Saint Andrew’s tondos

The Saint Andrew’s basilica, designed by Leon Battista Alberti in 1472, was first decorated with these frescoes and their sinopias, removed for preservative reasons, after the middle of the last century, from the front tympanum (the smaller fragment placed on the wall with a window) and from the atrium. They are thematically linked to the Jesus’ Precious Blood relic, to guard and honor the basilica. The authors, two of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, are Andrea Mantegna and Correggio. The first one worked with his studio, around 1488, to realize the figures of the tympanum and the Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, but also, on the sides and above the central portal, other sacred characters (today they are lost); Correggio later attended, probably around 1511 or 1512.

The largest one of the three tondos of the atrium, of which remains on site only the cornices, was located above the portal mentioned; it depicts the Ascension: during this celebration the relic was then exposed and carried in procession (currently this happens on Good Friday). The subject of the other two tondos, placed perpendicularly to the first, completes it with the Holy Family and the Deposition in the tomb: the three tondos referred to the essential moments of Jesus’ earthly life: his birth, his death and his resurrection.

The façade of St. Andrew’s Basilica

ANDREA MANTEGNA (1431-1506) and his collaborators

Saint Andrew with the reliquary

Ripped fresco. Inv. 10

This is what remains of the tondo of the façade, which is known to include the illustration of San Longino. According to the tradition of the Precious Blood, Longino is the soldier who brought the relic to Mantua, while the Apostle Andrew (that’s why it’s called St. Andrew’s Basilica) is the apostle who allowed the relic to be found.

Jesus Ascension to Heaven

Ripped Sinopia. Inv. 7

The sinopia is accosted to the Correggio’s one, to underline the two artists’ different style: the first is meticulous and calligraphic, the second is synthesized, with large strokes.

Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven

Ripped fresco. Inv. 5

The scene is set according to the tradition: Jesus shows himself rising to heaven, surrounded by angels arranged in the shape of an almond. In Christian painting the almond, because of its almost impenetrable shell, was symbolically used to enclose the image of God.


ANTONIO ALLEGRI called Correggio  (1489-1534)

Holy Family

Ripped fresco. Inv. 4

In this fresco are depicted Saint Elizabeth and her son John, the future Baptist (with Mary, Jesus and Joseph), here with the ribbon that anticipates his announcement, so that it shows who the other Child is: Ecce Agnus Dei, “Behold the Lamb of God (who takes away the sin of the world)”.

Jesus’ Deposition in the tomb

Ripped Sinopia . Inv. 8

The upper part of the tondo shows the remains of a previous fresco, in which the head of Christ seems to be recognized among those of Mary and John.

Jesus’ Deposition in the tomb

Ripped Fresco. Inv. 6

The bold pose of Christ struck in the fresco reminds in some way of the famous Mantegna’s dead Christ. Mary Magdalene’s painful and desperate figure stands out among the surrounding ones.

I tondi di Sant’Andrea