«Iustitia, maiestas, curialitas». Oldrado da Tresseno e il suo ritratto equestre nel broletto di Milano

Author: Saverio Lomartire

«Iustitia, maiestas, curialitas». Oldrado da Tresseno and his equestrian portrait in the Broletto of Milan

The equestrian statue of the podestà Oldrado da Tresseno was sculpted and placed in the South front of the Palazzo della Ragione, i.e. the communal palace of Milan in 1233. Oldrado himself personally commissioned the statue, to be placed in a public area in memory of some accomplishments of his duties which were remembered by the dedicatory inscription: the construction of the communal palace itself and the burning of the Cathars in Milan.
This paper tries to investigate the personality of Oldrado da Tresseno, citizen of Lodi, with a survey of several documents, which show him as a prominent member of a noble family of that city and charged of some important duties (for example, in 1337 he was podestà in Genoa).
Some medieval Lombard chroniclers have given emphasis to Oldrado’s self-gratulatory mo­nument, even formulating a negative judgment.
The question has to be posed on the exceptional nature of such a representation in the 13th century (this monument being one of the first equestrian statues of the Middle Ages devoted to a living person), and in particular on his models. The reference to some well-known examples of ancient equestrian monuments, such as Marcus Aurelius monument in Rome, or, in an area closer to Milan, the so-called ‘Regisole’ in Pavia, would appear as a prerequisite. Yet in the conception of the monument Oldrado must have had other different cultural models as well, giving to the monument of Milan some special characters that differentiate it from other well-known and later medieval equestrian representations.
From the stylistic point of view, Oldrado’s equestrian relief appears in close contact with the portals of St. Andrea in Vercelli, with some sculptures in the choir of the cathedral of Fidenza and with a marble slab from the cathedral of Reggio Emilia. This confirms that the sculptor belongs to the late workshop of Benedetto Antelami in Parma.
As for the actual meaning of the equestrian monument, the ethos of the knightly class to which Oldrado belonged must have played a role in the ideological elaboration of the portrait of this podestà of Milan, and therefore the court culture that began to establish as a behavioral element characterizing the ruling class of that period. At the same time, the equestrian statue of Oldrado da Tresseno becomes a symbol of the power (‘potestas’) in the city government and in the administration of justice. For this reason it is likely that the riding podestà initially wore a sword, symbol of justice.
Thus the monument plays a role within the legal doctrine and rhetoric on the ruling and administration of the cities that just in the first half of the 13th century is being developed by some authors involved in the imperial administration (Giovanni da Viterbo, Orfino da Lodi), and shows the figure of the podestà as a sort of mirror of the imperial power, notably in the administration of justice. The equestrian portrait in the Milanese Palazzo della Ragione therefore shows a high formal quality which most likely aims to correspond to such ideological ambition.