Andrea Mantegna, Madonna and Child, a copperplate engraving


British Museum

British Museum

Mantegna was the first great Italian painter to take engraving seriously, presumably after seeing German prints such as those by Master ES. Unlike Pollaiuolo, who gave up engraving after working one magnificent plate, Mantegna produced many influential prints, adapting his figure style from classical sculpture.This is a late work by Mantegna, and is remarkable for the tenderness displayed between mother and child. She cradles her infant in her arms with her cheek against his face (a motif borrowed from the Florentine sculptor Donatello), while from below her knees support his small body. The two individuals are united within the pyramidal shape, which is echoed internally by the diagonals formed by their arms and legs. The light is shown coming from a single source, and conjures up the bulk of her knees beneath the crumpled drapery.There is no halo in this first state of the plate, so only convention allows us to identify this mother and child with Mary and the Infant Christ.

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  • Title: Andrea Mantegna, Madonna and Child, a copperplate engraving
  • Date Created: 1470/1480
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 247.00mm (cut and inlaid into a larger sheet); Width: 210.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: engraving
  • Registration number: 1856,0712.1072
  • Producer: Print made by Mantegna, Andrea
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum


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