Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case TOPIC, Shelf 6, Box E

Battle of the Sea Gods

Print
1475 - 1488 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
engraving print on paper
Brief Description
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.
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.
Dimensions
  • Cut to height: 28cm
  • Cut to, combined with dyce 994 width: 82.7cm
  • Right half only width: 40.9cm
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
INVID [followed by indecipherable lettering] (inscribed on tablet centre of left panel.)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce
Production
In Mantegna exhibition catalogue (1992) these prints are catalogued as being by Andrea Mantegna himself.
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • 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.
  • P. 303/4Aquatopia. The imaginary of the Ocean Deep Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary, 2013. ISBN: 9781849762373.
Other Number
17 - Le Peintre-Graveur
Collection
Accession Number
DYCE.993

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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