The Court of Gonzaga
Walnut oil on plaster, 805 x 807 cm
Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua
by MANTEGNA, Andrea
(b. 1431, Isola di Cartura, d. 1506, Mantova)
The fresco decorates the north wall of the
Camera degli Sposi in the north tower of the Castel San Giorgio in Mantua.
The north wall of the Camera degli Sposi contains a remarkable assemblage of all the members of the Gonzaga family and court, including various officials, a dwarf, and the pet dog. The duke, Ludovico, is seated near the extreme left, with his wife, Barbara, occupying a prominent position beside him. This group portrait also contains an element of narrative, because it depicts the delivery of an important letter. In this manner Mantegna avoids a static and posed series of likenesses.
Lifted from the overall narrative context and considered as a family group portrait, the Court must rank among the finest examples of that genre, rivaling those by Velazquez and Goya. Unfortunately, the fresco has suffered from humidity, injury, and poor restoration so that the polished refinement of the original can only be partially appreciated today.