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Federico da Montefeltro : biography

7 June 1422 - 10 September 1482

Federico da Montefeltro, also known as Federico III da Montefeltro (7 June 1422 – 10 September 1482), was one of the most successful condottieri of the Italian Renaissance, and lord of Urbino from 1444 (as Duke from 1474) until his death. In Urbino he commissioned the construction of a great library, perhaps the largest of Italy after the Vatican, with his own team of scribes in his scriptorium, and assembled around him a large humanistic court in the Ducal Palace of Urbino, designed by Luciano Laurana and Francesco di Giorgio Martini.

The Renaissance Man

Coat of arms of the House of Montefeltro Federico, nicknamed "the Light of Italy", is a landmark figure in the history of the Italian Renaissance for his contributions to enlightened culture. He imposed justice and stability on his tiny state through the principles of his humanist education; he engaged the best copyists and editors in his private scriptorium to produce the most comprehensive library outside of the Vatican; he supported the development of fine artists, including the early training of the young painter Raphael. He patronised the writer Cristoforo Landino.

Federico commissioned for himself a Studiolo (a small study or cabinet for contemplation) in both his palace at Urbino and that at Gubbio; both are celebrated for their trompe l'oeil decoration executed in marquetry. The former is still in situ, the latter was eventually purchased by and brought in its entirety to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All his personal and professional achievements were financed through mercenary warfare. Through dedication to the well-being of his soldiers, his men were enormously loyal and, incredibly, he never lost a war. He was decorated with almost every military honor.Professor Kenneth Bartlett, University of Toronto, in The Teaching Company course The Italian Renaissance, Part 2 , Lecture 16.Kenneth Clark, Civilization Edward IV of England made him a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter; he wears the Garter bound round his left knee in the portrait by Pedro Berruguete.



[[Federico da Montefeltro and His Son Guidobaldo (c. 1475), by Pedro Berruguete.]] Federico was born in Castello di Petroia in Gubbio, the illegitimate son of Guidantonio da Montefeltro, lord of Urbino, Gubbio and Casteldurante, and Duke of Spoleto. Two years later he was legitimized by Pope Martin V, with the consent of Guidantonio's wife, Caterina Colonna, who was Martin's niece.

In the aftermath of the Peace of Ferrara (see Wars in Lombardy) in 1433, he lived in Venice and Mantua as a hostage. In 1437 he was knighted by Emperor Sigismund, and in the same year he married Gentile Brancaleoni in Gubbio.

At sixteen he began a career as condottiero under Niccolò Piccinino. In 1441 he distinguished himself in the conquest of the castle of St. Leo, which Federico was to hold for the rest of his life. After Piccinino's resignation, he went to Pesaro to defend it against his great enemy in the Marche, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, lord of Rimini.

On 22 July 1444, his half-brother Oddantonio da Montefeltro, recently created Duke of Urbino by Pope Eugene IV, was assassinated in a conspiracy: Federico, whose probable participation in the plot has never been established, subsequently seized the city of Urbino. However, the financial situation of the small dukedom being in disarray, he continued to wage war as condottiero. His first condotta was for Francesco I Sforza, with 300 knights: Federico was also one of the few condottieri of the time to have a reputation for inspiring loyalty among his followers.Rendina, p. 200. In the pay of the Sforza—for Federico never fought for free—he transferred Pesaro to their control, and, for 13,000 florins, received Fossombrone as his share, infuriating Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. Despite Federico's efforts, the Sforza sovereignty in the Marche was dismantled in the following years. When Sforza left for Lombardy, Sigismondo fomented a riot in Fossombrone, but Federico reconquered it three days later.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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