St James on the way to his execution (c. 1455) by Andrea Mantegna

St James on the way to his execution - Andrea Mantegna - c.1450 - c.1455

Artwork Information

TitleSt James on the way to his execution
ArtistAndrea Mantegna
Datec.1450 - c.1455
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationDestroyed, formerly church of the Eremitani, Padua

About St James on the way to his execution

The artwork titled “St James on the way to his execution,” created by the illustrious artist Andrea Mantegna, is estimated to have been painted between circa 1450 and 1455. This fresco, epitomizing the High Renaissance art movement, is classified as a religious painting, and although it was originally located in the church of the Eremitani in Padua, it has been unfortunately destroyed.

The artwork presents a dramatic narrative scene where the central figure, assumed to be St. James, is led through an architectural setting towards his fate. Illustrious for its use of perspective, the composition draws the viewer into a deep space with foreshortened figures and a keen attention to architectural detail. Mantegna has depicted an assortment of characters, some of whom are soldiers clothed in armor, while others appear to be observers or participants in the procession.

Mantegna’s mastery in creating a sense of depth is evident through the receding archways and the perspectival rendering of buildings. The fresco captures the tension of the moment through the postures and expressions of the figures, particularly the saint, who appears resigned to his impending martyrdom. The use of chiaroscuro, a technique that plays with light and shadow, contributes to the dramatic intensity of the scene, highlighting textures and the three-dimensionality of the forms. The scene is rich with the stylistic characteristics of the High Renaissance, including harmony, balance, and the idealization of the human figure, despite the gravity of the depicted event.

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