Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506)

Mantegna became the pupil of, and was adopted by the painter Squarcione in Padua. Mantegna was fascinated by the civilization of ancient Rome and her antiquities, as well as the technicalities of composition and the impressive visual effects of foreshortening.

In 1460, Mantegna was appointed court artist to the Gonzaga family, the rulers of Mantua. Their court was a wealthy, secure and intellectual centre, in which Mantegna was employed for three generations. As court artist, he worked on a variety of tasks. As well as large-scale paintings, he also designed tableware, decorations and banners.

He painted frescoes for the Camera Picta (Painted Chamber) in the Ducal Palace, which took almost ten years to complete. This cycle shows the Gonzaga family, their friends and courtiers, all engaged in professional and leisurely pursuits. He also painted nine huge canvases, the Triumphs of Caesar (Hampton Court Palace, London) which depict Roman triumphal processions. Portraits and complex classical scenes were enjoyed by educated patrons and courtiers. On a smaller scale, he drew religious scenes (Agony in the Garden, 1460, National Gallery, London) and classical subjects which were subsequently engraved, enabling his work to be known through Europe.

Mantegna was much admired by his contemporaries, both artists and intellectuals. He married into the artistic Bellini family in Venice. The classical influences and strong sculptural forms of his work were studied by Dürer (1471-1528) and even later artists such as Poussin (1594-1665).

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