Edmund Garratt Gardner.

The painters of the school of Ferrara online

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Dosso by Morelli, and is more definitely accepted as his

1 Cf. Fontana, lienata di Francla, I. (Rome, 1889), pp. 152, 153, and
my King of Court Poets, pp. 239, 343.

« Venturi, op. cit., doc. 27. For the story of these two unhappy
princesFCs, Pee King of Court Poets, pp. 218, 243, 244, 255.

3 Venturi, op. cit.^ docs. 110, 242.

* Ibid., doc. 33.


by Mr. Berenson. If the representation of " Don
Checchin," the turbulent and impetuous Francesco
d'Este, the youngest son of Alfonso I., as St. George
— the wing of an altarpiece from a church in Massa
Lombarda^ — be really by Dosso, it must be one of
his last works ; for that prince, who was born in 1516,
appears therein as a bearded man in the flower of life.

The last recorded payment to Dosso in the ducal
accounts is dated June 11, 1541.^ In spite of the
assertions of Vasari and Baruffaldi that he retired on a
pension some years before his death, Dosso was working
up to the last, and died in the summer of 1542,
leaving three daughters.

Battista Dossi died in the latter part of 1548,
bequeathing his goods to the Duke of Ferrara,
Ercole II. It is uncertain whether he was the father
of an indifferent artist, Evangelista Dossi, who was
murdered by his own wife in 1586. Although far
inferior to his brother, Battista is by no means a
negligible quantity in the history of Ferrarese art.
His landscapes are admirable, and many of his smaller
pictures, like the Holy Family with an Angel, in the
Villa Borghese, and the Madonna and Child with
St. George and St. Geminianus (usually attributed
to Dosso) at Bergamo, have a peculiar idyllic charm.

1 Cf. Ricci, in Rassegna d'Arte, April, 1904.
8 Venturi, op. cit,, doc. 280.

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In his larger figures, he attempted to combine a
certain Raphaelesque grace with his brother's traditional
Ferrarese types, not very successfully. Like Dosso, he
was an excellent painter of portraits. His portrait of
Alfonso I. at JModena, with one of the Duke's warlike
achievements against the Venetians or the papal forces
in the background, is a striking and powerful work ;
it is, perhaps, the picture painted for Alfonso's
mistress, Laura Dianti, after his death in 1534. In
1542, for Ercole II., he painted the hereditary prince,
Don Alfonso, and his little brother Luigi, the future
cardinal, then nine and two years old respectively ;
the former is, perhaps, the picture now belonging to
Lord Wimbome. Excellent portraits from his hand
are in the Crespi collection at Milan and at Hampton
Court.^ In the latter part of Battista's life, he was
much engaged in furnishing cartoons for tapestries in
the palaces of the Estensi, especially a series repre-
senting the Labours of Hercules and similar subjects.
A very singular work of his is the so-called " Dream ""
at Dresden, in which a sleeping woman, whose figure
is beautifully modelled, is watched over by a man,
while monsters of the most fantastic description,
burning houses, and every kind of nightmare, beset

1 For Battista, see especially Venturi, La Qallcria Crespi in Milano,
pp. 31-42. He notices as distinctive of the younger master a less
firm modelling, with at times a certain Raphaelesque grace, and the
large black eyes of his children.


her slumbers. Likewise, in one of his pictures in the
Villa Borghese, we are shown extraordinary groups of
monsters, recalling those which assailed Ruggiero in
the regno empio of Alcina : —

" Non fu veduta mai piu strana torma,
Piu monstruosi volti e peggio fatti." ^

A fine picture from Battista's hand, representing the
combat between Orlando and Rodomonte at the tomb of
Isabella,^ is in the possession of Lord Brownlovv ; it was
formerly in the ducal palace at Modena, where it was
ascribed to Dosso. One of the causes of the disagree-
ment between the two brothers is said to have been
the preference shown by Ariosto for Dosso in ordering
the designs for the illustrations to an edition of the
Orlando ; the edition in question, however, was not
published by Vincenzo Valgrisi at Venice until 1556,^
and it is exceedingly doubtful whether the hand
of either Dosso or Battista can be recognised in the
rather mediocre engravings prefixed to each canto.

1 Cf. Orlando Furioso, VI. Gl-63.

2 Ibid., XXIX. Cf. Baruffaldi, I. p. 280.

3 Orlando Furioso dl M. Lodovico Ariosto, Uitto ricorrctto, et di
nuove figure adornato. Al quale di nuovo sono aggiunte le Annotationi,
gli Avvertimenti, et le Dichiarationi di Oirolamo RusccUi. Venice,
Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1556. Tliere are three earlier diflferently illus-
trated editions of the poem.




