Federigo da Montefeltro, patron of the (Not Terribly Good) artist, Justus of Ghent (Joos van Wassenhove)

Giusto di Gand: Communione degli Apostoli

Justus of Ghent/Giusto di Gand: Communion of the Apostles

Well, come on, let’s face it, he’s not terribly good, is he? What did Federigo see in him? This is the ruler, the courtyard of whose palace creates a deep feeling of inner peace amid the summer heat and crowds, the ruler who liked Piero della Francesca‘s calm, remote, contemplative, technically skilled paintings with their mastery of perspective, on which Piero was proud to be an expert.

So why go for Justus when there were loads of good painters around? Paolo Uccello painted the predella (The Miracle of the Desecrated Host, actually a bit weird and very unpleasant to modern taste) of the picture above, and Alessandro Sforza of Pesaro commissioned the Pesaro Altarpiece (The Coronation of the Virgin) from Giovanni Bellini in the 1470s. Cardinal Girolamo della Rovere commissioned Melozzo da Forli (whom Giovanni Santi admired) and Luca Signorelli to paint frescoes in the great new church at Loreto, also in the 1470s when Federigo was still alive.

There are various dates for the Communion of the Apostles, but it could certainly have been painted when the above artists were active in the Marches. Even dear old Mr Santi was a lot better than Justus, though that wouldn’t be difficult. Vespasiano da Bisticci, Federigo’s biographer, writes that he chose Justus because he (Justus) knew how to colorire in oils. Really? If you look Justus up on the Web, you will find his Adoration of the Magi (painted before he went to Italy) at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and this is what they say:” The gouache-like medium [distemper] applied to a relatively porous support [canvas] accounts for the picture’s subdued tonality and matte surface.” In other words, the paint has soaked into the canvas. How could Vespasiano and Federigo think Justus knew how to colorire? This altarpiece was actually commissioned by Federigo for the confraternity of  “Corpus Domini”. Perhaps he thought it was good enough for them. According to Alison Cole’s Art of the Italian  Renaissance Courts (Weidenfeld, 1995 ), “Santi was asked to find a painter to complete an altarpiece [Uccello had already done the predella] for the … confraternity … in the event, Justus of Ghent painted the main panel …”. Santi had originally invited Piero in the hope that he would paint the main panel. Was Santi a bit desperate, or is Lina right and am I being unfair?

About An Englishwoman in Italy

I have a holiday home in Corinaldo in the province of Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. I have been going there since 1993 and would like to share my love and experience of the area. I speak Italian. Ho una casa di villeggiatura a Corinaldo nella provincia di Ancona, Regione Marche. Frequento Corinaldo da 1993 e desidero condividere i miei affetto e esperienza della zona con gli altri. Gli italiani sono sinceramente invitati a correggere gli sbagli.
This entry was posted in Churches, Frescoes, Giovanni Santi, Hill towns, History of Art, Museum, Religious art, Renaissance, Renaissance paintings, Urbino and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Federigo da Montefeltro, patron of the (Not Terribly Good) artist, Justus of Ghent (Joos van Wassenhove)

  1. Lina says:

    If nobody else likes it I’m sure I could find a little niche for it somewhere in my new house. Particularly like the pose of Jesus: humble, beneficent, with the leaning head, giving of his own body, foretelling the crucifixion. Perhaps Federigo himself is among the faces in that busy background, looking flatteringly handsome; reason enough for him. Or perhaps he got a competitive price.


    • alysb says:

      Federigo is on the right wearing a red hat – you can tell him by his broken nose. He is talking to the envoy from Persia, wearing the turban, and poor doomed Battista is lurking in the background with poor doomed Guidobaldo in her arms. I see what you mean about Jesus’ expression, but I find the proportions of the bodies definitely strange!


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