Triptych with Wolves, Circumcision and Ascension, Mantenya

Triptych with Wolves, Circumcision and Ascension, Mantenya
Triptych with Wolves, Circumcision and Ascension, Mantenya - 1

  • Posted by Andrea Mantenya
  • Museum: Uffizi Gallery
  • Year: 1460-1464

Overview of the painting :

Triptych with Wolves, Circumcision and Ascension – Andrea Mantenya. 1460-1464. Wood, tempera. 86×161.5

   Andrea Mantenya is an artist in whose painting several decades before the start of the High Renaissance, the approaching steps of this powerful art were felt.

   Triptych was commissioned by Margraf Ludovico Gonzaga for a chapel at his family palace in Mantua (for this family, the painter will work for the rest of his life). The miniature letter of the altar image, the abundance of wondrous details, characteristic of the art of the Early Renaissance, are combined here with the power and monumentality that were inherent in the next stage of Italian painting. As a result, a small picturesque altar makes the same impression as Manteni wall paintings in the Gonzaga Palace. And at the same time, the triptych wants to be considered like a jewel from the box.

   In the central part, the artist presented a scene of worship of the Magi: among the rocky landscape he loves, there is a long procession of people in luxurious robes. They go to bow to the Baby sitting on the lap of Mary. Angels curl around. Manteny’s dry and bright letter makes the image literally shine, also thanks to the special “air” in the paintings – completely transparent, cut, which can only be high in the mountains. Therefore, everything is visible in the world created by the artist: both the path in the distance, and the bright castle to which it leads, and the coat of the camel, and hard herbs, and the thin golden threads that permeate clothes. And at the same time, the scene can be represented by a chapel deployed throughout the wall. Mantenya knew this and, in order to enhance the monumentality effect of the depicted, wrote it on a concave surface.

   In the scene “The Abbreviation” (right), the artist carefully wrote out the ornament of the walls, the compositions in the lunet – “The Sacrifice of Isaac” and “Moses, who presents the tablets of the Covenant to the people”, a basket of doves in Joseph’s hand, a tray with circumcision accessories that the boy holds out to the high priest. The image of the little John the Baptist is touching, who sucks his finger, holding a bit of bagel in the other hand. All this detailed scene would be suitable for a large fresco.

   And only in the third composition – “Ascension” (left) – there are almost no carefully depicted details, it is more ascetic and powerful, it again shows a rocky landscape, and even the cloud on which Christ stands seems cut out of marble. But, as before, the feelings of the characters are subtly conveyed: the amazement and hope of Maria and the apostles, the slight sadness and promise of meeting in heaven in the eyes of the Savior.