The Gonzagas, lords of Mantua from 1328 to 1707, were also famous for the works of art they had collected in their palaces. As a result of sales and looting, these have been lost or have reached distant museums; in the city, almost only those in this museum remain, in the sections of ancient paintings, armour and tapestries from Paris, as well as in these two rooms, where a series of precious artefacts attest to the splendour and taste that characterised the Mantuan court, and at the same time the breadth of its political and cultural horizons.
Gonzaga Hall I
Three tapestries of the type known as millefiori, French from the early 16th century, provide the backdrop for a series of masterpieces, including a Madonna and Child, in gilded silver, French from the 14th century; the famous Roman Missal known as the Missal of Barbara of Brandenburg, a cornerstone of 15th-century Italian miniature painting; the sumptuous stauroteca (reliquary of the True Cross) that includes enamels made in Byzantium in the 10th century; a Saint George by the Dalle Masegne brothers; seal impressions for two cardinals, respectively by Mantegna and Cellini. Also unique is the 16th-century 'war chest', pyrographed.
Gonzaga Hall II
Other extraordinary works of jewellery, donated by the Lords of Mantua to the Palatine Basilica of Santa Barbara and to the Cathedral, are gathered here. Among them are the urn of St. Barbara in gold, ebony and quartz; the sumptuous reliquary of St. Hadrian, in ivory, silver and tortoiseshell; the rich Cross of Pope Clement VIII; the gold and gem jewel with the Name of Jesus in diamonds; the extremely refined Parisian mother-of-pearl casket.
See the catalogue volume dedicated to gold and ivory, and the DVD by Claudio Compagni, Stile sacro al Museo diocesano Francesco Gonzaga.