The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele in Rome

by Andrea Mantegna

London, National Gallery

Cult of Cybele

About 1505 Cav. Proc. (later Cardinal) Francesco Cornaro (B-60) commissioned Andrea 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 the first of the projected cycle, The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele in Rome, before his death in 1506.

Upon Mantegna's death, the Cornaro patron 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.)

The Mantegna painting (canvas size 73.5 x 268 cm.) remained with the Cornaro family, displayed at Ca' Cornaro in Campo S. Polo in Venice, until 1815. The painting was acquired by Antonio Sanquirico in that year, then passed in 1835 to an English family whose heir Ralph Vivian donated it to the National Gallery, London, in 1873.

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