Bonifacio Bembo

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Portrait of Francesco Sforza. ca. 1460. Tempera on panel, 40 x 31 cm. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

Bonifacio Bembo (active between 1444 and 1477) was an Italian painter and manuscript illuminator of the early-Renaissance period.


Born in Brescia to a painter, Giovanni, known to be active in 1420. He trained in the late Gothic school, he was influenced by the Renaissance style. After his knowledge with Gemistus Pletho, he absorbed the latter's Neoplatonic ideals. He was also active in Cremona and Reggio Emilia. He painted for the Castello di Pavia.

His paintings include the frescoes in the Calvacabo chapel of the church of Sant'Agostino di Cremona in Cremona. He also painted a triptych comprising the following works: a Coronation of Christ and Mary by God the Father, now in the Pinacoteca di Cremona, and the Meeting at the Golden Door and Adoration of the Magi in the Denver Art Museum. He painted a Santi Giuliano and Alessio at the Pinacoteca di Brera

He painted the portraits of Francesco I Sforza and his wife Bianca Maria Visconti (both from 1462), now in the Pinacoteca di Brera of Milan. Also during 1464-1467, he painted the main altarpiece for the Duomo of Cremona, a Madonna and Child with Two Angels, now in the Pinacoteca of the town. This altarpiece was later "restored" in 1507 by Boccaccio Boccaccino and in 1571 by Giulio Campi. In 1472, he painted along with Zanetto Bugatto and Leonardo Ponzoni at the a chapel in Santa Maria presso Vigevano. He also painted for the cloister of La Colomba at Cremona.

In 1473, he became a citizen of Milan, wher he had just recently worked alongside Gottardo Scotti, Stefano de' Fedeli and Giacomino Vismara in the Ducal Chapel of the Castell di Porta Giovia. he then moved to Pavia were he worked again with Bugatto and now Vincenzo Foppa in a reliquary room of the ducal castle and other works.[1]

Bembo is usually considered the author of one of the famous Visconti-Sforza tarot decks, whose symbolism reflects his interest in Neoplatonism. He said to have died in 1498,[2] while other more modern sources cite before 1482.[3][4] The latter may reflect attribution of works by his brother to Bonifacio. He had two siblings that were painters, the older brother Ambrogio and younger brother Benedetto, and uncle of Giovanni Francesco Bembo, also a painter.


  1. ^ La Pittura in Lombardia: Il Quattrocento, by Electa Lombardia, Milan, multiple editors, (1993); page 442.
  2. ^ Ticozzi S.
  3. ^ Getty ULAN
  4. ^ Electa Lombardia survey.