Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mantegna, Andrea

The Agony in the Garden
tempera on wood
63 x 80 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

Mantegna had a preference for barren, rocky landscapes. In this painting he uses the landscape to emphasize Jesus' emotions of loneliness and fear. Three disciples are asleep while the agonized Jesus prays to his father. He feels his end is approaching. In the background Judas and a group of soldiers come to arrest Jesus. To the right the sky is becoming lighter: a new day has come.

Mantegna, Andrea (1431 - 1506), one of the foremost north Italian painters of the 15th century. A master of perspective and foreshortening, he made important contributions to the compositional techniques of Renaissance painting. He was the dominant influence on north Italian painting for 50 years.

Born probably at Isola di Carturo, between Vicenza and Padua, he became the apprentice and adopted son of the painter Francesco Squarcione of Padua. He developed a passionate interest in classical antiquity. The influence of both ancient Roman sculpture and the contemporary sculptor Donatello are clearly evident in Mantegna's rendering of the human figure. His human forms were distinguished for their solidity, expressiveness, and anatomical correctness.

His principal works in Padua were religious. In 1459 he went to Mantua to become court painter to the ruling family and accordingly turned from religious to secular and allegorical subjects. In the works after 1465, he carried the art of illusionistic perspective to new limits. This was to become an important element of baroque and rococo art. Mantegna's later works varied in quality. His work never ceased to be innovative. He died in Mantua.