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Title: Mantegna - Masterpieces in Colour Series
Author: Bell, Mrs. Arthur
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mantegna - Masterpieces in Colour Series" ***

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    ARTIST.              AUTHOR.
  BELLINI.             GEORGE HAY.
  CHARDIN.             PAUL G. KONODY.
  COROT.               SIDNEY ALLNUTT.
  DA VINCI.            M. W. BROCKWELL.
  DÜRER.               H. E. A. FURST.
  HOGARTH.             C. LEWIS HIND.
  HOLBEIN.             S. L. BENSUSAN.
  INGRES.              A. J. FINBERG.
  LAWRENCE.            S. L. BENSUSAN.
  LEIGHTON.            A. LYS BALDRY.
  LUINI.               JAMES MASON.
  MEMLINC.             W. H. J. & J. C. WEALS.
  MILLAIS.             A. LYS BALDRY.
  MILLET.              PERCY M. TURNER.
  MURILLO.             S. L. BENSUSAN.
  RAEBURN.             JAMES L. CAW.
  RAPHAEL.             PAUL G. KONODY.
  REYNOLDS.            S. L. BENSUSAN.
  ROMNEY.              C. LEWIS HIND.
  RUBENS.              S. L. BENSUSAN.
  SARGENT.             T. MARTIN WOOD.
  TITIAN.              S. L. BENSUSAN.
  TURNER.              C. LEWIS HIND.
  VAN DYCK.            PERCY M. TURNER.
  VELAZQUEZ.           S. L. BENSUSAN.
  WATTEAU.             C. LEWIS HIND.
  WATTS.               W. LOFTUS HARE.
  WHISTLER.            T. MARTIN WOOD.

_Others in Preparation._

  [Illustration: PLATE I.--THE MADONNA DELLA VITTORIA. Frontispiece

  (In the Louvre)

  This beautiful composition, considered one of Mantegna's greatest
  masterpieces, was painted in 1495-96 in commemoration of the victory
  won at Fornovo on July 6, 1494, by the Marquis of Mantua as
  generalissimo of the united Italian forces. It is now in the Louvre,
  Paris, having been carried off by the French in 1797.]









     I. The Madonna della Vittoria                  Frontispiece
          In the Louvre
    II. The Adoration of the Kings                            14
          In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence

   III. Portrait of a Member of the Gonzaga Family            24
          In the Pitti Palace, Florence

    IV. The Agony in the Garden                               34
          In the National Gallery, London

     V. The Madonna and Child surrounded by Cherubs           40
          In the Brera Gallery, Milan

    VI. The Madonna and Child of the Grotto                   50
          In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence

   VII. Parnassus                                             60
          In the Louvre

  VIII. The Triumph of Scipio                                 70
          In the National Gallery, London


Born at a time of exceptional intellectual and æsthetic activity, when
Italian humanism was nearing its fullest development, and the art of
painting, after a protracted struggle with mechanical difficulties,
had at last obtained an almost complete mastery over its media, with a
real grasp of the long-neglected science of perspective, Andrea
Mantegna may justly be said to have been a true representative of the
early Renaissance in Italy, an earnest combatant in the arduous
struggle for liberty of thought and expression in which so many of his
gifted fellow-countrymen were engaged. A true kindred spirit of his
greater contemporary, Donatello, with whom he was in closer rapport
than with any painter, the chief characteristic of his work being the
plastic rather than the pictorial treatment of form, he was, like him,
imbued from the first with a reverent love of truth and a
conscientious desire faithfully to interpret it. Mantegna has, indeed,
been sometimes charged with a too close imitation of the famous
sculptor, but this is manifestly unfair, for, although there can be no
doubt that he owed much to Donatello, who was the first to lead him
into the right path, by showing him how Nature should be studied, the
secret of the strong resemblance between the styles of the two masters
is that both went to the same source for inspiration: the best
existing examples of antique sculpture, which appeared to them the
noblest extant expression of the ideal in the real.

According to some authorities, Vicenza was the birthplace of
Mantegna, whilst others claim that honour for Padua; but all agree in
stating that he was born in 1431. Of his parents scarcely anything is
known, but it is generally supposed that they died at Padua when
Andrea was still quite a child, and it is certain that the orphan boy
was adopted at once by the artist Francesco Squarcione, who received
him into his own home and began his art education. The true relations
between him and his foster-father are, however, very obscure, critics
differing greatly with regard to them; but it is very evident that the
tastes and ambitions of the two artists were never in real accord,
though gratitude for kindness received when he was left alone in the
world, long restrained Mantegna from an open breach with the protector
of his childhood. The probability is that Squarcione, whose work,
judging from the few specimens that have been preserved, was of a very
mediocre character, was merely the nominal head of a bottega, or
studio, in which painters of far greater eminence than himself,
including Jacopo Bellini, were visiting masters. However that may
have been, it is certain that several hundred students were at
different times under his roof, and, whether they did or did not learn
much from him, they had the advantage of seeing the drawings after the
antique that he had brought back with him from the trips he delighted
in taking to Greece and the Italian towns, that owned collections of
classic sculpture.


  (In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

  The central composition of a triptych, now in the Uffizi Gallery,
  Florence, belonging to Mantegna's second period of art development.
  Supposed to have been painted for the chapel of the Castello at
  Mantua about 1464.]

That Andrea early showed remarkable talent is proved by his having
been made, when he was but ten years old, a member of the Guild of
Paduan Artists, to which belonged all the leading painters, sculptors,
and craftsmen of the city, and association with them must have done
much to aid his art-development. He was, indeed, from the very first
surrounded by inspiring influences, for Padua, with its noble
University, founded in 1222, had long been a leader in antiquarian
research, and was already beginning to rival even Florence and Venice
as a centre of literary and artistic activity. The quaint mediæval
Palace, with its magnificent fifteenth-century roof, the fine Basilica
of S. Antonio and the Cappella di S. Giorgio both adorned with the
frescoes of Altichiero and Alvanzo, and, above all, the Cappella di
Sta. Maria dell' Arena, enriched with the wonderful creations of
Giotto, must have been to the enthusiastic young painter a source of
continual delight as well as a spur to emulation; although as yet
Donatello, destined to give to him the final impulse in the right
direction, had not come to Padua to put in hand the glorious
bas-reliefs of the high altar of S. Antonio, and the even more
remarkable bronze equestrian statue of Gattamelata, that was to
inaugurate a new departure in modern realistic sculpture.

