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

Filippo Maria Visconti

c. 1441
Cast bronze, diameter 10 cm
Castello Sforzesco, Milan

Filippo Maria Visconti (1392-1447) was the ruler of the duchy of Milan. He was reclusive, overweight, and walked with difficulty. Self-conscious about his unattractive appearance he took to wearing a sort of caftan, and he covered his head, which he shaved at the back, with a hat or turban. He did not want to be portrayed by anyone, with the exception of Pisanello, who was able to turn Visconti's excessive corpulence into an asset used to convey a sense of strength and determination. Of the images Pisanello made of him, a medal and a black chalk drawing survive. The two works are not related, it is probable that both portraits are based on a lost common source.

The obverse of the medal shows Visconti in the same pose and with the same hat as in the drawing. On the reverse, the dashing mounted figure, wearing tournament armour and holding a jousting lance, evokes the chivalric ambience of the court, as do his mounted companions. Although no longer able to ride once he became obese, Filippo Maria Visconti was nevertheless an avid sponsor of jousts and tournaments.

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