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Marquis Francesco, in a decree couched in the most
flattering terms, conferred the citizenship of Mantua
upon him.^ In spite of the singularly unprogressive
character of his art, which did not escape the adverse
criticism of his contemporaries, he enjoyed the highest
esteem and munificent favour of the court till the end.
We do not find the same falling off in Francia's
1 C. D'Arco, op. cii.y T. j). 62.


!ater works as is noticeable in those of Costa. There
is the inevitable transition from the robust vigour of
the Ferrarese school of the Quattrocento to the grace
and ideal beauty of the sixteenth century, tendin"; a
little, at times, to mannerism and sentimentality ; but
it is comparatively slight. In the picture painted in
1502 for the church of Sta. Cecilia in ]Modena, where
the iVIadonna is seen above in an oval glory of cherubs,
while the Divine Child, standing on her knee, blesses the
Saints grouped in the landscape below, there is a
certain resemblance in composition and other respects
to the works of Perugino ; but any direct influence of
the Umbrian master upon his Bolognese contemporary
can only have been indirect and transient.^ The far
finer altarpiece in San Martino at Bologna, executrd
not earlier than 1506, with its rich and sombre colour-
ing, is more in his earlier, thoroughly Ferrarese manner
Enthroned over an arch through which a landscape is
seen, a sad-faced Madonna, immersed in prophetic
thought, holds the mystical book of life in her hand,
while the Child raises His to bless the world. For the
Carmine at ]\Iodena (the present church of San Biagio),
Francia is known to have painted two pictures : a
St. Albert and a Baptism of Christ. The former is
probably the Annunciation row at Chantilly, in which

1 C/. Morftlli, liaUnn Paintera, II. p. 77w ; Williamion, op. cit.^
pp. 40-42.


the famous Carmelite of Sicily appears in the fore-
ground ; if it is correct that it was given by the Duke
of Urbino, Francesco Maria della Rovere, it can hardly
be earlier than 1508, when he succeeded to the duchy
on the death of Guidobaldo. I am disposed to identify
the other with the picture at Hampton Court, where a
group of Carmelite monks appears in the background
in the same fashion as in the Chantilly Annunciation.
This, however, appears to be an earlier work than the
simpler representation of the same scene at Dresden,
with its mystically exalted Baptist and solemn back-
ground of hills, which also came from Modena, and
which is dated 1509/ Many of Francia'*s smaller
pictures must be assigned to this later epoch, such as
the two, probably painted for the private devotion of
Franciscan tertiaries, in which Our Lady and the
Divine Child are attended by St. Francis of Assisi
alone ; one of which is in the possession of Mr. Benson,
and the other in the Bolognese gallery. It is note-
worthy that Francia invariably represents the Seraphic
Father as beardless, which is not in accordance with
historical iconography.

Very few portraits exist that can be accepted as by
Francia. The early portrait of Bartolommeo Bianchini
has been already mentioned. He is known to have

1 Of. Williamson, op. cie.,pp. 106, 120; Claude Phillips, The Picture
Gallenj of CharUi 7, pp. 07, 68.


painted another light of the Bolognese university, the
physician and philosopher Alessandro Achillini, elder
brother of the poet Giovanni Filoteo Achillini, in
whose Viridario, a poem in ottava rima, are inserted
laudatory notices of most of the Bolognese and
Ferrarese artists of the time.^ Among the drawings
in the Uffizi is one in black and red pencil attributed
to Francia, professedly representing Messer Alessandro
Achillini in his twenty-third year, which would bring
us to 1486; but the drawing seems of a later date,
and is unlike Francia. It is probable that Francia
introduced portraits of his contemporaries into his
altarpieces under the usual celestial disguise. In one
of two sonnets addressed to him, Girolamo Casio
advises his friend, if he desires to surpass all modern
and ancient painters, to paint Ippolita Sforza Benti-
voglio as the Madonna, and her husband Alessandro as
her attendant Saints : nude as St. Sebastian, armed
as St. George.^ And, in the other, he speaks with
enthusiasm of his portrait of Graziosa Pia, a lady of
the Pio family of Carpi, as the Madonna ; ^ a work

1 U Viridario de Giovanni Phiiotheo AchiUino Bolognese, Bologna
1513. It was written in 1604, dedicated to Cardinal Giovanni
de' Medici. Alessandro was born in 1463, and died in 1612 ; Giovanni
Filoteo, born in 1466, lived until 1538. Fantuzzi, op. cit., I. pp. 49, 63.

a Sonnet, " Per la Madonna de la Misericordia," in Viie dt' Sa/Ui,
t. 56v. Cf. Calvi, op. oit., pp. 54, 65.

