Madonna della Vittoria

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Madonna della Vittoria
Mantegna, madonna della vittoria.jpg
Artist Andrea Mantegna
Year 1496
Type Tempera on canvas
Dimensions 280 cm × 166 cm (110 in × 65 in)
Location Louvre Museum, Paris
Detail of the coral

The Madonna della Vittoria is a painting by the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna; the painting was executed in 1496.


On 6 July 1495 the French army of Charles VIII of France and that of the Holy League of the Italin states led by Francesco II Gonzaga clashed at the battle of Fornovo, the latter being the victors. During the absence of Francesco, duke of Mantua, Daniele da Norsa, a Jewish banker, had bought a house in the city's quarter of San Simone and had replaced the image of the Virgin Mary which decorated its façade with his coat of arms. The regent, Sigismondo Gonzaga, ordered him to restore the depiction. Despite Daniele had accepted, the populace rose and destroyed his house.

Detail of Francesco Gonzaga

When Francesco returned, he forced Daniele to fund a chapel and a devotional painting. This would be executed by the court painter, Mantegna, and was inaugurated in 1496 in the anniversary of the duke's victory at Fornovo. The work was placed in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, built in the meantime over the banker's house.

The painting was one of the works looted by the French during the Napoleonic invasion of Italy, and was exhibited in the Louvre by 1798. The painting was never returned; the given excuse was that its large size made the transport difficult.

The presence of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in the painting is being investigated by historians as it may have implications on our understanding of 15th-century trading networks.[1]


The altarpiece shows Francesco Gonzaga paying homage to Mary, who sits on a high throne decorated with marbles intarsias and bas-reliefs. The base of the throne, with lion paws, has, within a medallion, the inscription "REGINA / CELI LET. / ALLELVIA" (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia); it lies on a circular basement with a bas-relief of the "Original Sin" and other stories form the Book of Genesis which are partly obscured by the praying figures. The throne's back has a large solar disc, decorated with weavings and vitreous pearls.

The child Jesus, who holds two red flowers (symbols of the Passion) and Mary look at Francesco Gonzaga, who is kneeling and has a grateful and smiling expression while receiving their blessing. The protection given to Gonzaga during the battle is also symbolized by Mary's mantle, which partially covers his head. Opposite to the donor are St. John the Baptist with a cross featuring the usual cartouche saying "ECCE / AGNVS / DEI ECCE / Q[VI] TOLL / IT P[ECCATA] M[VNDI]" (Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world), and his mother, St. Elizabeth, protector of Isabella d'Este, wife of Francesco Gonzaga.

At the sides are two couples of standing saints: in the foreground are two military saints, the archangel St. Michael with a sword and St. Longinus with a broken spear, donning richly decorated armors; behind them are St. Andrew, patron saint of Mantua, with a long stick with the cross and St. George, another military saint, with a helmet and a long red lance.

The scene is set in an apse formed by a pergola of leaves, flowers and fruits, with several birds; the pergola's frame has a at the top a shell (an attribute of the Virgin as new Venus, from which hang threads of coral pearls and rock crystal, as well as a large piece of red coral, another hint to the Passion of Jesus.




  1. ^ "Aussie bird in Renaissance artwork forces history rethink", The University of Melbourne, 19 March 2014

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