Art history tumbles forward with Giulio Romano’s giants in Mantua

Here’s how they did things in Italy for around 1400 years; popes, baby Jesus, really fancy places to put the popes and all the church people in, saints, more baby Jesus, everyone dies from the plague, more baby Jesus, oh hey, look— some ancient stuff—maybe we should rediscover it, let’s make some art and buildings based on that ancient stuff, but do it better, but also still some baby Jesus because you gotta hedge and then 1524 rolls around and

Gulio Romano is like nope, not gonna do the baby Jesus. Going hard on the mannerism and giants.

These frescoes are inside Palazzo Te, a kind of pleasure palace in Mantua commissioned by Federico Gonzaga. I’m not going to even post a picture of the actual building yet, because I’m so excited by it that I won’t be able to talk about the giants.

The palace is big, and there are lots of painted rooms (all the furnishing were lost in a massive looting).

But you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time looking at those other rooms, so packed with frolicking nymphs and boring horse portraits.

No, get inside the weird and disorienting Sala dei Giganti and hang out for a while.

Look up.

Up in that dome is Jupiter, and he’s pissed off.

Look again.

Jupiter is still pissed off, but that isn’t a dome after all—it’s a flat ceiling that Giulio Romano painted to look like a dome.

You start to feel freaky.

There’s Jupiter and he’s throwing his lightening around, causing a landslide over those rebellious giants of Mount Olympus.

You know you’re in a room, but you can’t find the corners or where the ceiling starts.

You give in to the disorientation, the crashing down of pillars and the entirely baby Jesus-less palace that is pulling straight out of the Renaissance into gloriously weird mannerism.

Let’s give Giulo Romano a standing ovation.

Or maybe just take a nap, out of pure exhaustion from all that secular flamboyance. (That’s HOB wiped out in Palazzo Te’s courtyard.)

How we got to Mantua: train from Modena.

Where we slept: Residenza La Torre  Price: €104 for an apartment.  Recommended: yes


  1. I read of the Palazzo T in an old English guide book, but lucky you to have seen i t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucky to have seen it twice, in fact!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another one for my ever lengthening list. But this one goes near the top, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to see your post on Palazzo Te. Please go, and stay for the excellent coffee!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The coffee clinches it!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard a lot about this place but your photos really give a good sense of the sheer OMGness of the spaces within it and the extraordinary visionary character of the images – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Where have you heard about it? I don’t recall knowing about it before we visited in 2009.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I recognised the gargantuan art from various history of art books over the years even though I’ve never set foot in Mantua, only the more obvious places like Florence, Siena, Ravenna, Bologna, Venice, Rome… But there’s so much to see ‘in the flesh’ as it were, isn’t there?!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m trying to see as much as I can, indeed!

        Liked by 1 person

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