Francesco del Cossa  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Francesco del Cossa (c. 1430 – c. 1477) was an Italian early-Renaissance (or Quattrocento) painter of the School of Ferrara.



He is known to have been the son of a stonemason in Ferrara. Although little is known about his early works, it is known that he traveled outside of Ferrara in his late twenties or early thirties.

Cossa is best known for his frescoes. One of the first records we have of him is in 1456 when he was an assistant to his father, Cristofano del Cossa, at that time employed in painting the carvings and statues on the high altar in the chapel of the bishop's palace at Ferrara.

Allegorical frescoes in Palazzo Schifanoia

Hall of the Months at the Palazzo Schifanoia

In conjunction with Cosimo Tura, Cossa is now known for fresco decoration of the summer pleasure villa/palazzo known as the Palazzo Schifanoia, located just outside the city gates. Together, they painted a series of the elaborate allegories around the themes of zodiacal signs and months of the year. These were only partially restored in the 20th century, and there are three that are reasonably assigned to Cossa. Of these, one of the most remarkable images is the horde of naked toddlers in the Allegory of May - Triumph of Apollo. Apparently a sign of springtime's prolific blossoming, the crowded rows of babies mass like a phalanx of infantile Rockettes.

The Allegory of April has a depiction of the trio of Graces, one of the earliest Post-classical representations of the naked intertwined dancers in painting. Sandro Botticelli's version in Primavera dates from 1482. See the 1501 version of the Three Graces (now at Chantilly). Assuming the date of death of Cossa is correct, this one must have been completed prior to the others.

Cossa in Bologna

Unhappy that he had been paid by the square foot for his work for Duke Borso and complaining he was being paid the same as the "worst dauber in Ferrara", Cossa left Ferrara for Bologna in 1470. In Bologna he obtained many commissions under the patronage of the Bentivoglio family. Here he painted his two masterpieces: the Virgin and Child with two saints and a portrait of Alberto de' Catanei (1474) and fresco of the Madonna del Baracano, representing the Virgin and Child with portraits of Giovanni Bentivoglio and Maria Vinziguerra (1472).

In the National Gallery of London there is a picture by him representing St. Vincent Ferrer, an "Annunciation", in the Dresden collection, which has been attributed to Pollaiuolo, and a fine profile portrait at Locko Park near Derby, said to represent Duke Ercole I of Ferrara. He executed stained glass windows in Bologna, the best of which is a circular window, in the church of San Giovanni in Monte, representing St. John in Patmos; this bears his signature.

Anthology of works

  • Annunciation and Nativity (Altarpiece of Observation)(1470,Gemäldegalerie, Dresden) [1]
  • Griffoni Polyptych
    St Vincent Ferrer (1473, National Gallery, London)
    St Peter and St John the Baptist (1473, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan)
    St Florian 1473,National Gallery of Art, Washington)
    St Lucy (1473, National Gallery of Art, Washington)
    The Crucifixion (1473, National Gallery of Art, Washington)
    St Petronius (1473, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara)
    11 other small pictures from altarpiece (1473, ?, ?)
  • Madonna with the Child and Saints(1474, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna)
  • Frescoes for Hall of Months, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara (before 1470?)
    Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus
    Allegory of May: Triumph of Apollo
    Allegory of March: Triumph of Minerva
  • Polyhymnia, the Muse of Many Songs [2]
  • St Peter [3]


  • Encyclopedia of Artists, volume 2, edited by William H.T. Vaughan, ISBN 0-19-521572-9, 2000

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Francesco del Cossa" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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