National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Alexander the Great Workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio
Florentine 15th Century (sculptor)
Andrea del Verrocchio (related artist)
Florentine, 1435 - 1488
Alexander the Great, c. 1483/1485
marble
overall: 55.9 x 36.7 cm (22 x 14 7/16 in.) framed: 88.9 x 71.8 x 8.6 cm (35 x 28 1/4 x 3 3/8 in.)
Gift of Therese K. Straus
1956.2.1
On View
From the Tour: Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century
Object 6 of 8

Dressed in fanciful armor, Alexander here exemplifies the powerful leader capable of controlling several regions and cultures in a vast expanding empire. A relief of Alexander, reportedly done in metal, and a pendant relief of his adversary Darius were presented to King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary in 1480 as a diplomatic gift from Lorenzo de' Medici. The reliefs, flattering gifts from one great humanist patron to another, sought to equate Alexander's campaigns with those of Corvinus, who was engaged in driving back an invading Ottoman army. Lorenzo was aware that successful resistance to the Ottoman invasions would protect the rest of Europe, including Florence, from the ever-present Ottoman threat. During the few decades of Corvinus' reign, the Hungarian court rivaled those of Italy in its artistic patronage.

Designing Alexander's armor in an ancient style, Verrocchio also embellished it to his own fancy. Certainly the winged head screaming in fury was indicative of the commander's military ferocity, while the elaborate dragon helmet with ribbon was fitting for his status as a king. Any allegorical meaning is hard to derive, because Verrocchio and his contemporaries often designed such rich and fantastic armor for Florentines to wear in jousts.

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