By Costanza Beltrami

Painter and illuminator Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis is mentioned for the last time in a document of 23 October 1508, suggesting he died shortly after this date.

Giovanni had begun his career as a manuscript painter in the workshop of his brother Cristoforo. He then became a painter at the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan, where he realized successful portraits of members of the Sforza family.

As a court artist, he gave hospitality to Leonardo da Vinci when he arrived in the city in 1483. Leonardo, Giovanni and his brother Evangelista de Predis collaborated on an altarpiece for the Milanese church of San Francesco Grande: Leonardo painted the famous Virgin of the Rocks for the central panel, whilst Giovanni painted one of the music-making angels in the side panels.

In 1493, Giovanni followed the Sforza princess Bianca Maria to Innsbruck, where she had been married by proxy with the German Emperor Maximilan I. Here he realized portraits for the German court and worked at the Imperial mint.

As he was returning to Milan, the painter fell ill, but was saved by Ludovico Sforza’s personal physician, a sign of the affection the Sforza had for him and of his status at the Milanese court.

In the following years, he was commissioned two portraits in profile of Ludovico Sforza, and his son Maximillian. He continued to receive commissions from the Imperial court in Germany, including his only surviving signed and dated work, the portrait of Emperor Maximilian. The archaic style of this profile contrasts with Giovanni’s other works, where he introduced a greater liveliness and naturalism in response to Leonardo’s innovations.

Reference: Enrica Banti. “Predis, de.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press,

Girl with Cherries, ca. 1491-95, oil on wood. New York: Metropolitan Museum, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1890.

Ambrogio de Predis or Marco d’Oggiono, Portrait of a Man aged 20 (‘The Archinto Portrait’), 1494, oil on panel. London: The National Gallery.

Bianca Maria Sforza, c. 1493, oil on wood. Washington D. C.: National Gallery of Art.

Ambrogio de Predis or Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of a Musician, 1490, oil on wood. Milan: Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, 1502, oil on wood. Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum.

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