(b. ca. 1400, Hungary, d. ca. 1464, Ferrara)

The Muse Thalia

Tempera and oil on poplar, 137 x 82 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

This panel belonged to the cycle depicting the Muses which once adorned the studiolo of the Belfiore Palace in Ferrara. The series was ordered by Lionello d'Este, but brought to completion by his brother Borso d'Este. The decorative scheme included a similar composition depicting an enthroned allegorical figure by Cosmč Tura, now in the National Gallery in London.

The image depicts Thalia not as the patron of comedy but as the muse of growing plants, in reference to the efforts of Duke Borso in the areas of soil improvement and agriculture.

This is the only known and authentic work of a master who came from Pannonia, the Western part of Hungary. From 1415 onward he seems to have worked at Ferrara and is mentioned in the records as Michele Ongaro, one of the court painters of Borso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara. The general style of his work, as well as its strongly graphic character and rich detail, indicate a strong link with the School of Ferrara. The structure and the delicate, enamal-like handling reveal that the painter was an artist of no mean talent.

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