The creative years of Andrea Mantegna, from 1448 to 1506, fell between the Early and High Revival eras, and the tumultuous contradictions between religion and the pursuit of fortune dominated the time are represented in the mood of his work. Few artistic organizations, in particular, capture the dual emphasis on Christian piety and classical military valor throughout the Italian Quattrocento (fifteenth century) and Mantegna's. His works, which are heavily influenced by Classical Art, give equal reverence to Christian saints and Roman imperial emperors while also displaying a balanced blend of chiaroscuro hardness and soft, naturalistic delicacy.
Isola di Carturo, a town near Padua in the Republic of Venice, is where Andrea Mantegna was born. When Mantegna was a young lad, he learned how to tend sheep and execute other traditional farming labor from his poor craftsman father, Biagio. When Biagio passed away when Andrea was still a child, Francesco Squarcione, a Paduan painter, took him in as an apprenticeship and orphaned him when he was seven years old in 1442. Mantegna was admitted to the Fraglia dei Pittori e Coffanari, the Paduan Artists' Guild, three years later when he was only eleven years old.
While Squarcione himself never had a promising career, he had sponsored numerous young painters who went on to become famous. He was considered the "Father of Painting." He was most renowned for his sizable collection of Greco-Roman objects and his renowned education facility, which educated struggling artists to imitate the old masters' skills. Mantegna's passion for classical ancient sites and design persisted throughout his life. Still, he grew unsatisfied with Squarcione's dubious legal standing. Eventually, he alleged the older artist of fraud and exploitation by taking profits from his work without paying Mantegna the pledged compensation. In 1448, a judge decided in his favor, freeing Mantegna from Squarcione's sway.
For Mantegna, the culture of Renaissance Padua was a major influence. It offered a situation oriented to replicating classical values and civilizations, on par with Florence's allegiance to Renaissance Humanism and intellectual endeavor. In this context, Mantegna's interest in classical music was encouraged. In his early years, he was also significantly affected by the great artist Jacopo Bellini, whose classical approach to anatomy and form is sometimes related to Mantegna's. The impact of Donatello, who established a distinct Greco-Roman style with a pagan thematic subtext, was even more essential. Mantegna was enormously impressed by the spiritual aspect of Donatello's art and its sense of harmony between the mind, soul, and body. He drew heavily on these elements in his work.
When Mantegna was seventeen years old, he progressed into a more-or-less skilled painter. In 1448, he was already famous enough to begin obtaining commissions, the first for the Madonna altarpiece at the Church of Santa Sofia in Padua. The altarpiece, which is now gone, was described by the painter Giorgio Vasari as having the technical ability of "an experienced elderly man."
With Niccol Pizzolo, another Squarcione student, Mantegna began painting many frescoes for the Ovetari Chapel at the Eremitani Church in Padua in 1449. However, this project marked the end of the collaboration between Mantegna and Pizzolo, who later passed away in a fight, leaving Mantegna in charge of the chapel's final ornamentation from 1455 to 1556. By marrying Nicolosia Bellini in 1453 at the behest of her father Jacopo, Mantegna bolstered his friendship with the Bellini family while working on the Ovetari Chapel. Two sons, Lodovico and Francesco, lived to adult years; a daughter, Taddea, was born to the couple. The painters Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, also famous artists, became Mantegna's in-laws through his marriage. Mantegna learned to soften his color palette and style from Giovanni, who had a more significant effect on his work than the other two.
Mantegna's father-in-law, Bellini's influence, prompted a strong interest in presenting the personalities of popular painters. Mantegna's vibrant and forceful portraits are the most outstanding example of this. The Eremitani frescoes' self-portrait is the most famous example of this type; it may be identified by its strongly defined expression and deep facial lines, which give the impression of immense raw emotion and solemnity. The frescoes also exhibited Mantegna's skill at painting landscapes, characterized by careful attention to ornamentation and detail. All around Padua, Mantegna acquired recognition and respect thanks to the Eremitani frescoes. Works of stunning refinement and beauty were created due to his blending of classical technique and severity with the gentler approach to characterization he had learned from Giovanni Bellini. Mantegna was made head of the school at Padua, where he recruited many students and worked as a portraitist for professors. Moreover, he contributed to several notable projects in Italy,
One of Italy's most potent city-state lords, Ludovico III of the House of Gonzaga, the Marquis of Mantua, was drawn to Mantegna's expert artistry and excellent reputation. Mantegna received a sponsorship offer from Ludovico in 1457. Still, the artist waited a while to accept because he wanted to stay in Padua, a city suited to his well-educated sensibilities. Ludovico III issued several other proposals, each with a higher financial reward and an assurance of housing and food for Mantegna's family. The Marquis continued to pursue the artist, but the artist eventually relented and moved to Mantua in 1459.
