According to art historian Philippe Daverio, the “Camera degli Sposi” (“Bridal Chamber”) decorated by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) – inside a tower in Mantua’s Ducal Palace, which recently reopened to the public after one year of works – is not only “the height of the painting journey” explored by the Venetian artist, but also “perhaps the first ‘trompe-l’oeil’ in the history of painting.”
“Everything is as if the wall was not a wall, in fact as if it were an open lodge atop the tower, closed by a number of curtains, where the summer breeze blows.”
“The ceiling has been opened to let the light come in, and various putti look down, barely balancing – they look like they might fall down at any moment” (translated from Ph. Daverio, “Il gioco della pittura”, Rizzoli, Milan 2015).
Mantegna created his “camera picta” masterpiece between 1465 and 1474 for Ludovico III Gonzaga, who probably wished to celebrate his son Francesco being created cardinal. Thus the cycle revolves around central scenes in which Ludovico receives the news of his son’s appointment, and in which the two meet.
Popular art critic Vittorio Sgarbi has commented, “Despite being the court painter and, therefore, often obliged to glorify people and events with no real foundation, Mantegna was able to interpret something that went well beyond his client’s comprehension.”
“Within the show of power represented on the room’s walls, with less important aristocracy assisting from the ‘heavenly’ balcony, there is not only pomp, but also a will to penetrate the truth in human soul. In those greatly realistic faces, [Mantegna] expressed the contradiction between the outer beauty of power and the human nature of those who have it. It is the first time in the history of painting that capacity for introspection proves itself with such realistic evidence” (translated from V. Sgarbi, “Nel nome del figlio”, Bompiani, Milan 2012).