TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

The Marchese del Vasto Addressing his Troops

Oil on canvas, 223 x 165 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Alfonso d'Avalos d'Aquino, Marchese di Pescara e del Vasto (1502-1546) was an Italian condottiero. Having fought at the Battle of Pavia, he later commanded the Imperial army in Italy during the Italian War of 1542 and was defeated by the French at the Battle of Ceresole.

The Marchese del Vasto Addressing his Troops is a defence of the Marchese's actions in 1537, when he quelled a mutiny by controversial financial concessions to his troops. The composition depends on an antique prototype, the 'allocutio', where troops affirm their loyalty to the Emperor. In this case, however, since they are in a state of mutiny, they crowd round the dais rather threateningly. The choice of a classical format may relate to the renewed study, in the Renaissance and especially in Venice, of military textbooks by the 3rd and 4th-century authors Aelian and Vegetius, in particular with regard to improving discipline and organization. The Marquis and his troops admittedly wear contemporary armor, but the Marquis' son Ferrante, whom he had offered up as a hostage to his men, is in the garb of the Roman legions.

Aretino's face among the troops reflects his interest in del Vasto's campaigns, as recorded in his letters and pamphlets.