The Pietà
(Ludovico Mazzolino)


Mazzolino’s most successful and characteristic works are small jewel-like panels representing biblical subjects handled in a manner that might best be described as a mixture of the profound tempered by the capricious. These pictures, which are paradigmatic examples of Ferrarese taste, were much in demand at court. Duke Ercole I, himself, together with Cardinals Ippolito and Sigismondo d’Este often commissioned tiny panels for their private camerini from Mazzolino.

Mazzolino painted the subject of the Pietà on several occasions; the earliest example is in the Galleria Doria Pamphili, Rome and can be dated to 1512. It shows a certain knowledge of Dürer’s prints, possibly the result of the German master’s Bolognese visit, as well as of Boccaccio Boccaccino’s Calvary of 1499-1500 painted for the church of San Domenico in Cremona (London, The National Gallery). This Pietà may stem from a slightly later phase in the artist’s development, when he was discarding the strong influence of Dürer1 and Giorgione in exchange for that of Dosso Dossi, who had returned to Ferrara by 1514. There is also a marked awareness of Raphael’s style, whose renowned Saint Cecilia had arrived in Bologna by 1514-15. Yet, the artist must already have been aware of earlier Raphael compositions; perhaps through Garofalo, who after his trip to Rome in 1511-12 had come under Raphael’s influence.

Raphael from this time onwards was to be the dominating influence on all the Ferrarese masters. In Mazzolino’s Pietà this may be noted in the figure of Saint John2 to the left and in the Mary Magdalene3 to the right. More elusive, at first sight, is the borrowing from Raphael apparent in the Nicodemus as well as the figure of St Anne.4 Yet, at this moment of transition Mazzolino once again appears to remember his precursor, Ercole de’ Roberti, and it is interesting to note the similarities between the fainting Virgin in Ercole’s Crucifixion in the Garganelli Chapel in San Pietro in Bologna, and the Virgin in The Pietà. This same Ercole influence may once again be seen in the Cini Collection Pietà in Venice, a picture which perhaps most closely echoes the style of this picture and which can also be dated to c. 1514.

22 x 18 in. (56 x 45.8 cm.)
Oil on panel

Count Blumenstihl, Rome;Art Advisory S.A.;
Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd.; Bristol Security Inc.


S. Zamboni, ‘Ludivoco Mazzolino: una primizia ed altri inediti’, Prospettiva, 15, October 1978, pp. 58 and 59.

Where is It?
Donated as a gift by The Matthiesen Gallery to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Historical Period
High Renaissance to Mannerism - 1450-1530 & Mannerism & Cinquecento - 1530-1600
Historical events
Italian - Emilian
1984-From Borso to Cesare d'Este, 1450 - 1628: The School of Ferrara.
An exhibition in aid of The Courtauld Institute Trust Appeal Fund. Ten introductory essays on Ferrara and aspects of Ferrarese art by Cecil Gould, Lanfranco Caretti, Claudio Gallico, Vincenzo Fontana, Thomas Tuohy, Emmanuele Mattaliano, Giorgio Bassani, Giuliano Briganti, Alastair Smith, with charts and Concordat of Ferrarese paintings in British public collections. 200 pages, 50 colour plates, 84 black and white illustrations. £15 or $23 inc. p&p.

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