Gaston de Foix, Duc de Nemours, was only 22 when he was killed at the Battle of Ravenna. His military career was short but by all accounts brilliant. By early 1512 he controlled northern Italy, on behalf of his uncle Louis XII, who had fallen out with the Pope Julius II and the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and was engaged in staking his claim to Milan and the surrounding area on the basis of his Visconti grandmother.
The exquisite detail achieved by Bambaia and his sensitive modelling of the handsome young man was universally admired.
The death of de Foix was a great blow to French ambitions in the area. He was young, energetic, hot-headed and brave and had been shot and killed leading a cavalry charge against the Spanish infantry. Both his contemporaries and modern historians hint that the final outcome of the Italian Wars could have been very different had he lived.
Gaining the nickname
le la Foudre d'Italie ('the Thunderbolt of Italy') Gaston showed a talent for manoeuvering and strategy that many compare with Napoleon. He specialised in rapid cross country marches and audacious offensive actions.
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His body was placed in the Duomo in Milan, surrounded by captured weapons and pennants, but after the French left the city his remains were moved to another church, now demolished. In 1515 when François I retook Milan he ordered a funerary monument fit for such a warrior, but once the city reverted to the Sforza's the work was abandoned. Today most of the completed elements are displayed in the Castello Sforzesco. The sculptor is Agostino Busti, known as Bambaia and the work is considered to be his masterpiece.
Two of the panels showing de Foix's military engagements intended for the base of the tomb, carved in a mixture of high and low relief typical of late medieval Milanese work.