Nature, myths and emblems，in this virtual visit discover some of the first realized frescoes. They represent two main elements of italian manneirsm: the outline of the huge Gonzaga’s horses, suspended between dream and reality with metaphysical accents, and following scenes illustrating Amore and Psiche’s myth. Art changed, nevertheless some ecoes of Raffaello techniques are still visible.
Chamber of Psyche
Chamber of Psyche is the dining room of the duke. Entirely frescoed, each wall depicts the mythological history of Psyche, it is the symbol of the duke’s love for Isabella Boschetti. The literary source is the metamorphosis of Apuleius. To the other two walls, without relations with the story, there are mythological episodes with Mars and Venus and, above the windows and the chimney, various divine loves.
The chamber of Psyche, the most sumptuous room of the palace, is decorated with frescoes. The walls and the ceiling illustrate the tale of Psyche, narrated by the Latin author Apuleius in his work The Golden Ass. From the initial Neoplatonic theme of the journey of the human soul towards the union with divine love, we move towards a colourful representation which culminates in a festive nuptial banquet, where everyone celebrates the happy ending of the tale. The painting adorning the chamber is a celebration of the Mannerist conception of art, of which Giulio Romano is champion: here he takes inspiration from the Loggia in the Villa Farnesina in Rome. Ten years after these frescos were painted – they were condemned by Michelangelo – Giulio Romano was able to create a new captivating palace, in which none of the represented figures is the real protagonist; the two main characters seem to be lost in the vortex created by the fast paced scenes.
The story of Cupid and Psyche is forms a sort of labyrinth in the eight octagons of the vaults surrounded by golden stuccoes and in the twelve lunettes of the Chamber; the story ends in the central frame, where Psyche, after having completed a series of difficult tasks, is finally allowed to enter the Olympus, where she becomes immortal and can marry Cupid. The various steps of Psyche’s journey have lead her to discover the dark side of the divinity, such as when she is forced to reach the infernal river Styx to steal some of its water.
The walls are painted with frescoes that illustrate some famous love stories, starting with Venus and Mars. We also find Baccus and Ariadne, Pasiphaë in Crete, Jupiter and Olympias, as well as a magnificent representation of the Cyclops Polyphemus, who is in love with Galatea, who in turn is in love with the shepherd Acis. The meaning of the painting is clear: Love reigns undisturbed over every being, be it man or God. The most important section is the nuptial banquet, where men, women and animals celebrate the love between the two protagonists, who are lying on a Roman triclinium.
A small table at the centre of the southern wall: on it an abundance of dishes and plates, under a trellis covered in vegetation, between an elephant and a camel. We are on the island of Venus, where everyone leads a joyful life.
The scene unfolding around the table on the western wall shows a group of satyrs chasing sensuous girls. The painted figures enter into dialogue with the guests that took part in the banquets organized by Federico. The sixteenth century visitors being entertained here were offered a pictorial representation of the joys of life.
In the beautiful lunette at the bottom, Psyche, dressed in green, is leaning forward to to touch the water of the river Styx. Under the lunette, in the octagon on the right, her story begins: she is the daughter of a king, so beautiful that people give her many gifts and presents, honouring her as if she were a goddess. In the octagon on the left we see the second episode of the story: Venus, angered by this, orders her son, Cupid, to punish her: he must hit her with an arrow that will make her fall in love with the most horrific being in the world. An episode that inspired Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The scenes painted on the walls seem to share the same magnificence of the ceiling, geometrically divided into squares.
To the left of the large table on the western wall is a landscape where a river, or a lake, a hint to the lakes around Mantua, not far from the villa. The Earthly Paradise here represented has nothing to do with the Christian one. It is however worth noting that despite this difference, the series of paintings revolve around the motif of the initiatic journey, that the guest would have embarked on in a quest for true wisdom.
Beauty and desire come together in this masterpiece by Giulio Romano.
The Palazzo Te is a historic and monumental building in Mantua. a fine example of the mannerist style of architecture, Built between 1524 and 1534 on commission by Federico II Gonzaga, it is the most famous work of the Italian architect Giulio Romano. The complex is now home to the civic museum and, since 1990, the International Center for Art and Culture of Palazzo Te which organizes exhibitions of ancient and modern art and architecture.