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Getty Museum Acquires Renaissance Painting by Dosso Dossi

January 15, 1999

Los Angeles, CA-The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today its acquisition of Saint George, a rare early painting by Dosso Dossi (Italian, about 1486-1542), one of the most original artists of the Renaissance.

The subject is the legendary Christian warrior best known for slaying a dragon to save a princess. The artist painted the armored saint half-length, with the dragon’s head seen before him as a trophy and the lance broken in the fierce fight. The victorious saint, his long hair disheveled, emerges from the darkness as a rainbow appears above. In the upper left under a soft light a landscape is seen in the distance. The work conveys remarkable psychological depth, showing the warrior just at the moment when he realizes that his victory has been won.

Saint George was completed about 1513-15. It was painted on wood panel and measures 27-1/2 x 24 inches. It was acquired through private sale.

Deborah Gribbon, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum, said: "Dosso Dossi was a young artist just coming into his own when he made this picture. It depicts the patron saint of Ferrara, one of the 16th century’s major centers of Italian art and culture, where Dosso Dossi had come to make his name. Although he is not as well known to modern viewers as Giorgione, Michelangelo and Raphael, Dosso was influenced by their achievements and developed into one of the most idiosyncratic and brilliant artists of the Italian Renaissance. This is the first painting in which Dosso realized the haunting power of a figure gazing out toward the viewer."

Born Giovanni Francesco di Niccolò de Lutero, Dosso Dossi learned to paint around 1500 in the stimulating atmosphere of Venice. There he fell under the spell of Giorgione, whose romantic works taught the younger artist to subordinate subject matter to the evocation of mood and to use landscape as a primary vehicle for expression.

Saint George was completed just after Dosso’s move to Ferrara, where he would become famous as court painter to Dukes Alfonso I d’Este (reigned 1505-34) and his son Ercole II (reigned 1534-59). Encouraged by the culture of pleasure cultivated by the d’Este court, Dosso emerged as one of the most important painters of his generation, using a distinctive impressionistic technique and lyric color to evoke mood. When the city’s fortunes changed at the end of the 16th century, most of Dosso’s paintings were taken to Rome and ultimately dispersed.

Saint George is the third painting by Dosso Dossi to enter the collection of the Getty Museum, which now has one of the foremost collections of the artist’s work in the world. The painting joins the powerful figural composition Allegory of Fortune (around 1529-32) and the lyrical Mythological Scene (around 1535-38).

These three Getty paintings are among the some 60 works featured in Dosso Dossi: Court Painter of Renaissance Ferrara, the international traveling exhibition that is just opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (through March 28, 1999). The exhibition then comes to the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, where it can be seen from April 27 through July 11, 1999. After the exhibition closes, Saint George and the other Dosso Dossi paintings in the Museum’s collection will be placed on permanent view in the 16th-century Renaissance paintings galleries, where they will be seen with other works in the collection by Italian masters.

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