THE EXHIBITIONThe glory and the legacy of Federico da Montefeltro

Gubbio is taking part in celebrations to mark 600 years since the birth of Duke Federico da Montefeltro who, according to several biographers, was born in the city on 7 June 1422.
He was an experienced and capable ruler and captain of fortune, as well as being one of the leading patrons of the Italian Renaissance. The exhibition retraces the greatest moments experienced by the city of Federico and his son, Guidubaldo – the last of the Montefeltro dynasty – from the birth of the duke in Gubbio in 1422, to the death of Guidubaldo in 1508. Curated by Francesco Paolo di Teodoro, along with Lucia Bertolini, Patrizia Castelli and Fulvio Cervini, the exhibition shines a light on one of Italian history’s most illustrious figures, providing an opportunity to reinterpret the history of Gubbio between the late 14th century and the early 16th century.
The exhibition showcases, according to specific areas, works of art on loan from a number of prestigious Italian and foreign institutions, as well as private collectors; these include manuscripts, paintings, documents, medals, coins, weapons, armour, sculptures and furnishings, some displayed for the first time to the public in their entirety.

The exhibition shines a light on Federico da Montefeltro, who commissioned his illustrious palace to be built in Gubbio as the second seat of the duchy. He chose the best artists to create the furnishings and even had his studiolo replicated here – it was the treasure trove of his humanistic sensitivities and now, approaching the end of his life, the spiritual legacy to hand down to the young Guidubaldo.
Federico was extremely fond of Gubbio and had very strong feelings for it, as he wrote in 1446: «perché ve acertamo che lì è tucto el core nostro et tucta l’anima nostra» (because we assure you that all our heart and all our soul is there).

The exhibition is promoted by the National Committee for the Celebration of the Sixth Centenary of the Birth of Federico da Montefeltro, the Umbria Museums Regional Directorate, the Municipality of Gubbio, the Diocese of Gubbio and Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo dei Consoli and the Diocesan Museum, with the contribution of the Umbria Region and the support of Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Perugia, in collaboration with Gubbio Cultura e Multiservizi and Festival del Medioevo. The catalogue is by Silvana Editoriale. Organisation is entrusted to Maggioli Cultura.


The title of the exhibition highlights the strong bond between the city and its lord.
According to certain biographers, Federico da Montefeltro was born in Gubbio on 7 June 1422. He was probably not the natural son of Count Guidantonio, as officially declared, but the son of his biological daughter Aura and Bernardino Ubaldini della Carda.
When Oddantonio (born in 1427), Guidantonio’s legitimate heir who had succeeded him just over a year earlier, was assassinated in a conspiracy plot on 22 July 1444, Federico, who had been legitimised thanks to a Papal bull issued on 20 December 1424, triumphantly entered Urbino and signed pacts (drawn up in Latin) with the capital city on 23 July and with Gubbio, the second city in terms of importance for the Montefeltro dynasty, on 7 August.

About thirty years later, Federico built his own palace in Gubbio in what was known as corte vecchia (old court), integrating what were, instead, the seats of the Umbrian city’s ancient magistratures, which had been abandoned back in 1321. He entrusted refurbishment to the Siena-born architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Ideally and as a continuation of the memory of seats of power, he thus underlined his supremacy with a residence built in an elevated urban position opposite the cathedral. He thus again presented the same conditions as for his palace in Urbino – political and religious power, side by side and one continuing on from the other.

Gubbio thus became the duchy’s second seat, a second capital, with a wealth of vestiges dating back to pre-Roman and classical eras. It was where Federico had his studiolo replicated, inextricably linking the palace in Umbria to the one in the Marche region. It was also where the court could move to and be reside, enjoying the same privileges and “luxuries” as Urbino, but far from any political or military turmoil. The city was, after all, a strategic outpost, along the road that linked the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Sea, the duchy’s westernmost bulwark and a place where it was possible to spread the culture of “Urbino”, in an inland area that was a crossroads of artistic and literary styles inspired by numerous different sources.

The constant, almost obsessive repetition of the initials FE/DVX on the eaves of the ducal residence roof marks the boundaries of a property that, unlike the palace in Urbino, hides amongst Gubbio’s mediaeval architecture, before revealing itself in all its Renaissance splendour only once on the hillside.
In 1447, Pope Nicholas V granted Federico the vicariate of Gubbio (as well as Urbino, Cagli, Fossombrone and the Montefeltro area) as the importance of the city of Saint Ubaldo, including its strategic significance, continued to grow.

Battista Sforza, the second and dearly beloved wife of Federico, who he married on 8 February 1460, visited Gubbio after the birth of her first child in 1461 and after falling pregnant again, resided in the city on the slopes of Mount Ingino from May to October of the same year. On 24 January 1472, Battista gave birth in Gubbio to a long-awaited male heir, Guidubaldo. He was baptised in the city of the Three Ceri by Bishop Antonio Severini on 2 February and confirmed on 27 April by Cardinal Basilio Bessarione. Battista died in Gubbio on 7 July 1472 aged just 26, exhausted by her numerous pregnancies.
Federico ­­– standard bearer for the Church and Duke since 23 March 1474, decorated with the Order of the Ermine in Naples on 11 September and honoured by King Edward IV with the Order of the Garter the same year – died on 10 September 1482. He was succeeded by his son Guidubaldo, who as early as 1488 was already forced to defend Gubbio against the city of Sassoferrato. On 22 September 1506, the Umbrian city also witnessed the triumphal entry of Pope Julius II, Giuliano della Rovere, who thanks to the diplomacy of Guidubaldo, had earned the respect of Perugia’s Giampaolo Baglioni. The same year, like his father before him, the son of Battista Sforza and Federico was awarded the Order of the Garter by King Henry VII. Sadly, soon after, on 11 April 1508, the duke died aged just 36.