Fundamental Paintings to Understand the History of Painting
Lamentation over the Dead Christ (1470-74). Andrea Mantegna.
Tempera on canvas. 68 cm x 81 cm
Brera Art Gallery. Milan, Italy.
This is one of the most violent and surprising foreshortenings of the history of painting due to its originality and how complicated it was something like that for the time.
“Foreshortening” is a resource of perspective used when a figure or part of it, in case there is a third dimension, is perpendicular to the painted surface.
Mantegna, as a Renaissance painter, was very interested in the perspective and the proportions of the human figure. And evidently, he was very skillful in that field and made it clear on the canvas.
But the artist did not use the resource just to show that capacity, he used it to give rawness, realism and why not, a bit of drama (which is not a Renaissance characteristic, but something typical of Baroque). Mantegna looked for effectiveness with that foreshortening and achieved a disturbing, scandalous scene.
In Renaissance there is a rebirth of the aesthetical values of the Classic Antiquity. But we can say that the ideal of beauty is no longer exaggerated, it is humanized. “Perfection” is no longer sought for. The search for perfection in a face is replaced by the search for expressivity.
Mantegna is pure Renaissance, the period in which life and art stop revolving around God and Church (Theocentrism), and there is more concern for worldly matters (anthropocentrism, the center is the man). And that is why this Christ of Mantegna Is not a Heavenly Christ, he is not idealized, glorious or divine. Christ is earthly and humanized, with the beauty of imperfection.
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