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Ferrara School of Painting

Contemporary art of the past times

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In the 13—16th centuries, the d’Este family ruled the Duchy of Ferrara. They were famous for their passionate love for "non-standard" painting beyond the pale of the established canons. From the time of Duke Leonello, the rulers encouraged innovative artists, invited them to live at court, and paid for the costs of improving their talents. This is how the Ferrara school of painting was formed, whose members are considered "visionaries of art" and differ markedly from their other colleagues who worked during the Renaissance
The Renaissance is the period that began around the 14th century and ended at the late 16th century, traditionally associated primarily with the Italian region. The ideas and images of the Renaissance largely determined the aesthetic ideals of modern man, his sense of harmony, measure and beauty. Read more
.

The Ferrara school experienced its heyday in the 15—16th centuries

Its characteristic features are expressiveness, clear contours, masterfully built composition (influence of Mantegna), abundance of light and rich colours (this feature was introduced by Piero della Francesca from Bologna). In many respects, the formation of the school was influenced by visiting artists who worked in Ferarra at the invitation of d’Este: Pisanello, Bellini and even the Dutchman Rogier van der Weyden.
The National Pinacoteca of Ferrara can cause a real culture shock at a connoisseur of painting: the faces, subjects, details, techniques in the paintings have much in common with modern art, but the canvases dateback to the 14—15th centuries! It seems that the representatives of the Ferrara school took the best from painting of all times and peoples (especially Italian), and put it together.

The style, the allegory, the extraordinariness

Duke Leonello and his son Borso d’Este were fond of astrology, esotericism, mysticism. This influenced the Ferrarans' choice of subjects and the artistic language filled with allegory.
You can hardly define the exact features of the Ferrara school — it is, rather, a certain style, handwriting, mood that unites the artists.
To catch its features, it is important to look at a dozen or two paintings. By the way, Ferrara residents often painted churches, so that their works are scattered all over Italy, like some kind of road signs that combine individual visits to museums into a large Italian artistic journey.
You are an expert if:
You do not confuse the Ferrara school and mannerism
Mannerism (it. maniera — manner) is a Western European literary and artistic style, that was popular in the 16th — first third of the 17th century. That was the time of the peak in art of posing and the love of artsy poses. Read more
. The main difference is the irony, the allegory of the Ferrarans and the absence of cutesy poses on their canvases.


You are a layman if:
You don’t know that the Ferrara school of painting is not a separate direction, but a group of Renaissance artists who lived and worked in Ferrara. The style can exaggeratedly be called a fusion of the Renaissance
The Renaissance is the period that began around the 14th century and ended at the late 16th century, traditionally associated primarily with the Italian region. The ideas and images of the Renaissance largely determined the aesthetic ideals of modern man, his sense of harmony, measure and beauty. Read more
and contemporary art with its boldness and provocativeness.

Known artists:

Cosimo Tura, Francesco Cosa, Dosso Dossi, Girolamo da Carpi, Garofa (Benvenuto Tisi), Lorenzo Costa, Nicolo Pisano, Francesco Franza, Fra Angelico

Significant works

Lorenzo Costa, The Triumph of Death, 1490 — Bentivoglio Chapel in a monastery in Bologna.
Cosimo Tura, Calliope was created to decorate the Belfort Palace near Ferrara, which belonged to the d’Este dukes. London National Gallery.

Garofalo, Baby Jesus Sleeping, 1550 — this icon is daring even by modern standards, because everything is too lively, too mundane in it, without the usual grave countenance of the saints. The Louvre.

Dosso Dossi, Portrait of Alfonso I d’Este is an excellent example of how the representatives of the school presented their portraits in an unusual way. Gallery of Modena.

Priceless, but...

Almost all of the works of the Ferrara School are kept in museums and pinacotecas. On average, a painting by an artist of that era is estimated at 20 to 35 million dollars.
Cosimo Tour. Muse

What a story!
In the Belfort Palace, there was a room that Leonello d’Este conceived as a space where one can devote time to his hobbies — the "studiolo". For the design of the studiolo, the Count commissioned allegorical portraits of nine muses in unusual roles. For example, Polyhymnia the patroness of the hymns works in the field, and wingless cherubs of strange appearance dance around Terpsichore. There are similar works in the Chapel of the Muses and Free Arts in Rimini.
Unfortunately, the palace burned down in a fire in 1662, and the paintings scattered around the world.
At present day, we know where 8 of them are stored.