Friday, May 15, 2015

The Tea Palace and Giulio Romano

In the middle of the quattrocento, specifically in 1457, Mantegna receives the commission to decorate the Camera degli Sposi, or Wedding Chamber at the Palazzo Ducale. Some 65 year later, Giulio Pippi, called Giulio Romano, still in morning after the unexpected death of his young master, Raphaello, leaves Rome, and set out to accept a series of commissions from Federico II, now Duke of Mantua.
Chamber of Ovidius and Metamorphosis.
Why is this Palace called il Palazzo di Te.  Before Federico started il Palazzo, this land was a swampy partial of land where he built stables for his stallions. The area was called Te. Some say the name Te derives from a plant that grows here, while others say that it was the name of one of the last Visigoth Kings. So when the Palazzo was built, everyone referred to it as the Palazzo del Te. In the 18th century centuries, the English doing the Grand Tour of Italy, were told that this Palace was the Palazzo di Te, which several misinterpreted as the Tea Palace, or the Tea House, which to an Englishmen made a great deal of common sense, but to the Italians, who are more into coffee than tea, seemed hilarious. But they too adopted the name, and now call it The Tea Palace.

Chamber of Ovidius and Metamorphosis

The Chamber of the Winds

The Chamber of the Horses

The Chamber of Psyche and Cupid gives an impression of the art of a prosperous but decadent society. So may be the case of Mantua in the XVI century, with scenes of nude mythological personalities. Surely many tight-laced guests of the Palazzo were scandalized, especially if they were not familiar with the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Psyche is not a female, nor Cupid a male. Psyche is the soul, and Cupid is desire. The Psyche is tempted here at the banquet table, and her body reflects a state of constant indulgence and lack of self-discipline. The turning on her heals to look back towards another temptation looks as if Psyche is going to strain her neck, as she is hounded by satires and lured by fawns, as Giorgio Vasari singles them out in this masterpiece, in his famous Lives of Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects.
Federico was possibly having an affair at this point of his life with Isabella Boschetto, which had his wife, Isabella d Este jealous and furious. Isabella d'Este is the daughter of Ludovigo Sforza (Ludovigo iL Moro) and Beatrice d'Este.  (We will write a great deal about Ludovigo and Beatrice in a few weeks from now when we post another article on Pavia and the Chartruese.)  What were Giulio Romano's intentions in this picture. To encourage loose living, or to give Federico a polite reprimand.  
The Wedding Banquet of Psyche and Cupid
In the Chamber of Psyche

The Hall of the Love of Psyche
Paintings by Giulio Romano

The Chamber of Pysche

Hall of the Zodiacs

The Chamber of the Eagles

The Tiumphs of Caesar represented in
The Hall of the Stucco Art
Many of the figures here in the Hall of the Stucco are recreated from Trajan's Column in the Roman Forum, while others recreate victories of the Gonzaga dynasty in battle. The Gonzaga do everything possible to convey the idea that they are the legitimate and regal descendants of the Roman Emperors. This use of art to create an image was widely used by both Julius Caesar and Constantine.

The Hall of the Stucco Art

Ceiling of the Hall of the Stucco Art

Giulio Romano paints an Oculus in the Ceiling,
imitating the Oculus that Mantegna painted
in the ceiling of the Camera degli Sposi

Classical archway leads us out of
the Tea Palace into the Courtyard

Moats and pools in the outdoor garden of the Tea Palace

View across the Gardens of the Tea Palace
towards the arched entrance colonnade

Walkway and Niches in a courtyard at the Tea Palace

Gardens outside the Tea Palace
It is difficult to imagine that once
this land was an uninhabitable marshland.

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