(b. 1395, Pisa, d. 1455, Roma)

Francesco Sforza

c. 1441
Cast bronze, diameter 9 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

During the years 1439 to 1442, Pisanello traveled in northern Italy, and it was in this period that he came into contact with Filippo Maria Visconti, Niccolò Piccinino, Francesco Sforza, and Gianfrancesco Gonzaga. Portrait drawings of the first two survive, as do medals of all four. In each case, it seems likely that the artist had access to his subjects and drew them from life, translating these drawings into the more permanent and distributable medium of bronze.

The condottiere Francesco Sforza (1401-1466) is identified in Pisanello's medal as the ruler of Cremona and has the name "Visconti" appended to his own, both honours accorded him following his marriage, in 1441, to Bianca Maria, daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan.

On the obverse of the medal Francesco is shown wearing the hat known as a "beretta alla capitanesca" (captain's beretta). The reverse is dominated by the profile view of a charger. The horse is of such particularity that critics have suggested it may represent one of Sforza's favourites. Horses appear in numerous drawings by Pisanello.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil KrÚn and Daniel Marx.