MANTEGNA, Andrea
(b. 1431, Isola di Carturo, d. 1506, Mantova)

Ceiling decoration

1465-74
Walnut oil on plaster and fresco
Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua

The tent-like vaulting of the Camera degli Sposi contains: in the centre the trompe-l'oeil oculus; in the diamond-shaped compartments eight busts of emperors in medallions; in the side vaults scenes from the myths of Orpheus, Arion, and Hercules.

Although painted first, the painting of the ceiling, done in grisaille and imitation gold mosaics, is meant to be the logical continuation of the vertical arrangements of the space. It represents a tent-like roof with pointed vaults above the walls; the painting makes it appear higher than it actually is. Broad groins ornamented with meanders rise up from the painted basket capitals, dividing the ceiling into eight lozenge-shaped fields drawn to sharp points at the bottom, like spandrels. Each lozenge contains a round medallion in which depicted are the first eight Roman emperors. The twelve triangular vaults above the lunettes contain scenes from classical myth and legend, all backed by gold mosaics. First comes three scenes from the Orpheus myth, then three relating to Arion, and finally six depictions of some of the labours of Hercules.