Mark the Evangelist, c. 1450 (Inv. No. 1046)
In spite of the signature inscribed in the cartellino near the picture’s lower margin, the attribution of the Städel’s half-length figure of Saint Mark the Evangelist framed by a stone window, dating from 1450, had long been cast into doubt. It was only after the work was cleansed and restored in the 1990s that the high quality of the painting on canvas was re-exposed. Since then it has unanimously been accepted as an autograph work dating from the artist’s early period and is in fact considered as one of Mantegna’s earliest surviving works. This exhibition was meant to pinpoint the various sources the young Mantegna referred to for his “Mark the Evangelist”. Apart from his profound knowledge of the rules of central perspective, the artist relied on impulses emanating from contemporary art production in Padua, as well as on motifs and formal principles deriving from antique models. On the other hand, his pronounced sense of realism in the treatment of detail and surface texture suggests an influence of early Netherlandish art. Moreover, X-ray photography and infrared reflectography revealed that the pictorial concept was fundamentally revised in the course of the painting’s execution. The search for the original composition also raises the question about the possible context for which this first conception of the canvas might have been intended.
CURATOR: Gabriel Dette, Städel Museum
SPONSORED BY: Schering Stiftung