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Ercole de' Roberti

active 1479; died 1496

Ercole de' Roberti was probably trained in Ferrara. His work stylistically followed that of Cossa, who may have been his master, and Tura. According to d'Este ducal records, he mostly executed decorative works for the d'Este court which ruled Ferrara. Other North Italian influences on his highly idiosyncratic paintings include the work of Giovanni Bellini and Mantegna.

Debate surrounds the identification of Roberti and the attribution of paintings to him. Early sources refer to three different names - Ercole de' Roberti, Ercole Grande and Ercole da Ferrara. One important artist, Ercole de' Roberti, emerges who may (or may not) be all three.

Ercole de' Roberti is first documented as being in Ferrara in 1479. In 1480 he painted an altarpiece for the church of S. Maria in Porto, Ravenna (Milan, Brera), which illustrates the influence of Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini. Before 1486 Ercole worked in Bologna on the frescoes decorating the walls of the Garganelli Chapel, which were widely admired (only one fragment depicting a woman in lamentation survives, in the Pinacoteca, Bologna). From 1487 onwards the artist is recorded as back in Ferrara, and employed by the d'Este family.