MANTEGNA entered the studio of Francesco Squarcione of Padua while
still a child. He established his reputation at the age of 17 through
his execution of an altarpiece for the Church of S. Lucia, but he
had been a member of the guild of painters since the age of ten. Influenced
by the works of Donatello and Paolo Uccello in Padua, he became one
of the most accomplished masters of Early Renaissance style in the
most important surviving works from his early career are the cycle
of fresco paintings, begun by others, that he completed, 1453-9,
in the Ovetari chapel of the church of S. Agostino degli Eremetani,
including Life of S. Giacomo and The Martyrdom of S. Cristoforo.
He also produced in the same period a magnificent triptych altarpiece,
Madonna Enthroned, for the church of S. Zeno in Verona, 1457-9.
associated with the preeminent painter family of Venice through
his marriage to Nicolasia Bellini, the daughter of Jacopo and sister
of Gentile and Giovanni
Bellini. Mantegna removed to Mantua, 1460, to serve the Gonzaga
court, and remained there for the rest of his career, interrupted
by an interlude at Rome, 1488-90, in the service of Pope Innocent
VIII. His most famous surviving work at Mantua is the fresco treatment
in the Camera degli Sposi.
to his accomplishments in painting, Mantegna is also noted for his
work as a pioneer in the art of engraving.
Cav. Proc. (later Cardinal) Francesco Cornaro
(B-60) commissioned Mantegna to create a cycle of four paintings
on Classical subjects, selected apparently because of their association
with historical Roman figures with whom the Cornaro family claimed
kinship. Mantegna was able to complete only one of the projected
cycle, The Introduction of the Cult of
Cybele in Rome, before his death in 1506. Thereupon, Cornaro
turned to Mantegna's equally celebrated brother-in-law, Giovanni
Bellini, to execute, with his studio, The
Continence of Scipio, perhaps based on a drawing by Mantegna.
(See P. F. Brown, Venice and Antiquity [New Haven, 1996],
pp. 252-5.) Also attributed to Mantegna or his protege Jacopo Parisati
is the fresco surrounding the statuary monument in the Cornaro
Chapel of the Church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.