As a young man, he took part in the painting of the Hall of the Month of Palazzo Skifanoya, where his early talent was manifested in the composition “September”, which he created as if in competition with fantastic visions of Tura. In Bologna, he worked with Kossa on an altar for the church of San Lazzaro, destroyed during World War II. For the “Polyptych Griffoni” in the church of San Petronio in Bologna, he wrote a predella “The Miracle of Saint Vincent Ferrer”, marked by a remarkable power of imagination. In the grand altar "Santa Maria in Porto" (1481, Milan, Brera), the impact of Antonello da Messina and Bellini is evident. Despite the early death, Ercole left a lot of work. The young Michelangelo said about the frescoes of De Robertis in the Garganelli Chapel in the Cathedral of St. Peter (later destroyed) that they cost half of Rome.
Ercole Grande and Ercole de Roberti, long considered two different painters, are now regarded as the same artist.
Creative career. Roberti was a student and assistant of Francesco del Cossa, and he probably with him in 1470, after completing the work at the Palazzo Skifanoia in Ferrara, went to Bologna. Roberti took part in the creation of the “Altar Griffoni” in the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna (c. 1473), he performed predella and pilasters. Upon returning to Ferrara, he finished the altar picture for the c. SanLazaro, started by Francesco del Cossa. Then he again works with Cossa in Bologna (up to the death of Cossa c. 1478). In 1479 he joined his brother Polidoro, who had a workshop in Ferrara. In 1481 he painted an altar picture for c. Santa Maria in Porto, near Ravenna. Until 1486, he created frescoes in the chapel Garganelli c. San Pietro in Bologna. The scenes of the “Passion of Christ” in the preface of the altar from c. San Giovanni in Monte, as well as frescoes in the Palazzo Bentivollo in Bologna (not preserved). Upon returning to Ferrara before 1486, Robert becomes court painter Ercole 1. The following year, he accompanies Cardinal Ippolito d'Este to Hungary. Found various payment documents dated 1486-1494 and testifying to the work of the artist for the court d'Este - Duchess Eleonora of Aragon, Isabella and Beatrice Alfonso and Ippolito d'Este. In 1495, according to his plans, the c. Santa Maria in Vado, in which the work was led by the architect Biagio Rossetti.
Works It is known that Cossa was the main creator of paintings in the Palazzo Skifanoia in Ferrara, but modern researchers indicate that Roberti played the leading role in the composition dedicated to the month of September; it was he who wrote the scenes in the upper part - “The Forge of Vulcan”, “The Triumph of voluptuousness” and “The Love of Venus and Mars”, in the middle part - “Allegory of September”, and in the lower part - Borso d'Este surrounded by courtiers. The power and sharpness of Cosimo Tura reappear in these works. Roberti differs from Cossa by greater attentiveness, more mobile articulation, surprise and originality of the finds. Without revealing the basic qualities that, due to the influence of Piero della Francesca, appear in Cossa, Roberti creates a complex and agitated, enchanting world. Even more clearly, these features appeared in the predelle (Vatican, Pinakothek) altar from the Griffoni t. Chapel. San Petronio in Bologna, the main doors of which (London, Nat. Gal .; Milan, Pinakothek Brera) were made by Cossa. The limit was undoubtedly conceived by Koss and was created under his leadership, but it was written by Roberti, whose expressive and very individual style is also characteristic of many other narrative episodes. For the Altar Griffoni Altar Pilaster, Roberti painted eight small panels depicting saints, seven of which are now in various museums (Paris, Louvre; Rotterdam, Boymansavan Beuningen Museum; Ferrar, National Pinakothek) and private collections (Venice, Chini collection).
Another important early work by Roberti was the large altar, “Madonna and Child on a Throne Surrounded by Four Saints,” of c. San Lazzaro in Ferrara (died in 1945 in Berlin). Perhaps he was executed according to Cossa’s sketches, some features of his style appeared in the figures of angels on the throne of Madonna. The complex composition of the altar is inspired by the works of Tours, but the beautiful illusory friezes on the basis of the throne bear the imprint of the style of Roberti. Comparison of the altar from c. San Lazzaro with the altar "Madonna and Child on a Throne Surrounded by Saints" from c. Santa Maria in Porto near Ravenna (now Milan, Pinakothek Brera) testifies to the profound evolution that Roberti's work underwent in a few years. In the altar of c. Santa Maria in Porto, the artist achieves greater perfection in composition, giving a solemn interpretation of the theme “St. interview. He has a group on a high pedestal, and as a kind of frame he uses a large edicle, through which a distant horizon can be seen, repeating a motif barely outlined in the altar of c. San Lazzaro. Like Giovanni Bellini in Venice, he collects the fruits of high art by Piero della Francesca; he appeals to Cosimo Tour’s harsh style, but softens it with the flexibility of his optical perception, giving the details an almost Flemish grace. In a monochrome frieze that follows the base of the throne, he gives vent to his extraordinary fantasy, worthy of Dürer or Baldung Green.
Similar dramatic intensity is characteristic of John the Baptist (Berlin-Dahlem, museum), the tragic human image anticipating the unrealism of mannerist, and also for the two-part predella with the image of “Taking into custody” and “Carrying the Cross” from San Giovanni in Monte in Bologna (now - Dresden, Picture gal.). The central part of this predella was the famous "Pieta" (Liverpool, Art Gal. Walker). In this work, the art of Roberti acquires new completeness, complex divisions and optical subtleties. The same qualities are inherent in the “Mary Magdalene” (Bologna, National Pinakothek), a fragment of “Calvary” and the only remaining part of the fresco in the Garganelli Chapel, c. San Pietro in Bologna.
Among the other masterpieces of the first creative period of Roberti, one can also call “The Penitent Saint. Jerome ”(London, Barlow meeting), profile portrait of Giovanni II Bentivollo and his wife Ginevra Sforza (Washington, Nat. Gal.), Profile portrait of a young man (formerly Beler collection) and“ Madonna and Child ”(Chicago Art Institute). The second period includes another portrait of Giovanni II Bentivollo (Bologna, University), a series of small panels depicting “Last Supper”, “Adoration of the Shepherds”, “Pieta” and “Manna Collection” (all - London, Nat. Gal.), “ St Michael ”(Bologna, National Pinakothek),“ Madonna and Child ”(Berlin-Dahlem, museum) and a number of other works.
Roberti's creativity had a much greater influence than the art of Cossa on the development of Bologna painting; his style was inspired by Francha and, especially, Lorenzo Costa.