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the elder Niccolo da Correggio, and then of Tristano
Sforza.^ On September 19, 1471, a month after
Borso's death, the Duke of Milan wrote to ask his
successor for the portrait of the deceased sovereign,
retracto al naturale per mano de maestro Baldassare,
then in Castello Novo. Baldassare himself took the
picture to Milan, and Galeazzo Maria, on November 4,
addressed through his secretary a warm letter of thanks
to Ercole, expressing his great delight at the gift :
" And this because we have always desired to have some
representation of that lord, whom we continually loved
as a father, and we have striven to tread in his footsteps
and imitate his customs, as being most praised and
truly worthy of a prince. This portrait has been the

1 Venturi, L'arte ferrarcsc net perlodo d' Ercole T, II. p. 721n. To
Marietta Stroi^zi, together -with her sister Ginevra, several of
Hoiardo's lyrics are addressed. Cf. Le fonie roJgari e latine di
M. M, Boiardo, ed. Solerti, pp. 114, 171.

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more dear to us inasmuch as it has been most worthily
executed ; for, when we gaze on him thus depicted, we
seem to see him ahve." ^

On his return to Ferrara, Baldassare found a change
in the situation. The new Duke Ercole, representing
the legitimate hne of the Estensi, was by no means so
favourably disposed as Borso had been to the bastards
of the house. Baldassare continued painting portraits,
including one of Ercole himself to be sent to Naples,
for which he was paid at a much higher rate than
Cosimo Tura ; but, in 1472, he was no longer in receipt
of a regular salary from the court. In this same year
he executed two medals for Ercole, both signed with
his name, neither of them remarkable for strength of
portraiture nor vigour of design. Some time before
1489, he received the post of captain of the Porta
Castello of Reggio, which he held for some years, under
the poet, Matteo Maria Boiardo, w^ho was captain of
the city and duchy of Reggio from 1487 to 1494.
But Baldassare's sojourn in his native city (where he
married a second wife, a lady of the noble Fogliani
family) was an unhappy one. In 1493, his daughter
Cassandra (a child of his first marriage with a woman
of Como) was abducted and shamefully treated by three
young Reggian noblemen. The injured father wrote
passionately to the Duke, complaining bitterly that..
1 Letter of November 4, 1471. Motia, op. eit., p. 408.



although the three criminals are in prison, the
authorities have done nothing, and that neither they
nor their witnesses have been put to the question. " If
Zampante had them in his hands,""' he exclaims, " as
they deserved, they would have soon spoken. I am
amazed that I do not kill myself, for, if I had been
a traitor, they should not have done me such an
outrage.""^ Ercole committed the whole matter to
Boiardo. Two of the young men were tortured, the
third confessed at the mere sight of the corda. There
being extenuating circumstances, their lives were spared,
and they were let off with a heavy fine — a hundred
iucats each to Baldassare, and five hundred to the
ducal exchequer.^ Disgusted with Reggio, the painter
shortly afterwards returned to Ferrara, where, from
1497 onwards, he seems to have held the office of
captain of Castello Tedaldo, the fortress then existing
outside the Porta San Paolo.

With the exception of the heads in the Schifanoia
frescoes, none of Baldassare's portraits have survived.
The outline of his portrait of the poet Tito Strozzi,
Boiardo's father-in-law, formerly in the Costabili gallery,

1 Letter of November 3, 1493, in Venturi, op.cit., p. 381w. This
Gregorio Zampante was the Duke's hated and dreaded captain of
justice in Ferrara, for whom cf. Duhcx and Poets in Ferrara, pp. 326,

480, 481.

2 Letters of November 10, November 24, December 16, 1493, in
Ltttere edits ed inedite di Mattto Maria Boiardo, ed. N. Canipauini,
pp. 409-412.


is preserved to us by Rosini.^ A like fate has befallen
his religious pictures, such as the large altarpiece of
St. ThoniJis Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena, seen
by BarufFaldi in the church of the Angeli and signed
Baldassaris Estensis opus^ and that of St. Ambrose
executed in 1472 for Simone Ruffini, a Milanese who
had become a Ferrarese citizen, for a chapel of San
Domenico, and of which Cosimo Tura was to estimate
the cost.^ On the other hand, in the picture in the
collection of Count Massari at Ferrara, representing
the Death of Our Lady in the presence of the Apostles,
a painting variously attributed to Francesco Bianchi,
Michele Coltellini, and even to Mantegna, we probably
possess an authentic work from Baldassare's hand.
Although decidedly archaic in quality, Signor Venturi
has given good reasons for holding that it is q^iella
tavola de dodece apostoli mentioned by Baldassare
himself in a letter to the Duke, dated April 29, 1502,
as recently painted for the Suore di Mortara, a
Piedmontese convent of nuns settled in Ferrara and
attached to the church of S. Maria delle Grazie.'* It
is somewhat confused in composition, but shows a
certain power of expression in the heads of the
Apostles. Its painter has a definite individuality

