Lincoln Park Statues: Part 3

Bartolomeo Colleoni


 

 

One of Newark's finest statues is the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni located in Lincoln Park. .

Many of my Newarkology features have gone way beyond Newark history. This feature on Lincoln Park's Colleoni Statue takes us to Renaissance Venice.

Bartolomeo Colleoni is not a household name today. He would be forgotten if it were not for a fine equestrian statue of himself by Andrea del Verrocchio, located in his city of service.

This equestrian statue is in Venice.  The Newark Colleoni is a near-exact copy.

The term for a mercenary in Bartolomeo's day was "condottiere." A contottierre was "was the holder of a military condotta (plural condotte), or contract, for the raising and leadership of troops."

“The profession of war was considered a highly honorable occupation during the Renaissance.” Italian city-states were weak politically and preferred to outsource military matters to private contractors rather than raise their own armies. An experienced fighter would be given a large amount of money and a contract, usually for three months, and the fighter himself would pay for an army out of what he was given.

Condottieri armies, called condottas, were usually composed of a few hundred lancers and cavalry. Every part of Italy produced mercenaries, but mercenaries from the Papal States were overrepresented.

According to the Encyclopedia of the Renaissance, condottieri battles did, in fact, produce large numbers of casualties. Machiavelli was incorrect when he said that only one person died at the Battle of Anghiari (painted by DaVinci). The actual death toll was approximately three hundred.

Bartolomeo Colleoni was not the only condottieri to have an equestrian statue of himself. Gattamelata, the greatest of the condotierri, received a statue of himself by Donatello from Padua in 1453-1454. Gattamelata's statue was the first bronze equestrian statue made since the days of the Roman Empire.

In 1455, the same year that Erasmo of Narni, also known as Gallatameta, the "Honeyed Cat," was awarded with a equestrian statue done by Donatello, Bartolomeo Colleoni became general in chief of the armies of the Venetian Republic. Colleoni had had a mixed career fighting for Venice, switching from Venice to Milan to Venice to Milan to Venice again.

Though he switched sides several times, Colleoni never switched sides before his term of service was up. He also never sacked villages and cities like other condotierri did. When he died in 1475, Colleoni left money to Venice to fight the Turks and to erect an equestrian statue to himself.

At right, Donatello's statue of Gallatemeta, Padua. Italy. Many people believe that Verrocchio surpassed Donatello in the Colleoni statue.

Verrocchio worked on the equestrian statue from 1479 to his own death in 1488. The work was not cast in bronze until 1492, four years after Verrocchio's death and seventeen years after the death of Colleoni. Colleoni bears a ferocious expression and the horse strides purposefully forward, with one foot raised.

Bartolomeo Colleoni donated the moneys to create a statue to himself in order to compete with the memory of Gattamelata, another condotte.
This was Christian Feigenspan's mansion until 1916. First, there were two brewers, father and son, named Christian Feigenspan who played a role in Newark history. The elder Christian Feigenspan was born in Thuringia in 1855. He founded his eponymous brewery in 1875, making it by far the youngest of Newark's "Big Five." Like his contemporary and brewing rival Gottfried Krueger, Feigenspan was very public spirited. Putting the "P.O.N." initials on his beer was both a boast about his beer (as a subtle put down of Wiedenmayer, Krueger, Ballantine's, and Hensler's) and a boast about Newark.

The second Christian Feigenspan (1876-1939), the son of the first, assumed control of the family brewery in 1899, upon the death of his father. This Christian Feigenspan lived at 53 Lincoln Park until 1916. His wife was Miss Alice Rule, an Englishwoman.

Like many other Newark industrialists, Feigenspan was actively involved in civic affairs. In the 1910s, Feigenspan joined the "Committee of 100" to celebrate Newark's 250th anniversary in 1916. Feigenspan paid the sculptor J. Massey Rhind $70,000 to produce this fine copy of the Venetian Colleoni. It is the only copy to exist in the world. J. Massey Rhind was a famous sculptor of the early 20th century. His other work in Newark is the Franklin Murphy Statue in Weequahic Park and Washington with his horse in Washington Park.

The very year he donated the Colleoni statue to Lincoln Park, Feigenspan left Lincoln Park behind to move to High Street, just a few doors down from his rival, Gottfried Krueger.

The passage of the Volsted Act was devastating to the Feigenspan brewery and depressing for Feigenspan himself. Feigenspan, as president of the United States Brewers' Association, strove to fight off Prohibition. In 1920 Feigenspan led a suit that attempted to declare the 18th amendment unconstitutional on a technicality. Feigenspan argued that the amendment was null and void in New Jersey, due to New Jersey's not ratifying it. Defeated at every legal turn, and finding his business of making zero-alcohol beer barely profitable, in 1925 Feigenspan resigned as president of the United States Brewers' Association out of a principled refusal to negotiate with the Anti-Saloon league. (the Anti-Saloon League was willing to combine with beer brewers against manufacturers of hard liquors).

Feigenspan himself.

Refusing to accept Prohibition's permanence, rather than simply give up his beer making business, Feigenspan held onto 300,000 gallons of pre-Prohibition beer until 1927, hoping that one day it could be sold. When the courts refused to let Feigenspan sell the beer or give it to shareholders, Feigenspan ordered the valves opened on 26 vats at his brewery and all his precious beer spilled into the Passaic River. At the time, it was the nation's largest reservoir of pre-Prohibition beer.

At left, Feigenspan's MLK Blvd mansion.

The first statue to be erected in Lincoln Park was the French & Indian War-inspired "Captive's Choice," also known as An Historical Incident of November, 1764." Christian Feigenspan, who lived right on the park in a fine Italianate mansion, would have seen "An Historical Incident." Presumably Feigenspan wanted to add to the sculpture collection of his "front yard."
The baton was a symbol of military leadership. Notice Colleoni's stern face.

John Cotton Dana of the Newark Public Library was responsible for suggesting to Christian Feigenspan that he donate a copy of the Venetian Colleoni statue to Newark. Dana may have learned about the Colleoni statue on his own extensive European travels or he may have learned of the statue from John Ruskin, who praised the Colleoni as the finest equestrial statue ever made.

 

 

Special thanks to L. Craig Schoonmaker at NewarkUSA.

See Condottieri and the Great Equestrian Statues and Paintings of the Italian Renaissance (and a Roman Emperor)"

$1,000,000 IN BEER SPILLED INTO SEWER :Brewery's 16-Year-Old Product Drained After Vain Efforts to Dispose of it Legally.." New York Times (1857-Current file), November 1, 1927, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed October 17, 2007).

"FEIGENSPAN QUITS AS BREWERS' CHIEF :Says He Opposes Any Negotiating With Anti-Salon League Officials.." New York Times (1857-Current file), September 24, 1925, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed October 17, 2007).

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by Jeffrey Bennett.
October 2007
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