The State Hermitage Museum announces the first exhibition, organized in collaboration with The Hermitage-Italia Foundation – the Italian branch of the State Hermitage Museum, established in Ferrara on 20 October, 2007, as an important Italian-Russian Research centre: “Garofalo – the painter at Ferrara of D’Este”. The exhibition is dedicated to Benvenuto Tisi, called Garofalo, one of the leading artists in the 16th-century figurative art of Ferrara.
The State Hermitage Museum has an important collection of Garofalo’s paintings. The first monographic exhibition on the Ferrara artist, staged in the splendid rooms of the D’Este Castle from the 5th April to the 6th July, 2008, is curated by Dr. Tatiana Kustodieva, The State Hermitage Museum, and Prof.Mauro Lucco, Italy, in collaboration with Dr.Michele Danieli, Italy.
This exhibition is contributed by Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum, President of the Scientific Committee of the Hermitage-Italia Foundation, and Dr.Irina Artemieva, curator of The State Hermitage Museum the Scientific Director of the Hermitage-Italia, and her Italian colleague Prof.Francesca Cappelletti.
Benvenuto Tisi, called Garofalo after his family’s hometown, which was part of the D’Este Duchy at the time, was probably born in Ferrara in 1481 to Pietro Tisi and Antonia Barbiani.
Furthermore, following his apprenticeship at the workshop of Domenico Panetti, a typical representative of the pietistic pictorial trend that developed under Ercole I d’Este, in 1497 Garofalo’s father sent him to work as an apprentice with Boccaccio Boccaccino (in Ferrara from 1497 to 1500) to teach him the art of painting for a three-year period: “effectively a fosterage contract” that – as Pattanaro and Danieli point out – would be more likely for a boy of 16 than a 21-year-old man.
Garofalo’s work was influenced by the art of Lorenzo Costa who, despite the fact that he moved to Bologna, continued to maintain ties with his hometown of Ferrara. The painter may have encountered the master again when he accompanied his patron Antonio Costabili to Mantua, where Costa had replaced Mantegna as the court painter in 1506.
The powerful influence of Mantegna’s works are evident in the classical style of the frescoes executed by Garofalo in Palazzo Costabili in Ferrara in approximately 1506, in which he painted an oculus similar to Mantegna’s in the Camera degli Sposi in Mantua, the city ruled by the Gonzagas.
At a very early stage in his career Garofalo acquired the concepts of colour and landscape distinctive of the Veneto artists and particularly Giorgione, who – according to Vasari – befriended him. Although this is not confirmed by other sources, critics agree that Garofalo travelled to the Venetian Lagoon in approximately 1508, a journey that enriched his knowledge and figurative language. Indeed, Longhi acknowledged that “he was probably the first to take some of the sparks of Giorgione’s fire and bring them to Ferrara”.
Most critics disagree with Vasari’s observation in Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects that Garofalo made his first trip to Rome in 1500. Likewise, there are perplexities concerning a second trip to the city, in 1505, where – again according to Vasari – he admired “the wonders of Raphael of Urbino and the chapel of Julius, painted by Buonarroto”. In fact, that year Raphael was in Florence and had not yet started his work for the Pope, whereas Michelangelo was working on the project for the mausoleum of Julius II and fled to Florence in 1507 following a dispute with the pontiff.
The most recent studies thus indicate that the Ferrara artist was in Rome in 1513–14, based above all on several of his paintings predating 1515 that show evident stylistic influences attributable to Roman classicism and the works of Raphael, such as the Suxena Altarpiece, painted by Garofalo in December 1514 for the church of Santo Spirito in Ferrara.
Garofalo married late, in 1529 or 1530. There is solid documentation that he was still single in 1528, the year his first will was drawn up, but his eldest daughter was born in 1531. Consequently, his marriage to Caterina Scoperti, the widow of Nicolo Besuzzi, must date to this period.
Garofalo was especially devoted to St Bernardino and around 1531 he began to work for the Ferrara convent dedicated to the saint, to which he left an annuity in his third will. Unfortunately, the monastery’s artistic legacy was gradually lost and the paintings now belong to various collections, but many of them have been loaned for this exhibition.
The enormous wealth of Garofalo’s artistic production bears witness to his fame not only in religious circles – the artist’s works decorate most of Ferrara’s churches – but also among the city aristocracy and the court.
He also worked for the duke on other occasions: at the Delizia della Montagnola near San Giorgio in Ferrara (1541) and at the castle, for which Vasari cites The Calumny of Apelles and The Triumph of Bacchus, painted in 1543 and praised by Pope Paul III.
However, careful examination of documentation for this exhibition does not seem to confirm his involvement in the work at the Este palace of Copparo (1542) or the decoration of the new rooms in the Torre Marchesana in the Este Castle (1541).
It is likely that Garofalo had a large number of pupils, including Girolamo da Carpi, who was an apprentice at his workshop and worked with him on several projects in Ferrara in the period of 1530–40.
He died on 6 September 1559 and was buried in the church of Santa Maria in Vado, next to his wife, who had died several years earlier. The funeral lasted three days.
In 1829 his remains were transferred to the cemetery of the Carthusian Monastery of Ferrara, where a monument by the sculptor Angelo Conti was dedicated to him in the Cella of Illustrious Men in 1841.