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

Battista Fiera

Oil on wood, 51 x 39 cm
National Gallery, London

The sitter of this portrait is identified by an inscription on the back as Battista Fiera (c. 1465.1538), a physician, poet, and philosopher, native of Mantua. After studying medicine and logic in Pavia, Fiera spent several years, where he belonged to the humanist circle around Pomponio Leto. His chief work, the Coena, is a series of Latin epigrams on foodstuffs and their medicinal properties.

Costa's portrait of Fiera is his finest, and its immediacy and vitality make it one of the most unusual examples from the early sixteenth century. In concept it is patterned after Venetian prototypes by Antonello da Messina, Giovanni Bellini, and Alvise Vivarini. However, here Costa used an unusual, carefully balanced perspective to create the impression of lifelike, spontaneous movement.

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