Of the first meeting between the veteran sculptor, who, on his arrival
in Padua in 1443, was in his fifty-eighth year, and the youthful
painter there is no record; but there is no doubt that the latter was
privileged to watch the growth of the S. Antonio sculptures, and to
listen to the discussions concerning them and their author that took
place amongst the masters and students in the bottega of Squarcione.
From his first appearance on the scene Donatello dominated the art
world of the University city, his personality as well as his work
everywhere arousing the greatest enthusiasm. So overwhelming indeed
were the attentions heaped upon him that he resisted all invitations
to remain after he had completed the work he had actually promised to
do, and, even before his monumental piece of sculpture was set up, he
fled from the atmosphere of adulation in which he lived back to his
native Florence, where, to quote his own words, he "got censured
continually." He was still, however, at Padua when, in 1446, Mantegna
completed his first independent commission, a "Madonna in Glory" for
S. Sofia, now lost, but which is said to have been a wonderful
production for a boy still in his teens, clearly betraying the
influence both of Donatello and Jacopo Bellini, yet with a marked
individuality of its own.

The "Madonna in Glory" is supposed to have been succeeded by other
compositions of a similar kind; but the earliest signed work from
Andrea's hand is a fresco, dated 1452, above the central door of S.
Antonio, representing Saints Antony and Bernardino holding up a wreath
bearing the monogram of Christ. In it, as well as in the polyptych of
"St. Luke," now in the Brera Gallery, Milan,--that betrays a slight
affinity with the Vivarini,--the "Presentation in the Temple," of the
Berlin Museum, and the "Adoration of the Magi," in the collection of
Lady Ashburton--all painted between 1452 and 1455--are already
noticeable the naturalistic treatment of form, plasticity of
modelling, and sombre colouring, that were from first to last
characteristic of Mantegna, with a suggestion of the dignified
restraint and solemn rhythm of movement, which were later further to
distinguish his style. It is, moreover, noticeable that in the two
last named, as well as in other early representations of the Virgin
and the Holy Child, such as that in the Poldi-Pezzoli Museum, Milan,
it is the purely human relationship between the loving mother and her
helpless little one which is most forcibly brought out, there being
absolutely no suggestion of the supernatural. In the "Presentation in
the Temple" Mary clings to the Babe as if unwilling to let Him leave
her arms for a moment, and in the "Adoration" her face expresses a
tender yearning that is infinitely touching; whereas in later Holy
Families from the same hand the Infant Jesus becomes ever more and
more aloof and dignified, until at last He appears like a young God
conscious of His power to save and bless, whilst His mother withdraws
into the background.

More important, perhaps, from a technical point of view, than these
independent oil-paintings are the series of frescoes in the Eremitani
Chapel, in which can be clearly traced the gradual development of
Mantegna's style. In them he for the first time proved himself able
successfully to carry out a vast and elaborate scheme of decoration,
each composition with its appropriate setting, though complete in
itself, contributing to the general effect of the whole. Exactly when
the great undertaking was begun is not known, but it is supposed that
the commission for it was given to Squarcione about 1452, and its
execution entrusted by him to Mantegna, who in 1448 had signed an
agreement binding him to the service of his foster-father for a long
term of years. In a will dated January 5, 1443, the Chapel of the
Eremitani was bequeathed by its then owner, Antonio degli Ovetari, to
Jacopo Leone, on condition that after the testator's death seven
hundred golden ducats should be expended on its decoration with scenes
from the lives of Saints James and Christopher. The subjects, and
possibly also the positions they were to occupy, were thus determined
beforehand; and it is evident from internal evidence that not all the
frescoes are from Mantegna's own hand, but his spirit dominates them
all, and those for which he is entirely responsible, especially the
"St. James led to Execution," the "Martyrdom" and the "Burial of St.
Christopher," mark a great advance, alike in design and in technical
execution, on anything hitherto produced by their author. In the
first, Mantegna approached more nearly to Donatello in the expression
of movement than he had previously done, and displayed very great
skill in concentrating the attention upon the figure of the martyr,
who pauses to bless and heal a lame man kneeling at his feet, the
soldiers halting to look on, and the spectators turning back to see
what delays the procession. The "Martyrdom" and "Burial of St.
Christopher" are also strikingly dramatic, giving very vivid
presentments of the final scenes in the long-protracted agony of the
twice-martyred victim, who was found to be still living after he was
supposed to have been shot to death; but, unfortunately, both
compositions are so much defaced that it is difficult to form a true
idea of what they originally were.

The years during which Mantegna was at work on the Eremitani frescoes,
supposed to have been completed in 1455, coincided with the most
interesting period of the artist's life from a personal point of view.
In 1453 he became engaged to the only daughter of Jacopo Bellini,
Nicolasia, whom he had known since she was a child, and to whom he had
long been attached. He was married to her in 1455, and the young
couple evidently started life together under very happy auspices; but
little is really known either of their courtship or their later
experiences. Neither, unfortunately, is it possible to call up with
any semblance of reality the personality of the bride, for although
she certainly often posed for her father, husband, and brothers, her
portrait cannot be identified in any of their compositions. That she
was beautiful and charming is generally taken for granted, that she
shared the æsthetic faculty with which the other members of her family
were so richly endowed is more than probable, and that she was a good
wife to Mantegna is incidentally proved by the fact that his money
difficulties did not begin till after her death; but that is all that
can be gathered concerning her. It is far easier to realise what the
bridegroom was like, for Andrea has introduced himself among the
spectators in the "Martyrdom of St. Christopher" and in the later
"Meeting between Lodovico Gonzaga and his son, Cardinal Francesco," of
the Camera degli Sposi at Mantua, in both of which the painter
appears as a handsome, distinguished-looking man whose somewhat stern
features, in which, however, there is no suggestion of the irritable
temper with which some of his contemporaries charged him, greatly
resemble those of the fine bronze bust, of uncertain authorship, that
was set up in 1560 outside his mortuary chapel in S. Andrea, Mantua,
by one of his grandsons.

Almost the only comment made by the biographers of Mantegna on his
marriage is that after it the influence of Jacopo Bellini over his
style became more marked, and nearly all they have to tell concerning
him and his wife is that they had three boys, one of whom died in
infancy, and two girls. Occasionally, it is true, a reference is made
to work done in their father's studio by one or the other of the
surviving sons, whose names were Francesco and Lodovico. The marriages
of the daughters, Laura and Taddea, are alluded to _en passant_, and
the fact is mentioned that in his old age the great painter had a
natural son, to whom he gave the names of Giovanni Andrea, and whom he
confided on his death-bed to the care of the boy's half-brother
Lodovico; but scarcely any details can be gathered concerning the home
life of the master before Nicolasia passed away, nor has any one been
able to ascertain who was the heroine of the romance of the master's
closing years. Even Dr. Paul Kristeller in his monumental work, in
which is gathered together from an infinite variety of sources
everything that can throw light on the character, aims, and work of
Mantegna, is able to do no more than suggest that he and his family
were on affectionate terms with each other, that he had the best
interests of his children at heart, and that his wife shared the
tender poetic sensibility of her gifted brother, Giovanni Bellini.


