The Funerary Monument of Gian Giacomo de Medici by Leone Leoni and the Imperial Figure of Charles V. (1/2).

I) The Sculpture of Gian Giacomo de Medici and the Figure of Charles V

One of the first monuments that we’ve encountered in our trip to Italy is the tomb of Gian Giacomo de Medici by Leone Leoni, which is situated in the west wall of the south transept of the Cathedral or Duomo of Milan. It was begun by Leoni in 1560 and finished, roughly, in 1563, the same year than the final session of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and five years after the death of Charles V (1500-1558) in close respect of a legal convenzione, published by Casati, between Leone Leoni, on the one side, and the agent of the pope Gabrio Serbellone and the Cardinal Morrone, on the other (Casati 1884, 56-67). It should be remember that it is Giovanni Angelo de Medici, by then Pope Pius IV, who commissioned the tomb to exalt the memory of his brother Gian Giacomo. The monument is made of marble of Carrara while all of its sculptures are in bronze. Although Michelangelo was believed to have participated in its architectonical design, we know, through the arguments of Casati, that it is not the case, although Leoni might have indeed seeked him for his advice (Casati 1884, 39-41; Plon 1887, 151).

            Beyond the mere formal analysis of the funerary monument which can be read in Casati and Plon (Casati 1884, 41-42; Plon 1887, 151), -who both correct the first description of Vasari-, I believe that some of its stylistic features might be important in the context of our research on Spanish Italy and the Iberian Americas, the most important one being the similitude observed by Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio between the central sculpture representing Gian Giacomo de Medici and the marble sculpture of Carles V of 1553, by the same Leoni, now at the Prado Museum (Helmstutler 2013, 48). It is indeed clear that the position of the body of the condottiero is very similar to that of Charles V, particularly because of the characteristic contrapposto of both sculptures, by which one of the legs, the right one for the emperor and the left one for the popular mercenary, is projected to the front, perhaps in a slightly unrealistic fashion in the case of the last sculpture.

            But, even more important than this parallel between the two bodily attitudes, is the one that can be observed between the bearded face of Charles V and that of the Lombard condottiero, which, in my opinion, can hardly be dismissed as a mere coincidence. This similitude might enable us to start working on the hypothesis that the sculpture of Gian Giacomo de Medici might have been designed in such a way as to assimilate the facial features of the condottiero to those of Charles V. This solution would certainly have been advantageous for Gian Giacomo de Medici, -and therefore, indirectly for his brother, pope Pius IV-, as well as for the memory of the emperor: indeed while the figure of the Marquis of Marignano, would have been symbolically matched to that of Charles V, the figure of the emperor might have acquire, some of the popularity of the condottiero, who, out of affection by the Lombard people, was called il Medeghino,-the little Medici-, and whose dead body was accompanied by a loving crowd into the Duomo of Milan when he died in 1555, roughly three years before the Emperor's own death.

            In that order of ideas, it should also be recalled that Diane Bodart (2011) has argued that the portrait of Charles V, as Titian painted it in the Battle of Mülbergh (1547) in particular, didn’t necessarily correspond to his real appearance, while it was nonetheless recognizable by everyone as the portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor. According to Bodart, one of the main coup de génie of Titian in creating the portrait of the emperor is precisely that he was able to transform the prognathism of Charles V into a symbol of power and authority through the embellishment of his chin and beard. It can be argued that in the figure of il Medeghino the treatment of the beard recalls that of Charles V in his portraits, and conveys the same impression of majesty and authority, while a true resemblance between Charles V and the condottiero was hardly needed since the portrait of the emperor was already idealized. It should be said that the image of Charles V was made popular through the triumphal entries of the emperor as that of 1541, in Milan, and by the coins, made by Leone Leoni, that were thrown to the people in those type of triumphal events, whether Charles V was actually present or not in them, as Sylvio Leydi (2013) as well as Bodart (2011) have argued, in such a way that both idealized portraits could be easily associated in people’s minds.

            In any case, the idea of assimilating the figure of the Lombard condottiero to the figure of the Holy Roman Emperor might also be interpreted as a way of neutralizing the figure of the self-driven rebel that was il Medeghino when he was able to build his own little empire in the lake of Como out of his own will and military deeds, perhaps in the same manner as the emperor preferred to make of the feared and well-known “pirate” and “corsair” an instrument of the Holy Roman Empire by calling him at his side, after 1528. We can see an allusion to the battles that il Medeghino fought around the world at the service of the Spanish crown in the commemorative inscription at the left of his funerary monument where it is stated: Io Jacobo Medici […]Multis victoris per totam fere Europam Partis […].

            In that sense, it is interesting that Francesco Repishti has suggested that the low-reliefs representing two feminine figures over the figures of Milizia (military virtue) and Pace (Peace), which are named Sera and Albis in the original convenzione published by Casati (1884, 58), although they are generally interpreted as the rivers Ticino and Adda might in fact be linked to the military carrier of il Medeghino at the service of Charles V, a link that would certainly be significant for us:

"Le due raffigurazioni potrebbero essere dunque riferimenti alla carriera militare di Giangiacomo al servizio di Carlo V e Ferdinando I. Per esempio, in un inventario pubblicato da Silvio Leydi dei beni lasciati da Giovanni Battista Castaldi, per il quale lavora lo stesso Leoni, su un cassone da    stanza è descritta la rappresentazione dell’Albis, da identificarsi con il fiume Elba e quindi con la Battaglia di Mühlberg svoltasi appunto sulle rive del fiume Elba). Seguendo questo ragionamento, quale pendant, l’altra figura femminile, che ritroviamo in una medaglia del Castaldi per celebrare la conquista di Lippa in Ungheria, potrebbe rappresentare invece la Schelda (“Sciena”) oppure Anversa, città che diede i Natali a Carlo V, uno dei confini geografici del potere degli Asburgo." (Repishti 2011, 37)


List of references:

Bodart, Diane H. 2011. Pouvoirs du portrait sous les Habsbourg d’Espagne. Paris: INHA.

Casati, Carlo. 1884. Leone Leoni d’Arezzo e Gio. Paolo Lomazzo pittore milanese: duove richerche, Milan: Ulrico Hoepli.

Helmstutler Di Dio, Kelley. 2013. “Leone Leoni's Habsburg Portraits and the Taste for Sculpture in Spain”. In The Art of Leone and Pompeo Leoni, edited by Stephan Schröder. 46-55. Madrid: Museo del Prado / Brepols.

Leydi Silvio. 2013. Leone Leoni "scultore delle stampe della Cecca di Milano" (1542-90), “Leone Leoni's Habsburg Portraits and the Taste for Sculpture in Spain”, in The Art of Leone and Pompeo Leoni, edited by Stephan Schröder. Madrid: Museo del Prado / Brepols.

Plon, Eugène. 1887. Leone Leoni, Sculpteur de Charles Quint et Pompeo Leoni, sculpteur de Philippe II. Paris: Plon.

Repishti, Francesco. 2011. “Pio IV e il monumento di Giangiacomo Medici nel Duomo di Milano (1560-1565).” Nuovi Annali 2:153-161.