Giulio RomanoGiulio Pippi, called Giulio Romano, was the only major Renaissance artist born in Rome. There is a conflict of evidence about his date of birth. Vasari (who knew him well but is often unreliable about dates) says he was fifty-four when he died in 1546, while Mantuan hospital records say he was only forty-seven. The birthdate of 1492 implied by Vasari conflicts with his claim that Giulio entered Raphael’s workshop as a little boy (da putto), as Raphael did not move to Rome until late 1508. If the birthdate of 1499 implied by the hospital register is correct, Giulio must have been astonishingly precocious. The extent of his participation in Raphael’s shop is disputed, but it is generally agreed that he executed frescoes, mainly from Raphael’s drawings and under his supervision, in the Bathroom of Cardinal Bibbiena in the Vatican (completed by June 1516), the Stanza dell’Incendio in the Vatican (finished in 1517), the Villa Farnesina (unveiled at the end of 1518) and the Vatican Loggie (completed by 1519). He is also often credited with the execution of many late panel paintings from Raphael’s workshop.
Raphael named Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni his joint heirs when he died in 1520, but it was Giulio who apparently took over the artistic direction of the workshop. He completed some of Raphael’s unfinished works. The great altarpiece of the Transfiguration (Vatican Gallery) was probably only slightly unfinished, but work on the Sala di Constantino had probably barely started during Raphael’s lifetime. With Penni, he completed the Monteluce Coronation of the Virgin (now also in the Vatican), which had been commissioned from Raphael by a convent near Perugia as early as 1505, and decorated the Massimi Chapel in the church of the Trinità dei Monti at Rome. With Giovanni da Udine, he collaborated (reluctantly) on the decoration of Raphael’s Villa Madama. During these years, he also painted an altarpiece for the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima at Rome and the Stoning of St Stephen for the abbey church of Santo Stefano at Genoa. He also worked as an architect, designing a villa and at least two mansions in Rome.
In 1524 Giulio accepted an invitation from Federico Gonzaga and moved to Mantua. His hurried departure from Rome may have been prompted by fear of prosecution over some pornographic illustrations of sexual positions (I Modi). (Giulio’s engraver, Marcantonio Raimondi, was imprisoned for his part in the affair.) At Mantua, he was awarded many titles and privileges, including the income from a state sawmill, and assembled a large team of craftsmen and workmen to meet the demands of a discerning and exacting patron. For twenty years, he had no effective rivals and directed almost all artistic activity. As well as working on his paintings and making drawings for engravers and sculptors, he made designs for tapestries, maiolica, tableware and costumes, organised pageants and masquerades, designed stage sets, and even had responsibility for the town’s drains and for enforcing building codes. His major architectural and decorative projects included the building and decoration of a villa-cum-hunting lodge at Marmirola (destroyed in the eighteenth century), the building and decoration of the spectacularly innovative Palazzo del Te (1525-34), the construction of the Palazzina Paleologo for Federico’s duchess (demolished in 1899), the decoration of the Appartamento di Troia in the Palazzo Ducale (1536-39), the rebuilding of the abbey church of San Benedetto Po (begun in 1539 and finished after his death), a design for the remodelling of the old Cathedral at Mantua (1545), and the building of his own house (which survives but has been enlarged). Giulio died on 1 November 1546 and was buried in the church of San Barnaba.
Giulio’s early independent works continue to reflect Raphael’s compositional ideas and facial types. There is a tendency towards sombre and heavy colours, strong chiaroscuro, metallic texture, expressive heads and muscular figures, emphatic gestures, crowded compositions with supporting figures, background incident and genre detail, elaborate architectural settings and unexpected vistas. He seems to have worked very much in isolation after his move to Mantua, though there may have been some influence, early on, from Correggio’s great dome decorations in Parma. He was so pressed by his multifarious duties that he eventually painted little himself, but prepared detailed drawings (modelli) for his assistants to work from. His only assistant of distinction was Francesco Primaticcio, who was with him for five or six years before going to France in 1531.
Prints helped spread Giulio Romano’s fame throughout Europe, and artists as dissimilar as Veronese, Rubens and Poussin were influenced by his erudite, inventive, licentious, witty and highly theatrical treatment of classical themes. He has the curious distinction of being the only Renaissance artist mentioned by Shakespeare: ‘… that rare Italian Master Julio Romano, who … would beguile Nature of her Custome, so perfectly he is her ape’ (A Winter’s Tale, Act V, Scene 2).
Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery.
Madonna and Child with Infant St John. Wood, 126 x 85.
St John, dressed in a camel skin and holding a rude cross, gazes reverently at the naked Christ Child, who rests his hand on the lamb, symbol of his future sacrifice. The tiny figure of Joseph descends the conical steps in the background. The semi-circular ruin resembles Bramante’s Cortile del Belvedere in the Vatican. The picture was probably painted in Rome around 1522-24. According to some critics, it was executed from a design of Giulio Romano’s by his pupil Raffaellino del Colle. One of more than 1,700 works of art acquired by the railway tycoon Henry Walters in 1902 from the Vatican official Don Marcello Massarenti.
Detroit. Institute of Arts.
‘Allegory of Immortality’. Canvas, 70 x 70.
The symbolism is very obscure. A boat, rowed by a Triton and steered by a mermaid, is spewed with water by dolphins. On the left, the Cyclopes Polyphemus vomits into the sea. In the centre, a harpy sits on a globe displaying broken chains. At the top, a naked youth lies on rocks holding a palm, a phoenix rises from the flames, and a youth with a torch guides Apollo’s chariot. Formerly in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle. Acquired in 1966. Probably late.
‘Madonna della Catina’. Wood, 161 x 114.
Clearly identifiable with a picture described by Vasari of ‘Our Lady washing the infant Jesus Christ, who is standing with his feet in a basin, while the little St John is pouring water from a vase’. The subject alludes to Christ’s future Baptism in the River Jordan. According to Vasari, the picture was given by Federico Gonzaga to his mistress Isabella Boschetti. It was among the hundred or so paintings from the collection of the bankrupted Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena, acquired by Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, in 1745-46.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland.
