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Unit iii mantegna (1431-1506)

Andrea Mantegna was the first major north Italian artist to experience the full force of the Florentine Renaissance. In 1454, the year of Donatello's departure from Padua, Mantegna began, with several older artists, a series of frescoes in the Chapel of the Overati family in Padua. He finished the frescoes himself in 1457 when he was twenty six years old.

The air-raid on March 11, 1944 completely destroyed the chapel containing Mantegna's early works. Only two of the frescoed panels on the lower part of the right wall were saved the Martyrdom and the Burial of St. Christopher, and the Assumption in the apse. Almost all the colour is gone from the two frescoes the Martyrdom and the Burial of St. Christopher, but one can still detect the novelty of the background perspective. In the middle of the cove of the apse, the Virgin Mary disappears behind a high archway lifted up towards the sky in all herphysical presence. We follow her as she rises slowly along with the Apostles who stand below against the sides of the arch. The upturned face seen from below with the eyes raised is extremely beautiful.

The few small fragments of the Martyrdom of St. James (1454-56) collected from the pile of ruins and put together in a photomontage have been placed on the left wall. The photo-montage of the Martyrdom of St. James demonstrates the high level of perfection achieved by the young Mantegna in rendering the three-dimensional illusion.

Saint James Led to Execution is a triumph of Renaissance spatial construction and Renaissance Classicism. The perspective is calculated for the eye level of a person of average height standing on the floor below. The effect of figures moving in an actual space is startling. The ground disappears and the figures recede. Within Mantegna's carefully constructed space, the figures look like animated statues, carved rather than painted. But their marmoreal hardness only intensifies the drama. James on the way to martyrdom, turns to bless a kneeling Christian who has broken through the Roman guards. The movements of the figures, the gentleness of the saint, and the emotion of the moment are as severely controlled as the perspective.

In 1474 Mantegna finished the frescoes for the castle of the Gonzaga family, marquises of the principality of Mantua. The Gonzaga frescoes are continuous around two sides and over the vaulted ceiling of a square chamber. They present scenes from contemporary court life. The frescoes have been painted in such a way that the fireplace and other architectural elements of the room are incorporated into the composition. The scene with the family surrounding the ruler and his wife, which is painted over the fireplace, appears to have the figures actually standing and seated upon the mantelpiece, and the leather curtains which were part of the original hangings of the room are echoed in the painted curtains that close off some scenes. In one fresco Francisco Gonzaga is greeted by his father, the marquis, and by the bishop of Mantua, other dignitaries and some charming children on his return from Rome, where he had been made a cardinal. The background is not Mantua, but an ideal Italian city on a hill, the circular walls are seen in perspective. Outside them can be seen Roman ruins and statues. The colouring was undoubtedly more brilliant before certain portions peeled off in the course of time.

The centre of the ceiling is Mantegna's most astonishing perspective prank. We seem to be looking up into a circular parapet as up through the mouth of a well, above which are sky and clouds. Winged children clinging to the parapet are seen in sharp perspective from front and rear, and across one end runs a pole, which if it rolled a bit, would allow a large tub of plants to fall on our heads. Ladies-in-waiting, including one black servant, peer over the edge, smiling at our discomfiture. With this odd beginning commences the long series of illusionistic ceiling and dome paintings that continued for three centuries and spread from Italy throughout Europe.

In the long bas-relief-like painting the Introduction of the Cult of Cybele into Rome Mantegna reveals his sculptural tendencies and grave attitude to classical antiquity. His figures take on the rigidity of stone. The Madonna and Child with Magdalen and S. John the Baptist Mantegna painted with a simulated marble framing. As through a window the observer meant to look at these statue-like figures whose draperies fall into heavy folds.

Late in life Mantegna painted the Dead Christ on canvas and in scurto (extreme foreshortening), intended not as a trick in this case but as a device to bring home to the observer the personal meaning for him of Christ's sacrificial death. The weeping Mary and John are likely later additions.

Mantegna was a printmaker. Seven engravings by his hand and many by his followers established a graphic art tradition in the late fifteenth century in northern Italy.

