Andrea Mantegna.

Andrea Mantegna was born about 1431 in the Republic of Venice. The son of a carpenter he grew up in Padua. At the early age of eleven, he became the apprentice of Francesco Squarcione an archaeologist, painter and dealer in antiquities. Squarcione's workshop was famous throughout Italy and it was here that his young pupil studied Roman art and sculpture. The artist's main influences at this time are Donatello and classical sculpture.

St James led to his Execution, by Andrea Mantegna

Squarcione was quite a prickly character and he soon fell out with his precocious young pupil, and the apprenticeship finally ended in a violent argument and a lawsuit.

Andrea was known to be working on frescoes for the Ovetari Chapel in 1448 when he was only seventeen but this work was almost destroyed in a bombing raid in 1944.

In this series of paintings, the use of his worms-eye view is very evident in the St. James led to his Execution, and is a good example of the artist's understanding of perspective.

In 1454 the artist married Nicolosia the daughter of Jacobo Bellini and so became the brother in law of the painters Giovanni and Gentile Bellini. Between 1456 and 1459 Andrea painted a triptych for the altarpiece of San Zeno the main church of Verona.

"St. James led to his Execution." (s)

 Only photographs exist of this work, it was destroyed during the allied bombing in WW2. 

The San Zeno Altarpiece by Andrea Mantegna

"The San-Zeno Altarpiece" 1456-1459 Verona. (w)

Agony in the Garden by Andrea Mantegna

"The Agony in the Garden"
From "The San Zeno Altarpiece" (w)  

In 1460 Mantegna left Padua and settled in Mantua and was appointed court painter to the Gonzaga family. (Ludovico Gonzaga was the ruler of the city of  Mantua from 1444 to his death in 1478.) He painted the Camera degli Sposi, the bridal chamber, a cycle of frescoes from 1465 and completed in 1474.

The Gonzaga Family by Andrea Mantegna

The Gonzaga Family (detail) (s)

This court scene is on the west wall of the bridal chamber. It shows Ludovico Gonzaga with his wife Barbara of Brandenburg along with several family members.

Ludovico Gonzaga by Andrea Mantegna

Ludovico Gonzaga.

The Ceiling of the Camera degli Sposi by Andrea Mantegna

Ceiling of the Camera degli Sposi 1465-74 (w)

Note how Mantegna has used his knowledge of perspective and foreshortening to create the illusion of a three-dimensional image on the flat two-dimensional surface of the ceiling. Viewed from below (as in the image above) the artist has used his skill to punch a hole through the ceiling to the illusionistic open sky above. This is a particularly fine example of di sotto in sù (seen from below).

St Sebastian (Louvre) Andrea Mantegna

St Sebastian"
1480 Canvas, 255 x 140 cm Musée du Louvre, Paris (w)

St Sebastian (Venice) Andrea Mantegna

St. Sebastian
Panel, 68 × 30 cm Ca' d'Oro

St Sebastian (Vienna) Andrea Mantegna

St. Sebastian Vienna
Panel, 68 × 30 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum

Andrea's fascination with St Sebastian is evident, he painted the subject several times with versions in Vienna, Paris and Venice. 

Personal opinion:-

The version in the Louvre is by far the largest of the three Sebastian's. I love the two guys chatting in the bottom right corner. They are walking past the scene of the martyrdom in a nonchalant manner and could almost be on a Sunday stroll. Only the bow and arrows suggest that they are indeed executioners!!!

Mantegna was something of a recluse in his later years, although he continued to paint despite his ill health. The most famous and dramatic of his perspective effects is found in his "Cristo Scorto" (The Dead Christ) found in his studio after his death on September 13, 1506.

Cristo Scorto by Andrea Mantegna

"Cristo Scorto"(The Dead Christ) (w)
Tempera on canvas, 68x81 cm, 1490 Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

Note the extreme foreshortening of the body of Christ and the almost metallic quality of the clothing, typical Mantegna traits.