The painter Andrea Mantegna, who made a major contribution to Padova’s rich art collection, died on this day in 1506.
Mantegna was one of a large group of painters entrusted with decorating the Ovetari Chapel in the Church of the Eremitani in Padova.
|Part of Mantegna's cycle depicting the Martyrdom|
of San Giacomo. Now partially restored, it
can again be seen in the Ovetari Chapel.
Other early work by Mantegna can be seen in the Basilica of Sant’Antonio and in the Church of Santa Giustina in Padova.
Mantegna was born at Isola di Cartura near Padova in about 1431, a village just outside Piazzola sul Brenta, which has now been renamed Isola Mantegna.
He was apprenticed by the age of 11 to the painter Francesco Squarcione in Padua, who had a fascination for ancient art and encouraged him to study fragments of Roman sculptures.
After eventually parting company with Squarcione, the artist came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, the father of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, and in 1453 he married Jacopo’s daughter, Nicolosia.
By 1459 he had moved on to Verona, where he painted a grand altarpiece for the Church of San Zeno.
The following year he was appointed court artist by the Marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga of Mantua. His frescoes for the Bridal Chamber (Camera degli Sposi) at the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua were to influence many artists who followed him because of his innovative use of perspective.
They are considered among his best works and depict the life of Ludovico Gonzaga and his family.The beautiful backgrounds of imaginary cities and ruins reflect Mantegna’s love of classical architecture.
He introduced spatial illusion with his painting of the ceiling, which although flat appears concave. This technique was followed by other artists for centuries.
Mantegna was also to become famous for his religious paintings, such as St Sebastian, which is now in the Louvre in Paris, and The Agony in the Garden, which is now in the National Gallery in London.
The artist painted nine pictures of the Triumphs of Caesar, drawing on his classical knowledge, which are also considered by experts to be among his finest works. These were sold in 1628 to King Charles I of England and are now in Hampton Court Palace.
After his death at about the age of 75, Mantegna’s sons set up a monument to him in the Church of Sant’Andrea in Mantua.
The 15th century Basilica of Sant’Andrea is in Piazza Mantegna. The artist’s tomb is in the first chapel on the left, where there is a painting of the Holy Family and John the Baptist by Mantegna.
The church was originally built to accommodate the large number of pilgrims who came to Mantua to see a precious relic, an ampoule containing what were believed to be drops of Christ’s blood mixed with earth. This was claimed to have been collected at the site of his crucifixion by a Roman soldier.