Recorded restoration work
Between 1789-1790 the Mantuan Academy of Fine Arts planned overall restoration of the chamber: like the Chamber of Ovid, it had been improperly “used by village people”. It was badly dulled by soot, which made the decoration almost indecipherable. Also expressed was the need to “paint the walls in panels”.
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 Ovid).
In 1925 “Restorer and Painter” Dante Berzuini, custodian of the palazzo, informed the authorities that the wall decoration was dulled by a “thick layer of smoke and dust”, offering to clean it using a system experimented in 1919 on several panels in the Chamber of Ovid.
Twenty-five years later Mantuan painter Carlo Zanfrognini restored the ceiling, frieze and walls of the room: in particular he “brought back some decorative motifs to the new pieces [of plastering]”.
In 1983 the firm Coffani of Mantua carried out more work on the wooden ceiling and on the decoration, removing the previous restoration that had altered through time.
The wooden ceiling was restored by Augusto Morari.
Conditions prior to restoration
The coffers were cleaned and re-cleaned over the years, to the point that only traces were left of the painted decoration and gilding on the mouldings. Furthermore, the wood was badly cracked.
Work carried out
The work on the ceiling is substantially the same as that carried out in the nearby Chamber of Ovid: the gilded parts were consolidated with hot organic adhesive applied with a paintbrush, and layers of Japanese paper were placed in between. The coffers were cleaned using a poultice method that removed dust and the stubborn lampblack that was still concealing the decoration.
The polychrome parts were stabilized with an acrylic resin solution; the losses in the painted decoration were filled in using the rigatino, or dash technique, with watercolour in a slight undertone.
Camerino delle Grottesche: rimozione della ridipintura settecentesca su un pennacchio della volta durante il restauro Arké e Marchetti & Fontanini 2002.
(foto Archivio Museo Civico di Palazzo Te)
Small chamber of the Grotesques: removing the eighteenth century repainting on a pendentive in the vault during the Arké and Marchetti & Fontanini restoration 2002 (photo Archivio Museo Civico di Palazzo Te)
Camerino delle Grottesche: particolare del cornicione in stucco in fase dipulitura durante il restauro Arké e Marchetti & Fontanini 2002.
(foto Arké – Marchetti & Fontanini)
Small chamber of the Grotesques: detail of the stucco moulding being cleaned during the Arké and Marchetti & Fontanini restoration 2002 (photo Arké – Marchetti & Fontanini)
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.