closed Giulio Romano

The show

Thirty years after the great monographic of 1989, Palazzo Te returns to celebrate the genius of Giulio Romano with the exhibition Giulio Romano: Arte e Desiderio, from 6 October 2019 to 6 January 2020.

The exhibition, curated by Barbara Furlotti, Guido Rebecchini and Linda Wolk-Simon, is an integral part of the Giulio Romano and Palazzo Te program of exhibitions and events (September 2019 - June 2020) and is promoted by the Municipality of Mantua, produced and organized from the Palazzo Te Foundation with the Electa publishing house; with the contribution of the Lombardy Region, the Mantua Chamber of Commerce, the Banca Agricola Mantovana Foundation, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Bank, the Cariverona Foundation, the Comunità Mantovana Onlus Foundation; with the support of the technical sponsors Aermec, Smeg, Glas Italia, Pilkington and with the support of Amici dei Palazzo Te and the Mantovani Museums, MeglioMantova, Agroittica Lombarda.

The exhibition investigates the relationship between erotic images of the classical world and figurative inventions produced in the first half of the sixteenth century in Italy. Focusing on Giulio Romano's production, the exhibition itinerary highlights the widespread diffusion of a vast repertoire of erotic images in sixteenth-century artistic culture and reveals the influences existing between high culture and low culture in the production of these images.

The precious objects on display - from twenty Italian and foreign institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Galleria Borghese in Rome, and the Uffizi Gallery and the Bargello Museum in Florence - underline the playful, inventive and at times subversive character of these artistic inventions and demonstrate the flexibility of the erotic subject, used in works ranging from drawings to paintings, from sculptures to engravings, from majolica to tapestries.

«Palazzo Te is a place of secrets and utopias. A river of visual and narrative suggestions, in which Vitruvius and Ovid mix, the art of building and the art of loving, in a sequence that recounts metamorphosis, profound cultural transformations and sensational catharsis "says the director of the Palazzo Te Stefano Foundation Curioni Bay.

"Built between 1525 and 1535 in the dialogue between Federico II Gonzaga and Giulio Romano, the palace participates in the diplomatic adventure of the marquis and then duke who binds the city of Mantua hand in glove with the vicissitudes of an empire that is opening up to a phase of great splendor, but at the same time he is already confronted with the challenges that will lead him to a profound crisis in just over twenty years. The world changes, the civilization of the Italian Renaissance still holds, between Venice and Genoa, but the Christian ecumene splits, Europe becomes bloody with a century of terrible wars from which a new, secular politics and a new sense of power. The palace tells of this, of the beginning of all this, marking with ironic traits the breakthrough of an earthquake that

it causes the ashlars to collapse and the gables above the windows to open; the story of a falling in love with the past that has to deal with the need to redesign the future; the political luxury of a transformative and private eroticism, apparently independent of the rigor of a common Catholic morality; and finally the hope of a new imperial Olympus rising from the ashes of the ancient powers ”.

The theme of the exhibition, which offers the public the opportunity to investigate a relatively little known aspect of Renaissance art, is in fact closely connected to the place that hosts it. Erotic subjects and love stories are in fact recurrent in the rooms of Palazzo Te, the undisputed masterpiece of Giulio Romano's artistic career: see, for example, the events of Bacchus and Ariadne frescoed in the Chamber of Metamorphoses; or the passion of King David for the beautiful Betzabea which takes shape in the Lodge of David; and above all the tormented story of Cupid and Psyche that unfolds on the walls and ceiling of the hall of the same name. There are also many references inside the palace to the love story, in this case earthly and contemporary, between Federico II Gonzaga and Isabella Boschetti, which began in 1516 and ended only with the death of the duke in 1540.

Giulio Romano: Arte e Desiderio, set up in the Napoleonic wing of the palace, will be divided into 6 sections. The itinerary opens with the theatrical presentation of an ancient marble figure of Venus, formerly owned by Giulio Romano and donated by the artist to the Marquis of Mantua, Federico II Gonzaga. The work on display testifies how ancient sculpture had a fundamental impact on the imagination of artists active in the sixteenth century in Rome, in particular Raphael and Giulio Romano, and provided them with the stimulus for the creation of new works with an openly sensual character.

The first section illustrates Giulio's early production at the time of his activity in Raphael's workshop, and in particular his intervention in the decoration of Cardinal Bibbiena's stove in the Vatican Palace (1515-1516), and in the Loggia di Psyche at the Villa Farnesina in Rome, whose triumph of ancient divinities constituted an unavoidable source of inspiration for the fresco of the same subject subsequently painted by Giulio in Palazzo Te.

The second section is dedicated to I Modi, a series of 16 pornographic images, probably inspired by ancient sources, which were drawn by Giulio Romano, engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi and accompanied by licentious sonnets composed by Pietro Aretino. Following a severe censorship campaign by the papal authority, these engravings have been lost, but their exceptional fortune is attested by the proliferation of erotic images inspired by them and created in various media, including drawings, bronzes and decorations on historiated majolica .


Timetable and tickets


Viale Te, 13
46100 Mantua


More on the program

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Until 08 January 2023

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