San Zeno Altarpiece. The characters

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San Zeno Altarpiece. The characters

Andrea Mantegna  >  San Zeno Altarpiece

In San Zeno's Altarpiece, Andrea Mantegna painted the "holy conversation" where the Madonna with Child, eight saints and nine angels are portrayed. As all the other elements of the composition, also the characters answer to precise iconographic requirements. 

The Madonna with Child Enthroned, at the center of the representation, is where the link between past and present is focused. Mantegna chose the "nikopoia" iconography (the Madonna frontally seen, seated in the throne with the child on her lap, in a presentation action), the same used by Donatello in the Altare del Santo in Padua. But the origin of this type of representation is much older, it tracks down the Byzantine images and, going back further, the images of matrons in the old roman tombs. 

The saints, accurately chosen by Abbot Correr, who ordered the work, are the patron saints of Verona, portrayed to indicate their "real presence", as the city protectors, according to the Christian thinking.

To the left are Peter, Paul, John the Evangelist and Zeno and on the other side, Benedict, Lawrence, Gregory and John the Baptist. Most of them are portrayed with a book in their hands to underline the intellectual component of the Benedictine concept, according to which the time should be dedicated to studying and to the "lectio divina" (divine reading).

The characters are "heroical", made monumental by the perspective with a lowered point of view and from their powerful plasticity. They manage to be solemn and composed in their gestures and in their nonchalant air, or absorbed in their reading and meditation. They are discerned either by their different personality and physiognomy, or by their energetic dissonance of the contrasting colours. Everyone gathers in impeccable order around the Madonna's throne, their positioning following the same perspective rules to which answers the majestic architecture

A. Cocchi

Trad: A. Sturmer



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Tags:Alessandra Cocchi, A. Sturmer, altarpiece, St. Zeno, renaissance, painting, character, saints, .


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