Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England houses a number of beautiful, priceless historical objects, and the Triumphs of Caesar by Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna are no exception…
Housed in the former Orangery built in the late Seventeenth century during the reign of William and Mary to house Queen Mary II’s many exotic plants, these gorgeous works of art seem ideally situated now. These paintings were bought by their grandfather King Charles I in 1629 and brought over from Italy to England in 1630. They have been at Hampton Court Palace since that time, though it must be said, that they are still here is a little miracle because Oliver Cromwell had a moment of sense in his life and did not have them destroyed during the Interregnum.
We learned that, sadly, much of Mantegna’s original was painted over by artists in the centuries that followed. They apparently tried to restore the painting, but in doing so, they covered it in new paint and loads of wax, and you can kind of see the waxiness in the photos above and below.
As a result of so much “help” from subsequent artists, little of Mantegna’s original work survives under the thick, bright paint. Ask a member of staff to point out the section which is considered the last bit of true Mantegna work left on the artwork.
The only thing I found amusing about the work is the elephants, or as my husband blurted out to the lady on duty, “it looks like an octopus!” (…Really, I can’t take him anywhere!)
Mantegna’s then-radical use of perspective is quiet amazing. Usually when one looks upon a painting from the 1400s, the perspective is not there, rendering the image 2 dimensional and lacking any semblance to reality. Not so with these – which were done with such skill, such powerful imagery, that it is hard not to have one’s breath taken away by its beauty.
Tragically, most visitors overlook this exhibit, and leave Hampton Court Palace without looking upon one of its greatest treasures. Do not do this! Look at it first! As soon as you get through the main gate, take the first right and follow the signs to “Triumphs of Caesar.” You won’t regret it!
The Triumphs of Caesar by Andrea Mantegna