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Tempio Leon Battista Alberti

The busts of Virgil, Francesco II Gonzaga and Battista Spagnoli for the Arch of Battista Fiera

The three terracotta busts depicting the portraits of Virgil, Francesco II Gonzaga and Battista Spagnoli formed the decoration of the sub-arch commissioned by the physician Battista Fiera in 1514 and placed between his home and the church of San Francesco in Mantua. Next to the busts was the inscription BONIS MERCURIALIBUS (dedicated to the protégés of Mercury, i.e. the good lyric poets) and underneath it Battista Fiera was to be buried, in a toga and with a book in his hand.

The bust of Francis II, in the centre, was accompanied by the inscription ARGUMENTUM UTRIQUE SI SAECLA COISSENT (if the centuries had united, the Marquis of Mantua would have been cause for celebration for Virgil and Battista Spagnoli). Virgil has always been the genius loci and tutelary deity of the city of Mantua, while the Carmelite friar Battista Spagnoli, also known as ‘the Christian Virgil’, beatified in 1885 by Pope Leo XIII, was a major figure in the decades between the 15th and 16th centuries; according to late sources, he was also a painter, as well as a famous poet and writer.

In June 1514, Francesco II Gonzaga issued a decree to protect and preserve the monument, which had been defaced and was unfortunately destroyed in 1852. Today, these three precious and rare terracotta busts remain. They were first housed in the Mantuan Museo Patrio and then in the Ducal Palace, in the atrium of the Castle of San Giorgio.

Dove vedere quest’operaWhere to see this work of art

first quarter of the 16th century

Other Works of art from this Exhibition

Occasio et Poenitentia

Our Lady of Victory

The Triumphs of Caesar