Palazzo del Tè, Mantua

(1527-1534)
   The Palazzo del Tè in Mantua is a suburban villa on the Tè island built by Giulio Romano to be used by Duke Federigo Gonzaga and his family for recreation purposes and also as stables for Federigo's horse-breeding ventures. The work is a masterpiece of the Mannerist style. The main façade is composed of a long block with three equal arches in the center and four window bays at either side. A Doric frieze is carried by pilasters and the walls are rusticated. The various architectural elements, which High Renaissance masters such as Donato Bramante and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger would have kept separate, are here deliberately combined so that the keystones above the windows disrupt the stringcourses. Giulio also rejected the order, symmetry, and balance of the High Renaissance, instead including asymmetrical spacings between the pilasters. The rustication on the walls is rather flat when compared to the aggressive rustications on the windows and arches. The rustication in the courtyard is more pronounced. Here, blind windows are capped by massive pediments and the key-stone above the doorway is also large and breaks the pediment above in an anticlassical manner. A Doric frieze that drops every so often is carried along the length of the structure and supported by engaged columns. Surprisingly, the garden façade is more subdued, without the heavy rustications and anticlassical elements of the main façade and courtyard. Instead, a soft rhythmic quality is established by the repetition of arches. Giulio was also responsible for the frescoed decorations. In the Sala dei Cavalli (Room of the Horses) he portrayed Federigo's favorite horses on the walls overseen by the gods on Mount Olympus painted on the vault above them (1530-1532). In preparation for Charles V's visit to Mantua, Giulio also frescoed in the Sala dei Giganti (Room of the Giants) the Fall of the Giants (1530-1532), a tour de force of illusionism as the image seems to collapse around the viewer. Like the architecture, the frescoes offer visitors moments of agitation alternating with serene pauses. For this reason, Giulio's commission has been read as an attempt to translate music, with its crescendos and varying rhythms, into visual form.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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