  (In the Pitti Palace, Florence)

  This fine portrait, now in the Pitti Palace, Florence, represents
  one of the members of the Gonzaga family who were introduced in the
  famous frescoes by Mantegna that adorned the Camera degli Sposi and
  other apartments in the Castello of Mantua.]

To make up for the meagreness of intimate personal information with
which writers on Mantegna have to contend, they one and all dwell at
great length on every incident of his art career, describing minutely,
for instance, the strained relations between him and Squarcione, which
culminated in 1456 in his bringing an action against the latter. It
was decided in favour of Andrea, who pleaded that he had been under
age when he signed the agreement already alluded to above, and that
the conditions of the arrangement made had been broken by his
foster-father. It is further related that Squarcione was from the
first bitterly hostile to the intimacy between Mantegna and the
Bellini, resenting the influence Jacopo exercised over a pupil he
looked upon as his own special protégé. When he heard of the
engagement between Andrea and Nicolasia, he vowed he would never
consent to the match, and when he found that his sanction of the
marriage was dispensed with, his indignation knew no bounds. He vented
his annoyance by making unreasonable demands upon Mantegna's time, and
by harsh criticism of his work on the Eremitani frescoes, in which he
all too clearly betrayed his jealousy of the younger artist's superior
talent. There was really nothing left for Mantegna to do but to sever
all connection with so unreasonable an employer, but that he did so
with regret, remembering past kindnesses, is proved by his having put
off the rupture as long as he did. It was well for him when he
finally left the Squarcione bottega and became free to work out,
unchecked, his own art salvation, and henceforth he may truly be said
to have gone on from strength to strength, until at last, in such
masterpieces as the "Triumph of Cæsar" and the "Madonna della
Vittoria," he reached the very zenith of his powers.

The second period of Mantegna's career begins with the painting of the
fine triptych for S. Zeno, Verona, commissioned by the enlightened
papal protonotary, Abbot Gregorio Correr, one of the leading
ecclesiastics of his time, the first of the many distinguished patrons
who now began to seek to secure the services of the young painter of
Padua. The altar-piece of S. Zeno, the chief composition of which
belongs to the class known as "sacro conversazione," in which saints
of different periods are grouped about the Virgin and Child, marks a
very considerable advance in the delineation of character. The
personalities of men so diverse as Saints Peter, John the Evangelist,
Augustine, and Zeno are realised with great success, and the
concentration of the light on the figure of the Infant Jesus
foreshadows the great change that was ere long to take place in the
artist's renderings of the Holy Family. It is much to be regretted
that the complete work can no longer be seen as it was when first
placed in position, for it was carried off by the French in 1797; and
although after the Treaty of Vienna the upper portion was restored to
S. Zeno, where it now hangs in the choir, the three subjects of the
predella, that are also of great significance in the study of the
development of Mantegna's style, remained in France--the
"Crucifixion," a noble but terribly realistic conception, occupying a
place of honour in the Louvre, whilst the "Agony in the Garden" and
the "Ascension," that originally flanked it on either side, are at

Whilst engaged in his arduous undertaking for Abbot Correr, Mantegna
painted three of his few portraits--that, now at Berlin, of Cardinal
Luigi Mezzarota, the warlike prelate who led the papal troops against
the Turks in 1457, defeating them with great loss; that, in the Naples
Museum, of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga, who received the red hat before
he was seventeen; and the famous double likeness of John of
Czezomicze, better known as Janus Pannonius, that is unfortunately
lost, but won for its author great renown and inspired the beautiful
elegy addressed to him by the poet on its completion.

Between Cardinal Francesco and Andrea a very strong friendship was
soon formed, which may possibly have had something to do with the
pressing invitations Mantegna now began to receive from the father of
the young prelate Lodovico, the reigning Marquis of Mantua, who
worthily maintained the great traditions of his ancestors, under whose
auspices the ancient fortress that was to become so inseparably
associated with the memory of the Paduan master was enlarged and
strengthened, and the Grand Cathedral with the noble Renaissance
Church of S. Andrea were built. The first of Lodovico's invitations
was probably a verbal one, but it was quickly succeeded by urgent
written appeals, some of which have been preserved, in which the
writer offers to make Mantegna his court painter with a high salary
and to accord him certain valuable privileges, the letters reflecting
not only the high esteem in which painters of eminence were then held
and the eagerness with which their work was competed for, but also the
great sacrifices that were demanded from them, and were such as no
modern art patron would dream of exacting.

Again and again Mantegna put off his final reply to the Marquis, for
he loved Padua, where he found plenty of congenial employment, and was
surrounded with appreciative friends; but at last he yielded,
attracted probably partly by the material advantages of the position
offered to him, and partly by the exceptional facilities he would have
in Mantua for the antiquarian research in which he delighted. It was
in the latter half of 1459 that he arrived, accompanied by Nicolasia
and their two little children, in the famous city, where he was
eagerly welcomed by the Marquis and his wife, the Marchesa Barbara,
and their two sons, Federico and Cardinal Francesco. From that time to
his death, except for two years spent in Rome, Mantegna worked almost
exclusively for the Gonzaga family, becoming ever more and more
devotedly attached to them and their interests. From the first, the
position of the court painter appears to have been a very enviable
one, for, although it is true that the payment of his salary was
sometimes delayed, he was evidently on terms of the closest intimacy
with his patron, who soon after his arrival granted him a coat of arms
embodying his own device, and, as proved by many a still extant
letter, was ever ready to help and advise him, whether in matters so
trivial as the cut of a coat or so serious as legal disputes
concerning the boundaries of property owned by the artist. That the
poverty of which Mantegna sometimes complained must have been purely
nominal is indeed evident from these lawsuits, as well as from the
fact that he was able to make a very valuable collection of
antiquities and to give large dowries to his daughters when they

The first pictures painted at Mantua were the beautiful triptych of
the "Adoration of the Kings," "Circumcision," and "Ascension," now in
the Uffizi, Florence; the "Death of the Virgin," in the Prado Gallery;
and the remarkable "Pietà," of the Brera Gallery; the last probably a
study only, as it was still in Mantegna's studio when the artist
passed away, for which reason it has erroneously been attributed to a
later period. Unpleasing though it is with its startling realism, the
"Dead Christ" is of special value as a study in perspective, and, in
the opinion of Dr. Kristeller, it was painted with a view to its being
seen from below, for he says, "It is only as a ceiling painting, with
its perspective point of sight coinciding with the central point of
the ceiling, that the figure would appear correctly foreshortened.
There can be no doubt," he adds, "that it was painted as a preliminary
study for the nude youth standing inside the balustrade on the ceiling
decoration of the Camera degli Sposi and for other figures in
ceiling pictures." However that may be, the strange composition stands
alone among its author's works, and will probably always remain a
subject of contention to critics, so variously do its peculiarities
affect different temperaments.