Working with the Gonzagas gave Mantegna the freedom to pursue his skills in classical music. A very well humanist, Ludovico III and his dynasty welcomed thinkers and artists like Alberti and Brunelleschi, as well as the Medici family, famous benefactors of the arts, at their court.
In 1464, Mantegna began doing hobbyist archaeology. He conducted team digs to search for Roman inscriptions. These festivities included some historical simulation, with the participants dressing in Roman-era garb and playing Roman roles. Mantegna also acquired a lot of artifacts for his residence. His passion for antiquities and conservation permeated the artwork he created in Mantua, which had a lot of ancient allusions and ideas.
Mantegna received 15 ducats a month from Ludovico, who also hired him on several ongoing projects, allowing him to travel frequently. The Marquis was sympathetic to Mantegna's methodical approach to his work, even though the artist regularly muttered about his working environment and continuing medical problems. His confrontational temperament frequently culminated in disputes with Ludovico's employers. A confrontation with the foreigner engraver Simone di Ardizone served as an illustration of this trait. Mantegna started working with Ardizone on a printing plate before learning that Ardizone was already engaged in other projects in Mantua. Ardizone and the other artist were attacked by Mantegna when he became enraged, and Ardizone was eventually expelled from Mantua for sodomy. Mantegna alleged that his employment terms had yet to be met in 1476 and that he and his family had been made to suffer hardship. In return, Ludovico III created Mantegna, a home that he then decorated with artifacts from antiquity.
Ludovico died of the disease in 1478, and Federico Gonzaga took over as the family's new head of the home. Francesco II took over the family six years later. Mantegna kept creating other art pieces for Francesco for the House of Gonzaga. He is famed for constructing his Triumphs of Caesar (1484–1992) for a room designated for theater productions. This piece is a striking graphic depiction of Mantegna's interests in humanism and archaeology and his intellectual and artistic ambitions. The work's references also bring together many influential figures in Mantegna's life. During his mature era, he also finished various religious works, including a request for the Pope between 1488 and 1490, which earned him the title of Countess Palatine and enabled him to relocate to Mantua. Mantegna obtained a knighthood sometime during the 1480s, and in 1492 he made Mantua his permanent home.
The delicacy and confidence of youth are intriguing in Mantegna's later works. Despite his physical degradation and declining financial status, which may have been a reflection of his propensity for clashing with his patrons and colleagues, he appeared to enjoy life's pleasures with even greater enthusiasm, depicting scenes of military prowess and spiritual enlightenment. Both Parnassus (1495–1477), which depicts the ideals of paganism, and Madonna of Victory (1495), which personifies one of Francesco II's successful conquests, exhibit these traits. The Marchioness Isabella d'Este, princess and Francesco's wife, was not fond of Mantegna's representation of her since it went against the convention of the physically idealized version of monarchy and used a more serious tone than she felt comfortable with.
Mantegna's final years were not as pleasant as his works might seem, partly because of money problems and partly because of Francesco, his eldest son, acting out. Even though Lodovico Mantegna's other child was constantly in problems with the Marquis and subsequently expelled from the Gonzaga Court, Francesco frequently conflicted with the Marquis. Mantegna became the father of an illegitimate boy named Gian-Andrea after the death of his wife. The older artist wrote a will in 1504 that, though favoring Lodovico as one could expect, preferred Gian-Andrea over Francesco. Mantegna requested permission to buy a chapel at the Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Mantua so that he may be laid to rest there in 1504, and his petition was granted. Despite his failing health, he maintained a positive mentality and performed until the end of his life. At the age of 74, he passed away in his home in Via Unicorno, enveloped by his collection of artifacts, on September 13th, 1506
Art by Andrea Mantegna
San Zeno Altarpiece 1457-60
Di sotto in su 1465-74
Saint Sebastian 1480
The Triumphs of Caesar frescoes 1484-92
Madonna of Victory 1495
Adoration of the Magi 1495-1505