The large central courtyard opens out before the visitors arriving from the main entrance hall.
The sober space is framed by four walls “modernly” decorated in the classical style. Giulio Romano draws inspiration for his design from the Doric order of the Greek temples: giant half-columns support a classical entablature made up of architrave decorated with drops, and a frieze of alternating triglyphs and metopes.
Giulio’s modernity lies in his ability to keep the sober touch of the Doric order but at the same time create something new and surprising: one notices that every so often one of the triglyphs in the frieze slips down, interrupting the otherwise composed decoration. Equally intriguing is the relief work in the metopes which shows weapons, jars and other objects alternating with grotesque open-mouthed masks. Executed by Benedetto di Bertoldo, called il Pretino, and Andrea de Conti in 1533, they originally served as rainwater spouts.
The decoration was still unfinished in 1530 when emperor Charles V was a guest at the Palazzo.
The smooth ashlar surface of the walls contrasts with the roughly-hewn work used to frame the openings on the lower floor and highlights the keystone inserted, almost by force, into the classical tympana above the windows.