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The court cities of Northern Italy – including Milan, Ferrara, Mantua and Rimini – shared a desire to promote their political status by cultivating their reputations as centres of artistic excellence.

Pisanello, who spent his life moving between several Italian courts, was one of the most celebrated artists of early fifteenth-century Italy. He was famed as a medallist as well as a painter and draftsman. Pisanello’s works were highly praised for their naturalism, and his ability to record exquisite and accurate detail. Paintings like The Vision of Saint Eustace reflect his courtly patrons’ love of hunting and chivalry, as well as the impact of the rediscovery of Roman and Greek antiquity.

Later in the century, Pisanello’s lead was taken up by the artists working for the Sforza dukes in Milan, including Vincenzo Foppa. Foppa’s work had a lasting impact on Ambrogio Bergognone, who spent much of his life working for the court-sponsored Carthusian monastery in nearby Pavia.

The leading artists of 15th-century Ferrara – Cosimo Tura, Francesco del Cossa, and his pupil Ercole de’ Roberti – honed their skills in serving the ruling Este family. Their idiosyncratic, quirky paintings suggest a deep engagement with Early Netherlandish art, which was known and admired in Ferrara, and with the inventions of Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini.