In the 15th and 16th centuries, the court of Ferrara in northern Italy, presided over by a series of Este dukes and renowned for its splendor, was one of the leading centers of Renaissance art and learning. Dosso Dossi (c. 1486-1542) was the greatest and most imaginative of the city's painters. As the principal court artist to dukes Alphonso I and Ercole II for 30 years, Dosso was responsible for a variety of artistic endeavors. When he and his assistants weren't painting huge wall frescoes or grand altarpieces, they were turning out individual canvases, gilding the palace's elaborate woodwork, decorating the ducal coaches or designing theater sets, tapestries, banners and flags. But with the papal takeover of Ferrara in 1598, Dosso's works were dispersed, and by the middle of the 19th century he had descended into obscurity.
Now a major exhibition of some 50 of his paintings from exquisite small devotional works to grand, often mysterious allegories and insightful portraits brings the poetic sensibility, eccentric vision and exuberant individuality of this engaging artist to light. Organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a cluster of Italy's regional cultural authorities, the show, which will be at the Met January 14 to March 28 and then travels to the Getty (April 27 through July 11), offers a unique opportunity to experience the full scope of Dosso's work.