If Dosso can be called the Giorgione of the
Ferrarese school, Garofalo has by tradition been known
as its Raphael ; or, to draw a comparison from the
poets, the former may be likened to Ariosto, while the
latter's position is somewhat analogous to that of
Tasso. Garofalo is one of the two Ferrarese painters
with whom Vasari was personally acquainted, and,
although his chronology is confused and his account in
many respects inconsistent with the documented facts,
we have a more vivid and detailed presentment of
Garofalo's personality in his pages than of any other
master of the school.

Benvenuto Tisi was bom at Ferrara in 1481, the
son of a certain Pietro Tisi, the head of the shoe-
makers'* guild in the city, who was originally from
Garofalo or Garofolo, a small place in the Polesine,
whence the painter's appellation of Garofalo, or il
Garofalo, is derived. His father's ambition was that
his son should become a man of letters, and it was only



after a threat from the youth that he would expatriate
himself from Ferrara unless he had his way, that he
was set to study painting under Domenico Panetti.
According to Vasari, Garofalo went in 1497 or 1498
to Cremona (where he seems to have had an uncle who
was himself a painter), and was there so impressed by
the frescoes of Boccaccio Boccaccino in the Duomo that
he became his pupil. After two years at Cremona, being
then nineteen, Vasari says that he went to Rome. A
curious letter, published by Baruffaldi, purports to have
been addressed on this occasion by Boccaccino to
Garofalo's father :—

" If your son Benvegnu, my honoured messer Pietro,
had learned good manners as well as he has
painting, he certainly would not have played me so
unseemly a trick. Since his uncle and your brother-
in-law, messer Niccolo, died on January 3, he has not
touched a brush, although he knew well upon what a
fine work he was engaged. But this is nothing. He
has gone away without saying a word, and I know not
whither. I had procured work for him, but he has left
it all unfinished, and has gone away, leaving all his
things with me, as also the belongings of messer
Niccolo. It may serve you as a clue to finding him
that, if he is to be believed, he said he wanted to see
Rome. It may be that he has gone to that city, and
it is ten days since he set out, in such great cold and

.ititli rsiin

Benvenl'to Garofalo

('La Madonna ck-l Tilastrn")


7'(i jifi-i' />'ii/e 1 70


with so much snow that it is unendurable. I kiss your
hands. From Cremona, January 29, 1499. Yours as
a brother, Boccaccino. ""^ ^

It is uncertain whether this is an authentic docu-
ment with an apocryphal date attached to it, or (as, on
the whole, seems more probable) a sheer fabrication
based upon Vasari's narrative. In any case, Boccaccino
was himself at Ferrara during these years. The famous
master of Cremona, whose sacra conversazione in the
Accademia at Venice is one of the most fascinating
pictures of the age, was the son of Antonio di
Boccaccino, a Cremonese citizen, who worked for the
Ferrarese court as embroiderer during the last thirty
years of the fifteenth century. Boccaccino was, per-
haps, born at Ferrara, but had served his art apprentice-
ship at Venice under either Alvise Vivarini or Cima.
In 1497, having been released from prison at Milan by
the intervention of the Ferrarese ambassador, Antonio
Costabili, he entered the service of Ercole I. as court
painter, pictor Excellentie sue, in succession to Ercole
Roberti — Costabili writing to the Duke that he was
reputed " one of the first masters of his art that there
are in Italy, and I hold that he is not only as good as
Ercole was, but even much better.*" ^ From 1497 until

1 Baruffaldi, I. pp. 315, 316.

2 Venturi, Uarte ferrarese net periodo d' Ercole /, III. pi 382 ;
La Galleria Crespi, pp. 115-120 ; ArcJi. Stor. deW Arte, VII. p. 55 ;
Campori, I pittori degli Estetiti, p. 576.


the beginning of 1 5 00, he was living in a house at Ferrara
rented for him by the Duke, and in 1499 he took part
with Lorenzo Costa and Niccolo Pisano in the competi-
tion for the decoration of the choir of the Duomo. In
the latter year, he killed his wife, who had been un-
faithful to him. He seems to have retired to Cremona
shortly after 1500, and there, in 1506, he began the
frescoes of the Duomo. His influence is very marked
in the later work of Panetti and the earlier pictures of
Garofalo ; indeed, whether the latter was ever actually
his pupil or not, his art is largely a development of
that of Boccaccino, traces of the Cremonese painter''s
peculiar types and sentiment, though modified by other
influences, remaining with him to the end.

