One of the two most enchanting places I have ever been is in the Bridal Chamber of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, Lombardy, Italy. I won’t share my other top most favorite place here, but I will tell you it is a Renaissance room of about the same size somewhere in Tuscany and was painted by Benozzo Gozzoli.
But recently in Mantua, I found Andrea Mantegna’s Cameral degli Sposi, and I fell in love. Again. I knew it would happen.
It was December and I was alone in this beautiful chamber, with time to study the details to my heart’s content. I took about a million photos and I am sharing them here.
Let’s start with a video:
I’m not even going to talk about the paintings, except to say that they –the 4 walls and the amazing ceiling– were frescoed by Andrea Mantegna between 1465 to 1475. Mantegna’s painted scheme creates an illusionistic space, as if the chamber was a loggia with three openings facing country landscapes among arcades and curtains. The painted scenes portray members of the Gonzaga family.
But, for once, that is all I will say with words. My million photos will become this post. If you can get to Mantua, DO SO!
Va bene, it’s time to look up:
Executed between 1465 and 1474, the room, which is entirely painted, shows the marquis, Lodovico, going about his courtly business with family and courtiers in tow in impressive 3D. Painted naturalistically and with great attention to perspective, the arched walls appear like windows on the courtly world – looking up at the Duke’s wife Barbara, you can even see the underside of her dress as if she’s seated above you. Most playful of all though is the trompe l’œil oculus featuring bare-bottomed putti (cherubs) – the point of view is quite distastefully realistic in places – balancing precariously on a painted balcony, while smirking courtly pranksters appear ready to drop a large potted plant on gawping tourists below.