The lunette of Urbino and the two medallions of Mercatello sul Metauro (PU), with the official portraits of Federico and Ottaviano, celebrate the image of power and replicate the same solemnity of the diptych by Piero della Francesca, from around 1472, with Federico and his consort Battista Sforza. In a sense, they depict, to use the words of Luigi Michelini Tocci (1986), “that kind of de facto diarchy hinted at, albeit indirectly, by Regiomontanus, in the very terms that configured it, at the papal court, Bessarion, Alberti, Biondo, and many others”, who considered the two ‘brothers’ equally, designating them as the “princes of Umbria”.

This diarchy, or rather, this sharing of power between the two, is also represented in an epigram by Giannantonio Campano, addressed to Ottaviano, which celebrates equally the rank of the Ubaldini and that of Federico. The latter is remembered as “the invincible warrior, the prince of arms”, while “Ottaviano is the great friend of the Muses, the prince of culture and art”. According to Michelini Tocci, the Urbino lunette “is the exact iconographic transposition of Campano’s epigram”, as it portrays on the same level the profiles of the two ‘princes’, facing each other and accompanied by their iconographic attributes, which characterize them, respectively, as the “prince of war” and the “prince of culture and art”: armor, a helmet, a standard, in which the honorific of the garter (not well preserved) and a fortification are depicted, for Federico; a branch of olive and two books, one open and the other closed, for Ottaviano.

The lunette could also be the transposition of Gian Mario Filelfo’s mythological poem, as suggested by Alessandra Bertuzzi (2018), entitled Martias and dated 1464. The work, whose code was present in Federico’s library and dedicated to him, identifies the latter as “a new Hercules, born from the marriage of Mars and Minerva”, while Ottaviano is presented as the twin of Hercules, Iphicles, born of mortal parents and “devoted to peace, science, and the arts”. In this way, Filelfo assigns to the two their specific areas of action, just like the artist of the bas-relief, identifying Federico as “son of Mars, hence a military hero”, and Ottaviano as “the prince of peace and patron of the arts, thus reflecting a second Augustus”.

Traditionally attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who probably provided the designs, the bas-relief execution of the lunette, datable after 1474, could refer to the workshop of Ambrogio Barocci. The clues, rather than on the portraits, fall on some iconographic attributes, the helmet and the closed book, which similarly recur with the same plastic rendering in other works of the Lombard, as in certain reliefs of the Frieze of the art of war, although not well preserved, and in some details of the War Portals, especially that of access to the Apartment of Jole, located on the noble floor of Federico’s residence (Bernardini 2020).

Although the original location within the Ducal Palace of Urbino is not known, the lunette must have certainly constituted the overdoor of an important room in the building. In 1897, Egidio Calzini asserts that a bas-relief portrait of the Ubaldini, certainly the work in question, appears in the loggias of the palace, together with those “of Battista Sforza, Federico, and Guidobaldo da Montefeltro”, without mentioning its lunette form and especially without indicating the double portrait with Federico. In 1918, during the Superintendence of Luigi Serra, the lunette, already walled in the loggias, is transferred to the collections of the Gallery to be exhibited in the Hall of Jole (Serra 1918, 1920, 1922). Franco Mazzini (2000), ignoring the sources considered so far, referring to Cornelio Budinich’s 1904 text, believes that the lunette was part of the fixed furnishings of the library and that it was walled, internally, above the entrance door. In reality, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Budinich sees a bas-relief that he attributes to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, now no longer in place, depicting only the portrait of Federico, “still walled above the door of the library, under the ground floor loggias”, therefore external to the environment. Previously, still in 1897, Calzini also sees the same bas-relief above the door of the library, “accessed from the courtyard”. To support Mazzini’s argument, however, is the imprint of stucco that appears internally above the door of the library, whose curvature and dimensions correspond well to those of the lunette with Ottaviano and Federico. This allows us to hypothesize that the work, originally, was located in the library of the Ducal Palace of Urbino, the most appropriate room, in some respects, in which to insert the image of the humanist Ottaviano (Bernardini 2020), who devoted so much energy to furnishing it with the most luxurious and refined codices of the time, which we find as his attributes in the portrait of the lunette itself. The book, in fact, since the time of his training in Milan, as Michelini Tocci still specifies, becomes the “inseparable companion of his life, and almost his sign of recognition, his symbol, his ‘device’, a kind of heraldic element in his iconography”.