Garofalo may thus well have been influenced by
Boccaccino in Ferrara before setting out on his travels.
According to Vasari, he spent fifteen months in Rome,
working under a certain Florentine, Giovanni Baldini,
and then, becoming restless again, wandered about
Italy, finally settling at Mantua under I^orenzo Costa.
Returning to Ferrara, he worked there, partly on his
own account, partly with the Dossi, until 1505, when,
at the instigation of Girolamo Sagrati, one of the
Ferrarese agents at the papal court, he went again to
Rome. There, still according to Vasari, after seeing
the works of Michelangelo and Raphael, " he cursed the
manner of Lombardy, and what he had learned with so


much study and labour at Mantua," and s^t to work
afresh. Vasari states that he contracted an intimate
friendship with Raphael, and, after two years in Rome,
returned finally to Ferrara.

There is documentary evidence that " Benvegnu da
Garofalo" was working for Lucrezia Borgia in the
ToiTe Marchesana of the Castello, together with
Panetti and Mazzolino, in 1506.^ After that, we
have no record of his activity until 1512, the date
inscribed on his Neptune and Minerva at Dresden. It
is probable that his wanderings, recorded by Vasari, in
reality fell between these two dates ; that he was with
Boccaccino at Cremona, when the latter was painting
in the Duomo, in 1506 and the following years; that
he may possibly have worked under Costa at Mantua,
and have been in Rome when Michelangelo was
engaged upon the ceiling of the Sistina and Raphael
upon the walls of the Stanze. There is another gap in
the record of Garofalo's work, between 1514 and 1517,
which may be the date of the second visit to Rome ;
since it is precisely in those years that Girolamo
Sagrati was there, as agent for the elder Cardinal
Ippolito d'Este, and, in 1517, Garofalo executed an
altarpiece at Sagrati's commission for the parish
church of San Valentino in the district of Reggio.^

1 Venturi, in Arch. Stor. ddV Arte, VII. p. 305.
« See Arch. Stor. delVArte (1892), p. 363


Though doubtless influenced by Raphael, Garofalo
was not so overwhelmed by him as were his Romagnole
contemporaries, Bartolommeo da Bagnacavallo and
Innocenzo da Imola. In his earlier works, the types
and composition recall Panetti and Boccaccino, and
even at times Mazzolino, while, in his middle period, he
was strongly influenced by his direct association with
Dosso Dossi. To the last he remains an independent
and unique personality in Italian art, and thoroughly
Ferrarese in his types and his^colouring. His somewhat
monotonous religious compositions are undeniably
wearisome, in spite of their manifest sincerity and
high technical qualities ; but his colouring, until his
eyesight began to fail him, is always rich and splendid,
full of romantic suggestion. The higher gifts of
imagination and originality alone were denied him.

The stiff*, rather naive, but attractive Minerva and
Neptune of 1512 is Garofalo's earliest dated picture;
it shows, as Morelli pointed out, the influence of Costa.
Probably earlier than thi:3 are some of his Madonnas,
like the one in the Villa Borghese, in the manner of
Boccaccino. To 1513 belongs the first of his great
altarpieces, the Madonna and Child enthroned be-
tween Lazarus and Job, painted for the Madonna
della Celletta at Argenta. Finer than this is the
picture of 1514, once over the altar of the Immaculate
Conception in Santo Spirit© at Ferrara, in which the


Ma(lonna and Child (the former curiously unlike his
usual fair-haired, rather conventionally beautiful type)
are surrounded by angel musicians in the clouds, while
below, with a fine landscape background, stand St.
Jerome and St. Francis, and two donors of the Susena
family kneel in prayer. This composition, with various
slight modifications, is the one to which the painter
adheres throughout the long series of his large altar-
pieces, whatever be the ostensible subject. Now comes
the gap in the record until 1517, when he painted
the San Valentino altarpiece for Girolamo Sagrati,
and, for the church of San Guglielmo in Ferrara,
the enthroned Madonna with St. William and the
Franciscan Saints, now in the National Gallery — a
serious, but rather commonplace work. To the follow-
ing year belongs the much damaged altarpiece in the
Accademia at Venice, painted for the parish church of
Ariano. From 1517 until 1550, we find Garofalo
almost continuously employed in Ferrara, hardly a year
passing without some extant work to mark it ;
although we naturally possess but a portion of the
innumerable paintings, in fresco or on canvas, that he
executed. There is hardly a church in Ferrara that
did not possess one or more works from his hand. As
they now hang, for the most part in galleries, the
total effect is monotonous and dispiriting ; but even
the copies, substituted for them in the chapels for


