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Dosso Dossi

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Dosso Dossi
Died1542 (aged 52–53)
EducationLorenzo Costa
Known forPainting
MovementItalian Renaissance
Patron(s)Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara

Giovanni di Niccolò de Luteri, better known as Dosso Dossi (c. 1489–1542),[1] was an Italian Renaissance painter who belonged to the School of Ferrara, painting in a style mainly influenced by Venetian painting, in particular Giorgione and early Titian.[2]

From 1514 to his death he was court artist to the Este Dukes of Ferrara and of Modena, whose small court valued its reputation as an artistic centre. He often worked with his younger brother Battista Dossi, who had worked under Raphael. He painted many mythological subjects and allegories with a rather dream-like atmospheres, and often striking disharmonies in colour. His portraits also often show rather unusual poses or expressions for works originating in a court.[3]


Dossi was born in San Giovanni del Dosso, a village in the province of Mantua. His early training and life are not well documented; his father, originally of Trento, was a bursar (spenditore or fattore) for the Dukes of Ferrara. He may have had training locally with Lorenzo Costa or in Mantua, where he is known to have been in 1512. By 1514, he would begin three decades of service for dukes Alfonso I and Ercole II d'Este, becoming principal court artist. Dosso worked frequently with his brother Battista Dossi, who had trained in the Roman workshop of Raphael. The works he produced for the dukes included the ephemeral decorations of furniture and theater sets. He is known to have worked alongside il Garofalo in the Costabili polyptych. One of his pupils was Giovanni Francesco Surchi (il Dielai).

Dosso Dossi is known less for his naturalism or attention to design, and more for cryptic allegorical conceits in paintings around mythological themes, a favored subject for the humanist Ferrarese court (see also Cosimo Tura and the decoration of the Palazzo Schifanoia). Dossi employed eccentric distortions of proportion, which may appear caricature-like or even 'primitivist'. The art historian Sydney J. Freedberg sees this characteristic as an expression of the Renaissance aesthetic of sprezzatura (i.e. "studied carelessness", or artistic nonchalance). Dossi is also known for the atypical choices of bright pigment for his cabinet pieces. Some of his works, such as the Deposition have lambent qualities that suggest some of Correggio's works. Most of his works feature Christian and Ancient Greek themes and use oil painting as a medium.

The painting Aeneas in the Elysian Fields was part of the Camerino d'Alabastro of Alfonso I in the Este Castle, decorated with canvases depicting bacchanalia and erotic subjects including Feast of the Gods by Giovanni Bellini and Venus Worship by Titian. The frieze paintings were based on the Aeneid; this scene by Dossi is book 6, lines 635–709, wherein Aeneas is guided over the bridge into the Elysian Fields by the Cumaean Sibyl. Orpheus with the lyre flits in the forest; in the background are the ghostly horses of dead warriors.

In Hercules and the Pygmies, Hercules has fallen asleep after defeating Antaeus, and is set upon by an army of thumb-size pygmies, whom he defeats. He gathers them in his lion skin. Paintings depicting a powerful Hercules were commonly made for the then-ruler Duke Ercole II d'Este. The subjects of the Mythological Scene and Tubalcain are unknown.

Portrait of a Youth, now claimed to be a portrait of Lucrezia Borgia by Dosso Dossi, National Gallery of Victoria.

Recently, "Portrait of a Youth" at the National Gallery of Victoria, has been identified by the museum as a portrait of Lucrezia Borgia by Dosso Dossi, having previously been regarded as the portrait of an unknown young male by an unknown painter.[4]

In Ferrara, among his pupils were Gabriele Capellini, Jacopo Panicciati, and Giovanni Francesco Surchi.[5]

Selected works[edit]

Jupiter Painting Butterflies, Mercury and Virtue, c. 3rd decade of the 16th century, Lanckoroński Collection, Wawel Castle
Portrait of Alfonso I d'Este. с. 1530, Galleria Estense, Modena
Circe and her Lovers in a Landscape,
at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


  1. ^ From: Battista Dossi
  2. ^ Hartt, 617
  3. ^ Hartt, 617
  4. ^ "NGV's Renaissance mystery woman revealed". Brisbane Times.
  5. ^ *Hobbes, James R. (1849). Picture collector's manual adapted to the professional man, and the amateur. London: T&W Boone. p. 77.
  6. ^ Web Gallery of Art. The Virgin Appearing to Sts John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. Retrieved September 23, 2008.
  7. ^ J. Paul Getty Museum. Mythological Scene. Archived 2010-07-18 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved September 23, 2008.
  8. ^ J. Paul Getty Museum. Allegory of Fortune. Archived 2007-05-30 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved September 23, 2008.
  9. ^ Infamous Renaissance woman subject of mystery portrait – Australian Broadcasting Corporation 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  10. ^ Gallery unveils portrait of infamyThe Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008.
  11. ^ "The Stoning of Saint Stephen". Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Retrieved 2019-09-24.


  • Hartt, Frederick, History of Italian Renaissance Art, (2nd edn.)1987, Thames & Hudson (US Harry N Abrams), ISBN 0500235104
  • Gibbons, Felton (1968). Dosso and Battista Dossi; court painters at Ferrara. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • J. Carter Brown (1986). National Gallery of Art (ed.). The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries (First ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 111–128. ISBN 978-0521340199.
  • Freedberg, Sydney J. (1993). Pelican History of Art (ed.). Painting in Italy, 1500–1600. pp. 315–322 Penguin Books Ltd.
  • Ciammitti, Luisa; Ostrow, Steven F.; Settis, Salvatore (1998). Dosso's fate: painting and court culture in Renaissance Italy. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities. ISBN 0-89236-505-6.

External links[edit]