Cornaro crest

Andrea Mantegna

Born: 1431, Isola di Carturo (near Vicenza)

Married: 1453, Nicolasia Bellini

Died: 13 September 1506, Mantua

ANDREA 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 Veneto.

Mantegna's 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.

Mantegna became 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.

In addition to his accomplishments in painting, Mantegna is also noted for his work as a pioneer in the art of engraving.

About 1505 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.

1997-9 C. I. Gable