San Zeno altarpiece, San Zeno, Verona

   Altarpiece painted by Andrea Mantegna, who looked to Donatello's altar in the Church of San Antonio in nearby Padua for figural and compositional inspiration. The frame in the San Zeno Altarpiece takes on the form of a classicized façade with segmented (semicircular) pediment that ends in volutes (scroll-like ornaments), its elaborate columns attached to the painted piers of the altarpiece to enhance the sense of depth. In the center are the enthroned Virgin and Child surrounded by musical angels and flanked by saints in varying poses who line up diagonally one behind the other. The circular motif on the throne acts as the Virgin's halo. The figures occupy a classical setting where a continuous frieze of reliefs and piers are included. Above are garlands of fruits and flowers, as well as a rosary suspended directly above the Virgin. The predella, taken by Napoleon to France where it now forms part of the Louvre collection, consists of the Agony in the Garden, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. The most outstanding of these is the Crucifixion, originally the central panel. Here, the crucified Christ is placed precisely where the lines on the ground converge and where two mounds in the landscape dip. The thieves' crosses are positioned diagonally to further the illusion of depth. The weeping mourners and the soldiers who gamble for Christ's vestments provide a poignant contrast of piety versus sinfulness. The work demonstrates Mantegna's interest in definition and clear organization. It also shows his rendering of sculptural forms and his fascination with ancient art.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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