Visitors to the critically acclaimed Mantegna and Bellini exhibition at the National Gallery can now see two panels of a single painting by Andrea Mantegna that have just been reunited for the first time in possibly 500 years.
The upper section, The Resurrection of Christ (around 1492) has been in the collection of the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo since the 19th century, but was only recently re-attributed to Mantegna. The lower half, The Descent of Christ into Limbo (around 1492), has been loaned to the National Gallery by a private collector.
The re-evaluation of The Resurrection of Christ came after the discovery of a small cross beneath the stone arch, which suggested it may have been part of a bigger panel. Comparisons were made with several works before the link was established with The Descent of Christ into Limbo.
It is believed the panels were painted for the chapel in the castle at Mantua, where Mantegna spent much of his life working as a court painter for the Gonzaga family. It is not known exactly when the pictures were separated, however it was very common for Italian paintings of this date to be divided when their function changed, particularly if they were made for a religious context.
Since the Mantegna attribution (May 2018), The Resurrection of Christ has undergone restoration to remove 19th-century varnish and repaint, before travelling to London to be hung above The Descent of Christ into Limbo, which was already in Room 2 of the exhibition.
Caroline Campbell, National Gallery Director of Collections and Research says "We are absolutely delighted that 'The Resurrection of Christ' from the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo has travelled to London to join our 'Mantegna and Bellini' exhibition. It is now displayed as it was conceived, above 'The Descent of Christ into Limbo' which is on loan to the exhibition from a private collection. These are important works from Mantegna's later career - from the period he was working in Mantua and produced incredibly refined works for the court of the Gonzaga family, so we are thrilled to be able to give visitors to the exhibition a first chance to see the works reunited. We are incredibly grateful to our colleagues at the Accademia Carrara for making this possible."
M. Cristina Rodeschini, Director of Accademia Carrara of Bergamo said: "The end of a restoration project is always a moment of satisfaction, and this is true to an even greater degree following the extremely delicate work on Andrea Mantegna's 'The Resurrection of Christ'. The generous participation of so many people and the great interest of the public, who were able to follow the work every step of the way in one of the museum galleries, make this an exemplary project. The work has now been returned to Andrea Mantegna, and the decision to lend it to the National Gallery in London, upon completion of the restoration, is the worthy culmination of an inspired journey of research."
Mantegna and Bellini is the first ever exhibition devoted to the relationship between two of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance: Giovanni Bellini (active about 1459-1516) and Andrea Mantegna (1430/1-1506). Through exceptionally rare loans of paintings, drawings, and sculpture, travelling to London from across the world, Mantegna and Bellini offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compare the work of these two important artists who also happened to be brothers-in-law - a family connection from which both drew strength and brilliance throughout their careers. It can be seen at the National Gallery until 27 January 2019.
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