(b. 1395, Pisa, d. 1455, Roma)

Portrait of Leonello d’Este

c. 1444
Tempera on wood, 26 x 18 cm
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

The first half of the fifteenth century saw the growth and development of portraiture as a genre. Among the artists who practiced portraiture were Jacopo Bellini, Masaccio, Domenico Veneziano, and Pisanello. Pisanello depicts his patron Leonello d'Este, Lord of Ferrara, in profile, giving a characteristic view of the sitter. Pisanello's style was very well suited for this northern Italian court.

Leonello d'Este (died 1450) was born into one of the oldest families whose origins date back to the time of Charlemagne in the early 9th century when they settled in Lombardy. The area controlled by the Este family had grown from century to century. They were Lords of Ferrara and its hinterland (Modena and Reggio). In the Quattrocento they earned a reputation as important patrons of the arts and sciences.

This painting has been associated with the 1441 competition held between Jacopo Bellini and Pisanello to paint Leonello's likeness. However, recent research makes it unlikely and dates the painting somewhat later, c. 1444.

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