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

The west wall: The Meeting

Walnut oil on plaster
Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua

The three picture panels of the west wall are also conceived as imaginary views through a curtained loggia. The painted curtains have been drawn so far to the side that we can see a landscape beneath a blue sky dotted with clouds that extends across the entire width of the wall. This panorama, consisting of rolling hills and occasional bizarre outcropping of rock, is enlivened by thriving, well-fortified cities and country people hard at work in the fields. Adorning the countryside are stone walls, dwellings aqueducts, and marble statues. This glimpse of world filled with industry and prosperity is possibly an ideal picture of the marquisate of Mantua. Despite the various Roman monuments - the Pyramid of Cestius, the Colosseum, and so on - this landscape is not a view of Rome, it is a landscape based on literary sources, one that Mantegna enriched in his typical fashion with archeological props.

The right arcade on the west wall contains the scene interpreted as the chance encounter between Ludovico Gonzaga and his son, Cardinal Francesco. The painting also can be seen as a presentation of three generations in the male line of the Gonzaga. The cluster of sons and grandsons around the marchese, who is here portrayed a second time, illustrates an aspect of the dynasty of fundamental importance for its continued health. The line of succession is assured, with a division of power in each generation between those selected for secular career and those called to a life in the Church. The depiction of the marchese with his oldest son, Federico (his mirror image at the left side of the picture), as well as Federico's son Francesco (the boy to the left) clearly suggests the continuity of the dynastic line. By contrast, the powerful central figure of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga and the two boys he holds by the hand - Sigismondo and Ludovico Gonzaga, who would also later enter the Church - assure us that with the succession of clerical dignitaries it produces the family has an ongoing tie to the Curia and to the pope.

In the centre three putti standing atop the cornice above the door support the painted dedication tablet.

The scene beneath the left arcade shows a groom leading a saddled horse, a pair of hunting dogs, and a page holding one of the dogs on a leash. Two more men stand to the left of the door beneath the central arch, one of them holding a sealed letter in his hand. In front of them are two more leashed dogs partially obscured by the pilaster.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.