National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan Coast Dosso Dossi (artist)
Ferrarese, active 1512 - 1542
Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan Coast, c. 1520
oil on canvas
overall: 58.7 x 87.6 cm (23 1/8 x 34 1/2 in.) framed: 83.2 x 112.7 x 7.9 cm (32 3/4 x 44 3/8 x 3 1/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Giorgione and the High Renaissance in Venice
Object 7 of 7

In a set of paintings made for Duke Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara, Dosso illustrated Virgil’s Aeneid. The scenes were installed friezelike on the walls of Alfonso’s private study, the camerino d’alabastro, where Bellini’s Feast of the Gods also hung.

This painting is from that set and is usually thought to illustrate the moment when the luckless Trojans rebuild their wrecked ships after storms, unleashed at the bidding of the goddess Juno, drove them to the coast of Africa. Walking along the beach with Carthage in the distance, Aeneas tells his friend Achates, “Sorrow is implicit in the affairs of men. . . .” (The painting, however, has been cut down and perhaps no longer includes the figure of Aeneas. The two conversants at the right seem too old for the young Aeneas and Achates.) Dosso imparted a sense of immediacy to the ancient literary subject by clothing the Trojans in the latest Italian fashions and by giving them ships of the kind that were then exploring the New World.

Little is known about Dosso’s early career. Possibly he was a native of Ferrara, where he became court painter to the powerful Este family. Although his painting style shows influences from Venice and Rome, his work is strongly original, with feathery landscapes and scenes of everyday life tinged with whimsy. Quick brushwork, intense colors, and strong patterns of light give them unusual vitality.

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