  (In the National Gallery)

  This beautiful composition, now in the National Gallery, London, is
  supposed to be a replica of the "Mount of Olives" that originally
  formed part of the predella of the great altar-piece of San Zeno,
  Verona, and to have been painted in 1439 for Giacomo Antonio
  Marcello, then Podestà of Padua.]

In addition to the oil-paintings quoted above, Mantegna also produced
between 1459 and 1460 a large number of frescoes for the various
residences of the Marquis of Mantua, but unfortunately no trace of
them remains. The earliest extant works of the kind are those of the
Camera degli Sposi in the Castello di Corte, which were completed in
1474, and in spite of their melancholy condition of decay, the result
chiefly of their having been executed on a dry instead of a damp
surface, are ranked amongst the most noteworthy examples of
fifteenth-century decorative art in existence. Not only are they
admirably executed and thoroughly suitable for the position they
occupy, but they also inaugurate a new departure in historical
portraiture, the principal subjects being groups of the various
members of the Gonzaga family, the most interesting and
characteristic of which is, perhaps, that representing the meeting
between the Marquis Lodovico and Cardinal Francesco, already referred
to as containing a portrait of the artist.

In the other frescoes of the Camera degli Sposi the Cardinal, who by
this time had become Papal Legate of Bologna and Bishop of Mantua, is
conspicuous by his absence, his high position in the Church making his
visits to his home very rare, and leading to his being received with
much pomp and ceremony when he did appear. On this occasion he and his
father, who was accompanied by his two eldest grandsons, were each
attended by a great retinue, and Mantegna has managed with
considerable skill, whilst preserving a certain homeliness, to convey
an impression of grandeur, the noble figures of the actors in the
scene standing out against a fine landscape background, from which
rises up the city of Mantua.

The decorations of the Camera degli Sposi so delighted the Marquis
that he presented their author with an estate in the heart of the
city, on which Mantegna at once began to build a princely mansion,
part of which is now converted into a college. Long before it was
finished, however, he was saddened by the death of Lodovico, who
passed away in 1478, soon after he had commissioned what was to be his
beloved court painter's greatest masterpiece--the series of pictures
representing the "Triumph of Cæsar," that are now at Hampton Court,
having been bought in 1624 from the then reigning Marquis by Charles
I. Lodovico was succeeded by his son Federico, who treated Mantegna
with the same affectionate consideration as his predecessor had done,
taking a deep interest in his welfare and sympathising with him in his
domestic anxieties. On October 25, 1478, he wrote to the artist, who
had been unable to complete some work for him through illness, begging
him to try and get well as quickly as possible, but not to worry about
the delay, and later he did all in his power for Mantegna's delicate
boy, inquiring constantly after him, and giving his father a letter
of introduction to the famous physician, Girardo da Verona, that is of
special interest, affording, as it does, an all-too-rare glimpse of
the painter as a man as well as an artist, trembling for the life of
his suffering child. The Marquis begs the doctor, to consult whom
Mantegna took his son to Venice in 1480, "to show every possible
consideration to our noble and well-beloved servant"; and though the
journey was all in vain, the patient having died soon after the return
to Mantua, the solicitude shown on his behalf by the Marquis must have
touched the heart of his sorrowing parents.


  (In the Brera Gallery, Milan)

  This charming composition, now in the Brera Gallery, Milan, was
  painted in 1485 for the young Marquis of Mantua, Gian Francesco
  Gonzaga, as a gift for the Duchess Eleanora of Ferrara, mother of
  his affianced bride, Isabella d'Este. It is considered one of the
  finest of Mantegna's later religious pictures.]

In 1481 the court of Mantua was thrown into mourning by the death of
the Dowager-Marchesa Barbara, who had from the first been a very kind
friend to Mantegna, and two years later her son, Cardinal Francesco
Gonzaga, to whom the artist was devotedly attached, also passed
away. When, in 1484, Federico himself died suddenly, and his
eighteen-year-old son, Gian Francesco--generally referred to by his
second name only--became Marquis in his stead, Mantegna seems to
have feared that his position at Mantua would be adversely affected by
all the changes that were taking place, and he hastened to offer his
services to Lorenzo de' Medici, with whom he had some slight
acquaintance, and whose liberality as a patron of art and literature
was well known. What reply was made by the Florentine duke to his
suggestion is not known; but it soon became evident that the new ruler
of Mantua knew as well if not better than his father and grandfather
had done before him, how to value his court painter, and one of the
first acts of his reign was to ask Mantegna to paint a picture for him
to present to the Duchess Eleonora of Mantua, mother of his affianced
bride, Isabella d'Este, who was then only ten years old, but was later
to become one of the artist's most liberal patrons and faithful

The picture in question is supposed to have been the fine "Madonna and
Child," with a background of cherubs' heads, now in the Brera
Gallery, Milan, considered, so far as its colouring is concerned, one
of Mantegna's most brilliant achievements. According to some
authorities, it had already been ordered some months before by the
Duchess, and all Francesco had to do with it was to urge the artist to
finish it without further delay; but, in any case, the young Marquis
was constantly in the studio whilst it was in progress, chatting with
the painter now about the work, now about his own private affairs. He
was, it is said, deeply in love with his betrothed, or rather with the
idea he had formed of her, for it is doubtful whether he had yet seen
her, the wooing having been done by proxy as long previously as 1480,
when the little maiden of six had delighted the Mantuan envoy with her
grace and charm. No sooner was the picture signed, before the eager
suitor had it packed, and started with it for Ferrara, where it was
received with the greatest enthusiasm, not only by the Duchess herself
but by the whole court, which, under the enlightened rule of Duke
Ercole I. was a centre of culture, to which flocked artists, poets,
musicians, humanists, and other leaders of the æsthetic and
intellectual life of the day.

