The monument is dedicated to the earl Ercole Orsi (1721-1803), son of Nicolò and last heir of one of the most ancient aristocratic families in Bologna. Great bibliographer and collector of prints of the history of Bologna, he was also charged with several assignments in both magistracy and the pontifical army. The painting is made by Antonio Basoli, one of the most important painters in Bologna between the 18th and the 19th centuries. The artist represents a sarcophagus collocated under a false arch beyond which there is a woody landscape scattered with ancient monuments such as obelisks, Egyptian steles, medieval sarcophaguses and a cinerary urn placed on a Grecian column. The sarcophagus is enriched with the representation of swans, helmets and musical instruments. On its top there are two little crouching owls. This artwork is considered one of the most important painted tombs among the ones preserved in the Certosa, owing to both the fame of the artist and the abundance of allegorical details. Part of the notoriety of the Certosa is mainly due to the painted tombs and the presence of a woody and architectural background in funeral monuments, which is a unique peculiarity in neoclassical Europe. Unfortunately, today only a little part of them is still visible, since most of them were lost or damaged by deterioration and destruction in the following decades.
Here an extract from the description of the monument included in the 'Collezione scelta dei Monumenti Sepolcrali del Comune Cimitero di Bologna' (=Chosen Collection of the Sepulchral Monuments of the Municipal Cemetery of Bologna), by Natale Salvardi in 1825 reports: “...He lived until the age of 82, when he piously died in 1803. In our Municipal Cemetery, his religious daughter the Countess Amalia Domenicana erected to his ashes a monument that was painted by the eminent Professor of the Ornamental Elements in this Pontifical Academy of Art Antonio Basoli.
Translation from the italian language thanks to the 2017/18 students Leonardo Chiarella, Caterina De Nardis, Francesca Di Paolo of the Galvani high school in Bologna, supervised by the teacher Annamaria Marconi.