The Bartolomeo Colleoni equestrian statue, located beside the Scuola Grande di San Marco in the Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo, was erected in fulfillment of a request made by the condotierro before his death in 1475. Colleoni, appointed lifelong captain-general for his military service to the republic, led Venetian forces successfully in campaigns against neighboring city-states, beginning in the 1430s and ending four decades later. Upon his death, Colleoni bequeathed a sizable portion of his estate to the Republic of Venice, with the stipulation that a bronze equestrian monument be erected in his honor in the Piazza San Marco. The Venetian Senate honored his request but placed the status near the Scuola Grande di San Marco rather than in Piazza San Marco. The Bartolomeo Colleoni Monument is among the best-known works of Andrea del Verrocchio, a Florentine sculptor and painter, and a teacher of Leonardo da Vinci. Verrochio died in 1488, before finishing the work, and the statue was finished by Alessandro Leopardi in 1495.
1996 World Monuments Watch
In 2003, WMF began the process of studying, cleaning, and restoring the Bartolomeo Colleoni monument, which had suffered from years of neglect, and damage from the local climate. In particular, WMF sought to treat the unmitigated negative effects of salty air and pollution, whose impact had not been addressed since the last major conservation work on the statue in 1919. WMF constructed a temporary, on-site conservation studio within which to disassemble, analyze, and treat the horse and rider. Conservators treated severely rusted armature, replaced unsalvageable structural members, secured the statue to its stone base, and implanted a monitoring device within the statue to track future changes to the monument’s condition.
The Bartolomeo Colleoni statue, which was Verrochio’s final commission, is one of the most exquisite Renaissance equestrian statues. The process of restoring the Colleoni Monument yielded unexpected gains in our understanding of how the bronze statue was originally cast and manufactured, and the techniques used in its construction. These discoveries allow a historical insight into the practice of skilled artisans and the technologies of their day, producing both new resources and new avenues of research for historians and conservationists.