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Agnolo degli Erri

Emilian, active 1440s - 1497

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The Modenese painter Agnolo degli Erri (sometimes referred to as Angelo), documented from the 1440s to 1497, worked largely in the territory of the Este. Often collaborating with his younger brother, Bartolomeo (fl. c. 1450-1479), and Bartolomeo's son, Pellegrino, Agnolo decorated Estense residences in Modena, Sassuolo, and San Martino in Rio. In 1449 he made miniatures for the Oratorio dell'Ospedale in Modena; he also carried out minor and decorative works for the municipal government there.

Agnolo worked often on religious commissions. In 1463 he designed a pennant with an image of Saint Geminian for the cathedral in Modena. His only documented surviving picture is a polyptych with the Coronation of the Virgin, which includes side panels with saints and a predella with stories from the lives of the saints depicted above. The complex, painted for the confraternity of San Giovanni della Buona Morte, was originally in the Ospedale della Morte in Modena (now Galleria Estense). Agnolo received the first payment for this work in June 1462 and, although Bartolomeo received the final payment in 1466, the surviving panels seem to be by one hand and are usually--and plausibly--ascribed to Agnolo himself.

Artists as diverse as Jacopo Bellini, Cristoforo Lendinara, Domenico Veneziano, and Piero della Francesca have been cited as Agnolo's stylistic sources. Rooted in earlier artistic traditions, his style, which appealed to the relatively provincial tastes of Este-ruled Modena, is more prosaic, direct, and economical in narrative than the complicated mannerisms of his younger contemporaries Cosmè Tura, Francesco del Cossa, and Ercole de' Roberti, whose sophisticated styles flourished in the world of Ferrara itself.

Agnolo's art forms a transition between the Gothic and the more progressive Renaissance style that had been recently introduced into North Italy, flourishing first in Padua, then Ferrara, in the later quattrocento. Agnolo's painted architecture is half Gothic, half classical in vocabulary, his pictorial space evinces knowledge of single-point perspective but appears cramped and cluttered, and his modeling has some of the decorative patterning of International Gothic painting. His style is closer to the late Gothic manner than that of his brother Bartolomeo, to whom most of the surviving pictures from the Erri workshop are usually ascribed. Still, the styles of the two are close, and since they did collaborate, it is often difficult to assign a work confidently to one or the other. The National Gallery of Art's Dominican Preaching, along with the Coronation polyptych in Modena, are among the very few works that have been widely attributed to Agnolo himself. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

Artist Bibliography
[V.A.C.] "Agnolo degli Erri." In Thieme-Becker 1907-1950, 11:14.
Berenson, Bernard. "Nove itture in cerca di un'attribuzione." Dedalo 5 (1925): 601-642, 688-723, 745-775.
Berenson, Bernard. "Nine Pictures in Search of an Attribution." In Three Essays in Method. Oxford, 1927: 1-74.
Venturi, Adolfo. Studi dal vero. Milan, 1927: 137-155.
Ragghianti, Carlo. "Notizie e letture: Sul problema Erri-D. Morone." Critica d'Arte 4, no. 2, section 19 (1939): I-VIII.
Longhi, Roberto. Officina ferrarese (1934), seguíta dagli Ampliamenti (1940) e dai Nuovi ampliamenti (1940-1955). Florence, 1956: 101-102, 169-170, 185.
Benati, Daniele. La bottega degli Erri e la pittura del Rinascimento a Modena. Modena, 1988.
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 255.

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