Of the actual meeting between the engaged couple no record has been
preserved; but it is evident from letters written home by the Marquis
that his expectations were more than fulfilled, Isabella already
giving promise of the exceptional qualities which were to make her one
of the most fascinating and influential women of her time, the memory
of whose sweet and gracious presence still lingers both in Ferarra and
Mantua. It was difficult for her lover to tear himself away when the
day came for him to return home, where his presence was greatly
needed; but before he left, he exacted a promise from Duchess Eleonora
that she would bring her daughter to Mantua in the autumn of the same

It is easy to imagine how much Francesco had to confide to his court
painter when he paid his next visit to the studio; how he dwelt on the
charms of his beloved Isabella, and lamented over the years that must
elapse before she could become his wife. He found Mantegna eagerly
engaged on the preliminary drawings for the "Triumph of Cæsar," and to
the instructions already given by Lodovico Gonzaga he added a wish
that all the distinguished guests who were soon to meet at his court
should be introduced in the processions, as well as the chief members
of his own family. Mantegna, he may have said, would have plenty of
opportunities for making studies of them; and now he must put
everything else aside for a time to design the decorations in honour
of the visit of the bride-elect and her mother, which were to be a
kind of foretaste of those in celebration of the wedding. In all the
preparations for that great event he relied upon the co-operation of
Mantegna, who must promise not to accept any invitation or commission
that could interfere with his work on them, and, premature as this
must have appeared to the artist, he readily gave the required

All passed over as happily as Francesco himself could have wished
during the brief stay at Mantua of Eleonora and Isabella, who won all
hearts by their sympathetic appreciation of everything that was done
to please them. After they left, the work on the "Triumph of Cæsar"
proceeded apace, interrupted only now and then for the execution of
minor commissions, such as the designing of jewellery, drinking-cups,
&c.; but in 1488 came a very unwelcome summons for Mantegna to go to
Rome, Pope Innocent VIII., who had heard of the beauty of the frescoes
at Padua and Mantua, wishing to have a chapel in the Vatican decorated
by their artist. Such an invitation had all the force of a command,
and the Marquis was reluctantly compelled to let his beloved painter
go; but before he left, he conferred on him the honour of knighthood,
that he might take a better position in the papal court, and once more
reminded him of the necessity that he should be back at Mantua in
January 1490 at the very latest. Bearing with him a letter to the
Pope, dated June 10, 1488, in which Francesco spoke of him in the very
highest terms, Mantegna started for the Holy City, where he was
welcomed with the greatest eagerness, not only by his new employer
but by the ecclesiastical and secular notabilities, who vied with each
other in doing him honour. Certain letters to the Marquis Francesco,
however, betray discontent with the payment he received from the Pope,
and also with the facilities for his work afforded him in the Vatican,
a dissatisfaction that would, indeed, have been intensified could he
have foreseen that the frescoes for which he sacrificed so much were
to be ruthlessly destroyed in 1780, with the chapel containing them,
to make room for the Museo Pio Clementina.

It is only from allusions to them by Vasari and descriptions by the
later critics, Agostino Taja and Giovanni Pietro Chattard, who lived
in the second half of the eighteenth century, and saw the frescoes
shortly before their destruction, that any idea can be obtained of
what they were; but a supposed copy of a portrait of Innocent VIII.
included in them, is in the collection of the Archduke Ferdinand of
Austria. That they were executed by Mantegna without any assistance is
proved by a letter from him to the Marquis Francesco, dated June 15,
1489, in which he says, "The work is heavy for a man alone, intent on
obtaining honours, especially in Rome, where opinion is expressed by
so many able men, and as in the races run by Barbary horses the first
gets the prize, so I too must gain in the end, if it please God."

It is unnecessary to dwell long on works of art that have completely
disappeared. Suffice it to say that the frescoes were not finished in
December 1489, but that Mantegna was hoping to get leave of absence
from the Pope for February 1490, when he was suddenly struck down by
fever, just before he would have started for Mantua had all been well.
The long-talked-of wedding took place, therefore, during his absence,
and he had, after all, absolutely nothing to do with the festivities
in honour of the marriage, that were evidently of a magnificent
description. It must have been, indeed, a keen mortification to him to
have missed such a golden opportunity of proving his devotion to his
Mantuan patron, and it is easy to realise with what mixed feelings he
heard of the enthusiastic reception of the bride in her husband's
native city. Accompanied by Isabella's parents, her uncle Cardinal
d'Este, and her three young brothers, and escorted by a brilliant
suite, the newly wedded pair entered the city on February 12th, the
one drawback to their happiness, contemporary chroniclers report,
having been the absence of the court painter, whose praises had been
so often sung by the bridegroom.


  (In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

  This severe and dignified group, now in the Uffizi Gallery,
  Florence, is supposed by some critics to have been painted in
  Mantua about the same time as the frescoes of the Camera degli
  Sposi, whilst others assign it to a much later date, declaring it
  to have been produced between 1488-1490 during the artist's
  residence in Rome.]

Fortunately, the artist soon recovered from his illness, but it was
not until September that he completed his work in Rome, and received
permission from the Pope to return to Mantua. Innocent VIII. expressed
himself in his letter of dismissal fully satisfied with the way in
which his wishes had been carried out; but whether the artist was
equally pleased with the reward for his services is questionable. He
was evidently very glad to leave Rome, where, strange to say, in spite
of his love for antiquity and the opportunities he must have enjoyed
for his favourite study, he seems to have felt out of his element. His
correspondence with the Marquis betrays considerable home-sickness,
and contains absolutely no allusions to the art treasures of the
Vatican. He pleads with his patron for an appointment for his son
Lodovico, declares he is longing to be at work again on the "Triumph
of Cæsar," and retails various items of court gossip, telling quaint
stories, for instance, about the ill-fated Prince Djem, brother of the
reigning Sultan of Turkey, who was then a prisoner in the Vatican, but
not a word does he say to throw light on the political situation,
which was already causing anxiety to the heads of the great Italian
states. Back again in Mantua, Mantegna quickly threw off the
depression revealed in his letters, resuming his old place as if he
had never been away, his studio becoming once more the centre of
artistic activity in the ancient town.

The court painter was as eagerly welcomed by the young Marchesa as by
her husband, and for the rest of his life his fortunes were very
closely bound up with those of the d'Este family, which is equivalent
to saying that he was henceforth to be in close touch with the history
of his native country, that was even then on the eve of the
Revolution that was completely to change her position in the polity of
nations. The Marquis of Mantua's bride was the only sister of Beatrice
d'Este, who was married on December 29, 1490, to the brilliantly
gifted but fickle, cruel, and crafty Lodovico Sforza, surnamed II
Moro, who obtained the dukedom of Milan through treachery, and was
mainly instrumental in bringing about the invasion of Italy by the
French, a crime for which he was to pay dearly, first with his liberty
and in the end with his life, for he died a prisoner in the Castle of
Loches in 1508.

