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

Madonna of Victory

Tempera on canvas, 280 x 166 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Madonna of Victory was commissioned by Francesco II Gonzaga To celebrate his victory over the French at Fornovo on 6 July 1495. On the first anniversary of the battle the altarpiece was installed with great ceremony over the high altar in the chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Mantua.

By the end of the 15th century, large single paintings were being used as altarpieces, a form that reached its apogee in the works of Titian and Veronese. The stiffly hierarchical composition of the traditional Sacra Conversazione was also discarded.

Mantegna's Mary is turning slightly away from the central axis, which runs from the Tree of Knowledge on the throne pedestal up through the Christ Child to the branch of coral hanging on a chain. Mary and the idealized, over life-size figures of the saints Michael and George form a majestic group. Francesco II Gonzaga is depicted kneeling to the left, blessed by the Virgin.