La Vierge de la Victoire // Madonna della Vittoria (1496)
Hither, Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), one of my favourite painters and a principal figure in the Early Italian Renaissance, whose dramatic use of perspective and foreshortening combine with a sculptural style to emphasise arrested energy and the human subject. Trained in the study of marbles, he revered antique art over that of his time and even went so far as to avow it more eclectic in form than nature, (which would have had more than a slap of controversy about it). His painted cloths are always severe and closely folded; Mantegna is said to have dressed his models in paper or gummed weaves to achieve this stiff perfection of form.
This work is Completely Striking, particularly the ornately adorned arch filled with exotic birds, fruits, and precious stones, and the cardiacesque coral, a symbol of the Passion of Christ, which reminds me of another coral favourite, Piero della Francesca's Madonna di Senigallia (hither>>).
The painting is a commissioned commemoration of the Battle of Fornovo in 1495; it shows the Virgin protecting Gonzaga (bottom left of frame), the military leader of the Holy League of Venice who successfully defeated the French invasion. The latin inscription, barely visible on the base of her throne, reads REGINA // CELI LET. // ALLELVIA (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia).
Ironically, around three centuries later, the painting was looted by the French army during the Napoleonic invasion of Italy and exhibited in the Louvre, where it remains, and where I visit it with antique adoration.