No hint of troubles to come saddened the first few months of Isabella
d'Este's life at Mantua, her chief anxiety having apparently been
concerning her beloved sister, whose lot was far less happy than her
own. Lodovico Sforza had not been nearly so ardent a lover as
Francesco Gonzaga, for he had a mistress, the lovely and learned
Cecilia Gallerani, to whom he was devotedly attached, and who had been
for many years treated by him as if she were his legal wife. It is
significant of the indulgent manner in which such unions were regarded
that his relations with her were not considered any bar to his
marriage with an innocent young girl, whose parents did all in their
power to hasten her engagement with him. It was very evident, however,
that Beatrice did not share their eagerness, and it was to Isabella,
who had hastened to Ferrara as soon as the matter was settled, that
she turned for comfort in her shrinking dread of what was before her.
That the Marchesa succeeded in reassuring her and bracing her up for
the ordeal is proved by the dignified way in which the child-bride
bore herself in the long-drawn-out and brilliant festivities that
celebrated her union with a man more than double her own age, and the
ease with which she took up the arduous duties of the wife of the
leading and most powerful prince of Italy. It was with a heart
relieved of its most pressing fears that the elder sister returned
home, and the letters written to her by Beatrice in the months
succeeding her departure reveal a growing attachment between the
newly married couple, on which a seal was set in January 1493 by the
birth of their first son.

The court of the Gonzagas now became the rendezvous of the leading
authors, artists, and antiquarians of the day, who vied with each
other in their enthusiastic admiration for the beautiful young
Marchesa, though it is occasionally suggested by contemporary writers
that as time went on some of them rather rebelled against her
increasing exactions, for she would fain have had every one give up
everything to obey her behests. She is even said to have sent
imperious messages to such great celebrities as Perugino, Giovanni
Bellini, and Leonardo da Vinci, bidding them come and help Mantegna to
decorate her apartments, describing the subjects she wished them to
interpret, and expressing herself as greatly aggrieved when they
failed to appear. On the other hand, there is no doubt that she proved
herself a most generous and considerate patron of her own court
painter, and the four years after his return from Rome were probably
among the happiest of Mantegna's life. He worked during them almost
exclusively at the "Triumph of Cæsar," receiving no help from any
other artist, completing the tenth composition in 1494, and making
several sketches for others that were never finished. In these
wonderful creations the artist realised the very spirit of antiquity,
yet at the same time bequeathed to posterity a marvellously true
series of presentments of the contemporary life of his time, full of
significant incidents and effective contrasts, the various groups
displaying a freedom of execution and force of expression such as
Mantegna had never before achieved. For the first time realism and
idealism were welded into one, and the past seemed actually to become
the present, waking into new life not merely as an intellectual
abstraction, but as a visible pageant of humanity.

The year of the successful conclusion of the "Triumph of Cæsar" was a
disastrous one for Italy, for in July 1494 the Duke of Orleans, on the
invitation of Lodovico Sforza, crossed the Alps, to be followed almost
immediately by Charles VIII. The French King and the Duke of Orleans
were welcomed with great enthusiasm by Il Moro, whose wife wrote
glowing accounts to her sister at Mantua of the rejoicings over their
arrival; but those who looked below the surface recognised what a
fatal mistake had been made, and sinister rumours soon began to spread
abroad as to the real motives of Lodovico Sforza. The death of his
nephew Giangaleazzo at a most opportune moment for him led to
suspicions of his having caused him to be poisoned, that were
confirmed by the way in which he managed to get his claim to the
succession recognised and the dead man's young son Francesco set aside
in his own favour. For all that, he was allowed to assume the supreme
authority at Milan without opposition, and contemporary chroniclers
even comment on the kindness shown by him and his wife to the widowed
duchess, to whom apartments were assigned in the palace that had so
long been her home. Meanwhile, everything had remained quiet at
Mantua, though all that was going on elsewhere was being watched with
eager interest by the Gonzagas and Mantegna. Early in 1495 Isabella
went to Milan to be with her sister, who was expecting her second
child, and on February 4th a fine boy was born. In the brilliant
festivities held to celebrate the great event the child's beautiful
aunt is said to have taken a leading part, now receiving ambassadors
from foreign courts to save the young mother fatigue, now advising her
brother-in-law in some difficult question of etiquette, capping verses
with Gaspare Visconti, criticising the work of Giovanni Bellini, or
playing with her two-year-old nephew, Ercole, who simply worshipped

Suddenly, in the midst of all this light-hearted gaiety, came the news
that Charles VIII. had entered Naples and been crowned King of Sicily,
and though the bells of Milan were ostentatiously rung as if in
rejoicing, a council was hastily summoned to consult on the best
measures to save Italy from the French invaders. On April 12th a
league against France was signed between Venice, Urbino, Mantua,
Milan, King Ferdinand of Spain and the Emperor Maximilian; the Marquis
of Mantua was made Generalissimo of the united Italian forces, and
after taking an affectionate farewell of Mantegna, who, he said, would
soon be called upon to paint a masterpiece in celebration of a
victory, he set forth in high spirits at the head of his army. His
words turned out to be prophetic, for on July 6th, at Fornovo, he
defeated the French with great loss, fighting himself side by side
with his soldiers in the front rank. Before he went into action he
vowed that if he escaped unhurt he would build a church in honour of
the Virgin at Mantua, and as soon as the battle was over he sent
instructions to Mantegna to make plans of the building, and to design
an altar-piece for it.

  [Illustration: PLATE VII.--PARNASSUS

  (In the Louvre)

  This charmingly dramatic interpretation of the subjugation of the
  God of War by the Goddess of Love is one of a series of allegorical
  pictures painted for the "Studio" of the Marchesa Isabella Gonzaga
  at Mantua, and is a unique example of its artist's deep sympathy
  with the spirit of classic legend.]

The church was finished before the painting, which was not begun until
August 30th, but it was completed in time to be placed in position on
the anniversary of the event it commemorated, and is universally
considered the artist's finest work of the kind, surpassing even the
beautiful S. Zeno triptych. It is now one of the chief treasures of
the Louvre, having been taken to France in 1797, and is known as
the "Madonna della Vittoria," although, as a matter of fact, it
represents the Marquis of Mantua pleading with the Virgin for the
success of his arms, not returning thanks for victory, the whole
composition breathing forth yearning aspiration rather than
exultation. In it the Holy Child occupies the centre of the design,
all the light being concentrated on Him and on the face of His mother,
who embraces Him with one hand, and stretches forth the other towards
the kneeling suppliant, opposite to whom are St. Elizabeth and the
Infant St. John the Baptist. The mantle of the Virgin is held back by
Saints George and Michael, and against the ornate background appear
the heads of the patrons of Mantua, Saints Andrew and Longinus, the
whole being admirably proportioned and well balanced.

