VERROCCHIO, Andrea del
(b. 1435, Firenze, d. 1488, Venezia)
Giuliano di Piero de' Medici1475-78
Terracotta, height 61 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Verrocchio, a favourite artist of the Medici, may have created this lively and commanding portrait on the occasion of a joust that took place in 1475 in Florence for Giuliano de' Medici's coming of age. The bust was originally painted and possibly adorned with a metal helmet and other decoration, projecting an exuberance especially evident in the winged face modeled on Giuliano's fanciful armor. The beloved younger brother of the de facto ruler of Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giuliano was destined for an important future, a hope cut off by his dramatic murder during mass in Florence's cathedral, on April 26, 1478, in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Medici rule.
The terracotta bust has a complicated state of preservation. Once polychromed, it has suffered a number of breaks over time that were repaired either with the original fragments or with plaster.