Completed in 1502, Casa Mantegna (also called Casa Mantegna) was built in Mantua for the famous painter Andrea Mantegna. The revolutionary design consisted of an external cube containing a circular atrium.
Casa Mantegna Technical Information
- Architect: Andrea Mantegna (Not confirmed)
- Location: Via Giovanni Acerbi, 47, Mantua, Italy
- Project Year: 1476-1502
- Topics: Circle Series, Renaissance, Patio
- Type: Residential / Houses
- Source: CasadelMantegna
- Photographs: © Wikimedia Creative Commons, Flickr User: © franceschinik, © Michele M. F
The design was revolutionary, consisting of an external cube containing a circular atrium open to the sky and echoing a Roman amphitheater, set back slightly in the square to create larger frontal spaces to left and right. The overall proportions were calculated from complex mathematical, geometrical and probably musical harmonic principles.
Mantegna House Photographs
Casa Mantegna article
The Casa del Mantegna (also called Casa Mantegna) was built in 1476–1502 in Mantua for the famous Painter Andrea Mantegna. The date of October 18th, 1476, is still visible in the corner marble slab on the left-hand side of the façade. Ludovico Gonzaga gave him the land as that was the easiest way for him to pay for the painter’s services.
Mantegna himself projected his House, but it took him twenty years to finish it, and unfortunately, soon after that, in 1502, he was forced to sell it to Francesco Gonzaga as part of a business exchange. When Mantegna conceived the House, the principles of classical architecture and their application to modern buildings were a subject of passionate study and debate. At about that time, the polymath Leon Battista Alberti provided Ludovico Gonzaga with designs for two churches in Mantua, San Sebastiano, and the basilica of Sant’Andrea, which drew on classical forms, with facades borrowing elements from Roman temple fronts and triumphal arches.
The square and the circle
One of the characteristics of the House, built on two floors, is that it basically constitutes a square inside which a circle is inscribed that forms the plan of the cylindrical courtyard. An obvious reference to the renowned oculus in the Bridal Chamber in the Ducal Palace, this circular opening allows viewing a portion of the sky, creating an effect of harmony between the solidity of the general plan and the infinite quality of the circumference, which is the soul of the building.
The geometry of this courtyard defines the House. A two floors cylinder intersects with a square to achieve the “squaring of the circle” in the patio. The interior windows follow the geometry of this cylinder, having a slight curvature.
This may recall the structure of a Roman Domus with the rooms opening onto the courtyard. Still, it also seems to remember the typology of the buildings suggested by Leon Battista Alberti, with the symbolic use of the square and the circle, besides already experimented with by Mantegna in The Oculus of the Bridal Chamber in St. George’s Castle. In the rooms opening onto the round courtyard are still visible traces of decorations along with the emblem of Marquis Ludovico II. A little dome probably covered the patio, now lost.
Mantegna House Plans
About Andrea Mantegna
Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) was an Italian painter, a Roman archeology student, and Jacopo Bellini’s son-in-law. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g., by lowering the horizon to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500.