1 AStoria delta pitlura italiana, vol. III. (Pisa, 1841), p. 199.

2 Baruffaldi, I. p. 92.

3 Venturi, op. cit., p. 381.

4 Venturi, op. eit., pp. 384-386.


among the lesser masters of the Quattrocento, and
seems, like Tura, to have felt the influence of the
Paduan school of Squarcione.

The letter just cited would appear an extraordinary
one for a man of Baldassare''s standing to have
addressed to his kinsman and sovereign — did we not
know, from the example, not only of other painters, but
even of so noble and illustrious a person as Boiardo
himself,^ the exaggerated tone that was customary
among the Ferrarese in making appeals to the Duke.
Baldassare asks Ercole to give him some of his old
clothes, in order that he may occasionally appear in
his presence. " My most illustrious Lord,'' he Avrites,
" I am ashamed to ask this alms. Nevertheless,
necessity and my need constrains me to beg, for I have
no means of living and lack clothes. I believe that
your lordship does not know how I am paid my salary
by your magnificent Fattori. In two years and a
half, I have altogether received only two payments in

Baldassare died in 1504 or thereabouts. He seems
to have been by no means destitute, as he left
substantial legacies to his widow, and to his daughters
(it does not appear whether the hapless Cassandra was

included) who had married in Ucggio.

1 Cf. Boiardo's letter of December 31, 1493, begging Ercole to con-
firm him in his offices at Reggio. Campanini, op. cit., p. 413.
« Vtrnturi, op. cit., p. 387n. ; Campori, doc. 20.


Ercole Kohkkti


Cook Collection

To face pof/c 52


During the latter part of Baldassare's career, the
favour of the court was largely monopolised by a
younger and more progressive master : Ercole de**
Roberti. Under the ambiguous title of "Ercole
Ferrarese,'' Vasari makes one person of two
entirely dissimilar artists : the present Ercole di
Antonio de' Roberti, a most typical painter of the
Quattrocento, and Ercole di Giulio Cesare Grandi,
the pupil of Lorenzo Costa, in whose work appears
the ideality of the following century.

Ercole de' Roberti was born probably at Ferrara,
some time in the fifties of the century, the son of a
certain " Maestro Antonio," who, as Signor Venturi
has shown, was not a painter as formerly supposed,
but a gatekeeper of the Castello Estense. He is first
heard of at Ferrara in 1479, in partnership with his
brother Polidoro and others, to supply canvases,
gilding, colours, and other accessories of the painter''s
craft/ It has been, somewhat strangely, observed that
he " occupies an original place among the Ferrarese
artists of the Quattrocento, and is entirely independent ot
the influence of Cossa and of Tura."^ It seems
highly probable, on the contrary, that he was at the
outset one of Tura'^s pupils ; afterwards, either at
Venice itself or at Padua, he came into touch with

1 Cittadella, Docuraenti ed illu$trazioni, p. 67.

2 Cf. Uarck, op. cit., p. 70.


the Bellini, Jacopo and his son Giovanni, and appears
to have been influenced by Mantegna as well. In his
work we find the intensity and rugged vigour of Tura
and Cossa, but with their uncouthness tempered and
modified, while, as a colourist, he has no equal among
the Ferrarese of the fifteenth century.

The most important work of Ercole Roberti that
has come down to us is the great altarpiece, now in
the Brera, painted for the church of S. Maria in Porto
outside Ravenna in 1480, or, at least, finished before
March, 1481.^ In this stately and finely-coloured
picture the Madonna and Child are enthroned above,
with two women Saints, while below are St. Augustine
and the blessed Pietro degli Onesti (the founder of the
church at the end of the eleventh century). Through
the open pedestal of the throne is seen an alluring
landscape, a city by the river shore with a pier and
hills beyond, while on its base in grisaille are re-
presented, as in bas-relief, the Massacre of the
Innocents, the Adoration of the Magi, and the
Presentation in the Temple. In the corners above
the arch, naked figures are seen of Samson and
David — a peculiar decorative symbolism which we
shall find repeated in a later work of the artist. The

whole composition of the picture, the disposition of

1 Document first published by Corrado Ricci, in the Basscgna
d'Arte, January, 1904. Venturi first showed that this picture
pasaiug uudev the name of Stefiiuo da Ferrara, is by Ercole.


