When we go through history we have standardized temporal spaces where it is immediate to recognize and position the element that has taken part, it becomes easy to disquisition Renaissance, almost natural and therefore almost trivial.
The work of Andrea Mantegna, dated 1502, is to be considered as an important filament in the rich Renaissance fabric.
Nothing is trivial for those who have a reasonable cultural level and know that the term Renaissance meant everything that brought back to the ancient, to the splendors of classical civilization, a civilization from which to take an example, to be proposed again to be reborn from the ashes of the middle age considered a dark moment.
A new culture to be evaluated and known in its various nuances, to have awareness and give weight to a fundamental part in the growth of Western civilization.
We must think of the Renaissance as a moment of great historical splendor because there is an intrinsic concept of the future while proposing the past in its best meaning.
The intellectuals, the people with the greatest social responsibility, those who held economic power, were the main architects of the new era, they were the humanists, those who rediscovered the study of classical texts, those who returned to give space to knowledge in a more free and exemplary way.
In this climate between courts, national states that see their first matrix, new mental and philosophical positions of man, new discoveries and inventions, in Italy there are interesting names that intersect, names like those of Isabella D’Este and Andrea Mantegna.
Isabella D’Este commissioned the painting “Minerva chases away vices from the garden of virtues”, a representation that is chosen for life, a warning, a formal example of classical implications that must adorn the private studio, the personal and meditative corner of a noble woman.
Being a humanist for a Renaissance woman was not so usual and strong poietic elements are used for her daily knowledge, for a cultural and intellectual elevation.
Mantegna’s work is a palimpsest of meanings that lead to a classical erudition, to the identification with the myth, the fairy tale, the legend as a continuity for everyday life.
In the painting there are two central figures, female, with deep meanings that recall the woman to try to maintain an attitude and a virtuous propensity in a world strongly held by men.
The figures are those of Daphne, on the left who turns into a tree in the myth to escape the sexual claims of Apollo and thus to maintain his integrity to the extreme in the metamorphosis, and the other is Minerva who represents intelligence in action that eliminates vices. So the message is important, to eliminate a vice is not enough a moral sense (Daphne), but there is a need for the will that comes from intelligence (Minerva).
From Mantegna the classical themes are reinterpreted in a typical Renaissance allegory not without mystery with a pictorial syntax in which the story becomes almost transcendental combined with an ancestral corpus where humanism is the main spirit.
The work in its entirety represents an “ancient fabula” in a symbolic garden that derives from the interpretation of the work “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili” of 1499 by Francesco Colonna and that will be the basis of the construction of the Italian garden or Renaissance garden, a philological reconstruction of the perfect place for the new man at the center of the universe.
The garden is the place par excellence where the spirit and the mind find inner construction or even recreation because there is the intrinsic relationship with nature, is a place where man has always found, either in a religious sense or in a secular sense, contemplation with the beauty that surrounds him.
Drawing attention to Mantegna’s work serves to rediscover a stimulus towards respect for what is the relationship between humanity and the universe that surrounds it.
Renaissance neo-Platonism is the central fulcrum in the search for beauty as a representation of good, this means erudition of oneself, it means conceiving the direct relationship between beauty and love, hence the conception that also sees the idea of beauty imprinted in the mind of man by God, and therefore his contemplation leads directly to God.
In the Renaissance cultural climate of the rediscovery of myths and the exegesis of texts there is the will to find the balance that happens in the daily struggle against evil.
Isabella D’este wanted her study to find herself, they gave her the nickname of “tenth muse”, and here could not ‘miss a work that reminded her how an enchanted world made of virtue could be corrupted by vices and how these then every day must be fought.
Who was Mantegna? He was one of the greatest connoisseurs of the classics because his school was the workshop of Francesco Squarcione in Padua, a tireless collector of antique objects and casts, let’s say that he is credited with having brought archaeology into modern art.
The union between Andrea and Isabella therefore becomes perfect to express examples of excellence in art that will then be a service to humanity.
The characters represented in the “triumph of virtues” all have their own intrinsic history from Minerva to the three theological virtues that are represented in the other right.
The swampy marsh that vices and evil build around us has only one way to be drained and reclaimed, through the recognition of our reason, the awareness that balance is not in dissoluteness and abandonment, but in attention, strength, determination to give us rigor, discipline, values.
Mantegna will amaze us again…