Edmund Garratt Gardner.

The painters of the school of Ferrara online

. (page 8 of 15)
Online LibraryEdmund Garratt GardnerThe painters of the school of Ferrara → online text (page 8 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

1 Kiisteller, pp. 358, 359. Vf. aUo Mrs. Ady, op. cit., I. pp. :{70,


" In the first,'' writes Vasari, " which is in tempera, are
many nudes who offer fires and sacrifices to Hercules ;
and in this is portrayed di iiaturale the Marquis
[Francesco] with his three sons : Federigo, Ercole, and
Ferrante ; who have since become such great and illus-
trious lords. Likewise there are some portraits of
noble ladies. In the other, which was executed in oil
many years after the first, and which was one of the last
things that he painted, is the Marquis Federigo grown
to manhood, with the baton in his hand as general of
Holy Church under Leo X., and around him are many
noblemen, portrayed by Costa from the life.*" ^ The
latter picture has been identified with a large work in
the possession of Prince Clary- Aldringen at Teplitz in
Bohemia.^ It was painted in 1522, the year after
Federigo (who had succeeded his father as Marquis of
Mantua in 1519) was made captain -general of the
papal armies by Leo X., for the war against the French.
Eight years later, he was raised to the rank of Duke by
Charles V.

No doubt Costa painted many portraits in the
course of his life, though very few have been preserved.
The finest of these is the Battista Fiera, now in the
National Gallery. This personage was a distinguished
physician and indifferent Latin poet, a member of the

1 III. pp. 1B4, 135. Cf. Kristeller, pp. 290, 292.

2 Cf. Venturi, in LArte (1908), p. 428.


Accademia di San Pietro, a sort of informal academy of
artists and men of letters who gathered round the
Marchesana at Mantua, and of whom Ariosto's friend
and correspondent, Mario Equicola, was the leading
spirit. " Your verses,'' wrote Isabella to Battista
Fiera, in a letter which does more credit to her desire
to please than to her literary criticism, " make us know
what we had always supposed about you : that you are
not less excellent as a poet than as a physician, but
worthy of the highest praise and honour in both
professions." ^ Costa's portrait of Battista is a veritable
masterpiece, subtle in its analysis of character, un-
compromising in its realism, and yet flavoured with a
certain whimsicalness that reminds us of Dosso Dossi.
Another excellent portrait, signed Laiirentms Costa,
and perhaps dating from his Bolognese period, is the
one questionably called Giovanni Bentivoglio in the
Pitti : a man in the prime of life, of harsh features,
wearing a red cap and heavy gold chain over a robe of
dark velvet. About 1508, Costa painted a portrait
of the Marchesana Isabella, of which a poor copy is
now at Vienna. Another extant portrait from his
hand, somewhat slight and wooden compared with
those just considered, is the lady with the pet dog, at

1 Letter of January 29, 1503, Luzio and Uenier, La coltura e U
relazioni leUerarie di Isabella (VFite, I. pp. 54-57. Of, L. G. Gyraldus,
Ot I^uetla Nostroruf/i Ttniponim, ed. cit., p. 396.


Hampton Court, in her i*ed bodice, with blue sleeves
striped with violet. It bears a superficial resemblance
to the Marchesana herself, as she appears in the Lou\Te
" Triumph of Poetry." ^

Costa's active career closed with a large votive picture
(now in Sant 'Andrea), presented by him to the church
of San Silvestro in ]Mantua, in which he was to be
buried. This represents St. Sylvester, in the presence
of St. Sebastian and St. Roch (patrons against the
pestilence) commending the people of Mantua to the
jNIadonna and her Divine Child ; a noble religious
composition, though altogether lacking the power and
vigour of Costa's earlier work. It was painted in
1525, tlie fateful year of the battle of Pavia. when
the pestilence was again appearing in various parts of
Italy. With it Costa gave up painting, apparently
worn out, and, perhaps, conscious that his style was out
of date. In his Fragmaitum Trium Dialogorum, written
in 1527, Paolo Giovio says: "The Mantuan Costa
painted gracious figures of men and calm postures with
pleasing colours, so that it is held that robed and
armed images could be represented more agreeably by
no one ; but skilled critics desire from him, especially
in the nude, a sterner essay of art, which he cannot
easily fulfil, seeing that he has been content with

