Mantegna, Andrea

, an eminent Italian painter, was born in 1431, at Padua or in its district. His parents were poor, but Squarcione, whose pupil he became, was so deeply struck with his talents, that he adopted him for his son, and repented of it when Andrea married a daughter of Jacopo Bellini, his competitor. But the censure which now took place of the praise he had before lavishe’d on his pupil, only added to his improvement. Certain basso-relievos of the ancient Greek style, possessed by the academy in which Andrea studied, captivated his taste by the correctness of their outline, the simplicity of the forms, the parallelism of the attitudes, and strictness of the drapery: the dry servility with which he copied these, suffered him not to perceive that he had lost the great prerogative of the originals, the soul that animates them. The sarcasms of Squarcione on his picture of S. Jacopo, made him sensible of the necessity of expression and character; he gave more life to the figures in the story of S. Cristophoro; and in the face of St. Marc, in the church of S. Giustina, united the attention of a philosopher with the enthusiasm of a prophet. While the criticisms of Squarcione improved Mantegna in expression, the friendly advice of the Bellini directed his method, and fixed his principles of colour. During his short stay at Venice, he made himself master of every advantage of that school; and in some of his pictures there are tones and tints in flesh and | landscape, of a richness and zest equal to the best Venetians of his day. Whether he taught Bellini perspective is uncertain; Lomazzo affirms “that Mantegna was the first who opened the eyes of artists in ‘hat branch.

The chief abode and the school of Mantegna were at Mantua, where under the auspices of Marchese Lodovico Gonzaga, he established himself with his family, but he continued to work in other places, and particularly at Rome, where the chapel which he had painted for Innocenzio VIII. in the Vatican existed, though injured by age, at the accession of Pius VI. The style of those frescoes proved that he continued steady in his attachment to the antique, but that from a copyist he was become an imitator. Of his works in oil Mantua possesses several; but the principal one, the master-piece of the artist, and the assemblage of his powers, the picture della Vittoria, afterwards in the Oratorio de Padri di S. Filippo, is now at Paris. It is a votive picture dedicated, for a victory obtained, to the Madonna seated on her throne with the infant standing on her lap, and giving benediction to the kneeling marquis in arms before her. At one side of the throne stands the archangel Michael, holding the mantle of the Madonna; at the other are S. George, S. Maurice, John the Baptist, and S. Elizabeth on her knees. The socle of the throne is ornamented with figures relative to the fall of Adam: the scene is a leafy bower peopled by birds, and here and there open to a lucid sky. No known work of Mantegna equals in design the style of this picture: they generally shew him dry and emaciated, here he appears in all the beauty of select forms: the two infants and St. Elizabeth are figures of dignity, so the archangel who seems to have been, by the conceit of his attitude and the care bestowed on him, the painter’s favourite object. The head has the beauty and the bloom of youth, the round fleshy neck and the breast, to where it confines with the armour, are treated with great art, the expression is to a high degree spirited, and as characteristic. The countenance of the Madonna is mild and benign, that of Christ humane. The future prophet is announced in the uplifted arm of St. John. The guardian angel kindly contemplates the suppliant, who prays with devout simplicity. The whole has an air of life, All the draperies, especially that of St. Elizabeth, are elegant, and correctly folded; with more mass and less intersection of surfaces, they would be perfect. The | extreme finish of execution, as it has not here that dryness which disfigures most other works of this master, does not impair the brilliancy of colour. The head of the Madonna, of the infant, of St. Michael, have a genial bloom of tints. The lights are everywhere true, the shades alone are sometimes too grey or too impure. The general scale of light has more serenity than splendour, more the air of nature than of art, but the reflexes are often cut off too glaringly from the opaque parts. The whole of the picture has preserved its tone to this day, is little damaged, and in no place retouched.

Of the remainder of Mantegna’ s works, besides some frescoes of considerable merit, but much injured, in a saloon of the castle of Mantua, and the well known triumph of Caesar in various compartments at Hampton court, little now remains. His name is more frequent in galleries and collections than his hand; lankness of form, rectilinear folds, yellow landscape, and minute polished pebbles, are less genuine signs of originals than correctness of design and delicacy of pencil. It is not probable that a man so occupied by large works, and so much engraving, should have had time to finish many cabinet-pictures: the series of his plates consist of upwards of fifty pieces, executed by his own hand; and though he was not the inventor of the art, he was certainly the first engraver of his time.

Andrea had great influence on the style of his age, nor was the imitation of his style confined to his own school; Francesco, and another of his sons, finished some of the frescoes which he had begun in the castle, and added the beautiful ceiling which shews that the science of foreshortening, and what the Italians call “del sotto in su,” though Melozio be its reputed author, was carried much farther by Mantegna and his followers. Mantegna died in 1505. Besides his talents for painting, Mantegna was one of the earliest engravers on metal, some, indeed, say the very first, but this does not appear to have been the case. Strutt, who gives a list of his principal engravings, has also exhibited a specimen in his Dictionary. 1


By Fuseli in the last edition of Pilkington. Mr. F. has bestowed more than usual pains on this article. See-also Buliart’s Academic des Science*. Roscoe’s Lorenzo and Leo. —Strutt.