Mantegna, Andrea ca. 1430–1506 Italian Painter

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Mantegna, Andrea
ca. 1430–1506
Italian painter

Andrea Mantegna was an influential painter in northern Italy during the second half of the 1400s. Like many Renaissance artists of the time, he drew inspiration from the sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome. This inspiration is reflected in Mantegna's painted figures, which have the strongly modeled, statuesque quality of sculpture on canvas.

Born in a village near Padua, Mantegna became an apprentice* in a painter's studio. There his training included instruction in the artistic ideals and practices of the Renaissance, such as copying models from the ancient world. His first major works, in which he used classical* themes as well as details from ancient Roman buildings, reflect this training. Mantegna's work also shows the influence of the Florentine sculptor Donatello, who worked in Padua for ten years. Both Donatello and ancient statuary played a role in the development of Mantegna's extremely sculptural treatment of the human figure.

In 1460 Mantegna became the court painter of the noble Gonzaga

family of Mantua. One of his main surviving projects is the fresco* decoration of the Camera Picta, a room in the Gonzaga palace. This work included several scenes of the family, one in a landscape dotted with classical ruins and one in a realistic group portrait with rounded forms and rich colors. The group portrait seems to suggest that the family is physically present in the room.

In 1488 Mantegna went to Rome for two years to decorate a chapel for Pope Innocent VIII. Returning to work for the Gonzaga in Mantua, he completed a series of nine huge paintings known as The Triumphs of Caesar. They show a procession of the ancient Roman leader Julius Caesar in a setting filled with extremely accurate archaeological detail.

The final phase of Mantegna's career was spent working for Isabella d'Este, wife of one of the Gonzaga. In her apartments in the castle of Mantua she created a studiolo, a small room ornamented with artworks. Mantegna produced several paintings of complex allegorical* subjects for this room. He also contributed two paintings that imitate bronze sculpture, evidence of the artist's skill in using paint to reproduce three-dimensional objects. However, Mantegna also worked directly in bronze. He created a bust of himself in the classical style that was placed, after his death, at the entrance to a memorial chapel in the church of San Andrea in Mantua.

(See alsoArt in Italy; Mantua. )

* apprentice

person bound by legal agreement to work for another for a specified period of time in return for instruction in a trade or craft

* classical

in the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome

* fresco

mural painted on a plaster wall

* allegorical

referring to a literary or artistic device in which characters, events, and settings represent abstract qualities and in which the author intends a different meaning to be read beneath the surface