Art of The Berlin Galleries – Ferrarese And Bolognese Paintings Of The 15th And 16th Centuries

The next Cabinet, 33, contains a number of bronze reliefs and statuettes. We turn, however, to the large Gallery 34, where the North Italian artists are shown. The study of the local characteristics and differences in style of the various schools is most instructive, and shows that almost each city in Italy had its own dialect in art.

The artists who worked in Ferrara at the art loving court of the d’Esthe received their first teaching from Padua, but soon fasten the attention by their independent development, and peculiar fantastic characteristics — an exaggerated, playful, architectonic detail and decoration; as well as the bright glow of colours which they display even when painting in distemper.

The magnificent altarpiece which dominates this entire gallery is by the best of the early men, Cosimo Tura (1430-1495), and is his renowned masterpiece, although one of his earliest works.

The monumental throne with its crystal columns, ornate carving, flaming marble and golden mosaics, is an architectural curiosity, filling almost the entire canvas, but showing between the feet and through the arches at the sides a beautiful, cool, light-grey landscape of lagunes and mountains. In all the fulness of this pictorial display sits the Virgin-mother, with the sleeping Child on her lap, flanked on the upper steps by St. Catharine and St. Apollonia. The former’s hair hangs loose over a fine red garment, the latter’s hair is brushed back, and her dress is of light-green with a dark-red bodice, her face in full light. At the foot of the throne stand two church-fathers — St. Augustine with mitre, stole and crozier, and his eagle, and St. Jerome with bald head and loose gown, and his lion. St. Augustine is reading in a large book, his ” de civitate dei,” and this city of the future is symbolized and mirrored in the crystal globe at his feet. The fulness of detail is astounding, and is owing to the Paduan influence of Squarcione, from whom Tura also acquired the anatomical insistences of coarse, long joints and knuckles.

This extraordinary anatomy becomes grotesque in the small ” St. Christopher ” (1170C), where the child is scampering on the saint’s shoulders, much in the fashion of a monkey. So is the manifest exertion of the big, strong man, as he grasps his tall staff, too apparently exaggerated. The ” St. Sebastian ” (1170B) is colder and flatter in colour, and too knotty and contorted to be agreeable to the eye.

His contemporary, Francesco Cossa (flourished 1435-1477) is far milder and more pleasing in a single figure which we find here, representing ” Autumn ” (115A) ; although in his large altar-pieces he often showed the same morbid exaggeration. This Autumn picture is one of a series symbolically. representing the seasons or the months, and must have been originally intended for a pal-ace banquet-hall, and not for the Session-hall of the Dominican Inquisition of Ferrara where the figures last hung together. This young woman carrying heavy field-tools and a large branch of a grape-vine with luscious bunches is painted quite in the modern way of Jules Breton, even with the same low horizon of the landscape which reaches only to her knees. This is a rolling landscape with fertile fields where peasants till the soil and horsemen caper along the highways.

The principal one of this Ferrarese school was Lorenzo Costa (1460-1535), who went early to Bologna where he studied with Francia. We find here two excellent works, a ” Presentation in the Temple” (112), and a “Lamentation of Christ ” (115). The Temple presents the genuine interior of a synagogue in which the details, the seven-armed candlestick, the thora-roll, are given with keen archaeological knowledge. Levites and temple attendants are present with the Holy. Family. A half-nude youth brings the knife for the circumcision, and a girl on the other side a deep plate. The main group of six persons stands somewhat back on the rising steps of the altar. The colour is restrained and reserved to a few bold, bright tones by the side of which Tura’s colours look broken and garish. In the drawing we find also the softening influences of the South, in the slender, delicate forms, the grace of movement and the charm of facial expression, as opposed to Tura’s homeliness and distortions.

Of the Ferrarese of the sixteenth century Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo (1481-1559) still adhered to the characteristic traits of the previous century : the glowing, luminous reds, and a some-what fantastic expression in the landscape. This is seen in his ” St. Jerome ” (243), where the hermit kneels in the solitary place; not one of his best works, however, for the flesh tints are decidedly smoky.

Mazzolini (1478-1528) painted often small cabinet pieces, wherein he was more successful than in larger compositions. His small ” Holy Family with Elizabeth and the little John” (270), and ” The Boy Jesus teaching in the Temple ” (273), are finely drawn, although the heads of the Pharisees look much like caricatures. A large altarpiece of the same subject (266), which Vasari considered his masterpiece, is too motley in colour which is dry and hard. Domenico Panetti (1460-1512) followed the Umbrian direction of Costa. His “Lamentation of Christ ” (113) is rather flat in colour, but excels in the rich and varied treatment of the landscape.

The great Bolognese presented in this gallery is Francesco Raibolini, called Francia (1451-1517), who according to Raphael was equal to Perugino and Giovanni Bellini. He may be regarded as an intermediate link between the schools of Florence and Venice, by uniting form and colour in a tender harmony. He was a pure, tasteful painter, rendered popular by his quiet, peaceful groupings of lofty, noble feeling, and by his meticulous finish. His early work, a “Holy Family” (125) has still the drawing a little sharp — he was a gold-smith at first — and the colour cold ; but his ” Throned Madonna with Saints” (122), of 1502, is a fine work of deep religious motif, combined with physical beauty of the purest type. It is not as ecstatic as Fra Angelico’s work, nor has it the insipidity of Perugino’s affectation.

( Originally Published 1912 )

The Art of The Berlin Galleries:The Kaiser Friedrich Museum – History Of The CollectionThe Italian PaintingsRoom 29 – Italian Paintings Of The 14th, And The First Half Of The 15th CenturyRoom 30 – Florentine Paintings Of The 15th CenturySculpture In Marble Of Donatello And Desiderio, And Old Florentine PaintingsRooms 34 — Ferrarese And Bolognese Paintings Of The 15th And 16th CenturiesRoom 35 – Lombard PaintingsRoom 64 – The Carpets After Raphael’s CartoonsRoom 38 – Florentine Paintings Of The 15th CenturyRoom 37 – Umbrian And Paduan Paintings Of The 15th CenturyRead More Articles About: The Art of The Berlin Galleries