The classical beauty of Mantegna’s San Zeno altarpiece
The great Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) distilled the best of his classical culture for the San Zeno altarpiece he created for the Basilica of the same name, in Verona.
According to the famous art historian Federico Zeri, the “rationalization of space in which figures are set” is the paramount feature that speaks of a great “knowledge and love for antiquity”.
But every detail of this masterpiece, painted between 1457 and 1459, is further confirmation: “The pillars in the marble loggia, where the Virgin Mary sits enthroned, are decorated with medallions of pagan inspiration, such as the so-called ‘Labors of Hercules’. The figures that surround the group of the Madonna and Child,” according to Zeri, “look like classical statues in full color.”
“In the San Zeno altarpiece,” Zeri adds, “the strong relationship between Mantegna and Donatello’s sculpture evolves almost into an idealistic Neoclassicism.”
Classical beauty obviously traveled well, from ancient Rome to the work of this talented artist born in Veneto.