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Chamber of the Giants - Detail of east wall
Chamber of the Giants - Detail
Chamber of the Giants - Detail
Chamber of the Giants - Detail

Materials and methods

The fresco paintings were carried out over a number of days proceeding from top to bottom; the drawing was mostly done by indirect incising from a cartoon. The areas of sky have a light glaze over a mauvish base; considerable areas were finished a secco (e.g.: the vegetation and clouds in the vault).

Recorded restoration work

Eighteenth-Nineteenth century
Between the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, architect Paolo Pozzo masterminded the restoration of the room, assisted by a group of artists from the local Academy. One of the tasks was to seal and afterwards paint over the fireplace on the east wall, then repaint the whole skirting board of the room (about 50 cm from floor level) and the intrados of the two eastern French windows. A wooden door painted as a continuation of the wall frescoes was added to the passageway on the west wall (the door is currently in storage). A balustrade – removed during the 1988 restoration work – was built to protect the frescoes and by 1786 Pozzo had designed and built the new terrazzo veneziano floor.

Twentieth century
Records show that in 1929 it had become necessary to paint some of the white plaster areas: this is thought to have been carried out in the 1930s. In 1968 restorers Assirto Coffani and Ottorino Nonfarmale – then busy on other rooms at the palazzo – stabilized parts of the raised plaster, carried out surface cleaning and secured the paint layer.

Restoration 1988

The work was carried out by Te Consorzio and Consorzio C.R.O.M.A. under the direction of the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro.

Conditions prior to restoration

The walls were damaged by structural shifts, some of which dated back a long time and had already been filled in at some time; plaster was coming off in varying degrees; there was some bubbling and paint loss; dust; stopping (especially with plaster) and repainting due to previous restoration work that had suffered alteration; traces of  biological damage. The walls were scuffed and covered in graffiti up to a height of about 2 metres. The 18th century work was considerably darker than the original decoration.

Work carried out

First of all the paint layer was stabilized and the frescoes were cleaned mechanically and chemically. Then all the ruined stopping work, that sometimes covered the original painting, was removed using a scalpel; where the preparatory layers were coming off, they were stabilized with injections of premixed hydraulic mortar.
Two particular areas on the south wall (hand of giant- east corner; rocks and vegetation- west corner) which had suffered serious deformation were temporarily detached in order to remove a previous layer of plaster. They were then put back in place.
The decorative scheme was made readable once again : the damaged repainting was removed, all the losses were stopped with mortar and painted in vertical watercolour hatching or a wash. The skirting board and architraves of the French windows – renovated in the 18th century – were cleaned but kept a different shade to distinguish them from the original Giulio Romano decoration; previously hidden traces of original painting were uncovered on the architrave of the entrance door – also painted in the 18th century.
The decision not to cover the copious graffiti on the lower part of the walls – dating from the end of the 16th century to the mid 20th century, but to lightly paint in the grooves reflects the desire to record the passage of history in this very famous room.

Further reading:

  • BELFANTI C.M., TELLINI PERINA C., BASILE G., I Giganti di Palazzo Te, Ed. Sintesi, Mantova 1989, pp. 93-142.
  • L’Istituto Centrale del Restauro per Palazzo Te, volume speciale del “Bollettino d’Arte”, Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali, Roma 1994, pp. 111-126.
  • BELLUZZI A., Palazzo Te a Mantova, Panini, Modena 1998, cap. IX; pp. 446-456.

With the support of:

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