MELISSA – Dosso Dossi 1518
The female figure with a turban, who stands out in the painting with her imposing presence and the rich colors of her rope, holds, as well as a torch, a tablet bearing Kabbalistic designs. She has been identified both as Homers sorceress Circe and as Melissa on the basis of a number of stanzas of Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso which describes the liberation of a group of nights, who may be represented in the painting by the embryonic forms hanging on the tree trunks on the left. The canvas, datable to 1518, is one of the paintings sent from Ferrara Cardinal Scipione and is first mentioned as being in the collection by 1615. In addition to enhancing the painting’s refined colors, recent conservation has revealed the presence of various pentimenti (remorses) – on the left side, instead of the present dog and armor, there was a female figure towards which the sorceress was turning her eyes.