Calder Classics

Our Day Trip to Mantua: Palazzo Te

Florence 2014Calder ClassicsComment

By Helena Seo, Florence '14

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The monologue of the tour guide, “X feature of palace,” and “Y feature of the palace,” faded as the group progressed through the vaulted great hall. The clatter of our footsteps clanged conspicuously off the floor and vast ceiling frescoes loomed down on us, wearing their majestic permanence.

Palazzo Te, a masterpiece of Giulio Romano, is an example of mannerist style architecture. Mannerism is a 16th century Italian art style, characterized by unusual effects ofscale, lighting, and perspective, and the use of bright colors. The first chamber of the palace we entered was the Chamber of Ovid/The Metamorphoses. Frescoes on the wall of this chamber portray mythological scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the famous poem that many Latin students encounter during their Latin career.

After walking through the Chamber of the Device, where we saw emblems of the Gonzaga family and devices of the Marquis Federico II, for example, Mount Olympus, the salamander, and a small wood (boschetto), we entered another mythological themed chamber: Chamber of Amor and Psyche. This chamber is the most luxuriously decorated space in the palace and the frescoes illustrate Apuleius’s story which we read before our trip to Mantua. Therefore, we were able to relate to the scenes depicted on the walls and learn the rest of the story during our tour.

We then entered the very interesting Chamber of the Giants, which also portrays the story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Frescoes on the ceiling and walls in this chamber continue down to the floor, offering a unique perspective to the viewer. This experimental painting of Giulio Romano not only provides special visual effect but also a special sound effect; when one speaks in the chamber, one’s voice rings and reverberates throughout the chamber, making the viewer feel like he or she is in a collapsing building.

Lastly, we went to the apartment of the secret garden where we saw a beautiful grotto, a private place designed for Federico II. After this amazing tour of Palazzo Te, we began our two-hour trip back to Florence while admiring beautiful sceneries in the rain. When we finally came back to our Casa di Mina, our day ended with fantastic homemade risotto. 

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