KKCot.E KoHKini


IJImneiistilil ColUrtioii

'J'li fave pdijc 54


the figures and the structure of the throne, are very
characteristic of the Ferrarese art of the Quattrocento,
and strongly reminiscent of Tura's altarpiece at Berhn ;
but the types are Eroole's own.

After the completion of this monumental work,
Ercole settled for a while at Bologna, where we find
him in 1482. There, for Domenico Garganelli, he
decorated a chapel in San Pietro (the older church
destroyed in 1605 to give place to the present cathedral)
with frescoes of the Passion and Death of Our Lady, in
which latter he introduced the portrait of the donor.
These are mentioned by Leandro Albert! ^ and described
at length by Vasari,^ but all that now remains to us of
them is a sketch at Berlin for the Crucifixion. For the
church of S. Giovanni in Monte, he painted three scenes
of the Passion as the predella of the high altar, which
are also cited by Vasari. Two of these, the Agony in
the Garden with the Betrayal of Christ, and Christ on
the way to Golgotha, are now at Dresden ; they are
full of vigour, movement, and dramatic intensity, as in
the furious rush of the soldiers upon their prey in the
Betrayal. The central scene, the Deposition from the
Cross, is at Liverpool, where it was formerly ascribed
to Mantegna. Two of Ercole's drawings for this work,
the sketch for the arrest of our Lord, and the figure of

1 Descrittionc di tuttu Italia, Bologna, 1550, f. 300.

2 111. i..p. 143-145.



a woman with a child introduced into the Via Crucis,
are in the Uffizi/

If Vasari is to be believed, Ercole was a somewhat
unamiable character : " fu di natura fantastico e massi-
mamente quando lavorava." His manners gained him
the hate, while his success excited the envy of the
Bolognese artists, who at length raided his house, and
carried off all his sketches and designs. Not unnaturally,
the painter was so disgusted that he left Bologna and
returned to Ferrara. We find him in the latter city in
1486, painting a small picture for the Duchess Leonora,
and another for her third son, Ippolito, the nine years
old archbishop of Esztergom, to take with him to
Hungary. In the following year, 1487, he was ad-
mitted to the ducal service as court painter, with an
unusually large salary. He was high in the favour of
the Duchess, and a constant companion of the here-
ditary prince, Don Alfonso, who as a boy already showed
a keen interest in all forms of handicraft, and himself
tried to paint. On the occasion of the marriage of
Isabella d''Este to Francesco Gonzaga in 1490, Roberti,
who had previously been to Venice to buy gold for the
decoration of the chests that were to hold her trousseau,
had the chief artistic decorations of the festivities en-
trusted to him, designing and directing the construction
uf the nuptial bed and the triumphal chariot upon which

1 r/ Harck, op. cit.. pp; 67-70.


the bride was to enter Mantua.^ He accompanied her
thither in charge of her belongings, and a letter is ex-
tant in which he apologises, on the plea of illness, for
having gone home " without saluting my host and
without permission of your ladyship," asking her to
forgive him and not to forget him.*

Nevertheless, whether owing to his being fantastico
di nafura or because he had a real grievance, Ercole was
not contented with his treatment. In the following year,
we find him writing to the Duke, asking for arrears of
payment : " Your Excellence perchance believes that I
am rich, and that I have some means. On the con-
trary, I tell you that I am a poor man, and have
nought else save my arms, and that little talent that
God has given me ; with which I must provide for
my living and that of my wife and children, besides
wanting to make some endowment for my old age, as
long as I am able to bear the weight. And for this I
have attached myself to your Excellence, to serve you
and ever work for you, as I have done and shall do as
long as I live. The middle of my years is passing
away, and I have no other resource save the support of
your lordship and my hope in you." ^

In the November of the following year, 1492, Don

Alfonso went with a splendid retinue to Rome, to

1 Venturi, op. cit., il. pp. 410-412.

2 Letter of March 12, 1490. Campori, o/j. ciL, doc. 21.
5 LtUer of Miuch 19, 1491. Verituii, o^. cit.. p. 413.


congratulate Alexander VI., who had been elected to
the papacy, under sufficiently notorious circumstances, in
the previous August. Ercole Roberti accompanied his
prince, as a special agent of the Duchess, to report to
her on works of art in Florence and Rome. Shortly
afterwards, Isabella d'Este commissioned him to paint
her a portrait of the Duke her father ; but, on May 28,
1494, Bernardino de'Prosperi writes to her that Ercole
cannot finish it, because Don Alfonso is occupying his
time, " et sempre li sta sopra.^ In the following
December, the painter fell into some disgrace with the
Duke for having accompanied Alfonso in a disreputable
nocturnal adventure, and, perhaps, retired for a while to
Mantua.^ Roberti died in the summer of 1496, the
portrait being still unfinished. Don Alfonso wrote to
his sister on January 4, 1497 : "The picture wherein
is the likeness of the most illustrious lord, your father
and mine, which maestro Ercole had begun, and for
which some days ago you asked from maestro Francesco
Castelli, I am sending to your ladyship by those
messengers who brought me the fish, and, if it had been
better and more precious, I should have sent it to you
all the more gladly.'' "