« Sonnet, "Peril ritratto di Madonna Gratioaa Pia per fare una
MaJoiiiia,' Jbid.y f. 56f.


which cannot now be identified. The admirable
portrait in the tribune of the Uffizi, of Evangelista
Scappi, a son of the notary Gio\ anni Scappi for whom
Francia executed an altarpiece for the Annimziata of
Bologna (now in the gallery), is unquestionabl}' authentic,
and dates from the early years of the sixteenth century.
Two portraits in the Pitti are attributed to Francia by
Dr. Williamson, biit neither can be accepted as his.
The one, representing a young man in red holding an
apple, is regarded by Mr. Berenson and others as an
early work of Raphael. The other, which differs
entirely from the style of the Ferrarese or Bolognese
masters, is now generally recognised as the portrait ot
Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro of Urbino by the
Veronese painter, Gian Francesco Caroto.

In July, 1510, the Marquis Francesco Gonzaga was
released from his Venetian prison, by the intervention
of Pope Julius, and came to Bologna to await his ten-
year-old son Federigo, who was then on his way to
Rome as a hostage. Costa, too, was temporarily in
the city, in the train of the Marquis. Writing to
Matteo Ippolito, on July 24, 1510, Isabella says:
" We are writing to Costa to paint us a portrait of
Federigo. But, because we believe that he will not
have time, as he is to come to Mantua with our lord,
we wish you, if he does not do it, to arrange that it
shall be done by Francia before you leave Bologna,

» •« • *

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To t'lin- liiii/c \[\'2


and secure that it shall be sent to us with diligence.
And, in order that we may know what courtesy to use
with the said Francia, speak with Girolamo da Casio,
or some one else who can tell you about it, and inform
us, in order that we may know how to reward him." ^

The portrait was finished in three weeks, and sent
to Mantua by August 10. The Marchesana wrote to
Casio : " It could not be more like, nor better than it
is ; and I am amazed that, in so short a time, he has
been able to make a thing so excellent, but he has
chosen to show the perfection of his art.'"* She sent
thirty gold ducats to the painter, but wanted to have
the hair retouched, as being too fair. This Francia
did ; but the Marquis wished to show the picture to
the Pope and his Cardinals, with the result that it fell
into the hands of a certain Gian Pietro da Cremona,
who attempted to appropriate it. Casio, informing
Isabella of this on November 7, says : '* Francia would
not make a replica of it for all the gold in the world."
An emphatic letter from Isabella procured the restitu-
tion of the treasure. On November 20, Casio wrote .
" This morning the portrait has been recovered ; and
I have to-day brought Francia to the house of the
most illustrious lord Federigo, and made him compare
the two together. Our conclusion was that it could

1 Luzio and Renier, op. clt., p. 63n. Matteo Ippolito's r«ply,
July 29, 1510, i« in Luzio. Federico Oonzaga o$tagglo, p. 563.


not be better than it is, and I think that it will com-
pletely satisfy your ladyship, because all has been
done to it that you ordered me." ^

At the same time, through Girolamo Casio, Isabella
was negotiating with Francia for the picture for her
ca7?ierino, which had been suggested five years before.
Writing to her on December 12, 1510, Francia
thanks her for the thirty ducats, declaring that the
trouble he had taken in executing the portrait of the
lord Federigo did not merit such a gift, and adds
that, if she is pleased to oraer the picture for her
camerhio, he will begin after Christmas.^ But, al-
though some correspondence passed between him and
the Marchesana on the subject during the following
January and February,^ the picture seems never to
have been executed. In this same year, 1511,
through Lucrezia d'Este Bentivoglio, who had returned
to Bologna in the temporary overthrow of the papal
government, Francia undertook to paint Isabella's
portrait. A drawing was sent from Mantua for the
purpose ; but, on September 7, Lucrezia wrote that
the resulting portrait was not in the least like the
Marchesana, and that she had urged the painter to go

1 Lu2io, Federico Oonzaga ostaggio, pp. 563, 564. Cf, Mrs. Ady,
op. cit., I. pp. 880, 381.

a Yriarte, Imbelle d'Ede et lei artiate» de son temps, 6. p. 841.