During the years that succeeded the victory of Fornovo the Marquis of
Mantua and his wife had to contend not only with great political
anxieties but with one of the greatest sorrows of their lives--the
sudden death of the Duchess of Milan, who passed away on January 2,
1497, after giving birth to a still-born son. Her end is said to have
been hastened by the fact that her husband, who had hitherto seemed
devoted to her, had recently conceived a passion for a lovely girl
named Lucrezia Crivelli, who had been one of her ladies-in-waiting.
However that may have been, Lodovico's grief at her loss, intensified
perhaps by self-reproach, was extreme, and the letter he wrote to his
brother-in-law asking him to break the terrible news to Isabella is
one long cry of anguish. That the young wife had been mercifully taken
away from the evil to come soon, however, became apparent, for before
she had been dead a year her husband's doom was already sealed. Heavy
clouds, too, were gathering at Mantua, for the Marquis fell under the
suspicion of having had underhand dealings with the enemy, and in
April 1497 he was suddenly dismissed from his post as Generalissimo of
the Italian forces. This was a bitter blow to him, to his wife, and to
all, including Mantegna, who had his interests at heart, but
fortunately the storm quickly blew over, and he was soon restored to
his command, which he retained to the end of the campaign.

The taking of Milan by the French in 1499 and the triumphant entry
into the conquered city of Louis XII.--who, the little dauphin having
died shortly before his father, had become King of France on the death
of Charles VIII.--with all the terrible consequences to the Sforza
family, cast a gloom over the court of Mantua for the rest of the
reign of the Marquis Francesco, and both he and Isabella found their
best distraction from their many sorrows in watching their court
painter at work. The "Madonna della Vittoria" was succeeded by the
"Madonna with Saints and Angels," now in the collection of Prince
Trivulzio at Milan, painted for the monks of S. Maria in Organo,
Verona, and the "Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist," now in
the National Gallery, with the smaller but no less charming "Holy
Family" of the Dresden Gallery. To about the same period are supposed
to belong the designs for the frescoes in Mantegna's mortuary chapel
in S. Andrea, Mantua, of which only two--the "Holy Family with St.
Elizabeth, Zacharias, and the Infant St. John" and the "Baptism of
Christ," the latter almost defaced--are from the hand of the master
himself, the rest having been completed after his death by his pupils.

In 1500, when Andrea was already in his seventieth year, he was
commissioned by the Marchesa to paint a series of allegorical subjects
in what she called her "studio," in the Castello of Mantua, on the
decoration of which several other artists, including Perugino and
Lorenzo da Costa, were also engaged. Mantegna was, unfortunately, the
only one of the painters selected who approached the task with any
enthusiasm, or attempted to realise the ambition of Isabella--that her
sanctum should be a kind of epitome of intellectual and sensuous life,
symbolising, as do the Trifoni of Petrarch in literature, the most
ideal aspirations of humanity. The first of the compositions completed
by Mantegna was the "Parnassus," in which the conquest of Mars by
Venus is celebrated, that is unique amongst the master's works,
generally characterised as they are by sobriety of expression, as an
interpretation of light-hearted gaiety. The figures of the
dancing-girls are full of vivacious grace, and that of the Goddess of
Love of seductive charm, contrasting well with the virile and heroic
form of her suitor, the stern God of War, whilst the minor actors in
the idyllic scene--the neglected husband, Vulcan, working at his forge
as if indifferent to what is going on, Apollo, Mercury, and Cupid--are
all most happily rendered, the various groups combining to give the
impression of a living drama, in which the artist, in the fulness of
his creative power, for once succeeded in giving visible expression to
his lifelong dream of the old Olympus, which he had previously seen
only in his imagination.

It was not until some years after the execution of the "Parnassus"
that the second of the "studio" pictures, the comparatively
uninteresting "Triumph of Virtue over the Vices," was finished.
Though its details were evidently carefully studied, it shows a
lamentable falling off in simplicity and effectiveness of design,
Mantegna having been greatly hampered by the constant interference of
Isabella, who insisted on the introduction of a bewildering number of
allegorical figures. The third and last composition, an equally
unpromising subject, the "Triumph of Erotic Love," was only begun by
Andrea, and completed by Lorenzo da Costa, who faithfully endeavoured
to fulfil his predecessor's intentions. All three paintings are now in
the Louvre, where the "Parnassus" may be usefully compared with the
earlier "Madonna della Vittoria" and the "Crucifixion," the three
works being very typical of the various periods of the master's

To 1506 belongs the fine and characteristic monochrome decorative
picture of the "Triumph of Scipio," now in the National Gallery, one
of the very latest of the master's works, commemorating two important
episodes of the second Punic War--the welcome given to the image of
the goddess Cybele brought from Rome to Ostia by Publius Scipio, and
the miracle wrought by the "Mother of the Gods" on her arrival, which
proved the innocence of the Roman matron, Claudia Quinta, who had been
falsely accused of immorality. Concerning this fine work, in which the
artist tells the well-known classic story with dramatic directness, a
very interesting correspondence has been preserved, between Isabella
d'Este and the famous Venetian scholar, Pietro Bembo, who complained
to the Marchioness that Mantegna had long ago pledged himself to paint
certain pictures for his friend, Francesco Cornaro, who had paid
twenty-five ducats on account. He begged the master's patroness to
induce him to fulfil his engagements, adding that "Messer Cornaro
would not mind about a couple of hundred ducats; he would gladly leave
the value of the pictures to her, but he would not allow himself to be
jested with, and meant to stand upon his rights." To this the great
lady appealed to replied that "she would certainly speak for Cornaro
to Mantegna when opportunity should occur, but that the aged artist
was at the moment scarcely recovered from a serious illness, so that
it was impossible yet to talk to him about business." That she did
intervene soon afterwards, or that Mantegna's own conscience
reproached him, is, however, proved by the fact that the completed
"Triumph of Scipio" was found in his studio after his death.


  (In the National Gallery)

  Painted in 1506, this fine decorative picture in monochrome, now
  in the National Gallery, is one of Mantegna's latest works, and
  represents two incidents of the second Punic War--the arrival at
  Rome of the image of the goddess Cybele, and the supposed miracle
  wrought by it.]

The picture is referred to by the painter's son Lodovico in a letter
to the Marchioness "as that work of Scipio Cornelio which was
undertaken for Messer Francesco Cornaro, and which the Cardinal
Sigismondo Gonzaga desired to retain for himself." Vainly did Andrea's
second son protest against this, begging the Marquis Francesco to let
him have it back, "for he wished to keep it as a memorial of his
father and for purposes of study," a plea delightfully suggestive of
happy relations having existed between the writer and the great
master. Francesco Mantegna added that he would gladly pay back the
twenty-five ducats to Cornaro, and great was his disappointment
when, after a long delay, he received as sole answer to his request a
promissory note from the Cardinal for one hundred ducats, which in the
end turned out to be no more than waste paper, for as long afterwards
as November 1507 neither he nor his brother had been able to get the
money. In the end, the descendants of Messer Cornaro got possession of
the picture, which was bought from one of them by Lord George Vivian,
whose son left it to the National Gallery in 1873.

