Painter of the school of Ferrara-Bologna, notable as one of the first Ferrarese artists to adopt a soft, atmospheric style of painting.
Costa was trained at Ferrara, probably under Cosm Tura,
who was the first important native-born Ferrarese painter. From at least 1485 he worked at Bologna in close connection with Francia,
the major Bolognese artist of the period, who led him to soften his style and eliminate his native robustness. His best works are several altarpieces in the churches of Bologna.
In 1506, soon after the expulsion of the ruling Bentivoglio family from Bologna, he was summoned as court painter to Mantua to succeed Andrea Mantegna.
He had already painted (1504-06) one elaborate allegory for the Marchesa of Mantua.
He was the leading artist in Mantua until the arrival of Giulio Romano
in 1524, but little of his large-scale work survives. His mature style is often rather sweetly Peruginesque, with a delicate feeling for landscape, and has been suggested as one of the sources of Giorgione
s work. There are good examples of Costa s work in the National Gallery, London, including The Concert,
one of the first examples of a type of picture (a close-up of a group of musicians) that was later to have a considerable vogue.
He spent his last years in the service of the Gonzagas, doing religious and historical pictures.