8 Letters of January 11 and Febuary 6, 1611. Luzio. op. oit.,
pp. 564, 56'! ; Luzio and Renier, op, cit.. 5. pp. 63, 64.


to Mantua to see her.^ To this, however, Isabella
objected, pleading her great dislike to sitting for her
portrait again, and her desire to avoid exciting Costa's
jealousy : " Your ladyship has our likeness so well
impressed upon vour memory that we hope you will be
able to supply where the master fails. You must
consider also that we should not know how to use such
moderation in receiving Francia as not to offend Costa,
and it would be difficult for us to keep the latter as a
friend/''^ A second attempt proved more successful.
" We send the portrait of your ladyship,""* wrote
Francia on October 25, " which we have executed
with all the diligence in our power, and with the
counsel of our lady Lucrezia Bentivoglio, and, if it has
not such perfection as your ladyship deserves, you will
deign to pardon the author of the work." " We
thank you," answered Isabella, " because, with your
art, you have made me much more beautiful than
nature has done." ^

In the following year, 1512, the Marchesana gave
this portrait to Gian Francesco Zaninello, a Ferrarese
gentleman who had done her a service. The original
is lost ; but Signor Luzio has shown that the famous

1 Luzio, I ritratti d'hahdla d'Este, p. 42G.

* Letter of September 11, 1511. Luzio, Federico Qonzaga ottaygio,
p. 565 ; Venturi, Lorenzo Costa, p. 251n.

* Letters of October 25 aud Novimbtr 26, 1511. Luzio, T ritratti
d'lsabeUa d'Fste, p. 429.


portrait at Vienna, executed by Titian in 1536, is
copied from Francia's work, which was lent by
Zaninello's heirs for the purpose. In 1513, Isabella
gave the portrait of Federigo to the same courtier,
who wrote that his lowly dwelling was now exalted,
and that he had become an object of wonder and envy,
as possessing both Venus and Cupid in his room/
This picture, as Mr. Herbert Cook first pointed out, is
now in England, in the possession of Mr. A. W.
Leatham, and is in perfect condition. It '' shows us
a young boy about ten years old, seen to the waist,
holding a dagger in his right hand. He is dressed as
a boy of distinction, and the long fair hair falls from
beneath a cap placed jauntily on the side of the head.
There is an elaborate landscape background of the
usual Francia type."" ^

To the latest years ofFrancia'*s life belongs a striking
and splendid series of altarpieces, several of which offer
pcMnts of peculiar interest to the student of iconography.

1 Liizio, op. cit., pp. 430-432.

2 AtJienceum, February 7, 1903, pp. 183, 184. In the subsequent
number, p. 216, Mrs. Ady observes : "The boy's brown eyes, golden
hair, and bright intelligent face bear a marked likeness to his
mother, Isabella d'Este. The long fair locks have clearly been
repainted, as was done, we know, at the Marchesa's request, and
the gold medallion in his cap — probably Oaradosso's work — is the
game whicli Federigo wore when Raphael painted his portrait a yeai
Inter in Rome. The very want of elaboration in some of the details
bears witness to the amazing rapidity with which the portrait was


One of tliese is the fine pictiuv in tlie Duonio of
Ferrara, over the altar dedicated to xVll the Saints •
the Coronation of the Madonna, with the inscription,
Gloria hec est otnnibifs Sanctis, representing Our Lady
under her title of Begina Sanctorum Omnium, The
grouping of the figures below, tjpes of all the Saints
gathered together in contemplation of the mystery, is
somewhat crowded ; but the faces, more particularly of
Christ and Mary above, are of the utmost beauty.
The foreshortened figure of the little child in front,
representing the Holy Innocents, is perfectly appropriate
in such a picture, but seems to have strangely mystified
not only Crowe and Cavalcaselle, but even Dr.

The altarpiece of St. Anne, now in the National
Gallery, was painted, some time after 1510, for the
chapel dedicated to the mother of the Blessed Virgin
by Benedetto di Lorenzo Buonvisi, in the church of San
Frediano at Lucca."^ This is the masterpiece of the
painter's later epoch, as the Bentivoglio altarpiece in
San Giacomo Maggiore had been of his earlier period.
The vigour of the master's earliest work is here most

1 The former (.4 Histonj of Painting in Xorth Italy ^ I. p. 566/i)
take it as "the infant Christ"; while the latter (Francia, p. 110)
says: "The presence of the little child on the ground is quite
unusual in a composition of Francia'*;, and there must have been
Bouie special reason to account for it."

=* U/. Williamson, op. cit., pp. Ill, 112.


happily united to tlie grace of his later compositions,
the lovely motive of the little St. John at the foot of
the throne now reappearing with enhanced beauty.
The lunette, with which we English lovers of painting
have grown up since our childhood, the Pieta, has
no equal in the whole range of Italian art. J. A.
Symonds w^ell wrote of it : " Deep religious feeling is
combined with physical beauty of the purest type in
a masterpiece of tranquil grace/' ^ Nor should the
symbolism of the colouring pass unnoticed. The
attendant Angels are robed in green and red,
symbolising Hope and Love ; but the white of Faith is
confined to the wimple of the Blessed Virgin, mystically
representing the mishaken faith in the Resurrection
that lived in her alone — which is typified also in the
one candle left burning in the Church's office oi
Tenebrae during the last days of Holy Week.