With the "Triumph of Scipio" may justly be ranked the "Samson and
Delilah," also now in the National Gallery, that is evidently entirely
from the hand of the master himself, and is a very realistic
interpretation of the much-exploited incident of the betrayal of the
strong man by the weak but cunning woman. Other typical drawings are
the "Judgment of Solomon," in the Louvre, and the three renderings of
Judith placing the head of Holofernes in a sack that is held open by
her handmaiden--one in the possession of Mr. John Taylor, one at
Dublin, and the third in the Uffizi. The last, signed by the artist
with his full name and dated 1491, is a truly admirable rendering of
its subject, the shrinking horror felt by the beautiful and heroic
girl of the ghastly trophy she is about to let fall, being vividly
reflected in her attitude and expression as well as in those of her
companion. Less satisfactory from a technical point of view are the
"Mutius Scævola" of the Munich collection, commemorative of the noble
deed of the young Roman who had been chosen by lot to slay the
Etruscan invader, King Porsenna, and having failed was condemned to be
burnt alive; the group of "Mars, Venus, and Diana," in the British
Museum; the "Vestal Virgin Tucia," also known as "Autumn," and the
"Greek Woman drinking from a Cup," sometimes called "Summer," in the
National Gallery. Even they, however, as well as the more important
drawings, are eminently characteristic of their author, who from first
to last was more pictorial in his sketches than in his finished

Not only as a painter but as an engraver did Mantegna win great renown
during his lifetime and abiding fame after his death. He and his
gifted contemporary, Antonio Pollaiuolo, were the first Italians to
employ copperplate engravings for original work and the reproduction
of their drawings, and a very great impulse was given by them to the
useful craft.

The closing months of Mantegna's life are involved in an obscurity as
great as that shrouding his early years. It is not even known of what
he died, some saying that he was suddenly carried off by the plague
which was raging in Mantua at the time, others that the end had long
been expected, and that old age was his only ailment. The sad event
took place at seven o'clock in the evening, on September 13, 1506, and
the news was formally notified to the Marquis two days later by
Francesco Mantegna; but, probably because of the great anxieties by
which the Gonzagas were then oppressed, very little notice was taken
of what under other circumstances would have overwhelmed them with

Andrea Mantegna was quietly buried in the chapel in S. Andrea, Mantua,
that he had long since secured as the last resting-place of his
family, and which, except for the completion of the unfinished
frescoes, remains to the present day very much what it was at the time
of his death. It was not until fifty years later that the bronze bust,
already referred to, was set up outside the chapel by his grandson
Andrea, son of Lodovico Mantegna, who also erected within the building
a fine memorial to his grandfather, father, and uncle, bearing the
inscription, "Ossa Andreæ Mantineæ famosissimi pictoris cum duobus
filiis in hoc sepulcro per Andream Mantineæ nepotem ex filio
constructo reposita MDLX."

In addition to the well-authenticated paintings, frescoes, and
engravings described above, a very great number of other works,
including easel pictures, drawings, and miniatures, have been
attributed to Mantegna, who is also said to have occasionally
practised sculpture. Moreover, literary evidence proves that nearly
one hundred compositions designed and executed by him have been lost,
amongst which are specially to be regretted the portraits of his
various patrons of the Gonzaga family and, above all, that of the
Duchess Elizabetta of Urbino, who was one of the most beautiful and
influential women of her time, beloved by young and old, and for whom
her brilliant sister-in-law, Isabella d'Este, had a most fervent
admiration. Even without these missing treasures, however, the court
painter of Mantua left behind him masterpieces enough to secure to him
a lasting fame as one of the pioneers of the Renaissance of painting
in Italy.

The fact that Mantegna passed away on the very threshold of the Golden
Age, during which Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian,
and Correggio, each the founder of a great school, produced their
world-famous works, has led to his achievements having been
comparatively neglected; but of late years his claims have gradually
become more fully recognised, and he now takes high rank as a
consistent and persevering exponent of a high ideal. His intense
individuality was from the first hostile to imitation, but his
influence was long felt in the art world, and many artists who were
associated with him in Padua and Mantua later carried on his
traditions to some extent in Verona, Ferrara, Modena, Bologna, and
Milan. Jacopo da Montagnana was, perhaps, the master who most closely
resembled him, some of his work having been actually attributed to
Mantegna; but Francesco Benaglio, Liberate da Verona, Francesco
Moroni, Girolamo dai Libri, Marco Zoppo, Cosimo Tura, and Lorenzo da
Costa owed much to their study of his masterpieces--the last named,
who succeeded him as court painter at Mantua, reproducing in his later
compositions something of the characteristic style of his predecessor
in that office.

It has even been claimed that Correggio, who, according to a
long-accepted but now discredited tradition, was supposed to have
been the actual pupil of Mantegna, derived much of his inspiration
from the older painter. "Both artists," says Dr. Kristeller in an able
examination of the points of affinity between them, "penetrate to the
very core of the subject, to the purely human emotion latent within
it: equally sensitive and elevated in spirit, both strive
enthusiastically after a superhuman existence, full of an enhanced joy
in life.... Both seek to break through the confines of the earthly to
secure, in immeasurable space, free scope for the power and the
magnitude of their figures. The voluptuous swinging lines, the ideally
beautiful forms of Mantegna's figures in his later works, their sweet
and thoughtful expression of tranquil bliss and spiritual emotion is
in Correggio's creations only heightened by the passionate
sensuousness of his own outlook on the world, by the utmost vivacity
of movement, and by his ardent surrender of self to the sensuous as
well as to the godlike. But," adds the German critic, and here he lays
his finger on the essential difference between the art and character
of the men compared, "sensuousness in Mantegna was neither ignored nor
emphasised," for there was no pandering to the love of sensation in
the work of the sincere and earnest master of Mantua, who never
represented passion for its own sake, but combined with a true
appreciation of the beauty of physical form and the poetry of motion a
stern severity of expression peculiarly his own. Both masters pursued
the same ideal of beauty, both penetrated to the very heart of their
subjects, but the paintings of Mantegna are more elevated in spirit
than those of the more widely admired successor, whose forerunner he
is said to have been.

There is, it must be admitted, a certain want of dramatic unity
marring the effect even of the greatest compositions of the Mantuan
painter; but it should not be forgotten that his aim was not the same
as that of Raphael, Titian, Holbein, or Memlinc. Even his severest
critics are compelled to admit that he fully realised his own
ambition, a truly worthy one, to bring the past into touch with the
present, and to pave the way for those who should come after him. His
best works display not only consummate draughtsmanship but a power of
interpreting intellectual and spiritual emotion, rare amongst his
contemporaries, though it was to be bestowed in fullest measure upon
many of the masters of the sixteenth century; and he will ever remain,
in the opinion of those most competent to judge, one of the greatest
of their predecessors.

The plates are printed by BEMROSE & SONS, LTD., Derby and London

The text at the BALLANTYNE PRESS, Edinburgh

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