The Triumphs of Caesar–The Elephants (after Andrea Mantegna)
This woodcut records a single canvas of the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna’s (1431–1506) masterpiece, a nine-canvas work known as The Triumphs of Caesar painted for the Gonzaga Ducal Palace in Mantua between 1484 and 1492. The paintings are the most ambitious depiction ever attempted of a Roman triumph and fittingly take as their subject the return of Julius Caesar after over a decade of successful military campaigns in Gaul, Pontus in Asia Minor, and Africa in Egypt and Numidia. Andreani’s woodcut, executed not long after the paintings were completed, faithfully captures the fifth painting of the series and one of the more exotic scenes, featuring elephants celebrating Caesar’s campaigns in Africa. To reconstruct scenes like this one faithfully, Mantegna consulted ancient accounts of the victories as well as antiquities in the collection of the duke. The source—and success—of this grand series of paintings is representative of the antiquarian roots of the Renaissance.