Pietro de' Lardi, who commissioned this important work—a votive altarpiece—became deputy general to Borso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, in 1452. According to the long inscription, it was painted sometime between 1400 and 1431, when Pietro Boiardi was bishop of Ferrara. A succession of rulers of the Este family made Ferrara a center of culture and art. This altarpiece is among the most important testaments to the level of naturalistic description achieved in the city prior to the arrival of Pisanello and Jacopo Bellini.
The sky, which now appears almost black, would originally have been lighter in color.
The artist of this picture was one of the outstanding painters in early fifteenth-century Ferrara, which under the rule of the Este family became one of the most cultivated courts of Renaissance Italy, promoting art, music, and literature. The Latin inscription on the scroll states that the picture was painted for Pietro de’Lardi, who in 1452 became the land agent for Duke Borso d’Este (1413–1471). Presumably it is his coat of arms that appears at lower left and right. He is presented to the Madonna and Child by Saint Nicholas of Bari (270–343 A.D.), as noted in the inscription, which further states that the work was painted during the time of the bishopric of Pietro Boiardi. This would date the work sometime between 1400 and 1431—during the reign of Borso’s father Niccolò III d’Este (1383–1441) and prior to that of Borso’s brother, the cultured Leonello d’Este (1407–1450), a promoter of humanist studies and a patron of Pisanello, Rogier van der Weyden, Andrea Mantegna (see 32.130.2), and Leon Battista Alberti. The picture is likely to date from the mid- to late 1420s, as indicated by the donor’s attire: a fur-trimmed robe (known as a houppelande in France; a cioppa in Italy) and an elaborate turban (chaperon). Analogies for this fashion can be found both north of the Alps (for example, the Portrait of a Man by Robert Campin in the National Gallery, London) and south (Lorenzo Ghiberti’s self-portrait on the first set of doors for the Florence Baptistry and the two men in contemporary dress in Masolino’s Raising of Tabitha in the Brancacci Chapel of the Carmine, Florence). Parallels for the raised, gilded gesso decoration (pastiglia) can be found in north Italian painting from Michelino da Besozzo (see 43.98.7) to Cristoforo Moretti. The way it is used to enhance the three-dimensional effect of the bishop’s miter and the Virgin’s crown is similar to what we find in Gentile da Fabriano’s great Adoration of the Magi altarpiece of 1423 (Uffizi, Florence) and is likely to reflect the artist’s response to works he had seen by Gentile (De Marchi 2006, pp. 36–38). The throne of the Virgin has been conceived like a contemporary, late Gothic choir stall, and it is worth pointing out that one of the great woodworkers of the day—Arduino da Baiso—was repeatedly active in Ferrara, where in 1406 he made a lectern for the cathedral; in 1428–31, constructed with his brother Alberto choir stalls for the convent of San Francesco; and was later employed by Leonello d’Este on his studiolo. None of this work survives, but it may be that the throne bore some relationship to the choir stalls for San Francesco (for Arduino da Baiso, see the entry by A. G. Quintavale in the Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 5, 1963). The mimetic intention is further enhanced by the description of the flowers in the brick enclosure (a reference to the enclosed garden—hortus conclusus—emblematic of Mary).
The authorship of the picture has long been disputed. For a certain period it was ascribed to Antonio Alberti (active 1418–47), who although from Ferrara was active principally in the Marches (Coletti 1936, Padovani 1975). Recent scholarship has returned to the earlier identification of the artist with the so-called Master G.Z. To him are ascribed the center panel of an altarpiece showing the Trinity (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara), a fresco of the Resurrection (Oratorio dell'Annunziata, Ferrara; see Additional Images, fig. 1), a Madonna and Child in the church of San Francesco in the town of Carpi, and a fresco in Santa Maria della Sagra, also at Carpi (see Zeri and Gardner 1986, De Marchi 2006). The Trinity bears the initials G.Z., from which the artist's name is derived. The Resurrection has the incomplete date 141[?] and a partial inscription that may have recorded the artist’s name along the upper molding of the sarcophagus: MI…. The fresco thus dates prior to 1420. Yet another work attributable to the master—a Resurrection in Gazudarstrennij Muzei, Gorkij, is dated 1423. The elaborate network of folds of the Virgin’s drapery, where it spills onto the marble pavement, was unquestionably inspired by the sculpture of Jacopo della Quercia (ca. 1374–1438), who worked in Ferrara between 1403 and 1408. This relationship might be thought to support the proposed identification of the anonymous master with the painter Michele dei Carri, who in 1407 was commissioned to paint the chapel in the cathedral for which Jacopo della Quercia sculpted a Madonna and Child (Benati 2002, De Marchi 2006). It is possibly of further interest that in 1425, Arduino da Baiso was hired to appraise the work of Jacopo della Quercia for the main portal of San Petronio in Bologna, since it is this moment in Quercia’s career that was important for the Virgin’s drapery in the MMA picture. At the very least, it suggests the degree to which the Master G.Z. was at the center of the most innovative artistic events in the region.
