Mantegna was an Italian Renaissance painter of well regarded influence, who was known for his visual experiments in perspective and spatial illusion. His work is known to have some influence on great painters of the time, including the German artist Albrecht DÜrer and Italian painters Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci.
Much of his ambitious life as an artist branched off after leaving his birth home of Padua, in Venice. Before that he was under the tutelage of another Paduan painter Francesco Squarcione (1397 – 1468) at eleven years old and was influenced by Squarcione’s love of ancient Roman art. Although a favorite student of Squarcione, Mantegna became disgruntled at his teacher profiting off work he had done. It was then, at the age of seventeen that he left Padua, never to return, exploring his ambitions in Verona, Mantua, Rome and possibly Venice and Florence.
Mantegna probably made this painting for his personal funerary chapel. It was found by his sons in his studio after his death and sold off to pay debts. The painting is in the Pinacoteca di Brera of Milan, Italy.
After 1497 Mantegna was commissioned by Isabella d’Este to translate the mythological themes written by the court poet Paride Ceresara into paintings for her private apartment (studiolo) in the Palazzo Ducale. These paintings were dispersed in the following years: one of them, the legend of the God Comus, was left unfinished by Mantegna and completed by his successor as court painter in Mantua, Lorenzo Costa.
In the two scenes from the life of St. Christopher united in a single perspective on the right-hand wall, Mantegna extended his experiments in illusionism to the framing element by painting a highly realistic column on the front plane. The meticulously detailed column divides the scene in two while appearing to exist in a realm totally apart from the pictorial space, a realm shared with the observer. This extension of illusionistic principles to the elements surrounding a picture anticipates Mantegna’s San Zeno altarpiece, where the carved half columns of the frame abut the painted piers (vertical members) on the front plane of the picture space, so that the frame architecture serves as the exterior of the temple-pavilion architecture depicted in the painting. In this way the sphere of intense ideality inhabited by the Virgin Mary is conjoined to the beholder’s own space by a brilliant combination of physical and optical devices. Unfortunately, all Mantegna’s frescoes in the Ovetari Chapel except The Assumption and The Martyrdom of St. Christopher were destroyed by a bomb during World War II.
Mantegna’s extraordinary native abilities were recognized early. He was the second son of a woodworker but was legally adopted by Francesco Squarcione by the time he was 10 years old and possibly even earlier. A teacher of painting and a collector of antiquities in Padua, Squarcione drew the cream of young local talent to his studio, which some of his protégés, such as Mantegna and the painter Marco Zoppo, later had cause to regret. In 1448, at age 17, Mantegna disassociated himself from Squarcione’s guardianship to establish his own workshop in Padua, later claiming that Squarcione had profited considerably from his services without giving due recompense. The award to Mantegna of the important commission for an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia (1448), now lost, demonstrates his precocity, since it was unusual for so young an artist to receive such a commission. Mantegna himself proudly called attention to his youthful ability in the painting’s inscription: “Andrea Mantegna from Padua, aged 17, painted this with his own hand, 1448.”
Born in or around 1431 in the small town of Isola di Carturo, near Padua, Mantegna is known for the linear sharpness and rigorous attention to detail of his art. Mantegna also stands out among Italian Renaissance painters for his complete dedication to classical antiquity. At an early age the artist was apprenticed to the painter Francesco Squarcione, who later adopted him. However, the young Mantegna soon left his master’s studio for an independent career that began when, in 1448, he was awarded part of the commission for the fresco decoration of the Ovetari chapel in the Church of the Eremitani, Padua (now mostly destroyed). Perhaps the single most significant influence on Mantegna’s style was the sculpture of Donatello in Padua. Also important was the luminous art of Giovanni Bellini, whose sister, Nicolosia, married Mantegna in 1453.
In 1459, persuaded by the Marquis Lodovico Gonzaga, Mantegna moved to Mantua. With the exception of a stay in Rome in 1488-1490, Mantegna spent the rest of his life in the service of three generations of Gonzaga patrons in Mantua. He died there in 1506 as one of the most highly respected artists of the Renaissance. As official painter, Mantegna’s reputation reflected positively on the status of the patrons for whom he executed his greatest works. The famous Camera degli Sposi, or Camera Picta, in the ducal palace in Mantua (1465-1474), is his most significant commission for Marquis Lodovico. The innovative spatial construction of the frescoes, particularly the oculus in the ceiling, had a profound effect on Correggio who, though probably too young to have been a pupil, must have studied Mantegna’s works very closely. The dignified yet engaging family portraits on the walls of the Camera Picta also had a strong impact on other artists. Lodovico’s grandson Francesco II Gonzaga was probably the patron of Mantegna’s series of monumental canvases of the Triumphs of Caesar, now at Hampton Court. Though quite damaged, they are key examples of Mantegna’s use of the technique of distemper on canvas. Mantegna’s religious works reflect the range of his patron’s needs from small devotional paintings to great altarpieces–such as the Madonna della Vittoria (Musée du Louvre, Paris), painted for Francesco Gonzaga in 1496.
Andrea Mantegna (Italian: [anˈdrɛːa manˈteɲɲa]; c. 1431 – 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.
His first work, now lost, was an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia in 1448. The same year Mantegna was called, together with Nicolò Pizolo, to work with a large group of painters entrusted with the decoration of the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of the church of the Eremitani. It is probable, however, that before this time some of the pupils of Squarcione, including Mantegna, had already begun the series of frescoes in the chapel of S. Cristoforo, in the church of Sant’Agostino degli Eremitani, today considered his masterpiece. After a series of coincidences, Mantegna finished most of the work alone, though Ansuino, who collaborated with Mantegna in the Ovetari Chapel, brought his style in the Forlì school of painting. The now censorious Squarcione carped about the earlier works of this series, illustrating the life of St James; he said the figures were like men of stone, and had better have been colored stone-color at once.