MELISSA – Dosso Dossi 1518
Giovanni di Niccolò Luteri, known as Dosso Dossi, was the main artist active in the early sixteenth century at the Este court in Ferrara, a city in the north-east of Italy. He was the interpreter of the fantastic and evocative evocations of the same age Ludovico Ariosto, poet and playwright, author of the Orlando Furioso.
This painting is part of the works sent by Ferrara to the cardinal collector Scipione Borghese, creator of the Borghese Gallery.
The protagonist of the work is a female figure with a turban on her head, dressed in a richly decorated dress and with a torch in her left hand and a tablet with kabbalistic characters in the right one. The woman was interpreted as the sorceress Circe of Homer, or as Melissa, a charitable sorceress sung by Ariosto in the Orlando Furioso.
The description of the work
The sorceress is immersed in a lush landscape with architectural elements of a city, sitting inside a magic circle, traced during the spell she is working on. To his right you see a shining armor, a dog and some birds, animals that often accompany sorceresses and sorceresses. Hanging from a tree, at the top left, we see a small group of warriors reduced to puppets and which are perhaps the symbol of imprisoned souls. Finally, in the background, the artist has created some young people who are a reference to the group present in the country concert of Giorgione or Titian. The whole landscape is a clear reference to the unforgettable lesson of Giorgione, where Dosso Dossi spent a decisive phase in his training.
The last restoration, in addition to highlighting the refined colors of the canvas, highlighted several of the artist’s repentance. On the left side of the painting, instead of the dog and the armor, there was a standing male figure, to which the sorceress looked.
Dosso Dossi with this work shows its great stylistic versatility, taking care of various effects of consistency of materials. From the rendering of the brilliant armor, to the precision in the details of the very rich brocade of the Maga dress.
Details, shades and symbols
The artist in this painting manages to combine the colors and luminous atmospheres typical of Venetian art, with the continuous search for esoteric and literary ideas that the painters of the Ferrara school used to use in their works.
I therefore invite you to grasp all the details, colors, nuances and symbols that transport us to a world of magicians and knights.