喬瓦尼·迪·尼古羅·德·魯特羅 - 或稱多索·鐸西
- Giovanni di NiccolÃ² de Lutero, called Dosso Dossi
Despite the formative stage of the artist's career, Dosso’s eccentricities and quirks can already be recognized. The faces of the two saints, for example, are portrayed with humor, an element which recurs throughout his oeuvre, as is the cut of the folds in the Madonna's drapery. The elegance and balance in design, which he was never to abandon, are already present. The physiognomy and serenity of the Madonna pay direct homage to Giovanni Bellini, whose work Dosso would have seen during a presumed trip to Venice during the early 1510s; he is certainly recorded as having visited Venice in 1516 and 1518. Another early work in which the Virgin echoes Bellini is The Holy Family with Saints John the Baptist, Barbara and a Donor (possibly from 1512), in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples.1
The controversy around Dosso's early career centers around the dating of the Costabili altarpiece in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara, which Dosso painted in collaboration with Benvenuto Tisi, called il Garofalo.2 Historically the painting had been thought on the basis of style to date from the 1520s but documents revealed that the work was already in progress in the second half of 1513 and completed in early 1514. This leap forward by a whole decade rightly called into question the accepted notion of the development of Ferrarese painting early in the sixteenth century and would mean that Dosso was already a remarkably developed artist by the mid-1510s. The importance of these documents has recently been called into question, though, for Vincenzo Gheroldi has shown that Dosso’s contribution to the altarpiece was executed over Garofalo’s already dry and older paint, which can thus be safely assumed to have been from several years earlier, probably around 1514 when the altarpiece was indeed commissioned. It is in fact more likely that the two artists must already have set up a collaborative workshop, as both are listed in the commission, but it was Garofalo alone who started work on the altarpiece.
A more likely hypothesis is that Dosso's contribution to the Costabili altarpiece dated from the 1520s. If one were to date it to the mid-1510s one could not include the corpus of works known as the "Longhi group" which has been put forward on the basis of style as by the hand of the young and still impressionable Dosso. The group was proposed by the Italian art historian Roberto Longhi in the 1927 and is of disparate quality, as might be expected from a young artist. The key painting in the group is the Holy Family with Saint John and two Donors (circa 1515) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which, again, shows a close understanding in developments in Venetian painting from around 1510 and in which the Madonna comes very close to the present Virgin.3 The validity of the Longhi group was further supported by Carlo Volpe’s identification of the Varano altarpiece in the Arcivescovado in Ferrara as the painting recorded by the eighteenth-century historian Cittadella as an early work by Dosso.4 The Varano altarpiece, which on the reverse depicts a study by Dosso for a Crowning of the Virgin, depicts the Madonna and Child in Glory with Five Saints, comes very close in style to the Philadelphia work and shows a direct knowledge of Raphael’s Saint Cecilia in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna.5 Since Raphael’s painting did not reach the north of Italy until 1515, the Varano altarpiece must date from after 1516, around the same date which Longhi proposed for the paintings in this group. Other paintings in the group include the Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist, Jerome, and Paul, and a Donor (circa 1513), in the Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome, a Bacchanal in the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, and the aforementioned Sacra Conversazione in Naples.6
Some scholars do not necessarily accept the "Longhi group" as the work of the young Dosso. Whether or not one includes the group in the artist's catalogue, however, the present work fits convincingly into the body of Dosso’s securely attributed works. Professor Andrea De Marchi sees the present picture as a bridge between the Longhi/Johnson group and Dosso's earliest works, even more so than the aforementioned Varano altarpiece, in which the Infant bears a striking resemblance to the present Christ. The same jagged flow can be felt in the blue drapery of the majestic Circe in the Galleria Borghese (circa 1517) or even of the Dido (1518-20) in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome.7 Professor Alessandro Ballarin also believes the present work to be by the young Dosso, probably executed shortly before the Apparition of the Virgin and Child to Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist (circa 1517), in the Uffizi Florence, in which the the depiction of the Christ Child bears close resemblance.8
The attribution has been endorsed on the basis of photographs by Professors Alessandro Ballarin and Andrea De Marchi. Professors Peter Humfrey and Mauro Lucco do not accept the traditional chronology of Dosso's early career, which includes the Longhi group, and, while praising the quality of the present work believe it to have been painted by an anonymous artist in Dosso's ambit.
1. A. Ballarin, Dosso Dossi, La pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I, Padua 1995, vol. I, p. 296, cat. no. 334, reproduced in color plate LXXXV.
2. Ibid., pp. 336-37, cat. no. 431, reproduced in color plate CLXXI.
3. Ballarin, op. cit., vol. I, p. 298, cat. no. 338, reproduced in color plate LXXXIV.
4. Ibid., pp. 299-300, cat. no. 342, reproduced vol. II, fig. 294.
5. For Dosso’s study see Ballarin, op. cit., vol. I, fig. 170. For Raphael’s altarpiece see S. Ferino Pagden and M. Antonietta Zancan, Raffaello, Catalogo completo, Florence 1989, pp. 118-19, cat. no. 72, reproduced.
6. Ibid., p. 297, cat. no. 337, reproduced in color plate LXXXIII and pp. 295-96, cat. no. 333, reproduced vol. II, fig. 262 respectively.
7. Ibid., p. 312, cat. no. 372, reproduced in color plate CXVIII and p. 315, cat. no. 378, reproduced vol. II, fig. 528.
8. Ibid., p. 306, cat. no. 356, reproduced in color plate CXIII.