(b. 1431, Isola di Carturo, d. 1506, Mantova)

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Tempera on canvas transferred from wood, 40 x 56 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A prodigy, Andrea Mantegna established his reputation when he was barely 20 years old. This painting is an early work, but already his highly individual style is evident. The hard, precise drawing, the astonishing clarity of even the smallest details in the distant landscape, and the refined, pure colour are typical of his work, as are the intensely serious expressions of the figures. The Adoration seems to have been painted for Borso d'Este, ruler of Ferrara, and the coarse realism of the shepherds probably reflects Flemish paintings collected by the Este.

In this scene the realistic portrayal of the two shepherds in ragged clothing betrays Flemish influence. Mantegna was able to study the work of Rogier van der Weyden at the Ferrara court.