Holy Family with Infant John (‘Vierge de Novar’). Wood, 83 x 63.
The scene is set in a dark courtyard; it is just possible to make out Joseph with a lamp, leading a donkey through the background arch. A near replica, without the figure of Joseph standing on the left and with a different background, of Raphael’s Madonna of the Rose in the Prado. The picture is first recorded, as a work of Raphael, in an early nineteenth-century inventory of Lord Gwydir’s household goods. It is sometimes called the ‘Vierge de Novar’ after a later owner – Hugh A. J. Munro of Novar, a Scottish landowner, amateur painter and art collector, who is now best known as a friend and patron of Turner. It disappeared from view for many years after it was sold – still with an attribution to Raphael – with Lord Dudley’s pictures at Christie’s in 1892. It came to light in a private Scottish collection and was cleaned and restored. The rediscovery was announced in a note (by Hugh Brigstocke) in the October 1978 Burlington Magazine, and the picture was acquired by the Edinburgh gallery in 1980.
Madonna and Child with Book and Flowers. Wood, 105 x 77.
There are no early references to this painting, which came to Florence in 1793 in an exchange of pictures with the Imperial Gallery at Vienna. It has always been attributed to Giulio Romano. An early, very Raphaelesque work. Exhibited for a time (1956-70) in the Pitti Palace, it now hangs in the Tribuna of the Uffizi.
Self-Portrait(?). Pastel on paper, 55 x 41.
This rather damaged portrait bust, drawn in coloured chalks, presents the same, middle-aged likeness of the artist as the woodcut in the second edition of Vasari’s Lives (1568). Once in the collection of Cardinal Flavio Chigi, it entered the Medici collections in 1675 with the legacy of Cardinal Leopoldo. It is now kept with the prints and drawings in the Gabinetto Designi e Stampi. It is uncertain whether it is an autograph self-portrait or a copy (perhaps done after Titian’s fine half-length Portrait of Giulio Romano at Mantua (Palazzo della Provincia)).
Geneva. Musée d'Art et Histoire.
Alexander the Great. Wood, 139 x 109.
Alexander, half-length, holds a scroll in his left hand and a statuette of Victory in his right. His green breastplate of scale armour is adorned with a golden winged head, his helmet is decorated with an ostrich feather and has a visor moulded like a mask, and the pommel of his sword is shaped like a lion's head. The picture matches Vasari's description ('Alexander the Great, the size of life, with Victory in his hand') of a painting in the house of Conte Nicola Maffei at Mantua. The picture seems subsequently to have passed into the Gonzaga collection and thence into the collection of Carlo Emanuele I, Duke of Savoy, at Turin. It came to the Geneva museum in 1974 from the Lederer collection, which had been formed in Vienna by a prominent Jewish family. (The collection was seized by the Nazis in 1938-39, but most of the pictures were returned after the War to Erich Lederer, who had moved to Geneva.) The usual dating for the Alexander of around 1537 is based on the assumption that Giulio was influenced by Titian's portrait of the Emperor Augustus, which was delivered to Mantua that year. Giulio was perhaps comparing himself to Apelles, who (according to Pliny) was the only artist Alexander would allow to paint his portrait. Vasari says that Giulio copied an antique medal, but an ancient coin would be a more likely source. There is another version (on canvas) in a private collection.
Genoa. Santo Stefano.
Stoning of St Stephen. Wood, 402 x 287.
God the Father and the Son appear on a cloud surrounded by angels. The young Saul (Paul) sits on the left with the executioners’ clothes. The panoramic landscape is filled with Roman ruins, including Trajan’s Column and Market, the Ponte Milvio, the Theatre of Marcellus and the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli. This huge picture, which now hangs on the south wall of the church, was painted for the high altar of the Benedictine abbey attached to the church. It was commissioned by Gian Matteo Giberti, a close confidant of Giulio de’ Medici, who appointed him to the powerful office of Datary when he was elected Pope. The picture cannot be dated precisely. It was certainly commissioned after March 1519, when Giberti was given the benefice of Santo Stefano, and it was certainly completed by November 1523, when Giulio de’ Medici became Pope (as he was referred to as still a cardinal in an inscription on the frame). The altarpiece was taken to Paris in 1812, the frame was destroyed and the picture was restored. The head of St Stephen, which had been damaged by a bullet fired by a French soldier, was repainted. Vasari describes the altarpiece as Giulio’s most beautiful picture. The cartoon is in the Vatican. The top and bottom parts are on different paper, and it has been suggested that the top part, with the apparition of God the Father and the Son, follows a lost design by Raphael.
London. National Gallery.
Assumption of Mary Magdalene. Detached fresco, 165 x 236.
Mary Magdalene, covered only by her long hair, is borne to heaven by six angels. One of four frescoed lunettes of the life of the Magdalene from the Massimi Chapel in the church of the Trinità dei Monti at Rome. Vasari says the lunettes, as well as frescoes in the vault and the altarpiece of the chapel, were painted by Giulio Romano with the assistance of Gianfrancesco Penni. The works must date from before 1524, when Giulio left Rome for Mantua. Vasari says they were commissioned by a courtesan, whom he does not name. (She was possibly a Lucrezia Scanatoria, who left money to the church in 1522.) The Assumption was detached from the wall and removed from the church sometime between 1818 and 1834. It was presented to the National Gallery by Lord Overstone in 1852. The other three lunettes, which were presumably removed at the same time as the Assumption, are now lost. The altarpiece of the chapel has been usually identified as the Noli Me Tangere in the Prado.
The Infancy of Jupiter. Wood, 106 x 176.
Jupiter is rocked in a cradle by three nymphs. In the background, the inhabitants of Crete (Corbybantes or Curetes) try to drown the infant’s cries with music, so that his father Saturn, who was given to devouring his own offspring, should be unable to discover his whereabouts. One of a series of panels depicting episodes from the life of Jupiter and his family; several others are in the Royal Collection and some in private hands, while others are known only through drawings and engravings. The panels are thought to have been painted for the Sala di Giove (or delle Teste) in the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, which was decorated by Giulio Romano and his workshop in the late 1530s. Some stucco work on the same theme still survives in the room. The National Gallery painting was listed as a work of Giulio Romano in the 1627 inventory of the Gonzaga collection. It was based on a drawing by Giulio (preserved at Chatsworth) but probably executed by one or more assistants. It left the Royal Collection at some unknown date and went to France. It returned to England when the Orléans collection was sold at the end of the eighteenth century, and was bought by the National Gallery in 1859 for £920 at a sale of Lord Northwick’s pictures. Extensively damaged, but cleaned and restored in 2003.
London. Royal Collection.
Portrait of a Lady (Margherita Paleologo?). Wood, 116 x 91.
Her magnificent dress is made of strips of black velvet, edged in gold and interlaced in a knot pattern. The under-gown of palest crimson can be seen through the large slashes. A lapis lazuli rosary hangs from the belt. The elaborate turban-like headdress (zazara) is of the type popularised by Isabella d’Este. In the background, a lady-in-waiting draws back a green curtain to allow three visitors (an elderly nun, a widow with a veil and a younger woman) to enter through a door. The portrait was among the pictures presented by the States of Holland to Charles II in 1660. In the reign of James II, it was described as ‘an Italian Duchesse’ by Raphael. Giulio Romano’s authorship was first recognised by the eighteenth-century French art historian Pierre-Jean Mariette (whose notes were finally published in 1857-58). Mariette thought the sitter was Isabella d’Este, and this identification was widely accepted until fairly recently. However, Isabella was fifty years old when Giulio Romano arrived in Mantua: the sitter seems much younger than this and, moreover, she bears little resemblance to known portraits of Isabella at any age. It is possible that the portrait depicts Isabella’s daughter-in-law, Margherita Paleologo. Margherita, a wealthy heiress descended from the eastern emperors, married Federico Gonzaga, first Duke of Mantua, in 1531. She was described by a contemporary as ‘of less than average beauty’. The only certain likeness of her is on a lead medal (cast in 1561 by Pastorino Pastorini), which shows her in profile in late middle age. X-rays reveal that the portrait was painted over a composition of the Virgin and Child. The picture currently hangs in the 'King's Closet' at Windsor Castle.
Panels from the ‘Cabinet of the Caesars’.
Between 1536 and 1539, a new suite of rooms, known as the Appartamento di Troia, was created for Federico Gonzaga in the Palazzo Ducale at Mantua. One of the rooms, the Cabinet of the Caesars, displayed eleven half-length portraits of Roman Emperors commissioned from Titian in 1536 and completed in 1540. Giulio Romano devised the setting for Titian’s portraits. His workshop painted scenes from the lives of the Emperors to go beneath them, like the predella panels of an altarpiece. The subjects were taken from Suetonius (De Vita Caesarum). Of the original eleven scenes, only four have survived. Three are in the Royal Collection: the Omen of Claudius’s Imperial Power (122 x 94); Nero Playing while Rome Burns (121 x 104); and the Sacrifice of the Goat to Jupiter (123 x 66). These were placed, respectively, beneath Titian’s Claudius, Nero and Titus. A fourth scene, representing the Triumph of Titus and Vespasian, is in the Louvre. Flanking the eleven scenes were panels depicting Emperors on horseback. Nine survive – two in the Royal Collection (each 87 x 50), three in the museum at Marseille, one in the Christ Church Gallery at Oxford, and the others in private collections. The panels were evidently finished in a hurry – even the wood is of poor quality and barely primed. Most, if not all, the paintings in the Cabinet of the Caesars remained in situ until the Gonzaga collection was sold to Charles I in 1627. Titian’s Roman Emperors went to Spain after the Commonwealth Sale, and all eleven were destroyed in the Alcázar fire of 1734.
Three horizontal panels (each about 111 x 140), representing the Infant Jupiter suckled by the Goat Amalthea, Latonia giving Birth to Apollo and Diana on the Island of Delos, and Jupiter and Juno entering Heaven, and a vertical panel (128 x 83), representing Chiron and Achilles, may all have belonged to a series of paintings depicting scenes from the infancy and youth of Jupiter and his family. Other paintings from the series are in the London National Gallery and in private collections (one, representing Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto drawing Lots for their Kingdoms, was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, in 2002 for $93,000). The paintings were based on drawings by Giulio Romano but appear to have been executed mainly or entirely by his workshop. They have a Gonzaga provenance, and are likely to have decorated the Sala di Giove in the Palazzo Ducale at Mantua.
London. British Museum.
Nine Fragments from 'I Modi'. Mounted on a single sheet, 240 x 270.
These are thought to be the only surviving fragments of a famous set of erotic prints engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi from drawings by Giulio Romano. The prints depicted naked couples in different sexual positions (modi). Their publication at Vienna in 1524-25 caused outrage in Rome, and Pope Clement VII and the Curia swiftly ordered the destruction of all copies. Raimondi was briefly imprisoned. After his release, the prints were reissued in 1527 with sixteen lewd sonnets composed by Pietro Aretino. The Vatican again ordered the destruction of all copies. The fragments at the British Museum mainly show just individual heads or heads and torsos. They were already cut and pasted in 1812, when they were acquired by the painter Thomas Lawrence. None of Giulio Romano's original drawings has survived.
London. Apsley House.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 58 x 37.
A variant, without the Baptist and with different colour and lighting, of Raphael’s Madonna della Sedia (Pitti Palace). First recorded in Madrid in 1782 by the painter Anton Raphael Mengs, who believed it to be a collaborative work of Raphael and his studio. It came to England with the paintings seized from Joseph Bonaparte’s baggage train by the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Vitoria. From the mid-nineteenth century, it was generally regarded merely as an old copy of the Madonna della Sedia. It was reproduced as an early work of Giulio Romano in Adolfo Venturi’s monumental Storia dell’Art Italiana (1926), but otherwise largely disappeared from the literature. In 1985, Paul Joannides (in Paragone) revived the attribution to Giulio Romano, proposing a dating of 1518-19. The attribution was rejected in the catalogue of the 1989 Giulio Romano exhibition at Mantua, but re-asserted by Young and Joannides in an article in the 1995 Burlington Magazine, which describes the results of a technical examination and restoration of the painting.
Los Angeles. Getty Museum.
Holy Family. Wood, 78 x 62.
On the right, a woman (St Elizabeth?) holds a basket with a pair of doves, presumably intended for the Jewish ceremony of purification. The foot of the elderly Joseph is deformed by gout. The infant St John hands an open book to the Christ Child. A scroll, with the inscription Ecce Agnus Dei, lies curled at their feet. An early work, painted in Rome, possibly before Raphael’s death in 1520. First recorded in Genoa, the picture came to England in the early nineteenth century. It was bought at Christie’s in 1826 by George Byng, M.P., and remained with his descendents at Wrotham Park until 1994. Acquired by the Getty in 1995.
Birth of Bacchus. Wood, 126 x 80.
The subject is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Semele is consumed by Jupiter’s lightning as she gives birth to Bacchus. The infant is rescued by her sister Io. Juno, disguised as an old nurse, looks on anxiously from the clouds. The panel was probably painted in Giulio Romano’s workshop in the 1530s (possibly by Rinaldo Mantovano). It may have belonged to the same series as the Infancy of Jupiter in the National Gallery, London, and other panels representing episodes from the life of Jupiter and his family in the British Royal Collection and elsewhere. It came to England with the Gonzaga collection, and then went to France after the Commonwealth Sale. It returned to England when the Orléans collection was sold in London in 1798, and entered the collection of Sir Charles Sullivan in Surrey. Lost for many years, it reappeared (in rather poor condition) in 1969 in a gallery at Pasadena. Acquired by the Getty the same year.
‘Noli Me Tangere’. Wood, 220 x 160.
This large panel painting is usually thought to be the altarpiece of ‘Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene in the guise of a gardener’ that Vasari mentions was painted by Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni for the Massimi Chapel in the church of the Trinità dei Monti at Rome. The chapel (fifth on the left from the entrance) was dedicated to Mary Magdalene. The two artists also collaborated on the fresco decoration of the chapel, which is mainly lost (though one of the detached lunettes is preserved in the National Gallery, London). John Shearman called the Prado painting ‘feeble’, and not all art historians have accepted it as the altarpiece mentioned by Vasari. Those that have accepted it have not always agreed on the attribution. The design is probably by Giulio Romano. (There is a drawing by him in the Louvre for the figure of Christ, while the pose of the kneeling Mary Magdelene is very like that of the St Catherine in the Christ in Glory with Saints in Parma.) But the execution has been variously ascribed to Giulio Romano and Penni in collaboration, to Penni alone, and to Penni and/or another collaborator or assistant entirely (eg. Leonardo da Pistoia). From the monastery of El Paular, near Madrid, which was closed in 1835.
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Portrait of a Youth. Wood, 44 x 29.
Dressed in a white chemise and pale pink cloak, he turns to look at us with large dark eyes and pouting mouth. Acquired by Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1928 from the Julius Böhler Gallery in Berlin as a work of Giulio Romano. Shortly afterwards (in a 1930 issue of Belvedere) Wilhelm Suida reattributed it to Raphael as a late work. This attribution had some subsequent support and has been retained in catalogues of the collection. A third view is that Raphael collaborated with Giulio Romano (or another workshop assistant). The sitter was once supposed to be Lorenzo de’ Medici. It was later suggested he could be Alessandro de’ Medici.
Madrid. Palacio Real.
Story of Scipio. Tapestries.
In July 1532, Francis I of France commissioned a series of twenty-two large tapestries illustrating the Story of Scipio. Twelve tapestries (usually called the Deeds) depicted episodes from the battles of the Roman general against the Carthaginians during the Second Punic War. Ten others (usually called the Triumphs) depicted scenes from Scipio's triumphal return to Rome. The modelli (finished drawings) for the Deeds seem to have been executed by Gianfrancesco Penni (partly from Giulio Romano's sketches), while the Triumphs were designed by Giulio Romano. All ten of Giulio Romano's modelli for the Triumphs still exist (nine in the Louvre and one at Chantilly). The tapestries were woven in Brussels. They were completed in 1535 and cost the staggering sum of 23,448 gold ducats. All twenty-two tapestries were deliberately burnt during the French Revolution in order to extract the gold and silver woven into the fabric.
Many later weavings were made of selected scenes. The earliest of these – a seven-piece set woven in Brussels from the original cartoons – was acquired in 1544 by Queen Mary of Hungary from an Antwerp merchant, Erasmus Schatz. This set was inherited by Philip of Spain, and has remained in the Spanish royal collection ever since. Six tapestries from another early set, once owned by the Dukes of Modena, were acquired by the Belgian government in 1954 and have been displayed since 1955 in the Accademia Belgica at Rome. The eight Scipio tapestries exhibited in the Louvre are from a late seventeenth-century set produced at the Paris Gobelins factory.
Mantua. Palazzo Ducale.
Sala di Troia.
This large reception hall with an enclosed loggia was one of a suite of eight rooms fashioned in 1536-39 in the Corte Nuova and decorated by a team of painters and stuccoists working to Giulio Romano’s designs.
The upper sections of the walls are painted with scenes from the Trojan War. From left to right from the wall opposite the entrance: Abduction of Helen; Hecuba’s Dream; Judgement of Paris; the Tethys bringing their Arms to Achilles; the Trojan Horse; Vulcan forging Achilles’ Shield; Death of Laocoön; and Ajax struck by a Thunderbolt. The lower sections of the walls, which were decorated originally with friezes of trophies and booty, have been plastered over.
Gods and goddesses of Olympus are shown in the centre of the vaulted ceiling, with Venus swooning in the arms of Jupiter. Battle scenes from the Illiad are set around the cornice. Several scenes feature Diomedes: he calls on Athena for aid, fights the brothers Ipaeus and Phlegeus; slays Pandarus with a spear-throw, and wounds Aeneas, who is spirited to safety by his mother Venus. Other scenes show the flight of Meriones, with the dead Coeranos being dragged from the chariot, and the battle around the body of Patroclus held in Menelaus’s arms.
The execution, which varies in quality, has been attributed to Giulio’s assistants Rinaldo Mantovano, Luca da Faenza and Fermo da Caravaggio. Restored in 1993-94.
Mantua. Palazzo del Te.
The palace, Giulio Romano’s most famous work, was built just outside the city on what was then an island surrounded by lakes. It was under construction by late 1524 or early 1525 and completed about 1534. The interior decoration was largely executed, at great speed, by Giulio Romano and a number of assistants, including Francesco Primaticcio (who executed much of the stucco work), Rinaldo Mantovano and Benedetto Pagni da Pescia. Vasari, who was given a conducted tour of the palace by Giulio himself in September 1541, gives a very detailed description of the frescoes. The palace was looted in 1630 by Imperial troops and left an empty shell. It subsequently suffered neglect, vandalism when occupying troops were billeted there, and shell damage during the Austrian siege of 1799. Both the exterior fabric and the interiors were thoroughly restored in the late 1980s.
Sala di Psiche.
This large room, located in the southeast corner of the palace, was used for entertaining, and Federico Gonzaga hosted a famous banquet there in 1530 in honour of Charles V’s visit to Mantua. The paintings (about 1527-30) cover the ceiling, lunettes and the upper part of the walls. Vasari says they were executed mainly by Benedetto Pagni and Rinaldo Mantovano but extensively retouched by Giulio Romano himself, who was responsible for the cartoons. They tell in great detail, and with virile sensuality, the Story of Cupid and Pysche from Apuleius’s The Golden Ass. The gorgeous scene of the wedding feast fills two entire walls. The frescoes have been restored on several occasions (notably in 1781-89, 1912-18, early 1940s and 1984-89).
Sala dei Giganti.
This spectacular room, located in the southwest corner of the palace and decorated around 1532-34, must always have been intended more as a piece of theatrical illusionism than for use. The brutally violent paintings are cruder in execution than those in the Sala di Psiche; Vasari says they were done by Rinaldo Mantovano from Giulio’s Cartoons. They cover the entire interior of the dimly lit room, including the doors, and represent in one continuous scene the destruction of the Titans who had rebelled against Olympus. On the ceiling, above the clouds, the anxious gods and goddesses assemble around a circular temple, while Jupiter hurls down thunderbolts. On the walls, the Titans, who had been attempting to climb up to Heaven on heaped up rocks, are hurled back to earth and crushed under huge boulders and blocks of stone as buildings and whole mountains collapse. Vasari tells us that the room originally contained a shattered fireplace, the light from which flickered across the walls making it appear that the Titans were burning. He also says that the floor was paved with pebbles and that the lower walls were painted with similar stones to disguise the point where the floor ended and the decoration begun. The frescoes were restored at the beginning of the nineteenth century and again in 1968 and 1988.
Sala dei Venti.
This small, but exquisitely decorated, room served as Federico’s study. The theme is astrological. On the ceiling, sixteen medallions, illustrating the qualities of those born under various constellations, are arranged under the twelve Signs of the Zodiac.
Sala delle Aquile.
This small room, which takes its name from the four black stucco eagles in the upper corners, was Federico’s bedroom. The central octagon on the ceiling contains a fresco of the Fall of Phaeton. The four lunettes at the sides are frescoed with small mythological scenes. The decoration, like that of the Sala dei Venti, was carried out in 1527-28.
Sala del Sole.
The famous ceiling painting was executed, perhaps by Giulio himself, in summer 1527. It shows the transition from day to night. Viewed dramatically from below, the Chariot of the Sun is about to disappear over one end of the rectangular frame, the width of a road, while the Chariot of the Moon is just appearing at the other end. Many copies were made (including one by Domenico Brusascorci in the Palazzo Chiericati at Vicenza). The fine stuccoes were executed by Primaticcio. The ceiling, which had been damaged by earlier abrasive cleaning and repainting, was restored in 2000.
Sala dei Cavalli.
This magnificent reception hall, the largest room in the palace, was decorated in 1527-28. It is devoted to the glories of the famous Gonzaga stud. Six of the Duke’s thoroughbreds are portrayed almost life size in an architectural setting – standing on cornices more than half the height of the room and in front of fictive windows through which landscapes are viewed. Vasari says the paintings were executed by Benedetto Pagni and Rinaldo Mantovano from Giulio’s drawings.
Camera degli Imperatori (or Sala di Cesare).
This room was probably decorated in the early 1530s. The central octagon on the ceiling shows Caesar burning the Letters of the Defeated Pompey, the two medallions show the Continence of Scipio and Alexander’ s discovery of the Homeric Books, and the six full-length figures represent great commanders (including Augustus, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Philip of Macedonia). The frieze with cherubs was added in the late eighteenth century.
Loggia delle Muse.
This comparatively simple loggia is located at the current entrance to the palace. The badly damaged frescoes (representing landscapes with Orpheus and Eurydice on either side of the door and Apollo and the muse Urbania or nymph Castalia in the lunettes) may have been executed by Rinaldo Mantovano.
Loggia d’Onore (or di Davide).
This monumental loggia is located on the palace’s garden façade. The eight scenes from the Story of David (five in the lunettes and three on the barrel vault) were painted around 1531-34 by Giulio Romano’s assistants (including Benedetto Pagni, Rinaldo Mantovano and Fermo da Caravaggio). They have been damaged by weather and repainting.
Casino della Grotta.
Located in the southeast corner of the garden, the casino consists of a suite of small rooms with a loggia and grotto. The barrel vault and lunettes of the charming loggia were frescoed around 1531-34 by an assistant (possibly Girolamo da Pontremoli).
Marseille. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Roman Emperors on Horseback. Three panels, each about 85 x 50.
These three panels, joined in one frame, formed part of the decoration of the Cabinet of the Caesars in the Palazzo Ducale at Mantua. They are said to have been given to the King of France by Cardinal Mazarin.
Moscow. Pushkin Museum.
‘Donna allo Specchio’. Canvas (transferred from panel in 1840), 111 x 92.
The picture appears to derive from Raphael’s famous Fornarina (Galleria Nazionale, Rome). The woman, presumably a Roman courtesan, seductively lifts a corner of her transparent drapery with her right hand. Her jewels – a pearl necklace and gold bracelet studded with gems – may have been gifts from wealthy clients. There are beauty aids, including a mirror and perfume holder, on the table beside her. In the courtyard visible in the right background, a maidservant drapes a length of red fabric over a balcony, a monkey walks on a balustrade, and a statue of Venus stands in a niche. There are no early references to the picture, which seems likely to have hung originally in a private chamber (perhaps concealed behind a curtain or shutters) rather than in a public setting. Recorded in 1682, as a work of Raphael, in the collection of the Principessa Rossana at Rome, and acquired by the Hermitage in 1839. A heavy cloak painted over the woman’s thighs was removed in the 1930s.
‘Madonna della Gatta’. Wood, 172 x 144.
The picture takes its title from the cat crouching at the bottom right edge. Mentioned by Vasari as one of Giulio Romano’s early, Roman works. The composition is very like that of Raphael’s famous La Perla in Madrid, but the scene is set within a room rather than in a landscape with ruins. Joseph appears in the doorway in the background. The Virgin’s sewing basket is meticulously described in the foreground. The picture passed into the Farnese collection in 1612, when Duke Ranuccio I executed Barbara Sanseverino and seized the Sanvitale palazzo at Colorno. At Parma, it was described as a work of Raphael. Conspicuously damaged by a vertical crack running through the centre of the panel. There is an old copy in the church of Santa Maria d’Aracoeli at Rome.
Oxford. Christ Church.
Roman Emperor on Horseback. Wood, 86 x 56.
One of a series of panels of Emperors on Horseback painted in 1536-39 by Giulio Romano’s workshop for the Cabinet of the Caesars in the Palazzo Ducale at Mantua. Other panels in the series are in the British Royal Collection (two), the museum at Marseille (three) and private collections. Among the pictures bequeathed to the college by General John Guise in 1765. Very badly damaged.
Adoration of the Shepherds. Wood, 275 x 213.
St Longinus stands on the left, holding his lance and a crystal vessel containing a sponge impregnated with Holy Blood. St John the Evangelist stands on the right with his chalice. Painted in the 1530s for the chapel of Isabella Boschetti in the church of Sant’Andrea at Mantua. Isabella Boschetti was Federico Gonzaga’s mistress. Giulio’s assistant Rinaldo Mantovano painted frescoes of the Crucifixion and the Discovery of the Relic of the Holy Blood in the chapel, which was dedicated to a relic of the Holy Blood. The altarpiece was removed to the Palazzo Ducale at some unknown date, and was among the Gonzaga pictures bought by Charles I. Sold by the Commonwealth in 1651 and acquired by Louis XIV from Jabach in 1662.
Circumcision. Canvas (transferred from panel), 115 x 122.
A very early work, clearly influenced by the Raphael Cartoons and possibly painted in Raphael’s lifetime. The spiral columns, which also appear in Raphael’s cartoon of the Healing of the Lame Man (Victoria and Albert Museum), are copied from the famous antique columns that formed a screen in the Old St Peter’s and were believed to have come from Solomon’s Temple. The coat-of-arms on the tympanum is that of the Orsini family. Acquired, as a work of Giulio Romano, by Louis XIV in 1684.
Triumph of Titus and Vespasian. Wood, 122 x 171.
Titus and Vespasian, crowned by Victory, parade Jewish captives and the seven-branched candelabrum from the Temple of Jerusalem. One of eleven scenes from the lives of Roman Emperors painted by Giulio Romano and his workshop for the Cabinet of the Caesars in the Palazzo Ducale at Mantua. Three other scenes are in the British Royal Collection and seven are lost. The Louvre panel was placed beneath Titian’s portrait of Vespasian. Among the pictures acquired by Louis XIV from Jabach in 1662.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John. Wood, 29 x 25.
This little panel is a very early work, usually dated about 1516, when Giulio Romano was still working as an assistant in Raphael’s workshop. Plundered in 1799 from the Palazzo Braschi in Rome and taken to the Louvre. It was first mentioned as a work of Giulio Romano in 1860. A preparatory drawing for the Virgin and Child is also in the Louvre.
‘Joanna of Aragon’. Canvas (transferred), 120 x 95.
This famous portrait was painted in Raphael’s workshop but appears to have been both designed and executed largely by Giulio Romano. The Duke of Ferrara, who had seen the picture in France in 1518, wrote to Raphael asking for the cartoon. Raphael sent it to him stating that both it and the painting were by an assistant – identified by Vasari as Giulio Romano. Vasari says that Raphael ‘did only the drawing of the head, from life, while the remainder was finished by Giulio’. If classed as Giulio’s, the portrait would be his earliest dateable work. The portrait was given to Francis I in 1518 by Cardinal Bibbiena, an ambassador to the French court, on behalf of Leo X. The young woman, magnificently dressed in a red velvet gown and matching turban-style headdress, was called simply ‘a wife of the Viceroy of Naples’ by Vasari. She was assumed for centuries to be Giovanna d’Aragona, granddaughter of King Ferrante of Naples and wife of Ascanio Colonna. However, she was identified in 1997 (by Michael P. Fitz in the Louvre publication Le Tableau du Mois) as Dona Isabel de Requesens y Enríquez de Cardona-Anglesola. Dona Isabel was the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, the Count of Palamós, and wife of Ramón de Cardona, who was Viceroy of Naples from 1509 until his death in 1522. The portrait was restored by Primaticcio in 1540 and transferred from panel to canvas in the late eighteenth century.