Michele dei Carri was active in Ferrara between 1407 and 1440 (for a review of the documents and the various works associated with Michele dei Carri, see Marcello Toffanello, Le arti a Ferrara nel Quattrocento: gli artisti e la corte, Ferrara, 2010, pp. 177–78), and if he is responsible for the works currently ascribed to the Master G.Z., it is possible to establish a chronology that runs from the Trinity—which must be his earliest surviving painting and still has much that recalls the work of the great fourteenth-century Veronese painter Altichiero—to the MMA’s painting. Throughout, the painter was responsive to developments in sculpture, from the staid forms of the Lombard Alberto da Campione (for whom see Laura Cavazzini, "Un nuovo protagonista per la scultura tardogotica padana: Alberto da Campione tra Como, Milano e Bologna," Prospettiva 97 (2000), pp. 2–29) to the fully Gothic style of Jacopo della Quercia. Laderchi (1838) reported that the MMA altarpiece came from the famous Benedictine abbey of Pomposa, near Ferrara, but definitive proof for this is lacking.
The rectangular shape of the picture is unusual for an altarpiece of this date, though analogies can be found with a votive altarpiece in the Musei Civici, Padua, that was painted in 1408 for the Fraglia di S. Maria dei Servi, and with the Pala della Levata by Giovanni Badile (1371–1451) in the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona. An altarpiece by Gentile da Fabriano in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, has an arched top but is otherwise also comparable in its function and its simple, open picture field.
[Keith Christiansen 2014]
Inscription: Inscribed (lower left): ALma dei genitrix mundus cui flectitur omnis / HAnc tibi deuoto construxit corde figuram / PEtrus de lardis presentat quem tibi sa[n]ctus / ATque suus pastor Nicolaus, tempore et illo / URbis ferrarie sum[m]o cum laudis honore / PResul erat dominus Petrus noster reuere[n]dus / BOyarde stirpis natus de sanguine claro (Beloved Mother of God, to whom the whole world bows, with devout heart Pietro de' Lardi, whom his pastor Saint Nicholas presents to you, had this picture painted for you at the time when the bishop of the city of Ferrara was our reverend master Pietro Boiardi, born of noble blood and honored with high praise)
?Abbey of Pomposa, near Ferrara; marchese Giovanni Battista Costabili-Containi, Ferrara (by 1838–d. 1841; cat., 1838, no. 3, as by Galasso Galassi); his nephew, marchese Giovanni Battista Costabili-Containi, Ferrara (1841–d. 1882; cats., 1871, 1872, no. 67, as of uncertain attribution [exhibited for sale]; his estate, 1882–85; his estate sale, Sambon, Milan, April 27–29, 1885, no. 22, as School of Murano, 15th century); [comte Avogli Trotti, Paris, by 1905–at least 1914]; [R. Langton Douglas, London; as attributed to Antonio Alberti]; Arthur Lehman, New York (by 1924–d. 1936; as attributed to Alberti); Mrs. Arthur (Adele L.) Lehman, New York (1936–d. 1965)
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 1 (as "The Madonna and Child, with Pietro Lardi and St. Maurilius," attributed to Antonio Alberti, lent by Mrs. Arthur Lehman, New York).
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Arts of the Middle Ages," February 17–March 24, 1940, no. 62 (as "Pietro Lardi Presented to the Virgin and Child by St. Maurelius," attributed to Antonio da Ferrara, lent by Mrs. Arthur Lehman, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat.
Camillo Laderchi. Descrizione della quadreria Costabili. Vol. 1, L'antica scuola ferrarese. Ferrara, 1838, p. 24, no. 3, attributes it to Galasso Galassi; tentatively identifies the bishop as Pietro Boiardi; notes that it came from the monastery at Pomposa.
Girolamo Baruffaldi. Vite de' pittori e scultori ferraresi. Ed. Giuseppe Boschini. Vol. 1, Ferrara, 1844, p. 53 n. 2, Boschini lists it among additional works by Galasso in Ferrara, including a Trinity in the Pinacoteca.
