Painting, executed in tempera on linen, 115 × 52 cm (laid down onto canvas).
The size, shape and medium of this painting indicate that it is a fragment of a banner or telero ritagliato which would have been carried in procession on certain feast days. Originally a triptych, with a representation of the Virgin in the centre (the fabric of her cloak is visible along the left edge of our painting), the banner was cut at an early date and two pieces of almost equal size (115 × 52 cm, 113.5 × 47 cm) are known to survive. Our fragment shows Saint Michael standing over the devil and in the act of weighing souls; the other depicts Saint John the Baptist (Pinacoteca di Ferrara, deposited by Fondazione Carife / Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara). The two fragments are documented as works of Francesco del Cossa (1435/6-circa 1477) in inventories and catalogues of the Costabili collection (1835-1841). The first to express doubts was Nino Barbantini, in 1933, followed by Roberto Longhi, in 1934, who sustained the Ferrarese origins of the artist while discounting any relation to Cossa. The question of authorship continues to attract a variety of suggestions: the Veronese artist Francesco dai Libri (proposed by Vittorio Sgarbi, in publications of 1982-1983; rejected by Sergio Marinelli, in 1990); and Domenico Panetti (proposed by Federico Zeri; cf. Università di Bologna, Fondazione Zeri, Fototeca, scheda 38391).