Saint Margaret. Canvas (transferred), 178 x 122.
The saint, holding a palm, has her foot on the serpentine dragon that had swallowed her. Probably one of the pictures presented to Francis I on the occasion of the wedding of Lorenzo de’ Medici and Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne in Nantes on 10 August 1518. It may have been intended to flatter the French king’s sister, Marguerite de Valois. According to Vasari, it was ‘executed almost entirely by Giulio following the design of Raphael’. Damaged and overpainted: it was restored by Primaticcio as early as 1537-40, damaged by fire in the early seventeenth century, transferred to canvas in 1777, and then transferred again a few years later. There is a variant (ascribed either to Giulio Romano or to Gianfrancesco Penni) at Vienna.
Parma. Galleria Nazionale.
Christ in Glory with Saints. Wood, 124 x 98.
Christ, in the heavens between the Virgin and John the Baptist, appears to St Paul and St Catherine of Alexandria. This small altarpiece came from the convent of San Paolo at Parma, where it was considered a work of Raphael. On the evidence of a drawing for the figure of Christ (Getty Museum, Los Angeles), Raphael may have been at least partly responsible for the design. A modello in the Louvre for the whole composition is ascribed either to Giulio Romano or to Gianfrancesco Penni. The execution of the painting is usually attributed to Giulio Romano at least in part.
Coronation of the Virgin (‘Madonna di Monteluce’). Wood, 354 x 232.
The upper part of the picture, representing the Coronation of the Virgin, and the lower part, showing the apostles gathered round the empty tomb, were painted separately and then joined together. The upper part appears to have been painted by Giulio Romano and the lower part by Gianfrancesco Penni. The picture had an extraordinarily long gestation. In December 1505, the young Raphael contracted to paint an altarpiece for the Poor Clares at Monteluce, just outside Perugia. The contract required him to complete the picture by the beginning of 1508 and to take as his model Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Coronation of the Virgin at Narni. Raphael appears to have done nothing to honour the contract, and a fresh agreement between the nuns and the artist was negotiated in June 1516. The nuns had still not received their picture when Raphael died in April 1520, and later that year they approached Giulio Romano and Gianfrancesco Penni, the joint inheritors of the workshop. A third contract was signed in June 1523, and in June 1525 the altarpiece was finally delivered. Giulio Romano and Penni appear to have made use of Raphael’s preliminary drawings. Interesting new evidence that Raphael may have worked on the panel (or at least that the nuns believed he had) is afforded by two documents recently discovered in the Perugian archives (described by Maria Sartore in the June 2011 Burlington Magazine). In these documents, dated December 1520 and May 1523, the nuns refer to the ‘panel that master Raphael had begun’. As stipulated in the 1516 contract, the predella (with scenes from the Life of the Virgin) was painted by Berto di Giovanni. It is now in the gallery at Perugia.
Stanza dell’Incendio. Dado Figures.
Vasari says that Giulio Romano assisted Raphael in the decoration of the room and, in particular, painted the monochrome reliefs below the wall paintings. The six seated figures, painted in imitation of bronze, are all rulers that protected the Church: Constantine the Great, Charlemagne, Godfrey de Bouillon, Ethelwulf of England (called Astolfo), Ferdinand of Castile, and the Emperor Lothair. A seventh figure, Pippin, is lost. On the evidence of an inscription, the decoration of the room was finished by March 1517. The engraver Marcantonio Raimondi made a series of prints of the dado figures from Giulio’s drawings. The figures were completely repainted by Carlo Maratta in 1702-3.
Stanza di Constantino.
The last of the four Stanze to be decorated. In the centre of each wall is a scene from the life of Constantine represented as a simulated tapestry. Between the scenes, famous Popes are represented enthroned in painted niches, which are flanked by wide pilasters supporting fictive statues and with allegorical figures of Virtues seated at the base.
The largest of the scenes, on the long wall opposite the windows, represents the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. On the opposite wall, above the fireplace and between the windows, is the Donation of Constantine (with an idealized view of the Old St Peter’s). On one end wall, the Allocution of Constantine shows Constantine addressing his soldiers before the battle and the miraculous appearance of the Cross in the sky. The landscape represents Monte Mario, north of Rome, with Raphael’s Villa Madama visible on the left. On the other end wall is the Baptism of Constantine (set in the Latern Baptistery).
Work on the decoration of the room had already started in Raphael’s lifetime. (Payment for scaffolding is recorded in October 1519, six months before his death.) The Battle and the Allocution appear, on the evidence of drawings, to have been designed at least partly by Raphael. However, as executed, the two scenes clearly owe much to Giulio Romano. A fragment of Giulio’s cartoon for the Battle is preserved in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana at Milan. The Donation and the Baptism appear to have been later creations in which Raphael had no part. Giulio probably had a major share in the Donation but a smaller share in the Baptism.
Gallery of the Tapestries. ‘Scuola Nuova’ Tapestries.
The ‘Scuola Nuova’ tapestries – so called to distinguish them from the earlier set designed by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel – represent twelve scenes from the Life of Christ. They were woven in about 1524-31 in the Brussels workshop of Pieter van Aelst. It was once supposed that Raphael made drawings for the tapestries, but most art historians now agree that they were designed after his death and that the cartoons were made under the direction of Giulio Romano. The cartoons were cut up by the weavers and remained in Flanders. Many fragments, usually attributed either to Giulio Romano or to the School of Raphael, are preserved in museums and private collections, including some dozen (mainly just of heads and hands) from the cartoons for the three panels representing the Massacre of the Innocents.
Rome. Galleria Nazionale (Palazzo Barberini).
Virgin and Child. Wood, 36 x 31.
This tender little panel is an early work, painted in Rome. There is disagreement over whether it is likely to have been painted in Raphael’s lifetime or after his death in 1520. (Paul Joannides, in a 1985 article in Paragone, dated it as early as about 1517.) First recorded only at the end of the nineteenth century, when it was auctioned as a work of Giulio Romano in Cologne. Bequeathed to the gallery in 1915 with the collection of Henrietta Hertz.
