The so-called Camera degli Sposi (The Bridal Chamber) is situated on the second floor (first – British) of the Mantua Palazzo, in one of its oldest parts Castello di San Giorgio. In Mantegna’s time it was called ‘camera depicta’ or ‘camera magna picta’ (room with paintings). The name of ‘Camera degli Sposi’ appears in 1648 in the works of the Venetian art historian, K. Ridolgi, though the name obviously does not reflect the usage of the room. Work on the chamber’s decoration probably began in 1465 and was completed in 1474, though some art historians think that the works went on until 1488. Mantegna’s frescos represent the boldest example of “Illusionism” found anywhere in the entire 15th century.
The dome. In the center of the
dome is an illusionistic ceiling painting of a window, with diameter of
about 2.7 m, opening into the sky. Lower, on the dome, are 8 medallions
with portraits of Roman emperors: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula,
Claudius, Nero, Galba and Otton.
Lower, in 12 triangles, are episodes from the myths of Hercules,
Arian and Orpheus.
In the upper parts of the walls are 12 lunettes in which the heraldic symbols of the Gonzagas are depicted.
Two walls of the room (the southern and eastern) are painted with pilasters and curtains, while the other two depict contemporary events.
The entrance wall (1) is broken by pillars painted with classical motifs behind which we see a landscape full of Roman monuments. Against this background Ludovico III Gonzaga is greeting his son Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga. To understand the significance of the subject in its own day, it should be remembered that Francesco’s elevation to the high ecclesiastical rank of the Cardinal represented an enormous honor for a family which had only relatively recently risen from being landowners and condottieri to becoming lords of Mantua. Accompanying the figures is a splendid train of pages with horses in decorative bridles and purebred dogs.
The wall with a mantelpiece (2) shows Ludovico III Gonzaga and his wife Barbara of Brandenburg surrounded by their children and court. Here Mantegna reveals his talents as a portrait painter.
Andrea Mantegna. Old Italian Masters. by V. Lazarev. Moscow. 1973.
Monumental Painting of Italian Renaissance by I. Smirnova. Moscow. 1987.
The Art of the Italian Renaissance. Architecture. Sculpture. Painting. Drawing. Könemann. 1995.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.
Andrea Mantegna: Padua and Mantua (The Great Fresco Cycles of the Renaissance) by Keith Christiansen. George Braziller, 1994.
Mantegna (The Library of Great Masters) by Ettore Camesasca, Susan M. Lister. Riverside Book Company, 1994.
Andrea Mantegna: The Adoration of the Magi (Getty Museum Studies on Art) by Dawson W. Carr, Andrea Mantegna. J Paul Getty Museum Pubns, 1998.
Mantegna (Masters of Italian Art Series) by Nike Batzner. Konemann, 1998.