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.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.