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Triptych with the Adoration of the Magi, Circumcision and Ascension - Andrea Mantegna. 86x161.5
Andrea Mantegna is an artist whose paintings already several decades before the beginning of the High Renaissance felt the approaching steps of this powerful art.
The triptych was commissioned by Margrave Ludovico Gonzaga for the chapel at his family palace in Mantua (for this family, the painter will work for the rest of his life). The miniature letter of the altar image, the abundance of marvelous details characteristic of the art of the Early Renaissance, are combined here with the power and monumentality that were inherent in the next stage of Italian painting. As a result, the small picturesque altar makes the same impression as the murals of Mantegna in the palace of Gonzaga. And at the same time, I want to consider the triptych as a jewel from a casket.
In the central part, the artist presented a scene of the worship of the Magi: among the beloved rocky landscape he moves a long procession of people in luxurious robes. They go to bow to the Baby sitting on Mary's lap. Angels are curling around. The dry and bright letter of Mantegna makes the image literally shine, thanks also to the special “air” in the paintings - completely transparent, sparse, which can only be high in the mountains. Therefore, everything can be seen in the world created by the artist: the path in the distance, and the light castle to which it leads, and the camel's hair, and hard grass, and thin golden threads that pierced the clothes. And at the same time, the scene can be imagined unfolded throughout the wall of the chapel. Mantegna knew this and, in order to enhance the effect of the monumentality of the depicted, painted it on a concave surface.
In the scene "Circumcision" (right), the artist painstakingly wrote out the wall ornament, compositions in lunettes - “The Sacrifice of Isaac” and “Moses Handing the Tablets of the Testament to the People,” a basket with doves in Joseph’s hand, a tray with cut-out accessories that the boy holds out to the high priest. The image of little John the Baptist is touching, which sucks a finger, holding a bitten bagel in the other hand. All this detailed scene would be suitable for a large mural.
And only in the third composition - "Ascension" (left) - there are almost no carefully depicted details, it is more ascetic and powerful, the rocky landscape is again visible in it, and even the cloud on which Christ stands seems to be carved from marble. But, as before, the feelings of the characters are subtly conveyed: the amazement and hope of Mary and the apostles, light sadness and the promise of meeting in heaven in the Savior's gaze.