Andrea Mantegna, Madonna and Child, a copperplate engraving

Italy, around AD 1490 (State I)

Mantegna was the first great Italian painter to take engraving seriously, presumably after seeing German prints such as those by Master ES. Unlike Pollaiuolo, who gave up engraving after working one magnificent plate, Mantegna produced many influential prints, adapting his figure style from classical sculpture.

This is a late work by Mantegna, and is remarkable for the tenderness displayed between mother and child. She cradles her infant in her arms with her cheek against his face (a motif borrowed from the Florentine sculptor Donatello), while from below her knees support his small body. The two individuals are united within the pyramidal shape, which is echoed internally by the diagonals formed by their arms and legs. The light is shown coming from a single source, and conjures up the bulk of her knees beneath the crumpled drapery.

There is no halo in this first state of the plate, so only convention allows us to identify this mother and child with Mary and the Infant Christ.

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More information


A. Griffiths, Prints and printmaking: an int, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

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

D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance print 1470-155 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994)


Height: 250.000 mm
Width: 210.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1856-7-12-1072 (Hind 1)



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