Andrea Mantegna’s paintings in Paris Musée du Louvre

There are many reasons to pay a visit to Paris Musée du Louvre, and this fall provides a very special one : Mantegna 1431 – 1506.  The last exhibition dedicated to this star painter of Italian Renaissance took place in London in 1992, so this one is a real event.

Don’t get fooled by the apparent quietness in the lobby, people gather under the Sully aisle esclator, you have to stand in line for a while and it’s a bit crowdy inside, so I would suggest you to come early morning, or for nocturnes, or to make a reservation.

But you should’not miss this. For the first time – at least for decades- the exibition shows most of Mantegna’s remaining works, gathered from museums all around the world.

This Saint Marc leaning on a “trompe-l’oeil” balcony comes from Städelesches Kunsshalle in Frankfurt am Main, and Mantegna painted it in Padoue in 1450, when he was about nineteen.

This wonderful Saint Jérôme in the Wilderness comes from San Paolo Museum of Art and was painted in the same years.

The exhibition follows a chronological path, pointing the artist’s influences, his followers and the contemporary painters he knew, in the first place Giovanni Bellinni, who was also his step-brother.  It refreshens our perception of the cultural and political exchanges and habits in European countries during the fifteenth century. Mantegna‘s painting turned the gothic page and opened the Quattrocento, which partly explains why he was so famous in his time.

Christ in the olive trees garden, painted in 1455, comes from London National Gallery.

This gathering makes clear some of the artist’s major topics, how he used the frame, trompe l’oeil effects, the underneath point of view, perspective and various scales, hyper realistic details and fantasmatic visions, which explains why his work interested or inspired many later artists, and is still fascinating.

The exhibition is also made for children. Next to some pictures, cardboards invite them to focus on some detail, to look for a rider hidden in a cloud, for animals, for what’s going on in the background…  ..

We can regret that the absence of the Dead Christ, who stayed hanged on a wall of Milan‘s Brera Pinacotheca, but fortunately Madrid Prado Museum has let go this fascinating Death of the Virgin (1461), which actually represents a most beautifully staged portrait of the city of Mantoue (the city of his new sponsor)

This version of Saint Sebastien (1470) comes from Wien Kunsthistoriches Museum.

And this theatrical Judith and Holopherne (1495) comes from Washington National Gallery of Art.

But the Madona of Victory (circa 1596) is a resident of Paris Musée du Louvre.

His engravings, sketches…are fascinating too, and above all  the frescoes that could not be moved, so that we’ll have to go to Italy to see what’s left of them – but who would complain about this ?

Meanwhile, this Paris exhibition is a must, and a delight

Mantegna 1431 – 1506, Musée du Louvre, aile Sully (enter under the pyramid) metro Palais-Royal, tel 33(0)1 40 20 53 17, open everyday except Tuesday 9 to 18, Wednesday and Friday up to 22. Up to January 5. Entrance €9,50  (€13, or €11 at night, if you wish to visit some other part of the museum, but then, take a break, it’s a a very rich exhibition and you don’t want to look at something else right away ).

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