Mantegna and Bellini

Giovanni Bellini, “The Agony in the Garden,” circa 1465

The National Gallery in London has an exhibit of 90 paintings by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) and Giovanni Bellini (circa 1435-1516). The former spent his early career in Padua, whereas the latter, son of the famous artist Jacopo Bellini, was raised in Venice. “However, when the former married Giovanni’s half-sister, Nicolosia, in 1453, the two painters entered into a close creative dialogue…[T]heir enduring artistic exchange indelibly marked their own art and that of their contemporaries.” (See Mary Tompkins Lewis, “Mantegna and Bellini’ Review: A Family Affair,” The Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2018). This essay and Laura Gaseoigne’s “Different strokes, different folks” in The Tablet (London) of October 18, 2018 reproduce the magnificent “Agony in the Garden” by each painter.

The critics point to Mantegna’s influence on Bellini, along with the unique features of each, but neither of the above-mentioned reports mentions the following points:

  • Mantegna has Jesus facing angels holding the Cross, and behind his back a vulture gazes down from a scrawny tree top.
  • Bellini shows Jesus being confronted by an angel holding the cup of suffering.
  • Neither artist depicts a garden of olive trees as described in the Gospel traditions.

For a reproduction of several paintings in this exhibition, see www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/mantegna-and-bellini.

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