Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance
(c.1431 â€“ September 13, 1506)
was an Italian painter, a student of Roman archeology, and son in law of Jacopo Bellini. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g., by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500.
The Marquis Ludovico II Gonzaga of Mantua had for some time been pressing Mantegna to enter his service; and the following year, 1460 Mantegna was appointed court artist. He resided at first from time to time at Goito, but, from December 1466 onwards, he moved with his family to Mantua. His engagement was for a salary of 75 lire a month, a sum so large for that period as to mark conspicuously the high regard in which his art was held. He was in fact the first painter of any eminence ever domiciled in Mantua.
The court of Mantua, fresco for the Camera degli Sposi of Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.
His Mantuan masterpiece was painted in the apartment of the Castle of the city, today known as Camera degli Sposi (literally, "Wedding Chamber"): a series of full compositions in fresco including various portraits of the Gonzaga family and some figures of genii.
The Chamber's decoration was finished presumably in 1474. The ten years that followed were not happy ones for Mantegna and Mantua: his character grew irritable, his son Bernardino died, as well as the marquis Ludovico, his wife Barbara and his successor Federico (who had declared Mantegna cavaliere, "knight" ). Only with the election of Francesco II of Gonzaga did the artistic commissions in Mantua begin again. He built a stately house in the area of the church of San Sebastiano, and adorned it with a multitude of paintings. The house can be still seen today, although the pictures have perished. In this period he began to collect some ancient Roman busts (which were donated to Lorenzo de Medici when the Florentine leader visited Mantua in 1483), painted some architectonic and decorative fragments, and finished the intense St. Sebastian now in the Louvre (box at top).
In 1488 Mantegna was called by Pope Innocent VIII to paint frescos in a chapel Belvedere in the Vatican. This series of frescos, including a noted Baptism of Christ, was destroyed by Pius VI in 1780. The pope treated Mantegna with less liberality than he had been used to at the Mantuan court; but all things considered their connection, which ceased in 1500, was not unsatisfactory to either party. Mantegna also met the famous Turkish hostage Jem and studied with attention the ancient monuments, but his impression of the city was a disappointing one as a whole. Returned to Mantua in 1490, he embraced again his more literary and bitter vision of antiquity, and entered in strong connection with the new marquise, the cultured and intelligent Isabella d'Este.
In what was now his city he went on with the nine tempera pictures of the Triumphs of Caesar, which he had probably begun before his leaving for Rome, and which he finished around 1492. These superbly invented and designed compositions are gorgeous with the splendour of their subject-matter, and with the classical learning and enthusiasm of one of the master-spirits of the age. Considered Mantegna's finest work, they were sold in 1628 along with the bulk of the Mantuan art treasures to King Charles I of England. They are now in Hampton Court Palace, somewhat faded, but many repaintings have been removed in a recent restoration. His workshop produced a series of engravings after them, which largely account for their rapid fame throughout Europe.