Mantegna was from Padua, where he was privileged to study at the city’s renowned university (founded 1222), but he spent most of his career in Mantua. His panels, murals and prints all display his interest in classical themes, architectural styles and motifs. He is probably best remembered for his painting of the dead Christ, seen in forced perspective from foot level. A great example of his painted inscriptions can be found in his series, Triumphs of Caesar, which Charles I acquired for the British royal collection. The series now lives at Hampton Court Palace. (At right: Mantegna exhibition poster, 2006-2007).
This (at left) is the second segment of Triumphs of Caesar (1484-92) and the detail depicts standard bearers in a triumph, or military procession (complete with vanquished foes and booty), honoring Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. As a humanist, Mantegna took great interest in classical forms, and his focus on Roman letterforms displays a fine taste for the most refined Roman inscriptions. As a proper Renaissance artist, he was very much concerned with the task of resurrecting interest in Classical forms (including letterforms) from architectural sources, rather than from Gothic textual scripts that were more prevalent in manuscripts of the fifteenth century. He was particularly interested in the initial letters, opening verse or inscriptions with a bold design statement and setting the tone for the text to follow.
On the five-hundredth anniversary of Mantegna’s death in 2006, Mantegna’s three cities (Padua, Verona, Mantua) each hosted exhibitions of the artist’s work. Fittingly, the advertisement text was set in Matthew Carter’s Mantinia. A large, three-dimension letter “M” (set in Mantinia, naturalmente) was erected outside each venue (and stood about six feet high and pictured at right in Damiano Daresta’s exquisite photo). Also stenciled on the streets of Mantua as breadcrumbs, leading visitors to the three exhibition sites, were red Mantinia Ms.
Taken on November 12, 2006, at the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua
Used with permission.
Do not reproduce without first obtaining permission from the photographer.
Matthew Carter designed Mantinia in 1993 as a titling font, which means that it was meant to function like, well, an Imperial Roman inscription: bold statements, full of weight and power. Mantinia is an all-capital font. Carter is quite the erudite typographer, and the pamphlet he designed to accompany and demonstrate the intricate possibilities of the Mantinia font is rife with his own scholarship on Mantegna’s antiquarianisms. He also designed the lovely font, Galliard (for which he is probably best known). Its italic and Mantinia complement one another beautifully. He designed a number of alternate characters, raised capitals, tall capitals, ligatures, and even ornaments for Mantinia that give the type designer a whole range of juicy possibilities. Some of his other type designs include: Snell Roundhand, Georgia (which you are reading now, unless your browser has made a substitution), and Sofia.
I’ve created my own red Mantinia M, this one in yarn. For now, it’s another letter in my knitted abecedarium, but I’m saving it as an idea for a bold statement later on. I have, however, used Mantinia letters in another project. I charted a few words to create, well, let’s call it a name tag, on the inside rim of a hat. The original pattern comes from Adrian Bizilia of Hello Yarn. I used her brilliant pattern, “We Call Them Pirates,” but substituted ampersands for skull & crossbones. The pattern is incredibly well conceived and an absolute joy to knit. I’ve now made it three times (but only once with ampersands). Adrian has designed a matching mitten set as well. As of this writing, Ravelry members have made the hat pattern 761 times, which is a measure of how wonderful a pattern it is! Download it for free from the Hello Yarn site. Here is my chart for the ampersand variation of Adrian’s “Pirates” design.
Carter & Mantinia Bib
- “A Typographic Jubilee for Matthew Carter” Typo Magazine
- Margaret Re, ed. Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003.
- Alec Wilkinson, “Man of Letters; Onward and Upward with the Arts” The New Yorker. Vol. 81, No. 39 (Dec 5, 2005): 56.
- J. Abbott Miller, “Matthew Carter: Gentleman Typographer” (American Institute of Graphic Arts)
- Matthew Carter bio (DT&G Magazine)
- Matthew Carter bio (Design Museum)
- “The Subtle Art of Matthew Carter,” Wired.com (1995)