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

The Ascension of Christ

Tempera on wood, 86 x 42 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Mantegna's first important commission from Ludovico Gonzaga was the decoration of the chapel in Castello di San Giorgio, executed in the first half of the 1460s. It is unfortunately impossible to reconstruct the whole of Mantegna's original intentions there with any confidence, although some panels almost certainly traceable to the chapel still survive. They include three paintings in the Uffizi: The Ascension of Christ, The Circumcision and The Adoration of the Magi. Today they are mounted as a triptych in the Uffizi with The Adoration of the Magi in the centre. They were given this format in 1827, but the inconsistencies in both composition and iconography indicate that these are individual works rather than parts of a uniformly planned altarpiece. Nevertheless, they were created for the same chapel.

In the Ascension panel, above the saints, who gaze upwards, Christ floats somewhat stiffly, surrounded by a mandorla of angels. Immediately below Him stands Mary, occupying a special place in the lower section, the only figure facing forwards and slightly raised on a ledge of rock.