BEMBO, Benedetto
(active 1462-1489 in Cremona)


Italian painter, part of a family of artists, brother of Bonifazio Bembo. Apart from the records of his presence in Cremona in 1464, 1478 and 1489, nothing is known about Benedetto Bembo's life. His major work is the large polyptych of the Virgin and Child between Sts Anthony Abbot, Nicodemus, Catherine of Alexandria and Peter Martyr (Milan, Castello Sforzesco) executed for the chapel of St Nicodemus in the Castello Rossi of Torrechiara, near Parma. It is inscribed Benedictus Bembus ediit MCCCCLXII Mensis Mai and has half-length busts of the Apostles in the predella panel below. The altarpiece is an elaborately carved, old-fashioned gold-backed polyptych. The figures are squat and heavy and Benedetto used layers of glaze to create wrinkled skin textures and drapery folds in a manner typical of Ferrarese painters. The large, heavy-lidded, almost squashed features reappear constantly throughout Benedetto's work. The Torrechiara Polyptych is very different from the earlier Cremonese style as represented by the Cavalcabo Chapel, but a fresco cycle in a small chapel in Monticelli d'Ongina, outside Cremona, which freely copies the figures of the four Evangelists in the Cavalcabo Chapel vault, has been convincingly attributed to Benedetto, along with the frescoes in and around the apse. The figure of the Virgin ascending into heaven on the far wall by the apse is comparable with the Torrechiara Virgin. The scenes from the Life of St Bassiano by the entrance are probably by an assistant.

The Golden Room in the Castello di Torrechiara (Emilia-Romagna) was decorated by Benedetto Bembo. This is one of the few secular rooms dating from the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance still preserved relatively intact. The subject matter of its paintings is based on an actual love affair, that of Pier Maria Rossi and Bianca Pellegrini.

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