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La Vierge a la Grotte, Andrea Mategna

Mantegna’s first work of note was the production of a series of frescoes in the Ovetari chapel of the Eremitani church of Padua. The artist worked on these scenes showing the lives of Saint James and Saint Christopher from 1449 to 1456 CE, but only two panels survive today in Venice. The other panels were ruined in a Second World War bombing raid, but fortunately, a photographic record had been taken. Even in this early work, Mantegna showed a certain originality and disregard for convention in religious art. For example, the patron of the Eremitani chapel, Ovetari’s widow Imperatrice, sued Mantegna for not showing all the apostles in a scene depicting the Assumption of the Virgin. Another feature of the frescoes which would have surprised viewers at the time is Mantegna’s decision to show some scenes as if being viewed from below, a sort of ‘worm’s-eye’ view of the events.
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