Andrea Mantegna


Andrea Mantegna, born in Isola di Carturo (today Isola Mantegna) in the district of Vicenza, north of Padua, in 1431, was one of the most important painters and engravers of the Italian Renaissance. His artistic career began at a young age when he moved to Padua to follow his brother Tommaso and started his apprenticeship in the workshop of the renowned artist Francesco Squarcione.

In Padua, Mantegna immersed himself in the perspectival and antiquarian culture of Padua’s humanism of the 1440s, strongly influenced by the works of Donatello. At the age of only seventeen, in 1450-1451, Mantegna undertook the prestigious task of frescoing the Ovetari Chapel in the Church of the Eremitani, establishing himself as an emerging young talent in the Paduan artistic scene.

In 1453, Mantegna married Nicolosia, the daughter of Jacopo Bellini, head of one of the most influential painting workshops in Venice, and sister of the famous artists Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. This marriage further solidified his position in the Venetian art scene.

One of the most decisive moments of his career was the commission he received in January 1457 from Gregorio Correr, commendatory abbot of the Benedictine monastery of S. Zeno in Verona. Here, Mantegna created the San Zeno Altarpiece, a revolutionary work representing an evolution of the modern altarpiece into a unified space. In it, Mantegna maintained the polyptych scheme but introduced classical elements in the architecture, using wooden columns to create an illusionistic connection between real and painted space.

In 1459, Mantegna settled at the court of the Gonzaga in Mantua, where in 1465 he began the grand project of the Camera degli Sposi (Camera picta) in the Castello di San Giorgio. This cycle of frescoes is one of the most famous masterpieces of Renaissance art.

In addition to painting, Mantegna was also an innovator in engraving. Vasari, in his “Lives,” speaks of Mantegna’s engraving activity, documented since 1475 as a supplier of graphic models for the goldsmith Gian Marco Cavalli. A notable example of his engraving work is the “Bacchanal with Silenus” (circa 1480), a refined burin and drypoint engraving preserved at Palazzo Maffei Casa Museo. This work depicts a bacchanal with the old and drunken Silenus, a Greek mythological figure, surrounded by fauns, humans, and musicians. The work reflects Mantegna’s interest in antiquity and mythology, representing a virtuosic exercise in the depiction of ancient statuary

Mantegna’s engravings, including the “Bacchanal with Silenus,” have been studied and admired since the 16th and 17th centuries, influencing artists such as Albrecht Dürer and Peter Paul Rubens.

Andrea Mantegna died in Mantua on September 13, 1506, leaving a lasting legacy in Italian Renaissance art.