Padua in the time of Mantegna

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Padua in the time of Mantegna

Artists  >  Andrea Mantegna

The figurative culture of the Paduan area between the 14th and 15th Century shows interesting aspects that makes it different from the Northern Italy area.
The link with France and Germany is mainly seen on the International Gothic at least until the middle of the 15th Century.
But the relationship with Florence started to get a more significant role from the first years of the 14th Century, with the important presence of Giotto in Padua and the celebre Scrovegni Chapel, from which a new artistic trend started, known as "Paduan Giottism".

During the 15th Century the link with Florence figurative culture is reinforced up to the point where Padua becomes totally involved with the Humanism renewal through works of Florentine artists promoting the Renaissance, as Donatello Paolo Uccello, Andrea del Castagno and Filippo Lippi.

Padua represents fertile grounds for the renaissance culture, since the University of Padua was the site for classical studies at that moment. In the Philosophy field a tradition of Aristotelian studies started to develop and in Literature the grammatical and philological interests prevailed. According to a long tradition, the University of Padua hosted experts from the Latin and Greek literature and from the perspective science. The city was the place for lively debates and cultural bustles that animated the private circles and the schools in the monasteries.

In Carrara, apart from the knowledge and passion for antiquities, also an interest in medalling collection can be witnessed, mainly from the Imperial age.

The moment where the archaeological knowledge of Mantegna started developing, the young artist was supported and encouraged by prestigious antiquity experts. The first one was Felice Feliciano who dedicated himself to the recovery of classical evidence; the other one was Giovanni Marcanova, who during those years worked on one of the biggest collection of old inscriptions of the time. Together with Mantegna and Samuele da Tradate, both scholars took part on a trip to Lake Garda to search and copy old Roman inscriptions. The experience was reported by Feliciano in a codex, now kept in the Public Library of Treviso.

The young Mantegna, supported by these friendships, became part of the intellectual connections of the city, those who formed the archaeological Humanism heart that made Padua one of the avant-garde centres of contemporary Italy.

Mantegna's first appearances relate also to the important presence of Florentine artists who were active in Padua and Veneto.
First of all, Donatello  who in those years was busy with the great Altare Maggiore in the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua; Filippo Lippi was working in the Podestà Chapel; not too far, in Venice, in 1442, Andrea del Castagno was working in the Church of San Zaccaria to carry out the frescoes in the San Tarasio Chapel, before going back to Florence (1444).
Another key figure for the young Andrea was Niccolò Pizzolo, a painter and sculptor from Veneto, who acted as intermediate between the Florentine masters and Mantegna, since he had already been a collaborator for Donatello, first in Florence, then in Padua, during the works of the Basilica del Santo, and had also helped Filippo Lippi in the Podestà Chapel, then to later go to the Church of the Hermits, as Mantegna's helper.

But the archaeological interest of Mantegna developed also in relation to the rich studies that have characterized the city of Padua even before the Renaissance, known as Paduan Pre-humanism.
In Padua, Andrea became friends with the Bellini, celebre family of artists, and married Nicosia, Jacopo's daughter and Gentile and Giovanni's sister.
Besides the personal relationship, the artistic exchange between Andrea's work and the Bellinis' has obviously been of great importance. A special note goes to "Quaderni di Antichità",  a collection of drawings made by Jacopo Bellini which must have aroused the interest of Mantegna. Besides that, the exchange with Gentile, and particularly with Giovanni, was followed by a change on Mantegna's style, characterized by a sort of "softness" of the shapes and colours, as defined by Cavalcaselle.

A. Cocchi
Trad.: A. Sturmer




Lionello Puppi Cianfrusaglie reperti e un talent scout in: Il Romanzo della pittura. Masaccio e Piero. Supplemento al n° 29 de "la Repubblica" del 2.11.1988
Claudia Cleri Via Mantegna. Art eDossier n.55. Giunti, Firenze. 1991
La Nuova Enciclopedia dell'Arte Garzanti.
AA.VV. Moduli di Arte. Dal Rinascimento maturo al rococò. Electa-Bruno Mondadori, Roma 2000
A. Blunt Le teorie artistiche in Italia dal Rinascimento al Manierismo. Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi, Giulio Einaudi Editore, Torino 1966
G. Cricco, F. Di Teodoro, Itinerario nell’arte, vol. 2, Zanichelli Bologna 2004
G. Dorfles, S. Buganza, J. Stoppa Storia dell'arte. Vol II Dal Quattrocento al Settecento. Istituto Italiano Edizioni Atlas, Bergamo 2008



Tags:Mantegna, pittura, Alessandra Cocchi, A. Sturmer, .

Stile:Arte del Quattrocento.

Per saperne di più sulla città di: Padova


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Felice Feliciano, Tombstone of 'METELLIA PRIMA', Modena, Estense Library, Ms. a. L.5.15 (Ms. Lat. 992), page 138 verso; pen and ink with wash on parchment, 34.3 x 24.0 cm. Reproduced courtesy of Library Estense, Modena

Donatello. Altar. Madonna and Child between S. Frances and S. Anthony. Bronze. Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua.


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