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Dosso Dossi


ca. 1486 in Tramuschio
1541 / 1542 in Ferrara

One Work by Dosso Dossi

One Work based on Dosso Dossi


Presumably born around 1486, Dosso Dossi is first documented in April 1512, when he was paid for a painting, now lost, for the Palazzo di San Sebastiano in Mantua. Vasari relates that from in 1506/07 he trained under Lorenzo Costa, court painter in Mantua, but this is unconfirmed. Dosso's style suggests an early and intensive encounter with the art of Giorgione, so it is highly probable that the young painter spent some time in Venice. Dosso must have settled in Ferrara in the summer of 1513, for payments to him and to Garofalo are recorded for the monumental polyptych for Antonio Costabili, now in Ferrara's Pinacoteca Nazionale. Around 1514 the painter (like his younger brother Battista) entered the service of the Este dukes of Ferrara, for whom he would work until his death and in whose account books he regularly appears. As was customary for a court artist in his time, Dosso not only produced paintings, but was also responsible for the artistic decoration of the court on a wide variety of occasions. Moreover, he was repeatedly sent on trips by Duke Alfonso I: he travelled to Venice several times between 1516 and 1519, to Florence in 1517, and to Mantua in 1519. In addition to his work for the Este court, Dosso also executed other commissions, for example two large altarpieces for the chapels of different brotherhoods in the cathedral in Mantua. The pala with St Sebastian, John the Baptist and Jerome, still in the spot for which it was intended, was commissioned in 1518 and delivered in 1521; the pala with the Four Church Fathers and St Bernhardino of Siena (formerly Dresden, destroyed in the war) was commissioned in 1527 and probably installed a year or two later. Presumably in 1530 Dosso worked with his brother Battista at the behest of the duchess Eleonora of Urbino on the painting of the Villa Impériale near Pesaro, and in 1531/32 the two brothers were employed by the bishop of Trent, Cardinal Bernardo Cles, in the Castello del Buonconsiglio. In 1436/37 Dosso painted frescoes, now lost, in the ducal villas Belriguardo and Belvedere for Ercole II d'Este, and in 1540 he delivered the painting of St Michael, now in Dresden, for the Palazzo del Corte in Ferrara. Dosso is documented a last time in 1541, when he visited Venice with his brother. In June of the following year he is mentioned as deceased. Since none of Dosso's surviving paintings are signed or dated, his oeuvre poses considerable difficulties to scholars, not only with respect to attribution but also in terms of chronology. The recent redating of the above-mentioned Costabili polyptych is an example of this. Doubtless owing to his activity as painter to the court, Dosso produced numerous works inspired by classical mythology, the precise interpretation of which is frequently unclear. In many of his paintings, expressive figures play as important a role as the landscape surrounding them. As for his style, one is struck by his bold light effects, sophisticated rendering of surfaces, and warm, glowing palette, as well as uncommonly free brushstrokes.

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