‘Il Francia’ was the nom de paintbrush of Francesco Raibolini (1450–1517), even though he was born near Bologna. Trained by the elusive Francesco Squarcione he began as a goldsmith, jeweller and maker of medallions, and didn’t paint until he was over 40. He designed the coins minted in Bologna under the Bentivogli an Pope Julius II, and according to some he invented italic type, for the great early printer Aldo Minuzio of Venice. 'Francia' probably comes from his early master at goldsmithing, who really was French and whose nickname he adopted.
Despite the late start Francia soon became the most fashionable painter in the city. Vasari attributes it to
a soft blending of colour, first observable in Francia of Bologna and Pietro Perugino. The people, when they beheld the new and living beauty, ran madly to see it, thinking it would never be possible to improve upon it.
Although his saccharine piety and conventional approach make little impression today, as late as the 19th century Francia's reputation ranked among the greats.
Along with his good friend Lorenzo Costa he was identified with the Bentivoglio family, and many of his works were destroyed after they lost power. He was a follower of Raphael, although the two never met; Vasari's story that he stopped painting and died in despair when Raphael's Ecstasy of Santa Cecilia arrived in Bologna has since been disproved.
Images by: PD Art