• Beyond the Canvas

Overlooked and underrated: Bologna's Renaissance.

Eclipsed by Ferrara's and crushed between Venice's and Florence's, Bologna's Renaissance art fails to garner the attention and appreciation it deserves. With one of the largest and best-preserved city centres in Europe and its 62 km of porticoes (recognised by UNESCO in 2021), the city has more of a medieval identity. This, however, doesn't mean the Bolognese school did not produce some truly remarkable work.


Take, for example, Francesco Francia. A painter at the court of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, he is little known, but the elegance of his art is second to none. His style combines an interest in impeccable perspective with influences from the typical contemplative harmony of Perugino (Raphael's master). The Felicini Altarpiece is perhaps his most beautiful and intense masterpiece. It is a "sacred conversation", a genre developed in the 15th century where a number of saints are grouped in a unified space around the Virgin (usually enthroned) and Child in a single panel. Although the saints are not really engaged in actual conversation between them, the departure from the more rigorous compositions of the polyptics creates a sense of spiritual connection and intimacy as they huddle around the focal point.


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Francesco Francia

Felicini Altarpiece, c. 1490

Pinacoteca di Bologna

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