Otto Mündler. Diary entry. Vol. 2, March 28–29, 1858, p. 58v [published in Carol Togneri Dowd, ed. "The Travel Diaries of Otto Mündler, 1855–1858," Walpole Society 51 (1985), p. 215], notes seeing it in the Costabili collection in Ferrara; attributes it to Galasso.
Charles Lock Eastlake. Notebook entry. 1861, vol. 1, fol. 14v [National Gallery Archive, London, NG 22/28: 1861 (I); published in Walpole Society 73 (2011), vol. 1, p. 567], attributes it to Galasso.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Unpublished manuscript. n.d., p. 23 [Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, 2024/12265/I; see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1986], attributes it to Galasso.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. London, 1871, vol. 1, p. 515, attributes it to Galasso, along with the Ferrara Trinity and an Entombment (formerly Costabili collection).
[Gaetano Giordani]. Catalogo de' quadri di varie scuole pittoriche nella galleria Costabili in Ferrara. Bologna, 1871, p. 9, no. 67, as of uncertain attribution; notes that the collection is exhibited for sale.
[Gaetano Giordani]. Catalogo de' quadri di varie scuole pittoriche nella galleria Costabili in Ferrara. Bologna, 1872, no. 67 [see Ref. Mattaliano 1998].
Gustave Gruyer. L'art ferrarais à l'époque des princes d'Este. Paris, 1897, vol. 2, p. 50, quotes Ref. Laderchi 1838.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 1, Paris, 1905, p. 270, ill. (engraving), attributes it to the school of Murano; identifies the bishop as Pietro Boiardi.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. Ed. Tancred Borenius. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 2, p. 223.
Donato Zaccarini. "Antonio Alberti: Il suo maestro ed alcuni pittori ferraresi loro contemporanei." L'arte 17 (1914), pp. 170–71, fig. 2, as in the Trotti collection, Paris; attributes it to the painter of the Ferrara Trinity on which appear the initials G.Z., rejecting the identification of this artist as Galasso Galassi, and calling him the Painter of the Crucifixion with the Initials G. Z. [G. Z. Master]; tentatively identifies the bishop as Saint Maurelius, whose cult was rekindled in Ferrara in 1419, and thus suggests a date for the picture between 1419 and 1431, Pietro Boiardi's final year as bishop.
F. Mason Perkins. Letter to the Frick Art Reference Library. September 1925 [see note on Frick photo mount], rejects the attribution to Antonio Alberti [to whom it was attributed by Langton Douglas; see Frick photo mount]; believes it is probably either Veronese or Lombard.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 7, Late Gothic Painting in North Italy. The Hague, 1926, p. 238, fig. 154, concurs with Zaccarini [see Ref. 1914] in attributing it to the painter of the Ferrara Trinity and in tentatively identifying the bishop as Saint Maurelius; also relates it to five panels depicting the four Evangelists and Saint Maurelius (Pinacoteca, Ferrara).
Adolfo Venturi. North Italian Painting of the Quattrocento: Emilia. Florence, [1931?], pp. 11, 85 n. 17, pl. 2, rejects Zaccarini's [see Ref. 1914] attribution to the painter of the Ferrara Trinity, ascribing it to an unknown Ferrarese painter.
Pittura ferrarese del rinascimento. Exh. cat., location unknown. Ferrara, 1933, p. 20, under no. 15, rejects Zaccarini's [see Ref. 1914] attribution to the painter of the Ferrara Trinity.
Roberto Longhi. Officina ferrarese. Rome, 1934, p. 14–15, pl. 16, considers it superior in quality to contemporary Ferrarese paintings and wonders whether it might be by the master of the Sagra at Carpi, or by Niccolò di Pietro; identifies the bishop as Saint Maurelius.
Luigi Coletti. "Gli affreschi della 'Sagra' di Carpi e Antonio Alberti." Bollettino d'arte 30 (November 1936), p. 189, notes Longhi's [see Ref. 1934] tentative attribution of this picture to the master of the Carpi frescoes, whom he identifies as Antonio Alberti.
Roberto Longhi. Ampliamenti nell'officina ferrarese. Florence, 1940, p. 39 n. 1, agrees with Coletti's (1936) attribution of the Carpi frescoes to Antonio Alberti, and believes that this increases the probability that the MMA work is also by him.
Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 37, Leipzig, 1950, p. 191, notes Zaccarini's [see Ref. 1914] attribution to the painter of the Ferrara Trinity.
Luigi Coletti. Pittura veneta del Quattrocento. Novara, 1953, p. XVII, pl. 39c, is uncertain whether it should be attributed to Pisanello or to a Ferrarese artist influenced by him, such as Antonio Alberti.
