In Sabbioneta, there are four horsemen who escaped from the grip of time. One of them, the one with the white collar from the Order of the Golden Fleece, is Vespasiano I Gonzaga Colonna (1531-1591), a nobleman, ‘condottiero’, and philanthropist who had this “small Athens” in the province of Mantua designed and built between 1554 and 1591. He meant for Sabbioneta to be an ideal fortified city in Lombardy, which at the time was under the dominion of King Philip II of Spain.
A few decades ago, the “Ride” of the four warlords – a painted wood sculpture group, celebrating the military virtues of Vespasiano’s house – was placed in the Ducal Palace’s Eagles Hall. There used to be ten statues of Vespasiano and his ancestors, but six were destroyed in a fire in 1815, leaving only a few traces in the room.
Next to Vespasiano – “Sablonatae marchio et conditor”, Latin for “marquis and founder of Sabbioneta”, as an inscription on one of the city walls’ doors reads – there are his father Luigi, also known as Rodomonte; his great-grandfather Gian Francesco; and finally his forefather Lodovico, who had the administrative title of Captain of the People during the Middle Ages.
They ride untamed, apparently not concerned by the passage of time.