NELLI, Ottaviano
(b. ca. 1370, Gubbio, d. ca. 1444, Gubbio)


Ottaviano di Martino Nelli, Italian painter. His brother Tommaso and his father, Martino Nelli (or Melli), are both documented as painters. His grandfather Mello di Gubbio is undocumented but signed the Virgin and Child in Glory (Gubbio, Museo del Duomo), a panel previously attributed to Guiduccio Palmerucci (active 1315-1349). In 1403 Nelli signed a polyptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints (ex-S Agostino, Pietralunga; Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia), a work that shows the influence both of local stylistic traditions and of Orvietan painting. Later, Nelli was influenced by Sienese and Bolognese painters and, more importantly, by Lombard and Burgundian styles.

Nelli interpreted the decorative, Late Gothic style in a humorous and homely way, showing lively narrative treatment. His rustic figures are painted in bright colours but also have a certain elegance of line. These characteristics are evident in the fresco cycle of the Life of the Virgin (1410-20; Gubbio, San Francesco). He also painted a polyptych (dispersed) of a later date, probably for the same church. This once comprised the Adoration of the Magi (Worcester, Art Museum), St Jerome (Avignon, Musée du Petit Palais), the Circumcision and the Mystic Marriage of St Francis (both Rome, Pinacoteca Vaticana). As well as the important fresco cycle of the Life of the Virgin, dated 1424 and influenced by Gentile da Fabriano, in the chapel of the Palazzo Trinci at Foligno, Nelli executed fresco cycles in Gubbio for Sant'Agostino and San Domenico, while in the Palazzo Beni, Gubbio, he frescoed a secular cycle, including personifications of the Virtues and Vices.

Nelli is also recorded in the Romagna, at Assisi and Fano, and at Urbino, where he is first documented in 1417 and was evidently influenced by the Salimbeni brothers' frescoes in the oratory of San Giovanni Battista (completed 1416).

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.