Project Description

Funerary monument for Nicolò Orsini, 1514
Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

Restoration of the funerary monument for Nicolò Aldobrandino Orsini

Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

Project director
Soprintendenza belle arti e paesaggio per Venezia e laguna

Roberto Bergamaschi, Venice Re.Co., Rome
Ott Art Products for Art, Venice

H.S.H. Prince and Princess Domenico Orsini
Venetian Heritage

Start date
April 2016

End date
September 2016

€ 103,000.00

The basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo is the Pantheon of the Republic of Venice. Numerous doges and important figures whose actions contributed to the glory of the Serenissima, are buried there, including Dionigi Naldi da Brisighella and Leonardo da Prato. Nicolò di Aldobrandino Orsini, prince of Nola and count of Pitigliano, a condottiero in the service of the Republic of Venice during the League of Cambrai war, was also buried there. Born in 1442 into a family that provided Venice with captains for a century, Orsini was repaid with election to the Grand Council in 1509, thus becoming an honorary nobleman along with his descendants. Capitano Generale from 1504, Orsini was the supreme commander of the Venetian forces when he died on the field at Lonigo (near Vicenza), in January 1510.
The lavish funeral rites for the condottiero took place in the basilica of St. Giovanni e Paolo. In his funeral address, Giovanni Battista Egnazio lamented the death of Orsini not only for the loss of a loyal and courageous soldier, but also for the circumstances of his death. He begged the seigniory to ensure that he was remembered forever by erecting a golden equestrian statue in his honour. In January 1513 the tomb was being built and was completed in December 1514. The tomb of Nicolò Orsini and those of Fra’ Leonardo da Prato and Dionigi Naldi were the first tombs in Venice to be erected at the cost of the Republic.
Orsini’s tomb takes up the same shape of a triumphal arch, like the tombs of Doge Nicolò Marcello. The monument is in a raised position on the wall. At its base, the epitaph takes up the entire front side of the vault, resting on four brackets. Above the base a tall, wide, central arch is flanked by narrower, concave wings with round arched niches. The left niche has a statue of Prudence, by sculptor Antonio Minelli. It is over-life-size. She has a snake beneath her feet, the usual attribute of this virtue. On the right, there is a statue likened to Faith, also by Antonio Minelli, which originally held a chalice and a cross. The chalice was rediscovered during the restoration.
Orsini is portrayed in the saddle of a walking horse. He is on a platform supported by six brackets projecting in front of the central arch. The horse is original but the rider is a replacement of 1729 by the engraver Michiel Fanoli. Although the Senate asked the latter to make an accurate reproduction of the original portrait, the figure belies its Baroque origins in the strident twisting, the open and interrupted surrounds, the feathers and the fluttering band that decorates his elaborate armour. In the centre of the attic there is a lunette with the traditional Venetian sign of the lion of St. Mark, surmounted by a low gable and flanked by shields with the Orsini family’s coat of arms.
The epitaphs of Orsini, Naldi and Fra’ Leonardo show that the monuments were granted to the condottieri by the Senate as a mark of gratitude for the loyalty and courage with which they had fought in the name of the Republic; indeed, Orsini’s epitaph makes specific reference to the illustrious action of the capitano in Padua.
The restoration works were mainly concerned with aesthetic problems on the decorated stone surfaces and the wooden sculpture: the dust deposited on them altered the colour of the decorations, obscuring and dulling the natural colour of the stone and marble inserts and making the colours on the coats of arms almost illegible. There were some detachments from the gilding.
Some old restorations made with unsuitable materials, which had altered and discolored overtime could be observed.
Martine and Domenico Orsini generously financed the restoration of the monument of the illustrious condottiero in memory of Antoine Bernheim.