Andrea Mantegna and the grain of paving

12/27/2008 Uncategorized

There is a informative review by Andrew Butterfield of the Mantegna exhibition in the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books (January 15, 2009) and in his essay, Butterfield discusses the ground plane of The Crucifixion, one of three predella panels of of the San Zeno alterpiece in Verona (The Crucifixion is now in the Louvre):

That Mantegna made these panels according to the precepts of Alberti’s theory of painting cannot be doubted, and they are among the first examples of an artist responding to On Painting.  For example, in The Crucifixion, the rocky ground is lined with a series of grooves between the stones, and these provide the rectilinear grid necessary for the depiction of space, according to Alberti’s rule of single-point perspective.

The general grain of the pavement, and the balance between a rectilinear order and a more “natural” and happenstance series of fissures, is suggestive of Le Corbusier’s random running bond pattern of the 1950s.  Le Corbusier’s use of the pattern began with the chapel at Ronchamp and culminated in his chapel at La Tourette.  In both chapels, the grain of the pattern was used to unite nave and alter as a result of the enhanced one-point perspective caused by omni-directional parallel lines in the floor . 


Andrea Mantegna, The Crucifixion, 1456-1459; predella panel from the high alterpiece of the church of San Zeno, Verona


Le Corbusier, Chapel, Sainte Marie de la Tourette monastery, Eveux sur Arbresle, France, 1957