Ercole on Horseback

Bertoldo di Giovanni

Florence, c.1440 – 1491

Cast bronze, 27 x 25 x 8.5 cm

Inv. 2265

The Galleria Estense, Modena

One of the most famous bronze statues of the Italian Renaissance, Ercole on Horseback is documented for the first tim in an Estense inventory in 1684. Whilst the horse was clearly inspired by the Triumphal Quadriga in Venice, the mounted figure of Ercole, adorned with garlands of ivy and flowers as well as the traditional lion skin, was a true innovation. Accordingly, it may be deduced that the bronze was originally created for Ercole I d’Este and alludes to the festivities on 1 May when the Duke would scatter flowers at young maidens’ doors. The style proves without a doubt that this is the work of Donatello’s student, Bertoldo di Giovanni: famous for his role as the young Michelangelo’s teacher in the famed Sculpture Garden of Lorenzo the Magnificent.