1 Of. Mary Logan, Gvide to the Italim/n Pictures at Hampton Court
p. 40.


easier studies, and has been unable to devote a surer
training to the practice of painting." ^

Lorenzo Costa died in 1635, leaving three sons who
were also painters. One of them, the younger Lorenzo
Costa, is perhaps the author of the striking picture of
the mystical experience of the beata Osanna Andreasi
in the parish church of Carbonarola.

1 Fragmentum Trium Dialogorurn Pauli Jovii Episcopi Nucerim,
published by Tiraboschi, torn. ix. (Rome, 1785), pp. 123, 124.



Among the young men, more particularly of the Emilian
and Romagnole cities, who flocked to the workshop of
Costa and Francia, was one from further south, who
became the connecting link between the Ferrarese school
and Raphael. It was Morelli who first revealed Timoteo
Viti as a distinct artistic personality, and showed his
impoi-tance (obscured by Vasari and, after him, by later
writers) in the history of painting, and he has practically
said the last word upon the subject ; ^ our knowledge
of this peculiarly charming painter remains to-day
much as he left it.

Timoteo Viti, or della Vite, was born at Urbino,
probably in 1469, the son of Bartolommeo di Pietro
della Vite and his wife Calliope, who was the daughter
of the Ferrarese painter, Antonio Alberti. His father
died in 1476. Timoteo was intended for a goldsmith,
and cAme to study that art in Bologna, at the invitation

1 Knnstkritischr Studien iiber italifniiche MaUrei : Die QaUric zu
Btrlin. pp. 232-237.



of his brother, Pierantonio della Vite, a physician
and poet who was a Bolognese citizen. In 1490, he
entered Francia's workshop. In the supposed diary ot
Francia cited by Malvasia (and still generally accepted
as authentic), the master made the entry under July 8
of that year : " Timoteo Vite of Urbino received into
our bottega, the first year without payment, for the
second at the salary of sixteen florins a quarter, and
the third and others following according to his work ;
and he is to be free to go and stay according to
agreement/' ^ Here Timoteo soon found that the true
bent of his genius was for painting. In the following
year, 1491, under September 2, Francia set down:
" Accounts settled and concluded with Timoteo Vite of
Urbino, to our mutual satisfaction. He wishes to be a
painter, and is therefore placed in the Salone with the
other pupils." He worked thus, under Francia and
Costa, for nearly four years, and evidently won the
former's heart; for, in 1495, Francia wrote: "On
April 4, my dear Timoteo left us. May God give him
every good and fortune."

Vasari represents Timoteo as influenced and stimu-
lated by the works of Raphael; but when, in 1495,
at the age of twenty-six, the grandson of Antonio
Alberti returned to Urbino, a fully trained painter,
Raphael was a boy of twelve years old. His father,

1 Fflidna Pitt rice. T. p. 52,


Gio\anni Santi, had died in the previous year, and
there can be little doubt that Morelli's suggestion is
right, that, between 1495 and 1500, when he first left
Urbino, Raphael became Timoteo's pupil, before passing
on to the school of Perugino at Perugia. The influence
of Timoteo, and, through him, of Costa and Francia, is
strongly marked throughout RaphaePs earlier work ;
and the older painter anticipates the peculiar grace
and delicacy of the younger, the characteristics which
we have grown accustomed to call Raphaelesque.
Timoteo's personality, too, was of a kind to impress
and attract a susceptible artistic youth : " He was a
merry man,'' says Vasari, " and of a jocund and festive
disposition, physically alert, and witty and facetious in
his quips and talk. He delighted in playing every
sort of musical instrument, but particularly the lyre,
upon which he sang and improvised with extraordinary
grace." '

