Ippolito Costa - 60
The Virgin and Child enthroned surmounted by a baldachin are depicted in the painting. A cloth of green satin hangs behind the Virgin. Lower down, in a position of greater importance, to the right of the Virgin, Saint Laurence is portrayed with the gridiron, the instrument of his martyrdom. He kneels with clasped hands, in the act of adoring the infant Jesus, who looks at him and blesses him. Saint Joseph can be recognised behind Laurence with his bearded face and yellow cloak, leaning on a stick. Louis of Toulouse stands on the right, the saint of royal heritage who lived in the 13th century. He renounced the throne of Naples in favour of his brother Robert, and entered the Franciscan order. An inscription on the steps of the throne recalls that a certain Benedetta Gonzaga commissioned this altarpiece in 1531, in honour of Saint Laurence.
The canvas was one of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli’s first acquisitions. We know that it came from Mantua, but unfortunately not from which church: probably a church of the Franciscan order, given the presence of Saint Louis of Toulouse.
Ippolito Costa spent all his life in Mantua. He was the son and pupil of Lorenzo Costa the Elder and between 1529 and 1539 was in the Gonzaga’s pay as court painter. The Poldi Pezzoli altarpiece, being accurately dated, represents a fundamental work for shedding light on his youthful work. As well as a certain dependence on his father’s later works, it shows a strong classicism of Emilian inspiration and the influence of early 16th-century Ferrara painting, in particular that of Girolamo da Carpi, recorded as his master by antique sources.