Andrea Mantegna

From Academic Kids

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The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c.1490)
Tempera on canvas, 68 x 81 cm Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Andrea Mantegna (c.1431- 13 September 1506) was an Florentine painter and engraver. Mategna was born in Isola di Caturo.


His father was a woodcutter. Around 1450, Mategna emerged as an independent master. He had started as the apprentice of Francesco Squarcione in Padua at the age of 10. Squarcione was something of a fanatic for Roman culture teaching Mantegna Latin and making him study fragments of Roman sculpture. He was also a fan of forced perspective and elements of both influences can be seen in Mantegna's work. Squarcione also legally adopted Mantegna and it was the court case that he filed at the age of 17 to separate himself from Squarcione that marked the begining of his career. Mantegna's early career was shaped by impressions of Florentine works and an assumed contact with Donatello is evident in his works. He is considered the most important painter of the Early Renaissance next to Masaccio. Mantegna, a young genius, was able to carry out his own commissions by age seventeen. Over the following decade, he reached artistic maturity and over the following fifty years he broadened his artistic range without abandoning his developed style. In 1453 Mantegna married Jacopo Bellini's daughter. In 1460, Mantegna was appointed court artist to the Gonzaga family, rulers of Mantua. (Janson 426)


His work is characterized by classical elements such as an attempt to mimic a Roman bas-relief in paint, and shows a strong influence by Donatello. His influence can be seen in the work of his brother-in-law Giovanni Bellini and Albrecht Drer.

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Andrea Mantegna's Agony in the Garden, circa 1460. It depicts Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane

Of his early career, the Church of Eremitani's frescoes were his greatest achievement; these works were destroyed in a 1944 bombing. The most dramatic work of the fresco cycle was the work set in the worm's eye view perspective, St. James Led to His Execution. The sketch of this fresco survived and is the earliest known preliminary sketch which still exists to compare to the corresponding fresco. Despite the authentic look of the monument, it is not a copy of any known Roman structure. This connection to antiquity links Mategna with the humanists of the University of Padua who shared his ancient devotion. In Florence, this attitude could not have been conveyed to him by any local sculptors or painters. Mantegna also adopts the wet drapery patterns of the Romans—who derived the form from the Greek invention—for the clothing of his figures, although the tense figures and interactions are derived from Donatello. The drawing shows proof that nude figures were used in the conception of works during the Early Renaissance. In the preliminary sketch, the perspective is less developed and closer to a more average viewpoint however. This worm's eye perspective, creating an effectively large and prominent setting, is also seen in his work The Holy Trinity with the Virgin, St. John, and Two Donors. (Janson 426)

His work includes frescoes in the Ovetari Chapel in Padua (1448-59), the San Zeno Altarpiece (1456-59) Judith with the Head of Holofernes, The Agony in the Garden (c.1455), and the frescoed ceiling of the Camera degli Sposi at the Gonzaga family palace in Mantua.



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