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Cosimo Tura, A Muse (Calliope?)

Key facts
Full title A Muse (Calliope?)
Artist Cosimo Tura
Artist dates before 1431 - 1495
Date made probably 1455-60
Medium and support Oil with egg on poplar
Dimensions 116.2 × 71.1 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3070
Location Gallery C
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Muse (Calliope?)
Cosimo Tura

This imperious lady once looked down from the walls of the studiolo (study) at Belfiore, the hunting retreat belonging to the dukes of Ferrara, part of a decorative scheme showing the nine Muses. The theme was chosen by Leonello d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and was begun by a painter called Angelo da Siena. After Leonello’s death in 1450 and Angelo’s in 1456, Leonello’s brother Borso hired Tura to produce the work.

The Muses were mythological figures, the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory). They embodied divine inspiration for the arts, each representing a specific art form. Our muse has been identified as Calliope, the muse of poetry. The branch of cherries may refer to justice, a principle with which Calliope was sometimes associated.

Technical analysis reveals that Tura painted this image using oil paint over a different design, possibly by Angelo da Siena. The technique is flawless and suggests knowledge of the work of the Netherlandish artist Rogier van der Weyden.

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