which they were painted, let us realise how much they
lose by being thus wrenched from the altars, and shorn
of the conditions of light, position, and association for
wu.ch they were intended by the painter. Among
the earlier and more noteworthy are the enthroned
Madonna with St. Sylvester and other Saints, painted
in 1524 for the church of San Silvestro, now in the
Duomo ; the " Madonna del Pilastro," for the Trotti
chapel in San Francesco, with a portrait of the
donatrix, Lodovica Trotti ; ^ the " Madonna del
Riposo,"*' painted in 1526 for the cappella del parto in
the same church, in which Leonello dal Pero, the
patron of the chapel, is introduced ; the Vision of
St. Bruno, at Dresden, from the Certosa ; the " Mater
Dolorosa," also at Dresden. The latter is a striking
and deeply felt work, showing more originality of con-
ception than is usual with this painter. The Blessed
Virgin is praying over the sleeping Child, while a
kneeling Angel presents to her the crown of thorns and
the napkin of Veronica ; behind her is a ruined temple,
with a bas-relief representing a pagan sacrifice. Angels
gather above on the clouds, with the emblems of the
Passion, while, higher still, another group of spirits

I In this picture, the Divine Child holds a carnation {garofalo)^
a flower which the painter frequently introduces as a kind of signa-
ture. His upual signature is Bcnvegnu de Garofalo, but he has
several variants, such as Benvenut. Garofalo. No other Ferrarese
(«ave Panetti and Costa) so constantly signs his work.

Renvenuto Garofalo


'/)) /'tier /'",'/<' 17G


bears a tablet with the inscription : Tuaui ipsius
an'nnam gladius pertranslbit.

Garofalo was likewise frequently employed in
decorating the palaces of the Ferrarese nobles. One
of his earliest works in this kind was the painting of
two ceilings in the Palazzo Trotti, now the Seniinario,
in 1519. The better preserved of the two shows the
influence both of Raphael and of Mantegna'*s famous
ceiling in the Camera degli Sposi at Mantua. Mytho-
logical and scriptural scenes are mingled with ideal
portraits of philosophers and groups of naked children,
all being in grisaille save the men and women, among
whom are a negro and an ape, who look down from the
parapet. There is an air of grave and gracious pro-
fusion about the whole composition, above which the
rather plebeian heads, with their note of colour, peep
tlirough like a sudden intrusion of reality. '" Few
buildings in Italy," wrote Morelli, " are decorated with
equal taste and intelligence." ^

It is doubtful what share, if any, Garofalo had in
the somewhat similar decorations of the Palazzo di
Lodovico il Moro. BarufTaldi attributes all the existing
frescoes to him. The two ceilings on the ground floor,
with scenes from the life of Moses and the story of
Joseph in grisaille, the prophets and sibyls, the frieze
of Roman heroes, and the beautiful arabesques on a

I Morelli, Italian Painters, I. p. llln, Cf. Grnyer, I. pp. 390-39:i.



blue ground, are at least works of his school, and
probably in part from his hand. The ceiling on the
upper floor, already described in speaking of Ercole
Grandi, is now more generally assigned to the latter
painter, but his authorship is by no means established.^
The vast allegory of the triumph of Christianity over
Judaism was painted in 1523, for the refectory of the
Augustinian friars of Sant' Andrea, and is now, trans-
ferred to canvas, in the pinacoteca at Ferrara ; certain
details, as that of the Christian priest celebrating
Mass, are admirably rendered. In the following
year, Garofalo executed the fresco of the Betrayal of
Christ, with a magnificent but somewhat melodramatic
captain of mercenaries, in a chapel of San Francesco,
with other frescoes of which only the portraits of the
donor and his wife, members of the Guidotti family,
now remain. The latter are powerfully rendered
figures, with something of the large manner of the
Florentines of the previous century.

About 1531, when fifty years old, Garofalo married
Caterina di Ambrogio Scoperti. In the same year, he
lost the sight of one of his eyes. Believing that the
sight of the other had been preserved to him by a
miracle, he vowed ever after to dress in gray, and
painted a votive picture in honour of St. Lucy, Dante's

1 Cf. Baruflfaldi, I. p. 322 ; and works cited in chap. VII. of
present volume, p. 132.


type of illuminating grace, Lucia nimica di ciascun
crudele^ in the church of the Trinita, which was stolen
by a knight commander of Malta in the seventeenth
century.^ We find the virgin martyr of Syracuse, the
patron Saint of all who are threatened with blindness,
in an interesting altarpiece painted by Garofalo in
1533, now in the Galleria Estense, in which the
Madonna and Child are worshipped by the blessed
Contardo d'Este in the garb of a pilgrim — one of the
numerous Saints claimed by the Dukes of Ferrara
among the ancestors of their house. Garofalo's later
works, which are still very numerous, naturally show a
considerable decline in freshness and power ; his
mannerisms increase upon him ; and, in his latest
pictures, even the harmony and brilliancy of his colour-
ing has departed ; but Vasari can still say of the
Adoration of the Magi, painted in 1537 for the
Olivetani of San Giorgio, that it is "one of the best
works that he ever did in all his life." His last
picture appears to be the deplorable Annunciation
of 1550, in the Brera, for the church of Santa Monica
in Ferrara.

Besides the Neptune and Minerva, Garofalo
painted other mythological pictures for the Dukes of
Ferrara. An excellent example, also at Dresden, is

1 Inf. II. 100.

< Barullaldi, I. pp. 355, 356.


the Wounded Venus with Mars before Troy,* in
which the Venus in her flame- coloured robe has the
features of the painter's golden-haired Madonnas, and
the Mars is an idealised Italian soldier of the epoch ;
there is a fine romantic feeling about the landscape.
The Diana and Endymion, ascribed to Garofalo in
the same collection, appears to be a work of some pupil
of the Dossi.^ A stately, somewhat Raphaelesque,
Sacrifice to Ceres, dated 1526, is in the Mond col-
lection. Much later, painted in 1542 or 1543, is
the large Triumph of Bacchus at Dresden, of which
the composition is precisely the same as that of the
little picture attributed to Dosso Dossi in the Castello
at Ferrara. Vasari states that this and a " Calumny
of Apelles " (which cannot now be traced) were painted
by Garofalo at the age of sixty-five from drawings by
Raphael, and hung over chimney-pieces in the ducal
palace ; Ercole II. showed them to Pope Paul III.,
upon which " that pontiff was amazed that a man of
those advanced years, with only one eye, should have
executed such large and beautiful works."' ^ These
classical themes, however, were clearly less congenial

1 Iliad, Bk. V.

2 It was, possibly, executed from a design of Garofalo by Girolamo
da Carpi.

3 Vasari, VI. p. 467. A small design for the "Triumph of Bacchus
in India" had been sent by Raphael to Duke Alionso in 1617. Cf.
letter of Beltrando Coatabili (September 11, 1517), in Campori,
Notitie inedite di JRnfaello, p. 115.

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to the painter ; Mr. Benson well notes that Garofalo
was one " who, in appropriating a classic myth, failed
to transmute it, and left it cold and conventional."' ^
Far more attractive are his smaller religious pictures,
of which so many are scattered through the public
galleries and private collections of Europe. The
Vision of St. Augustine in the National Gallery, a
singularly poetical conception, reminiscent alike in
colouring and in types of Dosso Dossi, and the romantic
Holy Family with St. Elisabeth and the little St.
John, at Padua, with its Raphaelesque infant Saviour
and peculiarly lovely landscape, have a freshness and a
charm that we seldom find in his more ambitious

Vasari tells us that, for twenty years, Garofalo
painted on every feast-day, " for the love of God,^ in
the monastery of the nuns of San Bernardino (a house
destroyed in 1823), with the same care and diligence
that he used in his other works. Although invariably
kind and painstaking with his pupils, he received
nothing save annoyance from them in return : " where-
fore he was wont to say that he had never had any
enemies, save his disciples and apprentices." In 1550,
he became totally blind, and lived on for nine years in
Christian patience and resignation. " At last, having
reached the age of seventy-eight years, it seeming to him

» Introduction to the Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition.


that he had lived only too long in that darkness, and
rejoicing at death with hope of enjoying the eternal
light, he ended the course of his life in the year 1559, on
the sixth of September ; leaving a son named Girolamo,
who is a right gracious person, and a daughter (Antonia).
Benvenuto was a most excellent man, full of japes,
affable in conversation, and patient and quiet in all
his adversities. In his youth he delighted in fencing
and in playing the lute, and he was very obliging and
boundlessly affectionate in friendships. He was a
friend of the painter Giorgione da Castelfranco, of
Titian of Cadore, and of Giulio Romano, and, in
general, most amicably disposed to all men connected
with the art ; and I can bear witness thereto, for
twice, when I was at Ferrara in his time, I received
infinite kindnesses and courtesies from him." ^ Garo-
falo was buried in Santa Maria in Vado. His son,
Girolamo di Benvenuto Tisi, more usually called
Girolamo Garofalo, became a distinguished man of
letters, and wrote the excellent life of Ariosto which
was first published in 1584, prefixed to the edition of
the Orlando Furioso brought out by Francesco de**
Franceschi in that year at Venice.

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