Battle of the Sea Gods (left side), c. 1485-1488
engraving on laid paper
28 x 42.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 1074)
The engravings of Andrea Mantegna occupy a special place in the history of printmaking and they had a major influence on the visual arts in Europe. A notable example is Battle of the Sea Gods, an archetypal image of the Italian Renaissance. The horizontal composition of this rare, two-plate print ? whose left-hand portion is on display here ? is reminiscent of an antique frieze. The presence of Envy, personified by an emaciated old woman, indicates that the work is an allegory of the destructive power of this human vice. Tritons and marine horses, in the grip of envy, attack one another in a marsh, while nearby, seen from the rear, stands a statue of Neptune.