"I do not believe that there is a more glorious work of sculpture existing in the world," wrote John Ruskin (1819-1900).
The great Victorian writer was referring to the bronze equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni (1395-1475), which was modelled by Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-88) and cast by Alessandro Leopardi (1466-1512). Colleoni was a successful condottiero (mercenary), who was employed for many years by the Venetian state.
Colleoni bequeathed to the Republic of Venice a small fortune, on condition that it erected a statue of him in Piazza San Marco. A statue to an individual in the city's most prestigious public space was out of the question. However, as the Republic didn't want to lose the bequest, the powers-that-be ordered the statue to be erected in Campo San Marco rather than Piazza San Marco!
The statue, which depicts man and horse as a formidable fighting machine, was unveiled to the public on March 21st, 1496.
Bartolomeo Colleoni was very proud of his family name, which comes from the Latin word coleus (testicle). As a general, he led his men into battle with the cry 'Coglia, coglia' and his coat of arms actually depicts three pairs of testicles. In Italian, a slang word for testicles is coglioni.
Colleoni is buried in the Cappella Colleoni in the city of Bergamo.