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Madonna and Child Enthroned between Saint Martin of Tours and Saint Dorothy (or Rosalie)

Benvenuto Tisi, known as Garofalo (Canaro, Rovigo 1476/1481 - Ferrara 1559)

Oil on wood
187 x 162 cm
Deposits n. 6

Painted by Garofalo in his younger years for the parish church of San Martino di Codigoro (Ferrara), the large altarpiece has the figure of the Virgin at its centre, seated on a majestic throne set in a bucolic landscape. Mary is intent on supporting the infant Jesus on her legs, whose blessing pose mirrors image of Adam painted in grisaille in the cameo at the base of the throne, depicting the creation of man by God the Father. The theological connection established between the two is immediate: Jesus, through the sacrifice of his own life, redeems humanity from sin by becoming the "new Adam".

The scene is completed, at the sides of the throne, by two elegant figures: on the left is Saint Martin, a noble knight of the Roman imperial guard, about to share his cloak with a poor man prostrate at his feet; on the right, instead, is a saint, otherwise identified as Dorothea or Rosalie, accompanied by a small basket of roses, which also crown her head.

The dates and circumstances of Garofalo's commission are not known, but critics are unanimous in recognising in the general layout of the painting a full adherence to the classicism of the central Italian area, characterised by relaxed and serene rhythms.

In particular, the well-balanced formal balance of the altarpiece and the courtly tones, pervaded by a graceful sweetness, show Garofalo's knowledge of the painting of Lorenzo Costa, the last exponent of the great Ferrarese painters of the late 1400s who were still active in Ferrara, Bologna and Mantua in the early 1500s. The slow, almost dilated rhythm of the atmosphere can be compared to the manner of Perugino and the experiments of the young Raphael, while in some passages, such as the small scene in the distance and the balustrade that divides the sacred world from the profane, the first contributions of Giorgione's painting can be seen (Pala di Castelfranco).

The work became part of the Uffizi collection in 1921, following its acquisition from the Municipality of Codigoro.


A. M. Fioravanti Baraldi, Il Garofalo. Benvenuto Tisi pittore (c. 1476-1559). Catalogo generale, Rimini 1993; Garofalo. Pittore della Ferrara Estense, a cura di T. Kustodieva, M. Lucco, con la collaborazione di M. Danieli, catalogo della mostra (Ferrara, Castello Estense, 5 aprile-6 luglio 2008), mostra di Ermitage Italia, Milano 2008, pp. 146-147 n. 6; A. Pattanaro, ad vocem “Garofalo”, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Vol. 95 (2019), con bibliografia precedente. https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/tisi-benvenuto-detto-garofalo_%28Dizionario-Biografico%29

Text by
Francesca Passerini
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