The earliest important work which Timoteo executed
at Urbino was the Madonna and Child with St. Vitalis
and St. Crescentius, painted probably between 1496
and 1600, for the chapel of the Holy Cross in the
Duomo ; in which, says Vasari, " there is a little Angel
sitting on the ground, who plays the viola with truly
angelic grace and with childlike simplicity." It was com-
missioned by Mariano Spaccioli, whose niece, Girolama

I IV. p. 498.


di Guido Spaccioli, Timoteo married in 1501. This
picture, painted in tempera on canvas, now hangs, in a
very damaged condition, in the Brera, where it was
formerly attributed to Raphael. It is strongly re-
miniscent in its types of Costa and Francia, while the
figure of St. Vi talis no less markedly anticipates

Likewise early works of Timoteo are the St.
Apollonia, now in the ducal palace of Urbino, and
the little St. Margaret, in the Morelli collection at
Bergamo — two single figures very similar to each other,
and somewhat resembling the allegorical woman who
symbolises Duty in Raphael's " Knight's Dream."" Of
the St. Margaret, Morelli writes : " The head and
attitude of the Saint involuntarily recall Francia to
our mind, wliile the oval of the face resembles that
of Raphael's Madonna del Gran Duca."" ^ To this
epoch in Timoteo's career belongs also the small St.
Sebastian, a rather feeble and insipid work, in the
ducal palace of Urbino. Morelli was the first to
regard as early works of Timoteo the seventeen ex-
ceedingly beautiful paintings of mythological subjects,
including the story of Orpheus, on the series of majo-
lica plates, probably from the Castel Durante factory,
in the Museo Civico at Venice ; they are certainly
suggestive of the school of Francia ; but Morelli's

4 0/. cit., p. 219.

> « s >




Miiseo Civico, Venice

To face' page 122


attribution, though highly plausible, is not universally

After his marriage, Tinioteo settled down at Urbino,
where, save for short visits to neighbouring towns, he
seems to have spent the rest of his life. Vasari's story of
his working under Raphael in the Madonna della Pace
and elsewhere in Rome, though accepted unhesitatingly
by Crowe and Cavalcaselle,^ is now almost universally

Three fine altarpieces executed by Timoteo during
the early years of the Cinquecento, and described by
Vasari, have come down to us. For the altar of the
Bonaventuri in San Bernardino, the church of the
Osservanti outside Urbino, he painted quella tanto lodata
opera, the Immaculate Conception, now in the Brera
This picture, which is rather cold in colour, somewhat
resembles Francia's representation of the same mystery
at Bologna, painted in 1500, and was probably exe-
cuted shortly after that date. Like its prototype, the
composition closely approximates to that of an Annun-
ciation, the Blessed Virgin receiving the angelical
salutation between St. John Baptist and St. Sebastian,

1 According to Venturi, La Qalleria Crespi, p. 26, they ■^•:'ere
designed by Francia himself. Federigo Argnani, on the other hand
{II Riixascinxento delle Ceramiche Maiolicate in Faenza, pp. 41-48),
regards them as of Faentine origin, and suggests Giovanni da Oriolu
or Giovanni Millione.

« History of Paint'uig in North Italy, T. p. 580. Cf. Deunistoun,
Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino, eU. Hutton, H. pp. 254-:J5y.


while its special subject is shown by the Child blessing
from the glory above. The hilly landscape is taken
from the neighbourhood of Urbino. Vasari especially
praises the St. Sebastian, as " painted with so much
diligence that it could not be better modelled, nor more
beautiful in all its parts.*"

In 1504, the Duchess of Urbino, Elisabetta Gonzaga
da Montefeltro, and the Podesta, Alessandro Kuggieri,
acting as the executors of the late bishop, Gianpietro
Arrivabene (who had died in the March of that year),
commissioned an altarpiece from Timoteo Viti, in
accordance with the Bishop's bequest, for the decoration
of the chapel he had founded in the Duomo in honour
of St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Martin.^ The
picture is now in the sacristy of the Duomo. The two
mild -faced patron Saints are enthroned under an arch,
beyond which is a beautiful landscape with a river-
girdled city rather questionably said to be Mantua, with
the deceased Bishop kneeling below on one side, and,
on the other, Elizabetta's husband, the reigning Duke,
Guidobaldo. It is a carefully finished work, very
pleasant in colour. The portrait of Guidobaldo, that
most pathetic of the Renaissance princes, is peculiarly
interesting, but curiously unlike the one painted, prob-
ably a year or two later, by Giovanni Francesco Caroto.

1 The frescoep were assigned to Genga, the altarpiece to Timoteo.
Cf. Milunesi, Notes to Vasari, IV. p. 496.


jf^ .11 9JWm


T I. MOT KG Viri



To face page 124


Also for the Duomo of Urbino, Tiinoteo painted the
famous Mary Magdalene now at Bologna. This was
commissioned by Lodovico Amaduzzi, archpriest of the
Cathedral, for the chapel of San Cipriano founded by
him in 1508, and was probably executed then or in
the following year. It is strange that no painter has
ever given us an adequate or worthy representation of
this most beautiful of all the Saints, she whom St.
Catherine heard leading the music of Paradise, con voce
alta e con grazia di singolar dolcezza. Timoteo's is a
charming figure, conceived in the romantic spirit ; ^ but
we miss just what Vasari finds specially to praise in it :
" the divinity of her countenance, which verily shows
in her expression the love which she bore to her Master.""
The background has been considerably repainted.

Guidobaldo died in 1508, and was succeeded by his
adopted nephew, Francesco Maria della Rovere. In
] 509, when the new Duke's bride, Leonora Gonzaga,
came to him, Timoteo designed " certain triumphal
arches like those of the ancients," which spanned the
streets of the city through which the beautiful daughter
of Isabella d'Este passed.^ Timoteo became the Duke's

1 It is inscribed : Deo optimo maximo et Marine Magdalenae
Ludovicus Amatutius archipreshyter Sancti Cipriani dicavit. This
winning red-robed figure curiously suggests comparison with the
almost contemporary Chinese painting of a Fairy in a red cloak
holding a flower, recently acquired by the British Museum from the
Wegener collection.

a Cf. Luzio and Renier, Mantoia e Urlino, p, 194.


chief court painter, decorating rooms in his various
palaces. Like other painters, he was also employed on
minor tasks : " In company with Genga, he painted
certain bards for horses, that were sent to the King of
France, with figures of divers animals so fine that they
seemed to the beholders as though they had movement
and life/'^ In 1508 and 1513, he was one of the
priors of the city. We do not know how he was
affected by the expulsion of the della Rovere from
Urbino in 1516, and the installation of Lorenzo de'
Medici as Duke. He seems to have still resided for
the most part at Urbino.

Vasari speaks of frescoes painted by Timoteo, in
collaboration with Genga, in a chapel in San Francesco
at Forli ; these have been destroyed. The only extant
fresco from his hands is the remains of an Annunciation,
at San Domenico at Cagli, which is evidently a late
work. If Morelli is right in attributing to him a
Nativity, with St. Laurence and St. Nicholas of Bari,
now in the sacristy of the Duomo of Urbino, Timoteo
was disadvantageously influenced by his colleague,
Genga. Timoteo's later works are feeble and mannered
compared with those hitherto considered. That they
were mainly executed for churches and confraternities
outside the capital is probably due to the fact that
the new Duke Lorenzo had little time for the patronage