1 Cf. Lnzio, I ritratti d^hnhella (VUstc, p. 347.

2 Campori, op^ cit., pp. 573, 574. Tlie lajroons of Mantua were
fatuous for fish, which the (lonzaga upej to send as presents to
their friends in other cities. Kraucesco Ca.stelli was the Duke's


T H E (" < ) N (J !■: K T

X;ili()iijil (iiillerv

'/'(I face jMif/r ')8


One of Ercole's later pictures is the impressive and
powerful Deposition from the Cross, painted for the
church of San Domenico at Fcrrara and now in the
possession of Count Blumenstihl (with an apocryphal
signature of Ercole Grandi and a fictitious date), with
its somewhat stolid but admirable portraits of the
donors ; the figures of David and Judith above, types
of Christ, in His victory over death, and Mary, in her
prevention of the ruin of her people, recall the similarly
placed David and Samson in the earlier picture from
Ravenna. To this same epoch in Ercole's career may
be assigned the Concert becjueathed by Mr. Salting to
the National Gallery, a singularly attractive example
of fifteenth -century genre painting, which is sometimes
regarded as a youthful work of Lorenzo Costa. Our
national collection is fortunate in the possession of two
other authentic works from Ercole''s hand ; the beauti-
ful little diptych, miniature-like in execution, of the
Adoration of the Shepherds and the Pieta with St.
Jerome and St. Francis ; and the tempera painting of
the Israelites gathering manna, which has something of
Venetian colouring. Of the mythological and classical
pictures that Ercole executed for the Ferrarese court,
the most certain example is the Death of Lucrezia at
Modena, a late work in bad condition, practically three
very spiritless and uninspiring portraits (one of which
superticiiilly resembles Duke Ercole), quite untouched by


the tragedy that they are playing. The intensely
dramatic group in the Cook collection at Richmond, of
a green robed woman and two children (somewhat re-
calling the woman leading her child in the Dresden
predella) in what seems a burning palace, is accepted
by Mr. Berenson as a work of Roberti ; Signor Venturi,
on the other hand, tentatively ascribes it to Gian
Francesco Maineri, a pupil of Roberti''s from Parma,
who finished some of his pictures after his death.^ To
Roberti, as Morelli first suggested, should probably be
attributed the St. John the Evangelist with the cup and
palm, which is one of the chief puzzles, as it is one of
the treasures, of the gallery at Bergamo.

A somewhat older contemporary of Ercole Roberti,
Marco Zoppo of Bologna, is now regarded as virtually
belonging to the Ferrarese school. Mr. Berenson
represents his artistic development as proceeding along
the same lines as that of Roberti, characterising him
as a " pupil and imitator of Tura " who was " influ-
enced by Giovanni Bellini." A Madonna and Child,

1 It is usually called " Medea and her Children," but should,
perhaps, be interpreted as the "Wife of Hasdrubal." For Maineri,
see Venturi, in Arch. Stor. delV Arte, I, 1888, and UArte, 1907 ;
Campori, op. cit., docs. 23, 24 ; Luzio, op. cit., pp. 351, 352, He
worked for Duke Ercole from 1489 to 1503, and afterwards entered
the service of Isabella d'Este. In 1602, he painted a head of St.
John the Bnptist for the Duke to give to Suor Lucia da Narni, the
Dominican tertiary and mystic for whom he had just built the con-
vent of Santa Cateriua, near the church of the Angeli. Only u lew
insigiiificant works of iluiueri can now be ideutitied.


