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Andrea Mantegna, The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele at Rome

Key facts
Full title The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele at Rome
Artist Andrea Mantegna
Artist dates about 1431 - 1506
Date made 1505-6
Medium and support Glue size on canvas
Dimensions 76.5 × 273 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1873
Inventory number NG902
Location Room 10
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele at Rome
Andrea Mantegna

This picture was part of a classical-style frieze made for Francesco Cornaro, a Venetian nobleman, in celebration of his ancestors, the ancient Roman Cornelia family. Mantegna painted the figures to look as though they are carved from stone, not painted, and set against colourful marble.

In 204 BC the Romans introduced the goddess Cybele to the city for worship. On the far left we see the goddess – she is represented by the spherical stone on the litter. According to the Roman writer Juvenal, she fell to earth as a meteor. Mantegna has included a sculpted bust of Cybele beside it. Cornaro’s ancestor Publius Scipio Cornelius Nasica was chosen – as the worthiest man in Rome – to officially receive the goddess.

Mantegna planned and prepared another four canvases, but completed only this one before his death in 1506. Cornaro commissioned Giovanni Bellini to make at least one more (now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).

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