Piero della Francesca. Sigismondo Malatesta, the Prince of Rimini, before St. Sigismund. 1451. Fresco. 257 x 345 cm. San Frabcesco, Tempio Malatestiano, Rimini, Italy. More.
Sigismondo Malatesta (1417-1468), Lord of Rimini, was the son of Pandolfo di Galeotto Malatesta. On the abdication of his half-brother, Galeotto Roberto, in 1432, he succeeded to the lordship of Rimini, Fano, and Cesena, as papal vicar.
He was a professional soldier and throughout his life was regarded as almost the best military leader in Italy. Undoubtedly one of the worst tyrants of the Renaissance, he, at the same time, shared to a high degree the Renaissance cult of art and letters. Many humanists and poets found shelter at his court.
Sigismondo is suspected in the murder of his two wives, Ginevra d'Este and Polissena Sforza. He afterwards married his mistress, Isotta degli Atti, in whose honor he composed poems, which still exist.
In 1465 he commanded the Venetian army in the unsuccessful campaign against the Turks in the Morea. On this occasion he discovered the remains of Gemisthus Pletho (the Byzantine scholar who introduced Platonism into Italy), which he brought back with him to Rimini and solemnly enshrined in San Francesco.
Pope Pius II, who held Sigismondo in peculiar abhorrence, partly because of his treachery towards Siena, had begun by degrees to deprive him of his dominions, and Paul II continued the same course until only Rimini itself remained. Infuriated at a demand to surrender Rimini also, Sigismondo went to Rome in 1468, with the intention of slaying the pope with his own hands. Either opportunity or resolution failed him. Paul II pardoned him and even confirmed him in the possession of Rimini, but Sigismondo returned home a broken man, and died a few months later.
Based on the text from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
See: Piero della Francesca. Sigismondo Malatesta, the Prince of Rimini, before St. Sigismund. Portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, the Prince of Rimini.
Federico Da Montefeltro & Sigismondo Malatesta: The Eagle and the Elephant (Studies in Italian Culture--Literature in History ; Vol. 20) by Maria Grazia Pernis, Laurie Schneider Adams. Peter Lang Publishing, 1997.