Pesaro altarpiece

(1470s; Pesaro, Museo Civico)
   Commissioned from Giovanni Bellini by Costanzo Sforza, Lord of Pesaro, for the local Church of San Francesco, the work depicts the Coronation of the Virgin with saints. The throne on which the Virgin and Christ sit is of the type rendered by Andrea Mantegna, Bellini's brother-in-law, reliant on a classical vocabulary. Bellini's includes reliefs and cosmatesque marble inlays with the figures silhouetted against a landscape seen through its back opening that features Costanzo's fortress of Gradara, part of his dominion since 1463. With this, the coronation is situated not in heaven as is customary, but on Pesaro's lands to denote that the region is blessed with divine favor. This message is made more poignant by the bursting vision of the Holy Dove on the top center. Mantegna's influence is also felt in the solidity of the figures, the crisp rendition of draperies, the bright colors, and the diagonal positioning of the saints to enhance the sense of depth. These and the saints along the left and right sides of the frame are of significance to the church and its patron. Among them are Francis, chosen because the altarpiece was rendered for a Franciscan church, Terence, patron saint of Pesaro, Paul, and George. Narratives from the lives of these saints are included in thepredella. So, for example, Terence is shown holding up a model of the fortress of Gradara, St. George slays the dragon, and St. Paul experiences the vision that caused his conversion. Originally, the altarpiece was surmounted by a Pietá, now in the Vatican Museum. The details of the commission are not well known, though clearly the work was meant not only as religious celebration of Catholic doctrines but also as glorification of Costanzo Sforza's rulership.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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