Room 55

Northern Italy 1430–1500

During the first half of the 15th century, Pisanello was probably the most celebrated artist in Italy. His works, which were highly praised for their naturalism, meticulously record the appearance of birds and animals, as well as figures and horses in elaborate costumes and armour, all combined in poetic settings. Although trained in Verona, his patrons included rulers of states throughout the peninsula, for whom he developed a truly courtly style.

In Milan, later in the century, Pisanello’s lead was taken up by painters working for the Sforza dukes. These artists’ individual personalities, which are often most evident in their small devotional works, were suppressed to create a Sforza house style. Vincenzo Foppa, for example, was sometimes just one of a group involved in large decorative schemes.

The leading painters of 15th-century Ferrara honed their skills in serving the Este family. Successive dukes sought artists such as Cosimo Tura and Ercole de’ Roberti whose talents were recognised through their abilities as draughtsmen, since at this time the design of a painting was seen as its most creative aspect.