The Façade of Leone Leoni's House in Milan, the Casa degli Omenoni: The Artist and the Public
Michael P. Mezzatesta

Abstract

Leone Leoni's house in Milan, the Casa degli Omenoni, is one of the city's most distinctive architectural landmarks. It has long earned the attention and admiration of visitors, particularly for its unusual façade decorated with six over-life-sized barbarian prisoners and two half-length caryatids flanking the central portal. Figures of this kind had never been seen on a house or palace façade before they appeared here. This article analyzes the sculptural and architectural sources of these figures as well as the architectural sources of the façade in general. The Casa degli Omenoni is placed within the context of the three major façade types at mid-century, in order to further clarify its innovative qualities. Finally, the iconology is discussed, with Leoni's dedication of the house to Marcus Aurelius seen in relation to the popularity of two books on the ancient emperor by the court historian of Charles V, Fray Antonio de Guevara. The prisoner motif is linked to the Persian Portico, and the famous frieze relief showing lions attacking a satyr is related to a similar device in Filarete's palace for the pseudonymous architect Onitoan Noliaver. It will be seen that Leoni presented himself to the public less as an artist than as a gentleman in the social camp of the Hapsburgs.

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