The History of Art
MANTEGNA ANDREA – PAINTER – His father
Biagio Mantegna (humble carpenter)
Born in “Isola di Carturo (Piazzola del
Brenta) 1430 or 1431 - died in Mantova on Sept.13th, 1506
Enfant prodige with a miserable and short childhood who
when he was only 10 transferred to Padova and lived care of his oldest
brother in order to work in
who welcomes him almost as he were his adopted son. Padova was the fertile
field already with a glorious university
where it was possible to obtain evidences on archaeological researches.
It is also the city where
had seeded the taste for classic antiquity. City also economically rich
which could afford expensive artistic orders since 1300 to “maestri”
as Giotto, Giovanni
Pisano, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, Guariento, Altichiero and Avanzo.
was the meeting location for Tuscany avant-garde painters and sculptors
in the prospective research. Exactly during the years he spent
in Padova the maximum Florentine “maestri”
Paolo Uccello, Filippo
Lippi and Donatello
were in Padova. Donatello, during ten years, created
grandiose copper sculptures, the Saint Antonio’s major altar and the
equestrian monument of Gattamelata.
he completes the
Saint James and Saint
for the Ovetary
Chapel in Eremitani church
where, unfortunately, there were terrible damages during world war 2.
Later he was in Ferrara where he could analyze the Northern Europe
art besides the
Pietro della Francesca
monumental style and he happened to start a very strong contact with
family. In 1451
he got married to
and, in the same year, he painted the
Pray in the garden
(London, National Gallery).
he worked on the
San Luca (Milan, Brera Gallery), Santa Eufemia (Naples, Capodimonte
Gallery). 1457-1459 Pala d’altare (altar painting) – Polittico
di San Zeno (Verona, Cathedral)
the parts regarding the
are now at Louvre
and at Tours
In this last masterpiece there are several references to classical and
archaeological styles but also a very natural aspect in the landscape
is strongly emphasized.
1471 in Mantova
he starts decorating the
Camera degli Sposi
(the Room where the Gonzaga Leader would sign the marriage contracts
regarding his family components)
where he abandons the pompous and rich gothic to pay more attention
to a scientific and robust prospect aspect and to a more natural observation.
At the top of its ceiling he painted a circular eye where, from a balcony,
some humans and animals are looking out. All of the composition
ends in a terrific prospective escaping towards the infinite sky. This
perfect optical illusion will later be adopted, as an example by artists
of future generations, in particular by
and about for the following ten years, destiny is either good to him
nor to Mantova State. The artist looses his son, soon after also
Marquis Ludovico, Marquise Barbara and Ludovico’s successor, Federico,
died. The new young Marquis
Francesco II Gonzaga
gives back order and reinforces the finances in the Mantova area and
the art commissions as well receive an enduring recovery and energy.
Mantegna builds his house in San Sebastiano quarter where he opens a
circular courtyard. He also collects Roman marbles which are very
much admired by
Lorenzo il Magnifico;
later he paints architectonic and ornamental fragments for the
he accomplishes a series of water color paintings with the theme of
the Caesar Triumph
and finally, he goes to
called by the
Pope Innocenzo VIII.
He stays there also during
and paints a little chapel (later lost) in the Vatican
Palaces. The eternal city is quite a delusion to him, and, once back
to Mantova he preferes to recall the memory of a little bitter and intellectual
ancient city than th one he could observe during his stay.
and Isabella d’Este
The new well cultivated and intelligent Marquise
starts a good friendship with Mantegna who also gets art inspiration
from her. During this period he paints
Christ on the sarcophagus
(Copenhagen, museum), Madonna of the Caves (Florence, Uffizi).
He starts idealizing the human body by placing it before a very detailed
and clear landscape and his graphic lines becomes stronger, more
evident, almost no color by obtaining bas-relief effects or a
sort monochrome slightly lighted with cautious golden hints as
in the series of
(Hampton Court, royal palace)
nine paintings considered by Vasari the real Mantegna masterpiece.
Scene from the Bible such as
Sansone and Dalila (London,National Gallery).
Also two water color canvases :
San Sebastiano (Venice,
Ca’ d’Oro – Fraschetti Gallery)and
There also are evidences about his ability as a sculptor. Among the
decorations in his grave-chapel he sculptured a bronze self portrait.
in the updated Mantova with the Marquise Isabella d’Este’s tast, Mantegna
begins his last masterpieces: two main paintings for the altar and a
project for the decoration of the Marquise’s private office. The
Vittoria (the Victory Madonna) (Louvre),
the Sacred Conversion
or Madonna Trivulzio (Milan, Civic Gallery).
He decorates a Marquise Eleonora d’Este’s private apartment in Palazzo
Ducale. The paintings are now at Louvre. He paints many mythological
scene where he is more and more nostalgic in the incisive graphic enriched
with ornamental and landscape details while referring to an extremely
felt Christian-moral lecture such as in his
dancing Muses when Apollo plays his cetra, while all around them Vulcan,
Mars, Venus, Eros, Mercury and the winged horse Pegasus reveal he is
convinced about how impossible is the mysticism. It comes out even more
from his painting
kicks out the Vices from the Virtues’ garden.
When he starts the
Favola di Como (Como’s
also his health starts having serious problems and he decides of selling
the valuable piece from his collection, Faustina bust, still at Palazzo
Ducale in Mantova. During the very same year he dies.
THE ARTISTIC INHERITANCE
As already said, his innovative style
– even though in the nostalgic restoration of a superb classicism school
– is emulated by several later artists and not only by those ones belonging
to the Mantegna’s time, but it keeps being an example for Impressionist,
Expressionism, neoclassicism up to overcome the Illumines and Humanism.
Some well known names: Giovanni Bellini, in Veneto region area, Leonardo
himself, even if he would not share the Mantegna’s classic ideal, still
he admired and emulated his typical decorations with flowers and fruits
when decorating the ceiling at Sforza Castle – Ax Room – in Milan
and the sails over the Cenacolo (Last Supper ). Correggio gets
hints to make more and more courageous prospective work by ending
with the Parma Cathedral Dome. During Renaissance, the German Durer,
above all for his architectural representations and his perfect proportions
in drawing and painting human bodies. But his successor, Giulio
Romano, is against his “dry or hard” style by re-proposing the
Raffaello’s soft style . Despite all, the “hard” Mantegna will be selected
as a model-example also by the Impressionists Manet, Degas, Van Gogh.
In the last 35 years, the Mantegna’s
use of the prospective has been studied again, and, publishers, in 1986
re-proposed the analysis of the relation among painting,
drowing and incision in the Artist’s works.