Renato Berzaghi. Stefano L'Occaso
This volume, the second in the museum's general catalogue, considers the paintings (frescoes, tapestries, canvases, miniatures) created between the beginning of the 15th century and 1630, the year that the sack and plague marked a tragic turning point in local events, putting an end to the glorious season that saw Mantua among the cities at the apex of European culture. The treatment is divided into two sections: the first consists of the works on permanent display, selected by the volume's editors; the second reviews those conserved in the museum's storerooms or loaned to other users. With few exceptions, these paintings - together with the armour and masterpieces of goldsmith's art that can be admired in other sections of the museum - document the hegemony exercised by the Gonzaga family over local culture: Certainly out of political calculation but also out of convinced personal passion, in addition to promoting splendid architecture and hosting men of letters and musicians, almost all the lords of Mantua distinguished themselves in the national arena as collectors and patrons in the field of plastic and figurative arts, often offered for public enjoyment with the results destined to adorn the sacred buildings they themselves desired. This is the origin of the series on display, which documents the creative fervour of the period in question to a high degree. It starts from works of the declining Gothic taste, still prevalent before Marquis Ludovico II called the genius of Andrea Mantegna to the city. By the latter, and his no less brilliant follower Correggio, stand out the tondi already in the atrium of the basilica of Sant'Andrea. Examples follow (Benedetto Pagni, Fermo Ghisoni) of the influence exerted by Giulio Romano, together with the incidence also in this field (the canvas by Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli is an example) of the twenty-year regency of the duchy by Cardinal Ercole, while other works refer to the season of Duke Vincenzo I and (in particular with the tapestries woven in Paris) of Bishop Francesco. The admirable exhibition is closed by paintings by Domenico Fetti and Giovanni Baglione, the two Roman artists working for Duke Ferdinando.