Also for San Frediano, not earlier than the lattei
part of 1511, Francia painted for Maddalena, the
widow of Bartolommeo di Baldassare Stiatta, the altar-
piece of the Immaculate Conception, still in that
church though not in its original position.^ It is
interesting to compare this with his earlier repre-
sentation of the same mystery, executed for the Friars
Minor of the Annunziata at Bologna in 1600. The

I ITie H^iuiiteance in Italy : The Fine Arts, p. 303.
« Curmichael, Fi-ancia't Masterpiece, p, 84.


earlier picture, in which, next to the Blessed Virgin
herself, the most prominent figure is San Bernardino of
Siena, a strenuous defender of the doctrine, resembles
in composition a certain type of Annunciation (such as
Francia himself once painted for the oratory of San
Girolamo di Miramonte in Bologna) ; but it is dis-
tinguished from it by the apparition of the Divine
Child above, bearing the Cross, and blessing His
Mother in anticipation, in accordance with the collect for
the feast, in which it is said that, by the Immaculate
Conception of the Virgin, God prepared a worthy
dwelling for His Son, and preserved her from all stain :
ex morte ejusdem Filii praevisa. The later picture, on
the other hand, closely resembles a Coronation, with
Mhich it is frequently confused. Mr. Carmichael has
shown that, in this case, Francia was simply following
the composition of an earlier picture of the Immaculate
Conception, which is now in the gallery at Lucca. In
the sky the Blessed Virgin is already crowned, and the
Eternal Father touches her head with the sceptre, the
sceptre of Ahasuerus, in sign of her exemption from the
genera] law that all mankind are bom in original sin.^
Below, holding scrolls, stand four Saints, regarded by
Rome as bearing witness, under the old law and the

I The older picture (painted about 1480) has this more expressly
indicated, in the scroll with the words from the book of Esther
(iv, 13): J\on mm pro te, sed pro omnibus haeo Ux fionftituta nt ;
" For this law is not made for thee, but for all others."


new dispensation, to the doctrine : David and Solomon,
Anselm and Augustine ; while, kneeling before the
horhis conclusus, the " garden inclosed '" of the So7ig of
Solomon, a Franciscan friar, holding a fiery heart in his
hand, sees the celestial mystery with the present eyes
of faith.^ Alluring though this picture is to the lover
of symbolism, I cannot quite agree with Mr. Carmichael
in calling it the painter's masterpiece ; the scrolls
carried by the Saints, with their mystical inscriptions,
tend a little to remove it from the sphere of art
into that of theology, while the execution is un-
equal, and, in parts, so below Francia's usual level as
to suggest the doubt whether it is from his own hand

The year 1515 marks the close of Francia's artistic
activity. In it he executed two dated and still extant
altarpieces : the Entombment of Christ, painted prob-
ably for a Carmelite church at Casale in Monferrato,
now at Turin ; the enthroned Madonna and Child
with the three chief Benedictine saints, St. Justina,

1 This kueeling Friar Minor is ostensibly St. Anthony of Padua in
both pictures ; but Mr. Carmichael (op. fit., pp. 24-27) has most
ingeniously and convincingly shown that he was originally intended
for Duns Scotus. The position of St. Anselm, in the iconography of
thf Immaculate Conception, is due partly to a sermon erroneously
attributed to him, j)artly to a story in the Legenda Aurca. Mr.
Carmichael has identified the four subjects in chiaroscuro, forming
th'" predella of Francin'a picture, as four miracles wrought by the
invocation of the Immaculate Conception {np. eit., Chap. IV.).


and the child Baptist, for the Benedictine monks of
the AnnunziatA at Parma. The latter appears to be
his last work. Although its effect is somewhat marred
by the obtrusive haloes (which are, perhaps, a later
addition), and it has not the vigour of his masterpieces,
it is a singularly winning picture, full of that devotional
feeling which we associate with his name ; while the
elaborate necklace of St. Justina and the richly jewelled
cope of St. Maurus bear witness that the painter was
still, as always, Fraiwia Aurifex,

Attempts have been made to trace the influence
of Raphael in some of Francia's later paintings, such
as the beautiful little Adoration of the Magi, at
Dresden ; but Morelli was unquestionably right in his
emphatic rejection of this theory.^ The once famous
letter, supposed to have been sent by Raphael to
Francia, and the latter^s sonnet sent to the younger
painter," are now universally recognised as mere for-
geries of a later epoch, prol^ably suggested by Vasari\s
statement that the two artists " saluted each other by
letters.'' It is probable that when, in 1516, Raphael's
Santa Cecilia arrived in Bologna, Francia super-
intended its being placed in position in its destined
chapel in S. Giovanni in Monte ; but he was un-
questionably "made of sterner stuff" than to have

t Italian Painters, 11. p. 77/?.

