Mantegna's 'Mars and Venus': The Pursuit of Pictorial Eloquence
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This paper examines the pictorial composition of Andrea Mantegna's Mars and Venus and its relation to the culture of letters and antiquarianism present in the studiolo of Isabella d'Este Gonzaga. By analyzing Mantegna's use of contrapposto, a visual motif stemming from the rhetorical figure of "antithesis," I argue that the artist formally engages Classical rhetoric and the principles of Leon Battista Alberti's De Pictura. Mantegna's dialogue with Albertian and rhetorical theory visually frames the narrative of Mars and Venus in a way that ultimately frames the viewer's understanding of Isabella's character as a patron of the arts. But it also has ramifications for how the viewer understands Mantegna's activities as a painter. By focusing my investigation on the significance of pictorial form and Mantegna's process of imitation, I look to emphasize the intellectual nuances of Isabella's approach to image making and to link Mantegna's textual knowledge to his visual recuperation of Classical art.