Ercole de'Roberti

Datesabout 1456 - 1496
BornFerrara, Italy

Paintings by Ercole de’ Roberti are rare; his life was short and many of his works have been destroyed in the centuries since his death. Most famously, he was court artist for the Este family in Ferrara in the latter part of his career. By 1473 Roberti had left his native Ferrara and was working in Bologna alongside Francesco del Cossa, another artist from Ferrara with whom he probably trained. Both Cossa and the young Roberti were heavily influenced by the linear forms of Andrea Mantegna. Roberti's first secure works date to this period in Bologna—contributions to the predella and the lateral pilasters of the altarpiece produced by Cossa for the Griffoni Chapel in San Petronio.

In the second half of the 1470s, Roberti returned to Ferrara where he established himself as an independent master. While there is no documentation to prove that he went to Venice, the response to developments in Venetian painting evident in his work indicate that he did indeed visit, perhaps around 1480. At this time, he painted his only extant documented work, a large altarpiece for a church in Ravenna, which is reminiscent of the latest altarpieces produced by his Venetian contemporary, Giovanni Bellini. Both the lofty, classicizing sensibility and the deep pathos of Bellini’s work endured throughout Roberti’s career. As court artist in Ferrara from 1487, Roberti worked almost exclusively for the Este family, until his death at the age of about forty.