profoundly corrupt at heart. His principal lord-ships in the Bergamasque territory owed to his munificence their fairest churches and charitable institutions. At Martinengo, for example, he rebuilt and re-endowed two monasteries, the one dedicated to St. Chiara, the other to St. Francis. In Bergamo itself he founded an establishment named " La Pietà," for the good purpose of dowering and marrying poor girls. This house he endowed with a yearly income of three thousand ducats. The sulphur baths of Trescorio, at some distance from the city, were improved and opened to poor patients by a hospital which he provided. At Rumano he raised a church to St. Peter, and erected buildings of public utility, which on his death he bequeathed to the society of the Misericordia in that town. All the places of his jurisdiction owed to him such benefits as good water, new walls, and irrigation-works. In addition to these munificent foundations must be mentioned the Basella, or Monastery of Dominican friars, which he established not far from Bergamo, upon the river Serio, in memory of his beloved daughter Medea. Last, not least, was the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, attached to the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, which he endowed with fitting maintenance for two priests and deacons.
The one defect acknowledged by his biographer was his partiality for women. Early in life he married Tisbe, of the noble house of the Brescian Martinenghi, who bore him one daughter, Caterina, wedded to Gasparre Martinengo. Two illegitimate daughters, Ursina and Isotta, were recognized and treated by him as legitimate. The first he gave in marriage to Gherardo Martinengo, and the second to Jacopo of the same family. Two other natural children, Doratina and Ricardona, were mentioned in his will : he left them four thousand ducats apiece for dowry. Medea, the child of his old age (for she was born to him when he was sixty), died before her father, and was buried, as we have seen, in the Chapel of Basella.
Throughout his life he was distinguished for great physical strength and agility. When he first joined the troop of Braccio, he could race, with his corselet on, against the swiftest runner of the army; and when he was stripped, few horses could beat him in speed. Far on into old age he was in the habit of taking long walks every morning for the sake of exercise, and delighted in feats of arms and jousting-matches. "He was tall, straight, and full of flesh, well-proportioned, and excellently made in all his limbs. His complexion inclined somewhat to brown, but was colored with sanguine and lively carnation. His eyes were black ; in look and sharpness of light they were vivid, piercing, and terrible. The outlines of his nose and all his countenance expressed a certain manly nobleness, combined with goodness and prudence." Such is the portrait drawn of Colleoni by his biographer ; and it well accords with the famous bronze statue of the general at Venice.
Colleoni lived with a magnificence that suited his rank. His favorite place of abode was Malpaga, a castle built by him at the distance of about an hour's drive from Bergamo. The place is worth a visit, though its courts and gates and galleries have now been turned into a monster farm, and the southern rooms, where Colleoni entertained his guests, are given over to the silkworms. Half a dozen families, employed upon a vast estate of the Martinengo family, occupy the still substantial house and stables. The moat is planted with mulberry-trees ; the upper rooms are used as granaries for golden maize ; cows, pigs, and horses litter in the spacious yard. Yet the walls of the inner court and of the ancient state-rooms are brilliant with frescos, executed by some good Venetian hand, which represent the chief events of Colleoni's life—his battles, his reception by the Signory of Venice, his tournaments and hawking-parties, and the great series of entertainments with which he welcomed Christiern of Denmark. This king had made his pilgrimage to Rome, and was returning west-ward, when the fame of Colleoni and his princely state at Malpaga induced him to turn aside and spend some days as the general's guest. In order to do him honor, Colleoni left his castle at the king's disposal and established himself with all his staff and servants in a camp at some distance from Malpaga. The camp was duly furnished with tents and trenches, stockades, artillery, and all the other furniture of war. On the king's approach, Colleoni issued with trumpets blowing and banners flying to greet his guest, gratifying him thus with a spectacle of the pomp and circumstance of war as carried on in Italy. The visit was further enlivened by sham fights, feats of arms, and trials of strength. When it ended, Colleoni presented the king with one of his own suits of armor, and gave to each of his servants a complete livery of red and white, his colors. Among the frescos at Malpaga none are more interesting, and none, thanks to the silkworms rather than to any other cause, are fortunately in a better state of preservation, than those which represent this episode in the history of the castle.
Colleoni died in the year 1475, at the age of seventy-five. Since he left no male representative, he constituted the Republic of St. Mark his heir in chief, after properly providing for his daughters and his numerous foundations. The Venetians received under this testament a sum of one hundred thousand ducats, together with all arrears of pay due to him, and ten thousand ducats owed him by the Duke of Ferrara. It set forth the testator's intention that this money should be employed in defence of the Christian faith against the Turk. One condition was attached to the bequest. The legatees were to erect a statue to Colleoni on the Piazza of St. Mark. This, however, involved some difficulty; for the proud republic had never accorded a similar honor, nor did they choose to encumber their splendid square with a monument. They evaded the condition by assigning the Campo in front of the Scuola di S. Marco, where also stands the Church of S. Zanipolo, to the purpose. Here accordingly the finest bronze equestrian statue in Italy, if we except the Marcus Aurelius of the Capitol, was reared upon its marble pedestal by Andrea Verocchio and Alessandro Leopardi.
Colleoni's liberal expenditure of wealth found its reward in the immortality conferred by art. While the names of Braccio, his master in the art of war, and of Piccinino, his great adversary, are familiar to few but professed students, no one who has visited either Bergamo or Venice can fail to have learned something about the founder of the Chapel of St. John and the original of Leopardi's bronze. The annals of sculpture assign to Verocchio, of Florence, the principal share in this statue : but Verocchio died before it was cast ; and even granting that he designed the mod-el, its execution must be attributed to his collaborator, the Venetian Leopardi. For my own part, I am loath to admit that the chief credit of this masterpiece belongs to a man whose undisputed work at Florence shows but little of its living spirit and splendor of suggested motion. That the Tuscan science of Verocchio secured conscientious modelling for man and horse may be assumed; but I am fain to believe that the concentrated fire which animates them both is due in no small measure to the hand-ling of his northern fellow-craftsman.
While immersed in the dreary records of crimes, treasons, cruelties, and base ambitions, which constitute the bulk of fifteenth-century Italian history, it is refreshing to meet with a character so frank and manly, so simply pious and comparatively free from stain, as Colleoni. The only general of his day who can bear comparison with him for purity of public life and decency in conduct was Federigo di Montefeltro. Even here, the comparison redounds to Colleoni's credit; for he, unlike the Duke of Urbino, rose to eminence by his own exertion in a profession fraught with peril to men of ambition and energy. Federigo started with a principality sufficient to satisfy his just desires for power. Nothing but his own sense of right and prudence restrained Colleoni upon the path which brought Francesco Sforza to a duchy by dishonorable dealings, and Carmagnola to the scaffold by questionable practice against his masters.