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Chamber of Ovidio - Detail east wall
Chamber of Ovidio - Detail of ceiling coffer
Chamber of Ovidio - Detail of ceiling coffer
Chamber of Ovidio - Detail east wall

Recorded restoration work

Eighteenth century
Between 1789-1790 the Mantuan Academy of Fine Arts planned overall restoration of the chamber: for a long time “used by village people”, it was badly damaged and dulled by soot, making the decoration almost indecipherable.

Nineteenth century
Giovanni Antolini, Royal  Architect and inspector of the Royal Palaces of Mantua for the Napoleonic government between 1806 and 1808, once again points out the need to “paint the smoky ceilings, and stabilize around the rooms” (he is also referring to the adjacent Chamber of the Devices).

Twentieth century
In 1919 “Restorer and Painter” Dante Berzuini, custodian of the palazzo, attempted to clean four of the panels in the frieze.
It was not until 1983 that the firm Coffani of Mantua restored the whole of the fresco decoration and the ceiling: the work made the scenes and landscape comprehensible once again and it confirmed that the band painted to look like  old marbles is original and contemporary to the frieze above. On the same occasion, the north wall revealed a piece of frescoed plaster datable to circa 1502 and belonging to the pre-existing stables of Francesco II Gonzaga. Two dark patches – on the plaster above the landscape showing Palazzo Te under construction (north wall, second panel) and on the coffer near the fireplace – demonstrate the state of conservation of the room prior to its restoration in 1983.

Restoration 2007-2008

The wooden ceiling was restored by Augusto Morari.

Conditions prior to restoration

The coffers were coated in layers of soot from long use of the fireplace and stoves; the gilding and paint layer had separated and in many places lifted; the wooden support was often split and cracked.

Work carried out

The work began by consolidating the gilding using hot organic adhesive applied with a paintbrush and interspersing this with layers of Japanese paper. The coffers were cleaned using a poultice method that removed the dust and the stubborn lampblack that was still concealing the decoration.
The polychrome parts were stabilized with an acrylic resin solution; all the missing wooden elements – such as parts of the cornice and fuseruole - were repaired and painted to reflect the originals. Losses in the painted decoration were filled in with tempera and a watercolour wash.

Further reading:

  • P. ARTONI, G. MAROCCHI, I recuperati ambienti di Palazzo Te in Mantova. Tracce per una storia dei restauri, in “Storia e cultura del restauro in Lombardia. Esiti di un biennio di lavoro in archivi storici”, Associazione Giovanni Secco Suardo, Lurano, Il Prato editore, 2009, pp. 141-187.

With the support of:

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