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Print - Battle of the Sea Gods
  • Battle of the Sea Gods
    Mantegna, Andrea, born 1430 - died 1506
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Battle of the Sea Gods

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Mantua (made)

  • Date:

    1475 - 1488 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mantegna, Andrea, born 1430 - died 1506 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    engraving print on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TOPIC, shelf 6, box E

This is the earliest surviving image made from two printing plates and intended for display together, thereby overcoming limitations in the size of printing plates and paper. The left half has a margin and narrow borderline while the right half has no left margin or border, enabling it to be pasted onto the other half to make a complete picture.

The practice of making prints from two plates intended to be joined together became standard from this time, particularly for depicting battles and processions. It suggests that these prints were being made for display on walls and this and the sophisticated subject matter implies a rise in status of prints among collectors.

This belongs to a group of seven prints thought to have been engraved by Andrea Mantegna himself, most dating to between 1460 and 1480. This print shows Mantegna’s use of varied shading lines, with parallel lines and lines have a hooked end creating a zig-zag effect. Mantegna used two sizes of burin to vary line thickness. He also used drypoint, but in this example the lines have worn down and are no longer visible.

The subject of this print is thought to be artistic envy, with the sea-gods being the race of Telchines, who were sculptors and associated with envy in ancient texts. The hag's name is Invidia, (Latin for envy). Mantegna was interested in the antique and visited Roman remains, incorporating the imagery into his work. By 1476 he is known to have owned a sketchbook of 'antique sculpture, of which most are battles of centaurs, fauns, satyrs..'.

Mantegna seems to have taken so few impressions from his prints that even in 1494 Albrecht Dürer could not get one for himself and had to draw a copy. Some elements of Dürer's drawings of this work were used by Hans Sebald Beham for a wallpaper frieze, which in turn acted was source for an ornamental panel by Master C.G. in 1537, an example of the manner in which designs could be transmitted across media.

Physical description

Companion (the right half) to Dyce.994, intended to constitute a long frieze of a single composition; featuring winged and scaly sea creatures and gods and a goddess, holding various weapons or trumpets.

Place of Origin

Mantua (made)


1475 - 1488 (made)


Mantegna, Andrea, born 1430 - died 1506 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

engraving print on paper

Marks and inscriptions

INVID [followed by indecipherable lettering]
inscribed on tablet centre of left panel.


Height: 28 cm cut to, Width: 82.7 cm cut to, combined with Dyce 994, Width: 40.9 cm Right half only

Descriptive line

Battle of the Sea Gods; Companion to Dyce.994, intended to constitute a single composition; Featuring winged and scaly sea creatures and gods and a goddess, holding various weapons or trumpets; Engraving print on paper; By Andrea Mantegna; Mantua, Italy; ca. 1475-1488.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Bartsch, Adam von, 1757-1821. The illustrated Bartsch. New York : Abaris Books, 1978-, no. 17 and 18
Mantegna, Andrea, 1431-1506. Andrea Mantegna. London : Royal Academy of Arts in association with Electa, Milano ; New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art : Distributed by Abrams, 1992.
Christiansen, Keith. 'The Case for Mantegna as Printmaker', in The Burlington Magazine. Vol. 135, No. 1086 (Sep., 1993), pp. 604-612.
Vickers, Michael. 'The Palazzo Santacroce Sketchbook': A New Source for Andrea Mantegna's "Triumph of Caesar:, "Bacchanals" and "Battle of the Sea Gods", in The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 118, No. 885 (Dec., 1976), pp. 824-835.
Jacobsen, Michael A. 'The Meaning of Mantegna's Battle of Sea Monsters', in The Art Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Dec., 1982), pp. 623-629.
'The Intended Setting of Mantegna's "Triumph of Caesar", "Battle of the Sea Gods" and "Bacchanals" ', in The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 120, No. 903, Special Issue Devoted to the Italian Quattrocento (Jun., 1978), pp. 365-370.
Bartsch, Adam von. Le Peintre Graveur. Vienna, 1811. Vol XIII.
Hind, A.M. Early Italian Engraving. Washington, 1948. Part 2, Vol. 5,
Landau, David and Peter Parshall. The Renaissance Print: 1470-1550. Yale University Press, 1994.
DYCE COLLECTION. A Catalogue of the Paintings, Miniatures, Drawings, Engravings, Rings and Miscellaneous Objects Bequeathed by The Reverend Alexander Dyce. London : South Kensington Museum : Printed by G.E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1874.
Lambert, Susan. Drawing: Technique & Purpose. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1981. p.26.
Aquatopia. The imaginary of the Ocean Deep Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary, 2013. ISBN: 9781849762373.
P. 303/4

Production Note

In Mantegna exhibition catalogue (1992) these prints are catalogued as being by Andrea Mantegna himself.


Printing ink; Paper



Subjects depicted

Skull; Sea creatures; Tridents; Trumpets; Sea gods; Weapons




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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