Monday, January 27, 2014

Mantegna, Andrea

Agony in the Garden
tempera on panel
71 × 94 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Tours, France

Left panel of the predella of the San Zeno altarpiece which is a triptych by the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. It is located in the Basilica di San Zeno, the main church of Verona. During the reign of Napoleon over Italy all panels of the altarpiece were taken to France; the predella panels were never returned to Verona. This is the original panel. In Verona a replica is on display. The painting shows an agonized Jesus. He seems truly afraid of what he feels will happen to him. In the background soldiers led by Judas are already approaching. The disciples Peter, John and James are sleeping. In this moment of fear Jesus is thus left to himself by the people he asked to remain awake.

Andrea Mantegna (c.1431-1506) was an Italian painter, a student of Roman archeology, and son in law of Jacopo Bellini. He was born near Padua and worked for local artist. Believing his talents were being exploited, he broke their agreement and in 1453 married into the rival Venetian firm of the Bellinis.

He developed a painting technique which enabled him to imitate the look of classical sculpture. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He produced engravings which helped spread his designs and fame beyond Italy. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500. He worked in Padua, Verona and Venice before moving to Mantua in 1460, where he spent the rest of his life. From possibly humble origins he rose to become a valued retainer court artist of the Gonzaga in Mantua. He was knighted by 1484, a rare honour for an artist.