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in Medieval European Paintings
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Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules), fragment
c. 1535
Oil on canvas, 143 x 144 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

by DOSSI, Dosso
(b. ca. 1490, Ferrara, d. 1542, Ferrara)



The official painter of the Este court, Dossi painted the family portraits, filled castles with paintings and frescoed villas. This routine, which for other painters might have seemed mortifying, did nothing to extinguish the vivacious and brilliant vein of the artist. Dossi is always consistent. He flushes the flesh tones of his characters with orangy, reddish colours, he places them in risquй situations, with bare-chested women in convivial surroundings and almost obscene merrymaking men with such highly characterized faces that they are almost caricatures. The faces of the women and that of the faun are drawn directly from a cultured classical tradition which is inserted into the Mannerist context. The other characters, emerging from a humid, obscure background, are anything but stereotypes: healthy faces reddened by feasting, grimaces, a variety of attitudes. The only note of light - quite unreal - which stands out from the prevalently ruddy tones, falls directly onto the breasts of the woman holding a bowl of fruit.