Palazzo del Te

Mantua, Italy

Palazzo del Te is a palace in the suburbs of Mantua. It is a fine example of the mannerist style of architecture, and the acknowledged masterpiece of Giulio Romano. It was constructed 1524–34 for Federico II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua as a palace of leisure. The site chosen was that of the family's stables at Isola Del Te, on the edge of the marshes just outside Mantua's city walls.

Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael, was commissioned to design the building. The shell of the palazzo, erected within eighteen months, is basically a square house containing a cloistered courtyard. A formal garden complemented the house, enclosed by colonnaded outbuildings ending in a semicircular colonnade known as the Esedra.

Once the shell of the building was completed, for ten years a team of plasterers, carvers and fresco painters laboured, until barely a surface in any of the loggias or salons remained undecorated. Under Romano's direction, local decorative painters such as Benedetto Pagni and Rinaldo Mantovano worked extensively on the frescos.

In July 1630, during the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628–31), Mantua and the palace were sacked over three days by an Imperial army of 36,000 Landsknecht mercenaries. The remaining populace fell victim to one of the worst plagues in history that the invaders had brought with them. The Palazzo was looted from top to bottom and remained an empty shell: nymphs, god, goddesses and giants remain on the walls of the empty echoing rooms.

Like the Villa Farnesina in Rome, the suburban location allowed for a mixing of both palace and villa architecture. The four exterior façades have flat pilasters against rusticated walls, the fenestration indicating that the piano nobile is the ground floor, with a secondary floor above. The East façade differs from the other three by having Palladian motifs on its pilaster and an open loggia at its centre rather than an arch to the courtyard. The facades are not as symmetrical as they appear, and the spans between the columns are irregular. The centre of the North and South facades are pierced by two-storey arches without portico or pediment, simply a covered way leading to the interior courtyard.

The frescoes are the most remarkable feature of the Palazzo. The subjects range from Olympian banquets in the Sala di Psiche and stylised horses in the Sala dei Cavalli to the most unusual of all — giants and grotesqueswreaking havoc, fury and run around the walls of the Sala dei Giganti. These magnificent rooms, once furnished to complement the ducal court of the Gonzaga family, saw many of the most illustrious figures of their era entertained such as the Emperor Charles V, who, when visiting in 1530, elevated his host Federico II of Gonzaga from Marquess to Duke of Mantua.

One of the most evocative parts of the lost era of the palazzo is the Casino della Grotta, a small suite of intimate rooms arranged around a grotto and loggetta (covered balcony) where courtiers once bathed in the small cascade that splashed over the pebbles and shells encrusted in the floor and walls.

Part of the Palazzo today houses the Museo Civico del Palazzo Te, endowed by the publisher Arnoldo Mondadori. It contains a collection of Mesopotamian art.

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Address

Viale Te 13, Mantua, Italy
See all sites in Mantua

Details

Founded: 1524-1534
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Italy

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Roberto Chiaveri (4 months ago)
A must if you’re visiting Mantova. Fabulous art and architecture. Best seen in a sunny day; buying tickets in advance is useful to skip the queue. Audio guides are cheap and useful to learn about the design and details (5€) and must be played on your own phone (so make sure you have your headphones with you if your phone does not have an headphone jack) Good snack bar at the end.
Helen Hammond (7 months ago)
Absolutely fantastic, I was blown away by the frescoes and murals. Such a fabulous array of art and it was so quiet when we visited, hardly anyone there which allowed you to spend as long as you want taking in the amazing rooms.
Ovidiu Tutunaru (11 months ago)
Loved it! Beautiful frescoes. The admission ticket costs 12 euro, and it's well worth it.
Thierry Tielemans (11 months ago)
To be visited absolutely. Price of entrance is 13€ but justified. Visit min 1h30. Very nice.
Elisabetta A. (Betta) (2 years ago)
A series of magnificently decorated rooms, where the atmosphere of wealth, enjoyment and leisure can be clearly perceived. A feast to the eye. The fifth star would be there, if the cafeteria and the museum shop had been open...
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