Make sure you know how to pronounce the following words:

Mantegna  [];  Mantua  [@];  marquis [], burial [@]; martyrdom [@@]; montage []; castle []; Cybele []


Saint James Led to Execution - "Шествие Святого Иакова на казнь"

Martyrdom of St James -"Мученичество Святого Иакова"

Burial of St. Christopher - Перемещение тела Святого Христофора"

Assumption - "Вознесение Марии"

Dead Christ - "Мертвый Христос"

Introduction of the Cult ofCybele into Rome - "Учреждение культа Кибелы в Риме"

Madonna and Child with Magdalen and S. John the Baptist -"Мадонна с Младенцем, Магдалиной и Святым Иоанном Крестителем "

Crucifixion - "Распятие"


I. Read the text. Mark the following statements true or false.

1. In 1454 Mantegna alone began a series of frescoes.

2. In 1944 all Mantegna's frescoes were destroyed.

3. Mantegna initiated illusionistic ceiling paintings.

4. A simulated marble framing is Masaccio's innovation.

5. The Crucifixion is a long bas-relief-like picture.

6. Mantegna painted the Dead Christ on panel.

II. How well have you read? Can you answer the questions?

1. Where did Mantegna paint a series of frescoes in 1454? What frescoes survived? What does the photo-montage show?

2. What is represented in Assumptions?

3. What is a triumph of Renaissance spatial construction? What do the figures in this painting recall? Where did Mantegna place the observer? What effect did he achieve by this device?

4. What frescoes did Mantegna finish in 1474? What is depicted there? What was Mantegna's prank? What does it picture?

5. What did Mantegna introduce in the Madonna and Child with Magdalen and S. John the Baptist? How did the observer mean to look at the figures? What were Mantegna's innovations?

6. What device did Mantegna use in the Dead Christ? Why?

III. i. Give Russian equivalents of the following phrases:

the cove of the apse; a background perspective; statue-like figures; early works; simulated marble framing; in the apse; heavy folds; vaulted ceiling; the figures recede; the emotion of the moment; a device; to render the three-dimensional illusion; to spread throughout Europe; marmoreal hardness; a bishop; ladies-in-waiting; a long bas-relief-like picture; animated statues; martyrdom; a prank; in perspective; sculptural tendencies; to peel off; to peer over the edge; to bring home to the observer; to bless.

ii. Give English equivalents of the following phrases:

в центре конхи; ожившие статуи; мученичество; в конхе апсиды; княжество; мраморная тяжесть; вытянутая, напоминающая барельеф картина; скульптурные тенденции; нарисованная мраморная рама; фигуры, похожие на статуи; донести до зрителя; передать объем; фрейлины; придворная жизнь; распространиться по всей Европе; фоновая перспектива; сводчатый потолок; забавная шутка; выглядывать из-за перил; потолочная роспись.

iii. Make up sentences ofyour own with the given phrases.

IV. Here are descriptions of some of Mantegna's works of art.

Match them up to the given titles..

1. This fresco is a triumph of Renaissance Classicism.

2. The Apostles stand below against the sides of the arch.

3. The frescoes represent scenes from contemporary court life.

4. Mantegna painted Christ foreshortened.

5. It is noted for the novelty of its background perspective.

6. It demonstrates Mantegna's high level of perfection.

a. Dead Christ

b. Burial of St. Christopher

c. Assumption

d. Martyrdom of St. James

e. Saint James Led to Execution

f. The Gonzaga frescoes

V. Translate the text into English.

Андреа Мантенья, крупнейший художник-монументалист падуанской школы. В своих работах он любил изображать античные памятники и развалины. В капелле Оверати Мантенья изобразил историю Св. Иакова, как реальное событие. По заказу мантуанских правителей Мантенья расписал одну из комнат дворца. Художник представил семейный портрет Гонзаго и сцены из придворной жизни Мантуи. Фреска плафона, изображающая в самом центре свода круглую галерею с людьми, смотрящими сквозь перила, является  первой иллюзионистической декорацией в западноевропейском искусстве. Именно с нее начинается многовековая традиция потолочной росписи в Европе.

VI. Summarize the text.

VII. Topics for discussion.

1. Mantegna's style and characters.

2. Mantegna's artistic innovations.

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