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

The north wall: The Court of Gonzaga

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

In their attempts to interpret the group portrait on the north (fireplace) wall, commonly referred as La Corte dei Gonzaga (The Court of Gonzaga), a number of scholars have sought to identify it as a specific historical event, much as they have the one on the west wall, conventionally called L'Incontro (The Meeting). However, there is no indication in the paintings themselves that these are crucial events, no hint of their historical significance, something that may have been incorporated into the background. Therefore increasing numbers of scholars have tended to doubt that the pictures represent actual historical events.

The identity of some of the portraits has been clarified based on existing documents. The girls beside the marchesa are her two daughters Paola and Barbara. Ludovico Gonzaga is seated on a chair by the left pilaster. He turns to the side to speak with a man who has just entered from the left. To Gonzaga's right sits his wife, Barbara von Hohenzollern-Brandenburg, surrounded by her sons and daughters, a nurse, and a female dwarf. Beneath the right arcade, which is closed by a curtain that is drawn aside only slightly at the outside corner, stand a number of noblemen in elegant and colourful costumes. This procession of courtiers, identified by the colours of their leggings as adherents of the Gonzaga, is led by a young blond man who, like the presumed secretary at the left edge of the picture, stands in front of the painted pilaster. He is flanked by associates who are in part obscured by the same pilaster. The blond youth with a dagger at his waist was identified as Rodolfo Gonzaga.

Although many scholars tried to identify the figures in the painting, the only ones that can be considered confirmed are those of the marchese's immediate family.




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