COSTA, Lorenzo the Elder
(b. ca. 1460, Ferrara, d. 1535, Mantova)

Giovanni II Bentivoglio and His Family

Oil on canvas
Bentivoglio Chapel, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna

The Bentivoglio family chapel in San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna was restructured and enlarged by Giovanni II Bentivoglio. The remodeled chapel was dedicated in 1499. In November 1506, the papal armies led by Pope Julius II himself, occupied Bologna, and Giovanni II Bentivoglio was excommunicated and imprisoned in the Castello Sforzesco, where he died in 1508. The papal authorities demolished his residences, and the only space that was spared was the Bentivoglio family chapel in San Giacomo Maggiore. It may be that the subject matter of its canvases by Lorenzo Costa the Elder and Francesco Francia, which included a depiction of some of the misfortunes and deaths that had dogged the Bentivoglio, helped to save them.

The paintings in the chapel consist of two allegorical depictions, the Triumph of Fame and the Triumph of Death, and a votive image that is one of the most important visual documents attesting to the family's considerable self-esteem. In it Giovanni II and his wife Ginevra Sforza, his predecessor's widow, kneel in gratitude on either side of an enthroned Madonna. Their numerous daughters and sons are arrayed in the foreground before them.

This painting was commissioned to celebrate the timely discovery of the Malvezzi conspiracy on November 1488, a bit of luck that saved the lives of the Bentivoglio and preserved their rule over the city.

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