The Virgin and Child with the Magdalen and Saint John the Baptist

Andrea Mantegnaabout 1490-1505

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London

It is not known for which church this altarpiece was made. Since it is on canvas it could easily have been sent from Mantua, where Mantegna was court artist, to a church elsewhere, and is in fact first recorded in Milan.

The scroll of the Baptist, around his cross, is inscribed with the familiar Latin text, partially visible, 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'. On the other side of the scroll is the artist's name 'Andreas Mantinia C.P.F...' - the F for fecit (made this) and the C.P. perhaps for Comes Palatinus, a knighthood given to Mantegna in 1469.

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  • Title: The Virgin and Child with the Magdalen and Saint John the Baptist
  • Creator: Andrea Mantagna
  • Date Created: about 1490-1505
  • Physical Dimensions: 139.1 x 116.8 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Egg tempera on canvas
  • School: Italian (North)
  • More Info: Explore the National Gallery’s paintings online
  • Inventory number: NG274
  • Artist Dates: about 1430/1 - 1506
  • Artist Biography: His first important commission came in 1448, painting frescoes for the Eremitani Chapel in Padua. He worked in Padua, Verona and Venice before moving to Mantua in 1460, where he spent the rest of his life. The great paintings by Mantegna in the Gallery date from his years in Mantua as court artist to the Gonzaga. His scholarly interest in the antique drew him into friendship with humanist scholars like Felice Feliciano. In 1464 they dressed up as Romans for a boating excursion on Lake Garda. In the 'Triumphs of Caesar' Mantegna indulged his interest in antique art, which can also be seen in the Gallery's 'Cult of Cybele'. He developed a painting technique which enabled him to imitate the look of classical sculpture. Mantegna produced engravings which helped spread his designs and fame beyond Italy. From possibly humble origins Mantegna rose to become a valued retainer of the Gonzaga. He was knighted by 1484, a rare honour for an artist.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bought, 1855