1 VHsiri, IV. p. 498.


of art, while engaged in an intermittent stmggle
to retain his usurped duchy, against the persistent
attempts of Francesco Maria to recover his states by
force of arms. One of his latest works, the only
picture of his (so far as I know) that has his signature,^
is the altarpiece painted in 1518 for the confraternity
or congregazione of Sanf Angelo Minore, at Cagli, and
still in its original position. It represents the No/i me
tongere, the risen Christ appearing to the Magdalene,
with St. Michael and St. Anthony Abbot in front.
The kneeling Magdalene has some of the charm of
Francia's women, but tlie Christ is effeminate, and the
two Saints rather tend to caricature. There is a
signed drawing, in black chalk and gypsum, for the
figure of the Magdalene, in the Lou^Te.

Vasari speaks of the beauty of Timoteo's drawings,
several of which were in his possession. Some singularlv
lovely studies of women are now generally accepted as
from his hand, such as the woman with the palm
branch at Oxford, a profile of a young girl in the
Uffizi, and three beautiful examples (two formerly
attributed to Raphael) in the British Museum.'
Among the portraits that have been questionablv
attributed to Timoteo aie the fine pastel of a bearded
man in the British Museum, and the young man in

1 It is signed : Timothl de Vile Urhiaat. opus.

2 Cf. ^lorelli, np. dt., pi-, 232, 233.


red in the Pitti Palace, the latter of which is now
regarded as an early work of Raphael.

"Maestro Timoteo de la Vite," as he is called in
the official record of his death, died at Urbino on
October 10, 152B, two years after the restoration of
Francesco Maria to the duchy. He left two sons,
Giovanni Maria, an ecclesiastic, and Pietro, who
followed in his footsteps as a painter.

The most important purely Ferrarese master who

followed Costa and Francia is Ercole di Giulio Cesare

Grandi, who first appears in the service of the House

of Este in 1489. Vasari, as already stated, confuses

him with Ercole di Antonio Roberti, who was probably

his first master. Between 1489 and 1495, Ercole

Grandi seems to have been working at Bologna, both

in San Petronio and in the Cappella Bentivoglio of San

Giacomo Maggiore, as an assistant of Lorenzo Costa,

whose favourite pupil he became. In the latter chapel,

a fresco in the lunette above Francia's altarpiece,

representing the Apocalyptic vision of the woman of

Babylon, may have originally been by him.^ We find

him in Ferrara in 1495, acting as chief architect in

carrying out Duke Ercole's plan for embellishing the

city and rebuilding the churches. The facade and

1 Cf. Venturi, Ercole Oraiidi, in Arch. Stor. deWArte, I. (1888). The
fresco has been much altered by restoration, and has a figure added.
Other authorities, including Mr. Berenson, hold that it was originally
by Costa.


interior of Santa Maria in Vado were executed from
his design by Biagio Rossctti and Bartolommeo
Tristano ; he gave the sketch for the equestrian monu-
ment of the Duke, which was to rise in the middle of
the new quarter of Ferrara, the Addizione Erculea, of
which the single column still standing supports the
statue of Ariosto ; and Signor Venturi suggests that
the Porta dei Leoni, the handsome entrance to the
palace built by the Duke's physician, Francesco Castelli,
and possibly the ornamentation of the pilasters of the
Palazzo dei Diamanti, may be his. In the early years
of Alfonso's reign, he worked with Lodovico Mazzolino
and others on the decorations of the Castello, and
painted in the private apartments of Lucrezia Borgia.

None of the pictures ascribed to Ercole Grandi are
signed or dated, nor, in any case, is the attribution
confirmed by documents. True, the charming little
St. George and the Dragon, in the Galleria Corsini
at Rome, has the letters " G. E.'' on the hind-quarters
of the horse, but this can hardly be his signature,^ and
Morelli was probably right in recognising the picture
as an early work of Francia's. In the pinacoteca of
P'errara, the so-called " Apotheosis of St. Mary of

1 According to the fashion of the age, a man named Ercole would
have called himself Hercules, or Hercole, with an H. " If Hercules
had seen himself robbed of the first letter of his name," said Ariosto
to G. B. Giraldi, •' he would have taken vengeance upon the thief
with his club."


