Mantegna - the San Zeno Altarpiece
The side panels.
 The left hand panel shows St, Peter, St Paul, St John the Evangelist and, at the rear, St Zeno, wearing his bishop's mitre, holding his crook, and gazing at the Virgin and child.  St John is busy reading his book, appropriate for an evangelist. The right hand panel (reading from the front) shows John the Baptist, St Gregory, St Lawrence with his grid-iron and palm  leaf of Martydom, and at the rear, St Benedict, who is opening his book.


 It is interesting to compare Mantergna's side panels with the one by Agnolo Gaddi, painted a couple of generations earlier. The saints are static, against golden backgrounds. Those on the left look to the right: those on the right look to the left.  There is no sense of communication between the saints, or the saints and the central image. Now look again at Mantengna's panels. This is far more what is descibed as a 'sacra conversazione'. The saints present as realistic, human figures. Paul looks thoughtfully at Peter; Zeno contemplates the Virgin and child. John the Baptist is an extraordinary contrapposto image, twisted so that the light will fall on the text he is reading. . St Lawrence gazes thoughtfully into the distance. Each face image suggests character.

In the Gaddi Triptych, each saint is confined to a seperate space: there is no connection between the panels. But look at this detail below. The classical architecture behind the saints continues into to the central panel. The Saints, the Madonna and Child, and indeed the viewer, are all in the same space.

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