Andrea Mantegna, St James on his way to Execution, a drawing

Italy, about AD 1455-57

This is the earliest surviving drawing by Mantegna. As a young artist Mantegna painted scenes from the lives of St James and St Christopher in the Ovetari Chapel, Church of the Eremitani, Padua (destroyed during the Second World War (1939-45)). This preparatory drawing, in pen and brown ink on pink prepared paper, shows St James on his way to his execution. To the left the saint blesses a kneeling man, perhaps the figure of Josiah. According to legend, Josiah was a scribe converted by St James when he witnessed the saint healing a paralysed man. That man may be the figure with his hands on his thighs, looking at St James and immediately to his right. In the centre, a Roman soldier witnesses these events and separates the main protagonists in the drama from the crowd of figures to the right.

Mantegna has emphasized the figures of the saint and Roman soldier with further lines in pen and ink. Following Renaissance practice, nearly all the figures are drawn from the nude; even St James's right arm and leg are visible beneath his drapery. While most of the hatching of the background and the figures in the crowd is random and drawn very freely, the shading of the saint, scribe and soldier follows the movement of their bodies in a more naturalistic fashion.

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More information


J. Martineau (ed.), Andrea Mantegna, exh. cat. (Royal Academy of Arts, London and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992)

M. Chapman, Padua in the 1450s: Marco Zopp, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)

R. Lightbown, Mantegna (Oxford, Phaidon Christie's, 1986)


Height: 164.000 mm
Width: 256.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1976-6-16-1 (recto)



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