Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Double portrait of Federico da Montefeltro and his son Guidobaldo
  • Creator: Pedro Berruguete, painter
  • Description:

    Federico da Montefeltro, ruler of Urbino, poses in his study reading, with his young son, Guidobaldo, at his knee. Around him symbols of his power identify Federico as honored and respected not only in Urbino but Europe-wide as Commander of the Church Army, Knight of the Garter, and Knight of the Ermine. At the same time his son also wields power, dressed in luxurious robes with rich jewels and holding a scepter. Above him, a ceremonial hat, likely a biretta worn by the Commander of the Church Army, predicts Guidobaldo's future success.

    Federico's path to power was not an easy one. He was born illegitimate and adopted as an infant by Guidantonio, lord of Urbino, only to be displaced in the succession when his adoptive father (and possibly his grandfather) had a male heir. In a further difficulty, Federico was struck in a joust, losing an eye and disfiguring his face. Yet when that successor in Urbino was killed by an angry mob, Federico took power and compensated for Urbino's lack of resources by becoming a successful condottiere, active throughout Italy.

    Following Federico's first wife's death, Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan, approached him about marrying his young niece Battista (1446-1472). While the difference in age (13 and 37) appears extreme, it was not uncommon in Italy, due to social norms. Battista had been raised at the court of Pesaro and received an extensive education, including training in Greek. Federico realized her talents and gave her governing responsibilities in his absence. Early in their marriage, Battista had to repel the forces of Sigismondo Malatesta from a Montefeltro fortress near the border. Nonetheless, bearing a legitimate heir was Battista's prime responsibility. In fourteen years, she had nine daughters and finally a son but died following his birth. While Guidobaldo established the succession in Urbino, several of Battista's daughters made strategic marriages to a number of rulers; and her son married Elisabetta Gonzaga of Mantua.

    Traditionally scholars have attributed this painting to two artists, Justus of Ghent and Pedro Berruguete, who were both active at the court of Urbino in the 1470s. They are both believed to have painted some of the portraits of illustrious men that decorated Federico's studiolo. However, recent scholarship argues that Pedro Berruguete alone painted this official portrait of Federico and his heir. While celebrating Federico's many successes, including being the newly named Duke of Urbino, the painting also casts him in the role of a humanist collector of books. He reads from a manuscript of the writings of Pope Gregory I, a Church Father, whose Moralia in Job provided a guide to leading a Christian life.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Rights: Public domain
  • Subject (See Also): Children Fathers Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino Portraits Rulers Sforza, Battista, Wife of Federico da Montefeltro Sons
  • Geographic Area: Italy
  • Century: 15
  • Date: circa 1476
  • Related Work: Justus of Ghent, Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1422-1482), his son Guidobaldo (1472-1508), and others listening to a discourse, London, Royal Collection Trust, ca, 1480.
    Piero della Francesca, Federico da Montefeltro and His Wife Battista Sforza, Florence, Uffizi Gallery, ca. 1473-1475.
    Piero della Francesca, Pala di Brera, Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera, ca. 1472-1474.
  • Current Location: Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
  • Original Location: Urbino, Palazzo Ducale, Studiolo
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Paintings
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Wood panel; Oil paints
  • Donor: Layman; Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 138.5/82.5/
  • Inscription:
  • Related Resources: Clough, Cecil H. "Art as Power in the Decoration of the Study of an Italian Renaissance Prince: The Case of Federico da Montefeltro." Artibue et Historiae 16, 31 (1995): 19-50;
    Clough, Cecil H. "Daughters and Wives of the Montefeltro: Outstanding Bluestockings of the Quattrocento." Renaissance Studies 10, 1 (1996): 31-55;
    Cole, Alison. Italian Renaissance Courts: Art, Pleasure and Power. Laurence King Publishing, 2016. Pedro Berruguete: El primer pintor renacentista de la Corona de Castilla. JUNTA DE CASTILLA Y LEON, 2003;
    Simonetta, Marcello. "Federico da Montefeltro: The Self-Portrait of a Renaissance Man." In Federico da Montefeltro and His Library. Edited by Marcello Simonetta. Y.PRESS, 2007. Pages 18-27;
    Webb, Jennifer D. "All is Not Fun and Games: Conversation, Play, and Surveillance at the Montefeltro Court in Urbino." Renaissance Studies 26, 3 (2011): 417-440;
    Webb, Jennifer D. "Hidden in Plain Sight: Varano and Sforza Women of the Marche." IN Wives, Widows, Mistresses, and Nuns in Early Modern Italy: Making the Invisible Visible through Art and Patronage. Edited by Katherine A. McIver. Ashgate, 2012. Pages 13-31.