« First published by Malrasia. Felsina Piilricc, T. pp. 47, 48.


been overwhelmed with mortification in the fashion
detailed in Vasari's idle story.

Apart from the testimony of his art, and the general
witness of his contemporaries to his lovable disposition,
we know little of Francia''s personality. His was
evidently not a character to give rise to dramatic
episodes or piquant anecdotes. It is clear that he
stood high in the estimation of his fellow-citizens, and
the tone of his correspondence with the Marchesana of
Mantua shows the consideration in which he was held
abroad. In 1511, he was elected one of the sixteen
Gonfalonier! del Popolo in Bologna. In 1514, we find
his name proposed for one of the ojfficia ufilitatis, the
holders of which represented the government of Bologna
in the Contado ; his proposed district being that of
Castelfranco and Varignana.^ On June 27, 1516,
together with the painter Domenico Cevola, he arbi-
trated in a dispute between the guild of the united arts
of Bologna, the " Honorevole Compagnia de le Quattro
Arti," and Silvestro Orazi, who was leaving the office of
Sindaco of the guild, concerning a sum of money which
the latter claimed as due to him from the guild for ex-
penses incurred during his term of office.^ Francia
died on January 5, 1518 (new style). In the Bolog-

1 Orloli, op. eit., doc. 4.

» Orioli, op. cU., doc. 3. lu 1514, Francia wan mcBtaro of the four
arts for the first quarter of the year.

( « • '3 V * »

Lorenzo Costa


Niitinnal r,:illcr\

'I'd I'ttfl- IKItJI 1 1 2


nese Chronicle of Niccolo Seccadenari, we read : " In
1517 died maestro Francesco Francia, the best gold-
smith of Italy, and an excellent painter, an excellent
jeweller ; he was a very handsome man, and most
eloquent, albeit he was the son of a master carpenter." ^
Of his sons, Giacomo and Giulio, who carried on his
traditions, something will be said in a later chapter.

Comparatively few works of Costa's Mantuan period
have come down to us, the majority having perished
during the political storms that swept over the duchy
in the succeeding centuries. One of his first tasks was
to complete a picture, " La Storia di Como,"" which
Mantegna had begun for Isabella's cavierino in the last
vear of his life, and had left unfinished. In a letter
addressed to the Marchesana, on January 13 of that
year, 1506, Mantegna says: "I have almost finished
designing the history of Comus for your Excellence,
and I shall go on with it, when my imagination helps
me.""'" On July 15, Giovanni Giacomo Calandra wrote
to her : " I have wished to see the picture. These
figures are drawn in it : the god Comus, two \^enuses,
one draped, the other nude, two Loves, Janus driving
out Envy, Mercury, and three other figures put to
flight by Mercury. Some other figures are still want-
ing, but the design of these is most beautiful." ^ Herr

» Calvi, op. cit., pp. 41, 42.

* Kristeller, op. cit., doc. 76 (previously in C. D'Arco).

3 Kristeller, doc. 77 (prenonsly in C. D'Arco).


Kristeller has shown that this is the second of the
pictures by Costa in the Louvre, which, in the Mantuan
inventory of 1542, is described as "a picture from the
hand of M°, Lorenzo Costa, in which is represented a
triumphal arch and many figures making music, with a
fable of Leda/' The triumphal arch is inscribed
Comes, and the introduction of Orpheus and Arion, with
Apollo, shows that it represents the " Triumph ot
Music," a companion piece to Costa's former " Triumph
of Poetry," to which, however, it is vastly inferior.
" Costa has obviously painted over the whole picture,
and yet in precisely those figures mentioned by
Calandra, in the group of the Janus and of the Mercury
[on the extreme right], there is an unmistakable, closei
than customary, approximation on the part of Costa
to the forms and movements of Mantegna." ^

Vasari describes at length the molte siorie executed
by Costa in the palace of San Sebastiano, " in a room
worked partly in tempera, and partly in oil." They
were the usual courtly flatteries in honour of Francesco
and Isabella, and, perhaps, it is not a very great lass
to art that they have entirely perished. Later on, in
the sala grande, where Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar
hung, he was commissioned to paint two triumphs of
the Gonzaga, as a suitable pendant or completion.

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