Renaissance Masterpiece: The Bridal Chamber at Mantua’s Ducal Palace

Sat, 04/04/2015 - 01:00
Camera degli Sposi

A masterpiece of Italian Renaissance art, the Bridal Chamber – Camera degli Sposi – inside Mantua’s Ducal Palace, has finally reopened permanently to the public this week, after two severe earthquakes and several aftershocks in 2012 damaged part of the structure and forced its closure in order to carry out some renovation and anti-seismic work.

The Bridal Chamber, the leading attraction of the Ducal Palace, was frescoed by Andrea Mantegna between 1465 and 1474 and is especially famous for the use of trompe l'oeil details and its di sotto in sù ceiling, a technique used in late Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo art.

Some of the frescoes depict the family and court of Ludovico Gonzaga, who commissioned the work and was the ruler of Mantua from 1444 to 1478, while other frescoes are said to refer to the election of Ludovico's son Francesco Gonzaga as Cardinal. They are all meant to celebrate the Gonzaga dynasty. 

However, the fresco you are most likely familiar with is on the ceiling and features an oculus, opening into a blue sky with cherubs peering down into the room.

The Gonzaga family lived in the palace from 1328 to 1707, when the dynasty died out. The palace includes some 500 rooms, with significant architectural and artistic elements, so don’t limit your visit to the Bridal Chamber, but rather set aside some time to wander the rooms, including the Apartment of Isabella d’Este and the Apartment of the Tapestries, the courtyards and gardens and the Palatine Church of Santa Barbara.  

Also, make sure you plan a day in Mantua to give yourself enough time to visit this beautiful Renaissance city – here’s our Day Tripper guide.  

You can buy your entrance ticket to Palazzo Ducale online here. And remember, entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month (advance reservations not accepted on free museum days).