COSSA, FRANCESCO DEL (c. Italian painter, born in Ferrara, a leading master of the Ferrarese school during the middle of the 5th century, and the founder of the old Bolognese school of painting. His name first occurs in 1456 in a contract, by which he undertook to decorate the wall around the high altar of the cathedral of Ferrara with a representation of the "Pieta" and with paintings imitating marble. This document was signed by his father Cristofano, who was a builder. Cossa's chief works at Ferrara were frescoes painted in the Palazzo Schifanoia, a summer residence of Borso d'Este. They form part of a series intended to represent the blissful state of a country ruled by a benevolent sovereign. In three superimposed zones, which origi nally went all round the chief hall of the palace, these frescoes set forth the twelve months, figured in signs of the zodiac and allegorical figures, and illustrated in the occupations of men and women, with scenes from the daily life of Borso, in which he is glorified as the ideal ruler of his people. The whole scheme was evidently devised by one of the humanists of the court, probably by Pellegrino Prisciano, astrologer and poet. When first recov ered from under whitewash in 184o the frescoes were attributed to Cosimo Tura, Cossa's contemporary, with whom he exhibits affin ities of style. The frescoes on one of the- walls are now given to Cossa, for authentic proof was found in a letter addressed to Duke Borso by the artist stating that he painted the three fields representing March, April and May, that is the whole eastern wall, and complaining of the inadequate payment received. The letter is dated March 25, 147o, and as Borso's answer was in effect that he must be contented with the tariff fixed, it may be assumed that he left Ferrara for Bologna soon after. Here he found employment under the Bentivoglios. In 1472 he was asked to restore a miraculous Madonna fresco (by Lippo Dalmasio?) in the church of Madonna del Baraccano. The most noteworthy production of Cossa at Bologna and in many respects his most important work is the altar-piece painted in 1474 by order of Domenico de Amorini and Alberti de Catanei for the Mercanzea. This picture is now in the Pinacoteca at Bologna. It represents the Virgin and Child Enthroned with two saints and a Portrait of a Donor. It is a balanced composition, stately and austere. The tendency is realistic, the types are somewhat grim, the forms are searchingly defined, and the modelling is plastic, relief being ob tained by light and shade and the play of reflections. The folds of drapery are heavy and tortuous; the colour of the Corte Vecchia and Sant Agostino is strong and fine.
Besides the pictures mentioned above the following are gen erally recognized as works of Cossa. The National Gallery, Lon don, possesses the centre panel of an altar-piece representing "Vin cent Ferrer," a Dominican saint, of which the wings, with "St. Peter" and "John the Baptist," are in the Brera at Milan; and the predella, representing the miracles of the saint, is in the Vati can Gallery. The Dresden Gallery has an "Annunciation," the Metropolitan Museum, the "Profile of a Boy," formerly in the Drury Lowe Collection; the Berlin Museum, "Allegory of Au tumn"; the Budapest Gallery, "Two Angels," wings of an organ.
In the entrance wall of San Giovanni in Monte at Bologna is a circular window with a representation of St. John at Patmos, bearing Cossa's signature; and in the south aisle of the same church a window with the Virgin and Child with angels also by Cossa.