Egypt" — the scene from that Saint's legend in which,
in the desert, the Abbot Zosimus sees her uplifted from
the ground — is, perhaps, an early work by Ercole
Grandi. It was formerly attributed to Timoteo
Viti. Also early, if authentic, is the Madonna and
Child between St. Domenic and St. Catherine, belong-
ing to Lady Layard, with the monkey — that favourite
figure in Ferrarese art — usurping the place traditionally
held by an Angel at the foot of the throne. These
two pictures (together with a Crucifixion formerly in
the Santini collection), which show traces of the
influence of Ercole Roberti, may possibly be from the
hand of another Ferrarese painter not yet identified.
Undoubtedly by Ercole Grandi, and of an early date,
is a series of tempera paintings representing scriptural
scenes, formerly in the Costabili gallery, now divided
between the Layard and Visconti-Venosta collections.
In the recognised works of his maturity, we find some-
thing of the grace and suavity of Costa and Francia,
with more virility than is usual in the former, though
Ercole never equalled him as a colourist at his best.
J Typical works of his are the Annunciation in tlie
possession of Sir Frederick Cook at Richmond ; the
St. Sebastian at Ferrara, where the martyr is bound
to a tree with St. Joseph and Job on either side, and
three donors of the Mori family are kneeling below ;
and tlie large altarpiece in the National Gallery,


perhaps the painter^s masterpiece in this kind, with its
glowing wealth of mosaics and its scenes in monochrome,
in imitation of bas-reliefs, set in the throne. The
predella to this latter work, a little exaggerated
in expression, with St. Francis and another friar
rapt in contemplation of Christ in His deposition
from the Cross, is in the Massari collection at

In the much discussed ceiling of the so-called
Palazzo di Lodovico il Moro, Ercole Grandi, if the
work be really his, appears as a decorative painter of a
very high order. The palace was begun by Biagio
Rossetti in 1502, for Antonio Costabili, who had been
Ferrarese ambassador in Milan ; according to a tradition,
hardly in accordance with strict chronology, it had
been intended for Lodovico Sforza, II Moro, as a
refuge in the imminent downfall of his throne (1500).
Be that as it may, this magnificent building, never
finished and now little more than a ruin, is one of the
most splendid wrecks of the Renaissance. Two rooms
on the ground floor have frescoed ceilings and lunettes,
attributed to Garofalo. In the upper part of the
palace, a ceiling with mythological stories and tran-
scripts from the court life of the epoch, also formerly
attributed to Garofalo, is now usually regarded as one
of the latest works of Ercole Grandi. It shows the
influence of Mantegna, and makes it probable that the


painter had studied that master's decorative work in the
Camera degH Sposi at Mantua.^

The beautiful portrait of a young girl in the gallery
of the Capitol, formerly attributed to Giovanni Bellini
and, rather absurdly, said to represent Petrarca's Laura,
is now generally acknowledged to belong to Ercole
Grandi ; Signor Venturi has plausibly suggested that
she may be the arnica of Antonio Tebaldeo, the poet
and courtier, to whose picture he refers in one of
his sonnets.^ Ercole Grandi died in 1535, the same
year as his master, Costa. Vasari writes : Gli fu come
fratello e Jigliuolo insino alT estremo della vita.

It has been noticed that no authentic work of
Lorenzo Costa exists at Ferrara. Two pictures were,
until recently, attributed to him in the public gallery
there ; but one of these has been recognised as by
Pellegrino Munari, and the other, with less certainty,
is now ascribed to Michele Coltcllini.

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryEdmund Garratt GardnerThe painters of the school of Ferrara → online text (page 8 of 15)