Trial of Saint Maurilius

Cosmè Tura

Ferrara, c.1430 – 1495


Oil on wooden panel, 48cm diameter

The two tondi depicting the Trial and Martyrdom of Saint Maurilius originally came from the Church of San Giorgio (Ferrara’s first cathedral) and were brought to the Pinacoteca thanks to an arrangement made between Filippo Zafferini and the City Council of Ferrara in 1817. These two panels were part of a polyptych portraying the life of Maurilius for the Saint’s altar. According to legend, Maurilius was the first bishop of Ferrara in the seventh century. He was then martyred in his birthplace (Edessa, Mesopotamia) by his tyrant brother who had repudiated Christianity.

As the Prior of the Olivetan monastery at San Giorgio who in 1479 spearheaded the church’s refurbishment, Nicolò Roverella is likely to have commissioned this polyptych. The surviving tondi may be dated to around 1480 during the mature period of the artist’s career as indicated by greater compositional balance and a far less frenzied narrative tone compared to his early style, visible on the painted organ shutters Cosmè  painted for the Cathedral of San Giorgio. The arrangement of the scenes and the poses assumed by the figures were both drawn from the Stories of St. James frescoes by Mantegna in the Ovetari Chapel, Padua.