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

The Meeting

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

The narrative content of the Meeting anticipates the event depicted on the north wall, for here the letter that Ludovico will later open is being delivered. In this scene Mantegna combines portraiture, the almost archaeological reconstruction of an ancient city, and a highly-specified, convincing landscape.

The scene is 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.

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