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Video transcript

we're standing in the square outside of the Church of San Antonio in Padua looking across a traffic circle at Donatella's great equestrian monument from the mid-15th century got to mulatto Donatello had spent a good deal of time in Rome was up in Padua for about ten years and worked on a number of important commissions but this is clearly his most famous and it's important to note that Donatello was twice in Rome because he got to see the great equestrian sculpture of Marcus Aurelius this is really important I think it's a little bit difficult for us to understand how extraordinary that ancient sculpture must have seemed you know by the late medieval in the beginning of the Renaissance when Donatello is alive you have a culture that had forgotten how to cast bronze at a large scale in other words they could look at a sculpture from antiquity that they couldn't make anymore that certainly seemed like a challenge and Donatello took up that challenge can we a thousand years later make a monumental bronze sculpture an equestrian sculpture well an equestrian sculpture is especially difficult just look at the gotta mulatto for a moment you have this mass of course you have this mass of the human body and all of that rests on four slender legs and to show off you would want to raise one of the legs of the horse as the sculptor did for Marcus Aurelius and Donatella was clearly ambitious and wanting to do that but he didn't go all the way in that direction and instead he's got the left hoof up on a cannonball although if you look at that left foreleg it is so delicately placed on that cannonball it's actually a very small point that is able to anchor the sculpture and so it can't really support that much weight so he's gone he's gone pretty far so this is a type of sculpture that was lost not only because of the loss of the knowledge of how to cast bronze in this size but also because this is a type of monument that didn't really interest the Middle Ages this is a monument that commemorates a great man commemorates an individual and it commemorates a great man in our world a recent figure and right this is antithetical to the medieval celebration of perhaps royalty or saints you would get in the Middle Ages this is not a saint this is a very talented military captain or a condottieri a kind of hired military captain that was very common at the time and a man who was hired by Venice which is a city only about a half hour from Padua that was responsible for Venice actually gaining this territory that is solidifying its foothold on terra firma outside of the lagoon right in the early 15th century Venice captured more and more towns on the mainland and pata was one of them and so we're looking really at a military commander who captured Padua now the monument was commissioned by Gatto mulattos family by the way got two mulatto means honey two cat I don't think we know the origin of that nickname but it sounds to me like something perhaps his soldiers called him his real name was Erasmo de Narni and his family had him buried inside this important Church of Saint Anthony this is a major pilgrimage Church and then asked the Venetian government if they could put up a monument to him outside and obviously the Venetian government agreed the monument commemorates an individual but also speaks to the greatness of Padua the greatness of Venice he is placed just outside of this enormous Church and so there's this way that that civic pride is contextualized within this religious society Donatella's work is just a tour de force there's a kind of sensitivity in the handling of both the figure and of the horse they are both independent figures that are responding to the world around them in their own way so that the man stands fully in control in charge he has baton in hand he looks outward the horse also enormous ly powerful but looks down at us turns and seems so animated you can see Donatello taking up the challenge and then surpassing the ancient Romans when we look at the marcus aurelius a figure that has nobility but lacks military strength and power or doesn't project that as much as we have here got to mulatto sits up in his stirrups presses down his body is vertical balanced by the horizontal of the horse and as we're looking from this vantage point outside the church you can see the horse turning to its left almost posing and the beauty of the horse showing off its own valor well the horse seems to be aware that we're looking at it Donatella's clearly studied the anatomy of the horse the same way that we know Donatella was studying you in anatomy at the time that interest in naturalism is so evident here it's such a culmination of the ideas of the early Renaissance look for instance at the broad face of the horse and look at the way that you can see some of the veins and the nostrils are flared this is clearly based on direct observation the same way that Donatello was concerned with contrapposto in the human body we have the real movement of a horse through time through space a monument that epitomizes Renaissance humanism in its commemoration of the achievements of an individual and in recalling and even surpassing that ancient path