Triumph of Caesar: The Elephants, after Andrea Mantegna
28.5 cm x 26.6 cm (11 1/4 in. x 10 1/2 in.)
Giovanni Antonio da Brescia
(Brescia(?), Italy, circa 1460 - after 1525, Rome(?))
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1987
One of the geniuses of the Renaissance, Andrea Mantegna brought Florentine inventions to north Italy and laid the foundation for developments across the Po Valley and in Venice. From the outset his work was demanding in concept and incomparable in technique. During long service to the Gonzaga family at Mantua, he realized projects of unprecedented intellectual, archaeological, and pictorial ambition. That Mantegna’s achievements had such influence is due also to his pioneering efforts in another sphere, the use of engraving to disseminate artistic ideas and fame.
This engraving pertains to a famous project for the Gonzagas, The Triumph of Caesar. Executed between 1486 and 1494, the series of eleven canvases was based upon ancient descriptions of victorious Roman processions and inspired by the monumental reliefs the artist saw on an intervening visit to Rome. Furthering the dynastic propaganda and satisfying curiosity about the project, Mantegna directed the engraving of three alternative drawings for the series. There are seven versions by three different printmakers, with those of Giovanni Antonio da Brescia the most refined and regular. All adhere to Mantegna’s own system of engraving, close in style to his drawing. Their delicate and dense hatching wore rapidly in printing. This is an unusually fine, early impression, capturing the master’s subtlety and the intended effect of relief sculpture.