The chamber is so named because it is decorated solely with stucco work and no painting. Highly refined and strongly classical in feel, the relief work imitates marble both in the smooth plasticity of the modelling and in the creamy white colour used.
Along the walls are two friezes, one above the other: the idea is new although the development of the decorative motif derives from the classical Roman spiral columns (those of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in particular).
The scene is a procession of Roman soldiers without any particular historical reference that offers Giulio Romano the opportunity to flaunt his perfect knowledge of classical military iconography. The only references to the present are the two coats of arms of the Hapsburgs and the Gonzaga. The inference is that the exemplary values of the ancients in the art of war are also to be found in the Gonzaga army and in that of the Empire.
The figures occupy almost the whole of the frieze, which is over sixty metres long. The actions and poses of the countless personages are extremely varied, making the parade lively and exciting; the setting instead is limited to a few simple architectural or natural elements.
The classical manner is taken up again in an original way in the coffered barrel vault, where twenty-five panels are decorated with bas-relief stucco work on a black background. The fineness of the figures makes it almost seem like cameo work of semi-precious stone. The subjects come from classical history and mythology, apart from an unexplainable Baptism scene.
The lunettes, also decorated with stucco work on a background of faux marble, take up the war theme present in the double frieze, with Hercules, the warrior hero, seated on a lion’s skin and leaning on a club in the eastern one, and Mars, modelled almost completely in the round, in the western alcove.
The decoration was executed by Francesco Primaticcio with the assistance of Giovan Battista Mantovano before Primaticcio’s departure for the court of France in 1531.
Il fregio a due ordini che percorre le pareti riecheggia i rilievi delle colonne di Traiano e di Marco Aurelio; la continuità dell’azione e la straordinaria fantasia inventiva sono invece frutto del genio di Giulio Romano.
Tra le varie interpretazioni iconografiche è da preferire quella, risalente al Cinquecento, che vede semplicemente raffigurato “il modo et l’ordine come li Romani andavano ala guerra”.
The two-tier frieze running around the walls recalls the relief work on the Trajan and Marcus Aurelian columns; the continuity of the action and exceptionally creative imagination are however thanks to the genius of Giulio Romano.
Among the various iconographical interpretations the most likely is the sixteenth century idea that what is depicted is simply “the manner and
order in which the Romans went to war”.
È istoriata da 25 riquadri, con bassorilievi ispirati ai cammei classici per la delicata definizione delle forme e il contrasto tra il rilievo candido e il fondo nero.
I soggetti sono classici, eccetto un Battesimo (fila centrale, secondo riquadro dalla finestra).
It is divided into 25 panels decorated with bas-relief work.
The delicate definition of the shapes and contrast between the white relief work and black background are reminiscent of classical cameos.
The subjects are all classical except for a Baptism (central row, second panel from the window).
Parete Est / East Wall
Parete Ovest / West Wall