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Andrea Mantegna

Biographical Notes

Andrea Mantegna was born at Isola di Cartura, a village in the province of Padua, in 1431, as we read in the text of an inscription (“Andreas Mantinea Pat. An.septem et decem natus sua manu pinxit M.CCCC.XLVIII”) on the lost altarpiece of the church of Santa Sofia in Padua.
In 1441 the boy Andrea was registered in Padua as the adopted son of the painter Francesco Squarcione and enrolled in the painters' guild of that city.

After living for about seven years in the Squarcione's home-workshop, in 1448 he left his master and signed a contract – with his colleagues Nicolò Pizolo, Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna – to paint a cycle of frescoes in the Ovetari Family Chapel in the church of the Eremitani in Padua.
In the process of completing this enormous undertaking, there were a number of changes in the group until finally it was Mantegna alone who finished the work around 1557.

During the years of work on the Ovetari frescoes, Andrea also painted a number of important works such as the lunette at the main entrance of the Basilica of St. Anthony representing the saint and St. Bernardino da Siena presenting the monogram of Christ, terminated in 1552 (Padua, Museo Antoniano), the polyptich of St. Luke for the saint's chapel in the Basilica di Santa Giustina (Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera), completed and paid for in 1454 and the great painting of Sant’Eufemia also dated 1454 (Naples, Gallerie Nazionali del Museo di Capodimonte).
Around 1453 – 1454 Mantegna became a member of the Bellini family by marrying Nicolosia, Jacopo's daughter.

In 1457, after finishing the work at the Ovetari Chapel, Mantegna was already negotiating with Gregorio Correr, the abbey of the Basilica di San Zeno in Verona, to paint the altarpiece for the main altar of the church, where the painting is still kept, with the exception of the three sections of the predella at the Louvre in Paris and at the Musée des Beaux–Arts in Tours.

The first documents in which we find the Marquis Ludovico Gonzaga urging Mantegna to become his court painter date from around this time.
It was not, however, until 1460 that Mantegna decided to move permanently to Mantova, where he lived for the rest of his life, leaving the city only twice: once in 1466 to visit Pisa and Florence and again between 1489 and 1490 when he went to Rome, where he had been called to decorate the chapel of Innocent VIII at Belvedere, later destroyed.

In Mantova, Mantegna was engaged to decorate the private chapel of Ludovico Gonzaga where he is believed to have painted the so-called "Triptych" now at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Death of the Virgin, now divided between the Prado in Madrid and the National Gallery of Ferrara.
Between 1465 and 1474 he decorated the so-called "Bridal Chamber" dedicated to Ludovico and Barbara Gonzaga.
The next imposing work by Mantegna, painted during the reign of Francesco II Gonzaga, is represented by the cycle of paintings on canvas depicting the Triumphs of Caesar in Gaul, now on view in the palace of Hampton Court in London.

In 1496 Mantegna completed the Altarpiece celebrating the victory of Francesco II Gonzaga in the battle of Fornivo, now at the Louvre in Paris.
The following year he painted the altarpiece known as the Madonna Trivulzio for the main altar of the church of Santa Maria in Organo of Verona, now kept at the City Museum of Ancient Art at Castello Sforzesco in Milan.
During this same period there is evidence that Mantegna also worked for Isabella d’Este, on the decoration of her "office" in the castle of Mantova, which is believed to have included the so-called Parnasus and the painting of Minerva banishing vices from the garden of virtue, now at the Louvre in Paris.

Francesco Correr of Venice wrote to Gonzaga in 1505 to request the collaboration of Mantegna for the decoration of his private chamber, but the master was an old man by then and only completed the first of the paintings ordered: the Introduction of the Cult of Cibale in Rome (London, National Gallery).
The third painting, the Fable of the god Como (Paris, The Louvre), left incomplete at the death of Mantegna in 1506, was completed by Lorenzo Costa.