The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters
Italian Renaissance Painter
Education - apprentice to Francesco Squarcione
Information and Facts About the Artist
Information and Facts About the Artist
Mantegna was born in Padua but was heavily influenced by Florentine painters. John C. Van Dyke, author and art historian, commented "He was of an observing nature and probably studied Paolo Uccello and Fra Filippo, some of whose works were then in Paduan edifices. He gained color knowledge from the Venetian Bellinis, who lived at Padua at one time and who were connected with Mantegna by marriage. But the sculpturesque side of his art came from Squarcione, from a study of the antique, and from a deeper study of Donatello, whose bronzes to this day are to be seen within and without the Paduan Duomo of S. Antonio."
Mantegna, of all painters can only be explained through his personality. Piero della Francesca and he signify respectively the soil and cliffs in Italian painting. With Giotto, Castigno, and Sagantinti, he was one of the four great Shepard boys in the history of art. A keen Alpine air pervades his works; they have the quality of granite, like the cliffs of Euganean Mountains. According to art historian and author Thomas Roscoe "Andrea Mantegna's early study of antique sculpture moulded his whole life's work. He took great delight in modelling, in perspective, of which he made himself a master, and in chiaroscuro, or light and shade. Had his powers of invention and grace not kept pace with his skill, he would have been a stiff and formal worker; as it was, he carried the austerity of sculpture into painting, and his greatest work, the 'Triumph of Julius Cæsar,' would have been better suited for the chiselled frieze of a temple than it is for the painted frieze of the hall of a palace. Yet he was a great leader and teacher in art, and the true proportions of his drawing are grand, if his colouring is harsh. I am happy to say that Mantegna's 'Triumph of Julius Cæsar' is in England at Hampton Court, having been bought from the Duke of Mantua by Charles I. These cartoons, nine in number, are sketches in water-colour or distemper on paper fixed on cloth. "
Magenta was a quarrelsome man who loved to brawl. In his letters every word is as keen and biting as a sharp knife. He was always in conflict with someone; the authorities, other painters and any neighbor, he accused and sued without mercy. Everyone who came in contact him was wounded without mercy. Corresponding with these qualities in his pictures are the jagged halos and stiff tree leaves, which also make the impression that one could scratch himself upon them so blood would flow. And it is precisely in this severity, from which everything mild, agreeable, and reconciling is eliminated, his one-sidedness and also his greatest lie. Le style c'est l'homme. The man with the bronze head and the stony glance created people after his own image. How they stand there, pressed into their iron armor, like fabulous giants whose muscular backs and firm sinewy legs seem formed by sculpture rather that by a painter! Their whole bodies are tense, like an arrow on the string of a bow; just as Mantegna himself was always expecting opposition and ready for defense. They look sullen and silent, and the sharp folds that fall from the protruding cheekbones are hard and abrupt as if by a magic formula they had been petrified in motion. The draperies, even when that are of soft material, seem to be of steel; especially those stiff protruding little cloaks, which occur so frequently in his pictures.
In order to attain most pointed and stiff folds he was accustomed to model from rigidly sized paper and he would have perhaps preferred models of tin. This metallic style of drawing also reacts upon the color. In conceiving appearances to be so rigid, he was naturally compelled to give the color a metallic tone. Many of his figures, although they are painted after nature, resemble bronze statures, so hard are they in outline, and so much like polished bronze do the folds of the drapery glisten.
His manner of choosing the accessories is also determined by the same pint of view. As he loves warriors in bronze armor with glittering arms and draperies with stony folds, he also heaps about them accessories of similar appearance; armor, helmets, tin vessels, gleaming metallic greaves, jagged haloes and nails. The halo, which with other artists is an ethereal representation, Mantegna forms heavy, glittering rings of pewter; and angles heads, lightly indicated by others, look like floating pieces of Robbiaware. Upon his painting of the Resurrection the edges of the halo behind the Savior are jagged and as sharp as those of a razor. In his line engraving of the Crucifixion the inscription I. N. R. I. is fastened with thick iron nails, and in the foreground lies a heavy door of dry oak with a rusty iron frame. In other pictures urns and vases, copper vessels and gold chains are used to heighten the metallic effect.
Grandest of all, however, is his translation of landscape into the brazen style. For people like those he created could not live on the ordinary earth, but needed a world of the same rigid grandeur. In his paintings there are no meadows and gardens, no grass and flowers; but creation is transformed into a vision of stone; bared of the covering earthly crust, and only enlivened by blocks of stone, dried trees, thorny hedges, boulders, and sand roads. Upon the hilltops turret-crowned castles and high-walled cities tower. All vegetation is dead and the salty summits of the cliffs are pushed into the foreground, opening into yawning chasm. Many of these scenes he must certainly have seen in nature
To recapitulate; Mantegna was the first painter to give his figures full plastic rotundity; to create the earliest perspectives ceiling decorations and the earliest portrait groups, and to raise the study of the nude in motion and of draperies to a real artistic problem. He stands therefore, reveled as the genius who, next to Piero della Francesca, who imparted to him something of his delicate charm.
Key Descriptive Words and Phrases associated with the Renaissance Movement - rebirth, rediscovery of the classical world, City-state, Humanism, Humanist, Francesco Petrarch, Reform, The Prince, Theocracy, The Inquisition, Human Reasoning, publication of Della Pittura, a book about the laws of mathematical perspective for artists, sfumato, chiaroscuro, linear perspective, Heliocentric Theory, vanishing point, Savonarola, spiritually significant, illuminated manuscript, idealized biblical themes, scriptorium, emotion, illuminator, Age of Discovery, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world, mythology, realistic use of colours and light, Bonfire of the Vanities, Old Testament stories, ethereal and foggy backgrounds, Gospel parables, The Blackdeath, romanticized landscapes, Christian symbolism. Paradise
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