Room 61

Mantua and Venice about 1500

Andrea Mantegna received a classical training in the university city of Padua and his paintings emphasise his thoughtful investigations of the art of ancient Rome. This archaeological style brought him to the attention of the Gonzaga rulers of Mantua, avid enthusiasts of the antique, who employed him as their court artist from 1459. His late monochrome pictures were intended to show that painting could match the qualities of relief sculpture.

The career of his brother-in-law, the Venetian Giovanni Bellini, was very different. Bellini produced paintings for churches and palaces, both altarpieces and private devotional images, from his large workshop. Instead of a court salary, Bellini’s success depended on the art market. Many aspects of his style are also found in the work of his younger contemporary Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano, whose beautifully crafted religious works are notable for their landscapes, the crisp clarity of draperies, focused detail, and figures with the sturdy solidity of sculpture.