Pandora (or Psyche); Minerva and Cupid. Wood, each 126 x 54.
One panel seems to represent either Pandora (opening the jar to release all the evils of humanity) or Psyche (opening the jar given to her by Proserpina). The other panel shows Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom) reproving Cupid (God of Desire). The two panels were previously attributed to the sixteenth-century Sienese school or to Andrea del Brescianino, but they are now thought to be products of Giulio Romano's Mantuan workshop. Acquired by the museum in 1918 with the Chigi collection.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Virgin and Child with the Infant St John. Wood, 116 x 90.
The Virgin, who clasps the Christ Child protectively in her arms, recalls Raphael’s Madonna della Sedia, while the pose of the infant St John, handing a bird to the Christ Child, is clearly derived from Michelangelo’s marble Tondo Taddei (now in the Royal Academy, London). Described in old inventories as the work of a certain ‘Giov. Francesco della Nunziatella’, whose name is inscribed on the back of the panel. It is possible that Gianfrancesco Penni might have been meant. The attribution to Giulio Romano was made by Adolfo Venturi in his 1893 gallery catalogue.
Rome. Santa Maria dell’Anima.
Madonna and Child with Saints. Wood, 260 x 148.
The Holy Family is adored by St James, kneeling on the left, and St Mark, kneeling with his lion in the right foreground. In the background, a view of Trajan’s Market. A solitary old woman emerges from a portal, holding a spindle and looking at a hen and its chicks. Painted about 1523 for the immensely rich Augsburg banker and merchant Jakob Fugger, whose chapel (last on the right of the church) was dedicated to St Mark. The picture had already darkened in Vasari’s day, accentuating the heavy chiaroscuro and inky shadows. The lower part was repainted by Carlo Saraceni after flood damage. After a further restoration, carried out by the painter Carlo Maratta, the picture was moved from the Fugger Chapel to the high altar, where it remains. Restored in 2007. The pen and ink modello is in the Uffizi.
Rome. Santa Prassede. Sacristy.
This picture, traditionally ascribed to Giulio Romano, has been the subject of a long attributional controversy. Vasari says that Giulio Romano painted a Flagellation for the high altar of the church (which claims to possess a fragment of the column at which Christ was scourged). This painting was moved to the San Zeno Chapel in 1699 and then, in 1725, to the sacristy. It was doubted (first by Maurizio Calvesi in 1949 and then by Frederick Hartt in his 1958 monograph on Giulio Romano) whether the Flagellation at present in the sacristy is the picture mentioned by Vasari, and an attribution was made to the late sixteenth-century Milanese painter Simone Peterzano (best known as the master of Caravaggio). Some art historians continued to accept the picture as that mentioned by Vasari but preferred an attribution to Gianfrancesco Penni (see Sylvia Ferino’s entry in the catalogue of the 1989 exhibition at Mantua). In 2011, new attributions were published to the young Caravaggio (Claudio Strinati in the catalogue to the exhibition Caravaggio a Roma) and to Peterzano and the young Caravaggio in collaboration (Calvesi in Storia dell’Arte).
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Two Lovers. Canvas (transferred from panel), 163 x 337.
Almost certainly the picture (‘in which a young man and a young woman are embracing each other in the act of making love on a bed, while an old woman looks at them, hidden behind a door’) that Vasari mentions in the possession of Vespasiano Gonzaga. The picture was presumably painted for Federico Gonzaga, who had a taste for erotica, but its original location is unknown. Nothing is known of its subsequent history until its appearance in the Hermitage in the 1780s. It was excluded from gallery catalogues until 1920 because it was considered indecent. The subject is uncertain. The two lovers have been called Mars and Venus, Alexander and Roxana, Paolo and Francesca, Jupiter and Antiope, and Jupiter and Alcmene. The eavesdropping old woman, with a bunch of keys and yapping dog, has been supposed to be a procuress or a servant warning of the arrival of the young woman’s husband. The dog may represent fidelity, while the cat, peering out from under the bed, could symbolise lust, cunning or betrayal. Explicit sexual scenes are carved into the bed. The paint surface was badly damaged when it was transferred in 1834 from panel to canvas.
Strasbourg. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Portrait of a Young Woman. Wood, 60 x 44.
Variously attributed to Giulio Romano, to Raphael, to Raphael and Giulio Romano (and/or Gianfrancesco Penni) in collaboration, and to Raphael’s School. Technical evidence reveals that parts of the portrait (including the hands, sleeve and chemise) were changed after the first phase of painting, but it is not obvious whether this is evidence of collaboration or of one artist’s change of mind. The portrait resembles in some respects Raphael’s famous Fornarina in Rome (Galleria Nazionale). It has been sometimes supposed that the same young woman is portrayed, but this seems unlikely. The gesture towards the heart is similar to that both in the Fornarina and Raphael’s Donna Velata (Pitti Palace). It has been suggested recently that the sitter could be Fiammetta Soderini. Fiammetta was the niece of Piero Soderini who, as Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, ruled the Florentine Republic between 1502 and 1512. She married in 1512 the banker Bindo Altoviti, whose portrait by Raphael (identical in size to the Strasbourg picture) is now in Washington. There are no certain early references to the picture, which formerly belonged to Lord Acton in Paris. Acquired for the Strasbourg museum in London by Wilhelm Bode in 1890.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Symbols of the Four Evangelists. Wood, 22 x 22.
This tiny octagonal panel could have formed part of some liturgical furnishings or the frame of an altarpiece. Recorded as a work of Giulio Romano in Prague in 1685 and transferred to Vienna in the eighteenth century. It may have been designed by Giulio but executed by another member of the Roman workshop (Perino del Vaga?).
Pluto Entering Hades. Wood, 92 x 62.
The youthful Pluto rides his chariot into the mouth of Hades, past Cerberus and Erinnyes. One of a number of panels painted by Giulio Romano’s workshop in the 1530s depicting the birth or youth of classical gods. It was probably among the Gonzaga pictures acquired by Charles I, passing into the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm after the Commonwealth Sale.