Andrea Bernardini

Author: Bottega di Ambrogio Barocci
Realization date: After 1474
Storage location: Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
INV COD:S 93
Dimensions: 50 × 110
Technique: Lunette

Author: Bottega di Ambrogio Barocci
Realization date: After 1474
Storage location: Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche
INV COD:S 93
Dimensions: 50 × 110
Technique: Lunette


The lunette of Urbino and the two medallions of Mercatello sul Metauro (PU), with the official portraits of Federico and Ottaviano, celebrate the image of power and replicate the same solemnity of the diptych by Piero della Francesca, from around 1472, with Federico and his consort Battista Sforza. In a sense, they depict, to use the words of Luigi Michelini Tocci (1986), “that kind of de facto diarchy hinted at, albeit indirectly, by Regiomontanus, in the very terms that configured it, at the papal court, Bessarion, Alberti, Biondo, and many others”, who considered the two ‘brothers’ equally, designating them as the “princes of Umbria”.

This diarchy, or rather, this sharing of power between the two, is also represented in an epigram by Giannantonio Campano, addressed to Ottaviano, which celebrates equally the rank of the Ubaldini and that of Federico. The latter is remembered as “the invincible warrior, the prince of arms”, while “Ottaviano is the great friend of the Muses, the prince of culture and art”. According to Michelini Tocci, the Urbino lunette “is the exact iconographic transposition of Campano’s epigram”, as it portrays on the same level the profiles of the two ‘princes’, facing each other and accompanied by their iconographic attributes, which characterize them, respectively, as the “prince of war” and the “prince of culture and art”: armor, a helmet, a standard, in which the honorific of the garter (not well preserved) and a fortification are depicted, for Federico; a branch of olive and two books, one open and the other closed, for Ottaviano.

The lunette could also be the transposition of Gian Mario Filelfo’s mythological poem, as suggested by Alessandra Bertuzzi (2018), entitled Martias and dated 1464. The work, whose code was present in Federico’s library and dedicated to him, identifies the latter as “a new Hercules, born from the marriage of Mars and Minerva”, while Ottaviano is presented as the twin of Hercules, Iphicles, born of mortal parents and “devoted to peace, science, and the arts”. In this way, Filelfo assigns to the two their specific areas of action, just like the artist of the bas-relief, identifying Federico as “son of Mars, hence a military hero”, and Ottaviano as “the prince of peace and patron of the arts, thus reflecting a second Augustus”.

Traditionally attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who probably provided the designs, the bas-relief execution of the lunette, datable after 1474, could refer to the workshop of Ambrogio Barocci. The clues, rather than on the portraits, fall on some iconographic attributes, the helmet and the closed book, which similarly recur with the same plastic rendering in other works of the Lombard, as in certain reliefs of the Frieze of the art of war, although not well preserved, and in some details of the War Portals, especially that of access to the Apartment of Jole, located on the noble floor of Federico’s residence (Bernardini 2020).

Although the original location within the Ducal Palace of Urbino is not known, the lunette must have certainly constituted the overdoor of an important room in the building. In 1897, Egidio Calzini asserts that a bas-relief portrait of the Ubaldini, certainly the work in question, appears in the loggias of the palace, together with those “of Battista Sforza, Federico, and Guidobaldo da Montefeltro”, without mentioning its lunette form and especially without indicating the double portrait with Federico. In 1918, during the Superintendence of Luigi Serra, the lunette, already walled in the loggias, is transferred to the collections of the Gallery to be exhibited in the Hall of Jole (Serra 1918, 1920, 1922). Franco Mazzini (2000), ignoring the sources considered so far, referring to Cornelio Budinich’s 1904 text, believes that the lunette was part of the fixed furnishings of the library and that it was walled, internally, above the entrance door. In reality, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Budinich sees a bas-relief that he attributes to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, now no longer in place, depicting only the portrait of Federico, “still walled above the door of the library, under the ground floor loggias”, therefore external to the environment. Previously, still in 1897, Calzini also sees the same bas-relief above the door of the library, “accessed from the courtyard”. To support Mazzini’s argument, however, is the imprint of stucco that appears internally above the door of the library, whose curvature and dimensions correspond well to those of the lunette with Ottaviano and Federico. This allows us to hypothesize that the work, originally, was located in the library of the Ducal Palace of Urbino, the most appropriate room, in some respects, in which to insert the image of the humanist Ottaviano (Bernardini 2020), who devoted so much energy to furnishing it with the most luxurious and refined codices of the time, which we find as his attributes in the portrait of the lunette itself. The book, in fact, since the time of his training in Milan, as Michelini Tocci still specifies, becomes the “inseparable companion of his life, and almost his sign of recognition, his symbol, his ‘device’, a kind of heraldic element in his iconography”.

Andrea Bernardini