Overview

The obscure iconography of Dosso's canvas has caused much speculation. In the past it has been titled simply Scene from a Legend and, more often, Departure of the Argonauts. The present title refers instead to an event in Virgil's Aeneid. Designed to celebrate the origin and growth of the Roman Empire, the Aeneid tells the story of Aeneas, who after the fall of Troy and seven years wandering, founded a settlement on the Italian peninsula, establishing the Roman state. The story of Aeneas and Achates is taken from Book I of the Aeneid, where Aeneas and his faithful companion Achates, their journey just begun, take refuge on the Libyan coast after their ships are wrecked in a storm.

Two other surviving scenes from the Aeneid by Dosso have been located, one in England, the other in Canada, and along with the Washington canvas have been identified as part of a frieze of ten pictures painted by the artist for the camerino, or study of Alfonso d'Este in his castle at Ferrara. Dosso Dossi was greatly influenced by Venetian art, especially the use of color and treatment of landscape as seen in works by Titian and Giorgione. He was perhaps best known in his time for soft, feathery landscapes and scenes of everyday life that are nevertheless infused with a touch of fantasy.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Commissioned by Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, Castello, Ferrara, by c. 1521; by inheritance through the Este Collection, in Camerino d'Alabastro, until 1608; Borghese collection, Rome, until at least 1693. (Kunsthandel A.G., Lucerne); sold 1926 to (Julius Böhler, Munich and Luzerne).[1] (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi [1878-1955], Florence and Rome, from the early 1920s); sold 1936 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[2] gift 1939 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1933
Pitture Ferrarese del Rinascimento, Ferrara, 1933, no. 198, repro.
1939
Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, 1939, no. 83, as Departure of the Argonauts, repro.
1996
Obras Maestras de la National Gallery of Art de Washington, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, 1996-1997, unnumbered catalogue, 58-59, color repro.
1998
Dosso Dossi: Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara, Exhibit Halls, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1998-1999, no. 19, repro.

Bibliography

1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 58, no. 361, as Scene from a Legend.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 246, repro., as Scene from a Legend.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 169, repro., as Scene from a Legend.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 43, as Scene from a Legend.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 36, repro., as Scene from a Legend.
1968
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV-XVI Century. London, 1968: 73-74, fig. 183.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 110, repro.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:164-166, II:pl. 115
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 133, repro.
1990
Bull, David. "Introduction." Studies in the History of Art 40 (1990): 11, 15, repro. no. 8.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 33, repro.

Technical Summary

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