Corrado Padovani. La critica d'arte e la pittura ferrarese. Rovigo, 1954, p. 149, cites Laderchi's [see Ref. 1838] attribution to Galasso and Zaccarini's [see Ref. 1914] to the G. Z. Master.
Giacomo Bargellesi. Notizie di opere d'arte ferrarese. Rovigo, 1955, pp. 12–15, fig. 2, attributes it to Antonio Alberti, dates it about 1425–30, and identifies the bishop as Saint Maurelius.
Roberto Longhi. Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. Vol. 5, Officina ferrarese: 1934. repr. 1968. Florence, 1956, pp. 12, 169 n. 1, p. 176, fig. 26, reprints text of Refs. 1934 and 1940; retracts his earlier tentative attribution to Alberti and suggests instead Francesco Lola.
Stefano Bottari. La pittura in Emilia nella prima metà del '400. Bologna, 1958, pp. 79, 87, relates it to the Annunciation fresco in the chapel of Saint Catherine in the Sagra, Carpi; lists various attributions, including Bargellesi's to Alberti.
Mario Salmi. Pittura e miniatura a Ferrara nel primo rinascimento. Ferrara, 1961, pp. 7–8 n. 2, pl. 1a, rejects Longhi's [see Ref. 1934] attribution to the master of the Sagra; considers it Ferrarese, dates it between 1419 and 1431, and identifies the bishop as Saint Maurelius.
Maria Teresa Zanchi. "Antonio Alberti da Ferrara e il suo itinerario umbro-marchigiano." Commentari 15 (July–December 1964), pp. 176, 185 n. 12, attributes it to the painter of the frescoes in the chapel of San Martino at the Sagra, Carpi, rejecting the identification of Antonio Alberti as this artist.
Claus Virch. The Adele and Arthur Lehman Collection. New York, 1965, pp. 18–22, ill. (color), believes the most plausible attribution is to Antonio Alberti; dates it between 1412 and 1431; points out that the inscription identifies the bishop as Saint Nicholas.
Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti. Stefano da Ferrara: Problemi critici tra Giotto a Padova, l'espansione di Altichiero e il primo quattrocento a Ferrara. Florence, 1972, p. 176 n. 34, cites earlier attributions.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 216, 334, 435, 536, 538, 609, as by an unknown Ferrarese painter of the fifteenth century.
Filippa M. Aliberti Gaudioso inRestauri nelle Marche: Testimonianze, acquisti e recuperi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale. Urbino, 1973, p. 136, under no. 29, attributes it to Antonio Alberti.
Serena Padovani. "Materiale per la storia della pittura ferrarese nel primo quattrocento." Antichità viva 13, no. 5 (1974), p. 4, attributes it to Antonio Alberti.
Serena Padovani. "Pittori della corte estense nel primo quattrocento." Paragone 26 (January 1975), pp. 39–41, 51–52 nn. 38–39, pl. 42, dates it to the late 1420s, contemporary with the frescoes in the chapel of San Martino in the Sagra at Carpi which she also attributes to Alberti; notes the influence of Pisanello.
Michel Laclotte and Élisabeth Mognetti. Peinture italienne. Paris, 1976, unpaginated, under no. 20.
Laura Benini. "Descrizione della quadreria Costabili." Musei ferraresi 7 (1977), p. 85, no. 6, as by an unknown fifteenth-century painter.
Amalia Mezzetti and Emanuele Mattaliano. Indice ragionato delle "Vite de' pittori e scultori ferraresi" di Gerolamo Baruffaldi. Vol. 2, Ferrara, 1981, p. 146.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 70–72, pl. 6, attribute it to an unknown Ferrarese (?) painter and date it about 1420–30; question whether it actually came from the monastery at Pomposa since an inventory of the property of the monastery compiled in 1459 does not include any paintings; reject the attribution to Antonio Alberti, relating it to the work of Niccolò di Pietro and to the frescoes in the chapel of San Martino in the Sagra, Carpi; list three additional works possibly by the same artist: a Madonna and Child in a private collection; a fresco of a Madonna and Child in San Francesco, Carpi; and a fresco in Sant'Apollinare, Ferrara.
Renzo Grandi inLa pittura in Italia: il Quattrocento. Ed. Federico Zeri. revised and expanded ed. [Milan], 1987, vol. 1, pp. 232–33, fig. 316, as by the Maestro di Pietro de' Lardi; calls it a masterpiece of rationality distinct from the work of contemporary local artists, including the Master G. Z.
