At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Federico da Montefeltro – condottiere

Patron of the arts made money through war


Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro
Piero della Francesca's stark portrait
of Federico da Montefeltro
Federico da Montefeltro, one of the most successful of the Italian condottieri, was born on this day in 1422 in Gubbio.

He has been immortalised by the famous portrait painted of him by Piero della Francesca, where he was dressed in red and showing his formidable profile.

Federico ruled Urbino from 1444 until his death, commissioning the building of a large library where he employed his own team of scribes to copy texts.

He was the illegitimate son of Guidantonio da Montefeltro but he was legitimised by the Pope with the consent of Guidantonio’s wife.

Federico began his career as a condottiere - a kind of mercenary military leader at the age of 16. When his half brother, who had recently become Duke of Urbino, was assassinated in 1444, Federico seized the city of Urbino.

To bring in money he continued to wage war as a condottiere. He lost his right eye in an accident during a tournament and later commissioned a surgeon to remove the bridge of his nose to improve his field of vision and make him less vulnerable to assassination attempts.

Subsequently, he refused to have his portrait painted in full face, hence he is depicted in profile by Piero della Francesca.

Federico fought on behalf of the Sforza family, the King of Naples and various Popes.

In 1482 he was asked to command the army of Ercole I of Ferrara in his war against Venice but he then caught a fever and died in Ferrara.

Federico imposed justice and stability on Urbino and supported up and coming artists such as Raphael.

He took care of his soldiers when they were killed or wounded by providing dowries for their daughters. As a result his soldiers remained loyal to him and he never lost a battle.

Photo of Ducal Palace in Urbino
The Ducal Palace in Urbino, a Unesco World
Heritage Site
Travel tip:

Urbino, which is inland from the Adriatic resort of Pesaro, in the Marche region, is a majestic city on a steep hill. It was once a centre of learning and culture, known not just in Italy but also in its glory days throughout Europe. The Ducal Palace, a Renaissance building made famous by The Book of the Courtier, is one of the most important monuments in Italy and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Travel tip:


Gubbio, where Federico was born, is a small town in Perugia in the region of Umbria that still has many of its medieval buildings. It became absorbed into the territory of the Montefeltro family in the 15th century and Federico Montefeltro had the ancient Palazzo Ducale rebuilt in a similar style to his palace in Urbino.

(Photo of Ducal Palace at Urbino by Florian Prischi CC BY-SA 3.0)

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