Giuliano de’ Medici (c.1475-1478)

Verrocchio, Andrea del (1435-1488)

Giuliano de’ Medici
Terracotta, 61 x 66 x 28.3 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

Verrocchio, a favorite artist of the Medici, may have created this lively and commanding portrait on the occasion of a joust that took place in 1475 in Florence for Giuliano de’ Medici‘s coming of age. The bust was originally painted and possibly adorned with a metal helmet and other decoration, projecting an exuberance especially evident in the winged face modeled on Giuliano‘s fanciful armor. The beloved younger brother of the de facto ruler of Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giuliano was destined for an important future, a hope cut off by his dramatic murder during mass in Florence’s cathedral, on April 26, 1478, in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Medici rule. This freestanding, beige, terracotta bust shows the head and shoulders of a cleanshaven man, Giuliano de’ Medici, wearing a suit of armor. The bust is straight across the bottom so it rests directly on the white surface on which it is photographed. In this view, the man’s shoulders are square to us, and he looks off to our right, chin lifted. His eyes are blank, and he has a bumped, aquiline nose and rounded cheeks. His lips are closed, the corners slightly pulled back. His thick, curly hair is cut to create an angle down from his eyebrows, on either side of his forehead, to the back of his neck. His breastplate has a high collar, and, at the front center, a man’s head is sculpted in relief with his mouth wide open, head flanked by upswept wings. The yelling man’s teeth and tongue are visible, and he has wavy hair and prominent ears. The pauldrons, the armor covering Giuliano‘s shoulders, and the rest of the breastplate are decorated geometric shapes and curved lines that end in sharp points. (NGA)

See also:

• Giuliano de’ Medici (1453-1478)