The Triumphs of Caesar

by Alain Chivilò


Directly from Renaissance, by Andrea Mantegna Italian painter, six paintings at the National Gallery London.

Due Mantegna Gallery at Hampton Court Palace (Richmond upon Thames) closed for maintenance work, the National Gallery, for aproximately two years, received on loan six Andrea Mantegna’s monumental paintings from The Triumphs of Caesar sequence belonging to the Royal Collection by His Majesty The King Charles III.

With beginning 18th September 2023, in Room 14 (admission free), it’s possible to admire masterpieces acquired by King Charles I (1600 – 1649) in 1629, when he purchased many treasures from the Gonzaga collection. They arrived in  England during 1630 and were brought to Hampton Court Palace, home for nearly 400 years. 

For the event, National Gallery put in the same room the work by Peter Paul Rubens’s A Roman Triumph (about 1630) to permit a comparison in different centuries for another great artist.

The remaining works of this single Italian Renaissance painting group, not in Italy, remain in their host location.

As pointed out, the nine paintings form a sequence depicting a single procession with Julius Caesar borne on a chariot passing in front of a triumphal arch. He is preceded by Roman soldiers, standard-bearers, musicians, and the spoils of war, which include weapons, artworks, gold and silver, prisoners and animals. The procession cannot be connected to a particular campaign, but Mantegna could have consulted a number of writers, such as Suetonius, Plutarch and Appian, all of whom penned descriptions of triumphs, which were available during the 15th century in manuscript or printed forms. He would have also taken inspiration from Roman antiquities, particularly monumental arches and columns.

“Andrea Mantegna’s Triumphs are a tour de force, epitomising many of his most celebrated achievements: his profound creative response to the art of antiquity, his technical mastery and his pictorial innovation. It is a great privilege to host six of these magnificent works in our galleries, where we are excited to display them in the context of the National Gallery’s own collection, especially alongside our treasured and preeminent holdings of 15th-century Italian painting” as noted by Laura Llewellyn, Curator of Italian Paintings before 1500 at the National. Meanwwhile the Director Gabriele Finaldi said: “With the display of these supreme masterpieces of Renaissance art, lent by His Majesty the King, the public will be able to see the largest selection anywhere of works by Andrea Mantegna, an artist of astounding skill, invention and pictorial brilliance”.

In conclusion, if you are going to London and have already visited the National Gallery in your life, this is an opportunity to go back again. If you haven’t had the chance to visit it until now, plan a trip.


©AC, NDSL, AM, Alain Chivilo

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