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Masterpieces from the World\'s Museums in the Hermitage.
July 11, 2006 - July 26, 2006

andrea_mantegna11 July 2006 - 27 July 2006

The exhibition in the Italian Cabinets (Room 231) forms part of the series entitled Masterpieces of the World\'s Museums in the Hermitage and is dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the death of an outstanding Italian artist of the Early Renaissance period.

Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) was a fervent admirer of the civilization of Ancient Rome and this exerted a special influence on his art. Brilliant compositions, innovative use of perspective and an abundance of details from Antiquity are typical features of Mantegna\'s oeuvre. When he was still only 17 years old, he had already made a series of frescoes in the Church of the Eremitani in Padua, near where he was born. He spent the greater part of his life in Mantua as painter to the court of the Gonzagas, who were the rulers of the city.

In the cities of Padua, Verona and Mantua, where Mantegna lived and created his most significant works, three exhibitions dedicated to the artist and presenting his most outstanding pieces will open in September under the patronage of the Ministry for Initiatives and Objects of Culture. Just prior to this event, the Hermitage will put on display two works by Mantegna from Italian collections: Christ, the Savior (from the Municipal Museum of Corregio) and the Holy Family with St. Elizabeth, St John the Baptist as a Child and Zecharia (Mantua).

Judging by its small dimensions, Christ, the Savior (1493) was intended for use in a home chapel or as a gift to some religious brotherhood. The canvas belongs to the late period of Mantegna\'s work and both in terms of expressiveness and emotional force one may place it among the artist\'s masterpieces.

The image of Christ was designed to inspire believers with repentance and to remind them of the expiatory sacrifice of the Savior. In the book Christ is holding it is written: \"Fear not, for it is I\", and along the left edge of the painting we read from top to bottom - \"Suffer thee also before my face.\" Mantegna did not use the traditional attributes - the crown of thorns and wounds on the body, but the face of Jesus expresses profound pain and sadness. The golden halo around the forehead with its three highlighted clusters of rays is the symbol of the divine essence of Christ and hints at the form of the cross.

Unfortunately it is rather difficult to come to any conclusion about the original look of the canvas since it has undergone unsuccessful restorations. However, even in its present condition the painting clearly displays a beautifully chosen range of colors and subtle nuances of tonal gradations. The play of light on the hair is conveyed with great mastery, as are the folds of the clothing.

The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth, St John the Baptist as a Child and Zecharia (1504-1506) has been sent to the Hermitage from the chapel of St. John the Baptist in the Basilica di Sant\' Andrea (Mantua) which Montegna especially acquired and where he was entombed in keeping with instructions in his will. When the work was created, consideration was given to the location for which it was intended: the emphatic horizontal format of the painting was partly dictated by the requirement that the painting not block the window below it. The figures stand before a background of orange trees symbolizing paradise. The slight asymmetry of the composition lends particular naturalness to the scene. The depictions of the two mothers - Mary with Jesus and St Elizabeth with John the Baptist - are imbued with warm emotions. The movements and gazes of the saints link them together not only externally but internally.

The rigidity that was typical of Mantegna\'s earlier works here gives way to softness both in the expression of feelings and in the treatment of his subjects. His drawing of the headwear of the women, the folds of their garments and the light fabric on the body of Jesus is refined and elegant. The religious ideas and symbols are offset by simple and direct shapes.

The exhibition opening in the Hermitage is particularly noteworthy given that there are no works by Andrea Mantegna either in the Hermitage collection or anywhere else in Russia.

The curator of the exhibition is T.K. Kustodieva, leading researcher in the Department of History of Western European Art and doctor of art history.

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