Santiago led to Mantegna's place of execution

Santiago led to Mantegna's place of execution
Santiago led to Mantegna's place of execution

This work is part of the group of wall paintings made by Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) in the Church of the Eremitani of Padua, specifically in the chapel of San Jacopo and San Cristoforo de los Ovetari. Unfortunately, today we only know this pictorial ensemble through vintage photographs, since this church was bombed during the days of World War II, and Mantegna's work made around the year 1455 was lost.

Santiago led to the place of his execution from Mantegna

Santiago led to Mantegna's place of execution

The wall paintings were actually a chronicle of the legend of Santiago Apóstol. And among the whole set stands out the episode when Santiago is led to the place where he will be crucified, backwards.

Mantegna within the Italian Renaissancepainting of the Quattrocento represents one of the highest degrees of representation of reality. But it is not only in the form of clearly capturing a credible scene visually speaking. He tries to go further. His objective is to represent the intimate moment, the sensations and thoughts of some characters in such a situation. He tries to ask us how these men reacted to that circumstance.

But the painter is also very interested in the historical representation itself. He knew thatSantiago Apóstol had suffered his martyrdom at the time of Imperial Rome, and that scenario of history is what he tries to set in the image. Hence, we see the typical Roman triumphal arch and dress the Roman soldiers with their historical clothing and weapons, based on the sculpted representations that were preserved at the time.

However, the scene is not a mere reenactment of ancient times. It could be said that the whole image exudes the spirit of classical Roman art, with all its simplicity, rigor and austere grandeur.

The figures are undoubtedly reminiscent of Roman statues, that is, they have a sculptural bearing typical of certain painters of the early Renaissanceas can be seen in the frescoes of the Brancacci Chapel of the great Masaccio.

On the other hand, in the work it is clearly seen how he knew all the perspective studies that were being carried out in his time, which served him to create a very harmonic and careful set design that perfectly guides the story before the eyes of the beholder. In this way all the events of the episode are described. We see how Santiago is escorted and has stopped when one of his persecutors has repented and prostrated himself at the feet of the saint to be blessed.

Santiago's reaction is calm and is observed with the soldiers, one of them in an impassive attitude and the other quite the opposite, trying to hide that he would also be capable of repenting for what they have to do. All thiswe see on a stage full of people who want to see the apostle and who are contained by the guards. All in all, a great pity that this great work of Renaissance art was lost.

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