It would take about two hours to really do justice to this event but I only had about an hour (plus I peaked quickly at the Picasso/Delacroix/Femmes d’Alger expo on the 1st floor of the Denon wing…) so I did the Japanese tourist version.
Mantegna was a true innovator in terms of naturalism (EXCELLENT explanations and details on this for scattered paintings scattered around the various rooms), perspective and modernism. Vasari claimed that Mantegna invented wood graving in Italy. The question is debated in one of the many explanatory panels. That is one remarkable thing – EVERY painting has a description of at least a sentence or two. Also, many, many painters besides Mantegna are represented. Bellini who served as his mentor (and was a brother-in-law following Mantegna’s marriage to Bellini’s sister…), da Vinci who was a rising star when Mantegna’s was fading, and many others. I was most impressed by Corregio. His soft lens effect and bright colors and a relief after the more harsh and darker Mantegna paintings. The da Vinci I referred to is a beautiful sitting portait of the hot babe at the time – Isabelle d’Este.
The catalog (€49 hard cover) is very, very complete and of excellent quality. The essays are in-depth and cast new light on the works besides that shown in the galleries.
The one BIG regret I had was not seeing the Dead Christ. A guard told me that the expo curator decided that it was too fragile to travel so it stayed back in the Pinacoteco di Brera in Milano. Problem is, when I was in Milan to see it at the Brera, it was under restoration back then! Oh well, gotta figure an excuse to get back to Milan. Escalopini Milanese anyone?