San Zeno Altarpiece.The colours and the light

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San Zeno Altarpiece.The colours and the light

Andrea Mantegna  >  San Zeno Altarpiece

 Mantegna’s San Zeno Altarpiece, kept in the homonymous church in Verona, is one of those masterpieces that impress above all for the high pictorial quality. In its expressive truth, each form is accurately defined in its outline, fully developed in its volume and made of a consistent hardness, similar to that of the metal or the stone. But the quality of the colour and the light is what strikes most and exalts each component of the painting.  Andrea Mantegna chose a range of rich and lively colours, distributed in the whole scene, on the details and decoration. The colours, together with the light and with the chiaroscuro, are orchestrated in a harmonic and spectacular way. They call for attention and emotional involvement.

To the left, the harmony of the red and yellow of Saint Peter's clothes, enlivened by the light, come up full of energy and represent a strong visual call that captures the eye and leads inside the painting. It is then followed by the perspective, to complete a semicircle that develops from the left of the panel's surface, follows to the back in the centre, and leaves on the right, again to the surface.
Mantegna obtains other chromatic ignition either by using the contrast of warm and cold colours or by using quality contrast, that is, approaching pure tones, saturated of colour, in dim light areas. For example, the incredible phosphorescent effect of the red-orange scabbard of Saint Paul, the red cuffs of Saint Zeno's cope, the clothes details of the angels and the Madonna, the green lines of Saint Lawrence grill, the embroidery of Saint Gregory clothes, and also the rug, the cornucopia, the fruit garland and the frieze.

Next to these, other chromatic effects are visible in the luminous reflections, where the colour is softened by a suffused light, warm and gold. 

A. Cocchi

Trad: A. Sturmer



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Tags:Alessandra Cocchi, A. Sturmer, altarpiece, St. Zeno, renaissance, painting, colours, light, .


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