Massimo Medica inLa pittura in Italia: il Quattrocento. revised and expanded ed. [Milan], 1987, vol. 2, p. 692, attributes it to the Maestro di Pietro de' Lardi and relates it to the Sagra frescoes and to a Resurrection in Sant'Apollinare, Ferrara.
Michel Laclotte and Élisabeth Mognetti. Avignon, musée du Petit Palais: Peinture italienne. 3rd ed. Paris, 1987, p. 49, under no. 20.
Andrea De Marchi. "Michele di Matteo a Venezia e l'eredità lagunare di Gentile da Fabriano." Prospettiva no. 51 (October 1987), pp. 21, 33 nn. 38–39, fig. 8, attributes it to the Master G.Z., to whom, in addition to the eponymous Ferrara Trinity, he also ascribes the frescoes in the chapel of San Martino in the Sagra, Carpi; rejects the identification of this artist as Antonio Alberti.
Serena Padovani inIl tempo di Nicolò III. Exh. cat., Rocca di Vignola. Modena, 1988, pp. 72–74, fig. 44, maintains the attribution to Alberti, to whom she also assigns the Carpi frescoes and the fresco of the Resurrection in Sant'Apollinare, Ferrara.
Carl Brandon Strehlke. "Review of "Il tempo di Nicolò III"." Burlington Magazine 131 (August 1989), p. 563, calls the MMA altarpiece one of the masterpieces of the time of Nicolò III of Ferrara (1393–1441); leaves open the possibility of Alberti's authorship, assigning to the same unspecified painter the San Martino chapel frescoes in Carpi, the Resurrection in Sant'Apollinare in Ravenna, and, probably, the Ferrara Trinity.
Daniele Benati inLa Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara. Ed. Jadranka Bentini. Bologna, 1990, p. 94, under no. 8, attributes this picture (misidentified as in the National Gallery of Art, Washington), the Sant'Apollinare Resurrection, and the frescoes in the chapel of San Martino in the Sagra at Carpi, to the painter of the Ferrara Trinity, whom he calls the Master G.Z., rejecting the identification with Antonio Alberti.
Andrea Ugolini. "Rivedendo la collezione Costabili di Ferrara." Paragone 41 (November 1990), p. 53, no. L.3, attributes it to an unknown Ferrarese painter and dates it about 1430.
Andrea De Marchi. Gentile da Fabriano: Un viaggio nella pittura italiana alla fine del gotico. Milan, 1992, p. 92 n. 89, dates it slightly before 1431; sees the flowers as a reference to Gentile rather than to Pisanello.
Emanuele Mattaliano. La collezione Costabili. Venice, 1998, p. 34, no. 3, ill. p. 177, lists it with works ascribed to Galasso Galassi when in the Costabili collection.
Joseph Manca. Cosmè Tura: The Life and Art of a Painter in Estense Ferrara. Oxford, 2000, p. 49, fig. 58, states that it is by an anonymous artist of unknown origins, but made for Ferrara; dates it probably about 1430.
Daniele Benati. "L'affresco con la Resurrezione e il suo autore." L'Oratorio dell'Annunziata di Ferrara: arte, storia, devozione e restauri. Ed. Marinella Mazzei Traina. Ferrara, 2002, pp. 25, 27, 31 n. 16, ill.
Michel Laclotte and Esther Moench. Peinture italienne: musée du Petit Palais Avignon. new ed. Paris, 2005, p. 214, under no. 299.
Chiara Guerzi inGentile da Fabriano and the Other Renaissance. Ed. Laura Laureati and Lorenza Mochi Onori. Exh. cat., Spedale di Santa Maria del Buon Gesù, Fabriano. Milan, 2006, p. 138 [Italian ed., "Gentile da Fabriano e l'altro Rinascimento"], mentions it as "commissioned (before 1430–31) from the still anonymous Master G.Z.".
Andrea De Marchi inGentile da Fabriano: studi e ricerche. Ed. Andrea De Marchi, Laura Laureati, and Lorenza Mochi Onori. Milan, 2006, p. 38.
Mauro Natale and Giovanni Sassu inCosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa: l'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este. Ed. Mauro Natale. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti and Palazzo Schifanoia. Ferrara, 2007, p. 38.
Laura Cavazzini and Aldo Galli. "Scultori a Ferrara al tempo di Nicolò III." Crocevia estense: contributi per la storia della scultura a Ferrara nel XV secolo. Ed. Giancarlo Gentilini and Lucio Scardino. Ferrara, 2007, p. 13, fig. 10.
Spanish, sixteenth-century painted black cassetta frame with gilded arabesque center and corner ornaments. Frame retains the original finish.
Put on painting in 2013.
Funds for this frame were provided by Alexis Gregory.