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The Courts of Northern Italy

Map showing the territories of the northern Italian courts

The courts of Northern Italy ©

Until 1870, Italy was divided into numerous independent territories. In the early 1500s, the northern Italian city-states of Ferrara, Bologna, Mantua and Parma shared close ties through marriage, military alliances and trade.

The ruling family of Ferrara, the Este, cultivated humanist learning and commissioned elaborate decorative schemes. The Bentivoglio family dominated political and artistic life in the city of Bologna. The Gonzaga of Mantua were prolific patrons and amassed one of the greatest art collections in Europe, later acquired by Charles I. Giulio Romano worked as an architect and designer for Federico Gonzaga (ruled 1519-40), most notably remodelling his pleasure palace, the Palazzo Tè, and creating a series of state apartments in the Palazzo Ducale.

In the early sixteenth century, Parma became part of the Papal States and experienced a cultural revival. Correggio spent most of his career in Parma and his style created a new dramatic and emotional intensity that foreshadowed the expressive achievements of Baroque art. Parmigianino refined Correggio's illusionistic effects and promoted an even more sophisticated and elegant style.

Lorenzo Costa (1460-1535)

Portrait of a Lady with a Lapdog

Ludovico Mazzolino (c.1480-c. 1528)

Warriors (a fragment)

Dosso Dossi (c. 1490-1542)

The Holy Family

Benvenuto di Pietro Tisi, called Garofalo (1476-Ferrara 1559)

The Holy Family

Antonio Allegri Correggio (1489?-1534)

The Holy Family with Saint Jerome

Antonio Allegri Correggio (1489?-1534)

Saint Catherine Reading

Parmigianino (Parma 1503-Casalmaggiore 1540)

Portrait of a Young Nobleman

Parmigianino (Parma 1503-Casalmaggiore 1540)

Pallas Athena

Giulio Romano (Rome c. 1499-Mantua 1546)

Portrait of Margherita Paleologo

Giulio Romano (Rome c. 1499-Mantua 1546)

The Triumphal Feast of Scipio

Michelangelo Anselmi (c. 1492-1556) (Previously attributed in Popham and Wilde to School of Parma 'very near in style to Correggio...and reminiscent of a young Anselmi and the young Parmigianino, but I would hestitate to attribute it to either.')

Recto: St Anselm appearing to the Abbot Helsin. Verso: An inscription describing a miracle

Nicolò dell'Abate (Modena c. 1509/12-Fontainebleau 1571)

A scene from Orlando innamorato

Giulio Campi (1502-72)

The Raising of Lazarus

Prospero Fontana (1512-97)

Virtue subduing Fortune

Giovanni Battista Castello (Il Bergamasco, c. 1510-69)


Lelio Orsi (c. 1511-87)

A crossbowman

Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529-1592)

The Funeral of the Virgin

Federico Barocci (Urbino c. 1535-Urbino 1612)

The Calling of St Andrew

Federico Barocci (Urbino c. 1535-Urbino 1612)

The head of an old man

Giovanni Battista Trotti (1555-1619)

The Assumption of the Virgin

Camillo Procaccini (1551-1629)

An old man and a youth