belonging to Lord Wimborne, has the inscription
Opera del Zoppo di Squarcione ; but it is now recog-
nised that this signature is a forgery, and that the
picture is by another hand.^ In any case, it is clear
that, whether actually Squarcione's pupil or not,
Marco Zoppo was the first Bolognese who felt the
new artistic impulse from Padua ; and, although, again,
there is no direct evidence of his having worked undei
Tura, he undoubtedly was strongly influenced by the
latter master. It has been suggested that he had a
share in the frescoes of the Schifanoia ; ^ but this is a
mere conjecture, not borne out by any known facts.
His most important surviving work is an altarpiece
now at Berlin, once in the church of San Giovanni at
Pesaro, inscribed : Marco Zoppo da Bologna pinxit
MCCCCLXXI in Venezia ; a fine picture in which the
types of the Madonna and Saints somewhat recall
those of Tura, while the throne is surmounted by a
festoon of leaves and fruit in the early Paduan
manner, and the landscape background is not unlike
that of Bellini's early paintings. Zoppo worked,
mainly at Bologna, during the last three decades of
the century, and died about 1498. He is decidedly
inferior to his Ferrarese contemporaries. An un-

1 Cf. Exhibition of Works of the School of Ferrara-BoIor/na :
Burlington Fine Arts Club, LondoQ 1894, p. 1.

2 Crowe and Cavalcaselle, A Hutory of Painting in North
Italy y I. pp. 3^6, 53o.


usually attractive example of his art is the signed
Madonna and Child belonging to Sir Frederick Cook, in
which Our Lady's eyes are closed in reverie, while the
Divine Child tries to arouse her by playing with her
face. An original and impressive rendering of the
traditional theme of the Ecce Homo is attributed to
him in the Layard collection, but is evidently the
work of a different master who cannot be identified.

In the meanwhile, the painters of Modena had
naturally followed the lead of the dominant city.
Among the Modenese influenced by Tura are Agnolo
and Bartolommeo degli Erri, members of a family of
artists much employed by the Estensi, especially in
minor commissions for the court and in decorating
their less important palaces, who in 1465 painted a
polyptych centering round the Coronation of Our
Lady. More direct imitators of Tura are Cristoforo
da Lendinara, an indifferent artist, by whom is a
signed Madonna and Child of 1482, and Bartolommeo
Bonascia, the author of n noteworthy Pieta, signed
and dated 1485, who was still working in the early
years of the Cinquecento. These three pictures are
now in the Galleria Estense at Modena.

The chronicler of Modena, Jacopino de** Bianchi or
de' I^ncellotti, under November 10, 1481, mentions

» Cf, Venturi, / PUlori drgli J<Jrri o del R, in Arch. Stor. deWArte,
VII. (1891).


Marco Zoppo

Cook Collection

I'o/dce j)age 62


" lino dito m^ Biancho Feraro da Modena " as the
painter of the arms of Duke Ercole, and those of the
Commune, outside the Palazzo del Comune of the city.^
His son Tommasino, who continued his chronicle,
alludes under October 25, 1509, to "maestro Francesco
de Biancho Frare" painting "el sepolcro posto in Modena
in Tospedaletto de la compagnia da la morte " ; ^ that
is, the terra-cotta group of the Pieta by Guido
IMazzoni, now in San Giovanni. Documentary evidence
shows that the painter''s name was Francesco Bianchi
or Francesco Ferrari (of which Frare is an abbreviation),
the latter name being apparently that of his family.^
It seems that, like Roberti, he was trained in the
school of Tura, and was then influenced by his more
masterful fellow-pupil. Like other Modenese painters,
he executed small commissions for Ferrara, and, in
1482, we find him sending two gilded bards to the
Duchess Leonora,* probably for her to give as presents,
rhere are very few extant works that can be attributed
to him, and, of these, only two are authenticated by
documents. In 1506, an Annunciation was commis-
sioned from him by the confraternity of the Annunziata

1 Jacopino de' Bianchi detto de' Lancellotti, Cronaca Modenese^
p. 54.

2 Tommasino de' Bianchi detto de' Lancellotti, Cronaca Modenese,
I. p. 69.

3 Cf. Venturi, La Pittura Modenese nel secolo xv.,p. 386.
* Campori, op. cit., p. 579.


in Modena. This admirable picture, now in tlie
Galleria Estense, shows none of the robust vigour of
Ercole Roberti, but a winning grace that we hardly
find elsewhere in the Ferrarese school save in the works
of Costa, and a religious feeling as deep as that of
Francia Raibolini to whom, indeed, it was at one time
ascribed/ Left unfinished at his death, it was com-
pleted in 1512 by Gian Antonio Scaccieri, called
II Frate, who undertook to carry it out "da uomo
da bene, secondo era stato promesso per maestro
Francesco."^ In 1507, he decorated the ceiling of the
sacristy of the Duomo with two frescoed to7idi, the
Madonna and Child with Angels, and St. Geminianus,
which are still to be seen in their place.^

These are the only paintings of Francesco Bianchi for
which we have documentary evidence. A Crucifixion

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15