Andrea Mantegna

Master of the monumental

St Sebastian, in the Ca d'Oro by Mantegna

Andrea Mantegna (c. 1420–1506) was a remarkable painter and engraver born near Padua. He was the star pupil of Squarcione, whose keen interest in antiquity would influence much of Mantegna's oeuvre. His paintings feature sculptural figures that look as hard as coral, often set among monumental settings of ancient Roman architecture and marbles. His often striking, unusual perspectives were fairly unique in the art of the Veneto, and never wavered; throughout his career he kept his austere elegance and strong lines, with none of the 'softness' and shimmering atmosphere that characterized the work of his brother-in-law Giovanni Bellini.

Mantegna was very successful in Padua (sadly his best work there, the fresco cycle in the church of the Ermitani, was bombed to smithereens by the Allies during World War II) but fell out with Squarcione, and left the city for good, spending the rest of his life working in Verona, Rome and Mantua, where he became court painter to the Gonzaga and left some of his most colourful and mesmerizing work in the Camera degli Sposi in the Ducal Palace; the ceiling frescoes there, with figures and perspectives never seen before, would influence Italian painters for centuries.

In Venice his paintings are in the Accademia and Ca’ d’Oro.

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