Europe

Andrea Mantegna and the Renaissance perspective

Andrea Mantegna is one of the most outstanding artists of the Renaissance of the Quattrocento Italian. We are talking about a painter whose works stand out greatly for the use of an impressive perspective and foreshortening. Do you want to know him better and know where you can admire some of his works?

Who was Andrea Mantegna?

Andrea Mantegna was born in Isola di Cartura, in the Veneto region, around 1430 in a very humble family. In his childhood years he worked as a shepherd, but when he was orphaned, his life took a radical turn. It was adopted by Francesco Squarcione, a painter and art collector around 1441.

He directed an art academy in Padua and Mantegna would enter it to study. There, together with other apprentices, Squarcione taught him to paint the ‘new way’, that is, in the Renaissance style. He also taught him to look at volumes, perspectives, etc. through the study of sculptures.

At the age of 17, he would already carry out his first important commissions and he would become independent, tired of his tutor taking advantage of his art. Furthermore, he marries Nicolosia Bellini, the daughter of one of Squarcione’s rivals, Japoco Bellini. This provokes the wrath of his teacher, who from then on will be very critical of his art.

He was influenced by other artists of the time such as Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Paolo Ucello or his father-in-law and brothers-in-law, because Padua was a hive of artists. However, the truth is that Mantegna knew how to build his own stylestony, with impossible foreshortenings and monumental architecture.

his great works

As we anticipated, Andrea Mantegna begins to make his first important works very young. The frescoes of the Ovetari chapel stand out, in the Eremitani Church of Padua. There he worked with one of his training partners, Niccolò Pizzolo, and was in charge of decorating the grandstand and the left side.

He carried out the work between 1448-1457 and in two phases due to disagreements with the clients. Unfortunately, much of that work disappeared due to the bombings of 1944. Thus, only the life cycle of Saints Christopher and Saint James and the Assumption of the Virgin.

Contemporary to the work of the Ovetari chapel, Mantegna made the altarpiece of Saint John the Evangelist which can now be seen in the Brera Pinacoteca in Milan. It is an altarpiece whose location was the Benedictine abbey of Santa Justina de Padua.

The fame that both jobs gave him would make it easier for him to carry out another more important one: the abbot of San Zeno, in Verona, commissioned an altarpiece for his church. Unfortunately, this was dismembered by French troops and today some of the panels are scattered around the Louvre Museum and the Tours Museum.

A) Yes, in Verona the altarpiece has been reconstructed with original parts and others that are copies. But what really stands out about this altarpiece is that it is the first to be done entirely in the Renaissance style in northern Italy. He made it in his Padua workshop and when he had it finished he transported it to Verona, where he installed it.

Perspective and foreshortening, keys to the art of Andrea Mantegna

‘Lamentation over the Dead Christ’

It will be as a result of the orders of the Marquis Lodovico Gonzaga when Andrea Mantegna begins to establish himself as the great forerunner of perspective. Thus, for said marquis he decorates palaces and chapels, among which highlights the private chapel of the castle of San Jorge in Mantua.

for said chapel paint the wonderful board The transit of the Virgin. It is a milestone in the history of art that we can see today in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

In it, he does an incredible job of perspective. from the ground with pavement of orthogonal slabs, which lead the viewer’s gaze to the Virgin, and with the opening of the window behind the apostles, where you can see the bridge of San Jorge over Lake Mincio. A real landscape that is inserted as a backdrop in a religious scene.

In the last stage of his life his paintings become more intimate, but just as spectacular. A) Yes, highlights lamentation over dead Christ, from around 1480-90 and which is now kept in the Pinacoteca Brera. In it he performs one of the most spectacular foreshortenings in the world, so that the viewer sees the inert body of Christ from his feet, as if he were one of the characters in the painting.

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