Giulio Romano





Name and Birthplace

Giulio Romano was born Giulio Pippi.  He became known as Giulio Romano because he was a native of Rome.  Although many important artists and architects had worked in Rome by the early sixteenth century, he was the first to have been born there.


Early Work under Raphael

Giulio began his career as one of Raphael's pupils.  Like Raphael, he had great facility as a draftsman.


By about 1515, and definitely by 1516, he is known to have been working on one of his master's commissions in the Vatican, the Stanza dell' Incendio.


Giulio played an important role in painting the fresco decorations of many of Raphael's commissions like the Loggia di Psiche at the Villa Farnesina and the Loggia of Raphael in the Vatican.


As a senior assistant to Raphael, who had been part of Bramante's circle, Giulio Romano was well schooled in Bramante's classicism.


Completion of Raphael's Commissions

After Raphael's premature death in 1520, Giulio completed many of his painting commissions like the vaulted ceiling of the garden loggia of the Villa Madama and the Sala di Costantino in the Vatican Stanze.  He also finished the large panel painting of the Transfiguration, which exemplifies the strong chiaroscuro of Raphael's late style in painting.


Early Domestic Commissions

Giulio received several architectural commissions including the Villa Turini (now the Villa Lante) in Giancola and the Palazzo Stati Maccarani in Rome.  


Early Features of Giulio's Style

As demonstrated by the Palazzo Stati Maccarani, Giulio formulated many elements of his individual style at an early point in his career. Mannerism was emerging then, and his work was clearly part of the new movement.


One of Giulio's signature features is a flat arch formed by voussoirs that create a dynamic grouping.  The voussoirs often rise to a peak that is capped by cornices suggesting the sloping members of pediments.  This combination was used for windows and niches at the Palazzo del Tè and the portal of his own palace in Mantua.  Giulio's works in Mantua are often cited as exemplars of the extremes of mannerism.



MANTUA, 1524-46


Patronage by the Gonzaga Family

In 1524, Giulio moved to Mantua to enter the service of Federico Gonzaga, who then held the title of marchese but later became Duke Federico II, first duke of Mantua.


Giulio worked for Federico until the latter's death in 1540, and thereafter, he continued to work for his brother, Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, who became regent on behalf of Federico's young son.


Giulio's Contract

Giulio's contract was arranged by Federico's ambassador to Rome, Baldassare Castiglione, who had been a good friend of Raphael's.  Giulio received a house in Mantua and was restricted from working on projects for anyone except Federico and parties he designated.



Federico showed his pleasure with Giulio's work by appointing him to several architectural posts, which gave him authority over the architectural development of Mantua, where his contributions were well respected.


Giulio was paid well, and in 1538, he bought a large house for himself.


Remodeling Projects

Many of Giulio's commissions involved the renovation of important older buildings.


Among the more important buildings he remodeled are Mantua Cathedral, San Benedetto Po (after 1540), and the ducal residence (1536-38).


New Architectural Works

Two of the most important of Giulio's original works for the Duke are the Palazzo del Tè (c.1526-34), a villa suburbana near the Gonzaga stables just outside of Mantua, and the Cortile delle Cavallerizza (c.1539), a freestanding addition to the ducal residence that was used for tournaments and other entertainment.





Funeral Monuments


Tomb of Pietro Strozzi, Sant' Andrea, Mantua, c. 1529. The tomb of Pietro Strozzi is topped by an informally posed recumbent effigy dressed in Classical robes.  The effigy rests on a sarcophagus, which is carved with garlands, ribbons, and ox skulls, motifs that ornament the friezes of many ancient temples.  The sarcophagus stands on a caryatid-supported platform articulated as an entablature.


Architectural Works


Palazzo Stati Maccarani, Rome, c.1522-23. The Palazzo Stati Maccarani, now called the Palazzo di Brazzà, resembles Bramante's Palazzo Caprini in a number of basic features.  The ground story is similar in being rusticated and using large-scale, precisely shaped blocks of simulated stone but different in using a series of flat arches instead of an arcade of round arches.  Giulio's doorway also differs in being taller than the side arches.  The piano nobile, which was executed in stucco, is similar to that of the Palazzo Caprini in using story-high orders and pediment-topped windows.  It is different in using shallow pilasters instead of half-round columns.  It also differs in alternating triangular and segmental pediments, a feature that Raphael revived from antiquity.  The third story echoes the piano nobile in a smaller scale and lower projection.  Despite these similarities, the Palazzo Stati Maccarani differs from the Palazzo Caprini in very important ways.  The emphasis resides on the lower story, where stacks of blocks frame a doorway and oversized voussoirs create an appearance of force and movement.  This dynamic handling of masonry became part of Giulio's lifelong vocabulary of architectural elements.  


Palazzo del Tè, Mantua, c.1526-34. Giulio Romano designed the Palazzo del Tè, a villa suburbana just outside of Mantua, for Duke Federico II Gonzaga.  The building consists of four equal wings that form a large square courtyard.  The exterior, which incorporates wide and narrow bays, relates to the courtyard through its use of a similar architectural vocabulary.  The courtyard's four walls were designed so that facing walls follow the same pattern.  The centers of the North and South wings of the courtyard boast triple-arch portals, while the centers of the East and West wings contain pedimented portals.  The courtyard is often cited as an exemplar of mannerism due to its unconventional architectural features.  The tightly packed arrangement of rusticated features stands in marked contrast to the openness and elegance of the garden façade although both have a similar rhythm.  The garden façade's vocabulary of arches and supports approximates the configuration known as the Palladian motif. Because Giulio was an outstanding painter as well as an architect, he was able to coordinate the architecture with the decoration to create a series of exciting, illusionistic interiors.


Casa Pippi, Mantua, c. 1540. Around 1540, Giulio Romano began the remodeling of the Casa Pippi, a house he bought for himself in Mantua.  The unusual nature of its façade can best be appreciated by comparing it with that of Bramante's Palazzo Caprini, with which it shared several general features.  It differs from the Palazzo Caprini and other palaces in having a number of unusual features including such functionally redundant combinations as an arch with a lintel and arches with pediments.  


San Benedetto Po, Mantua, 1540s. Giulio Romano's most innovative contributions at San Benedetto Po in Mantua concern the patterns and rhythms of its exterior surface. The articulation of the walls by wide and narrow bays, a feature that Romano had already incorporated at the Palazzo del Tè, recalls the travata ritmica developed by Bramante at the upper terrace of the Belvedere Court.  The façade is organized like that of Santa Maria Novella, which also incorporates an attic between the narrow upper story and the wide lower story.  To bridge the gap between the high center and lower sides, Giulio used fin-like half-gables, whose curves are echoed by the decorative gable at the top. 
























Giulio Romano 1 of 3



North and West facades of the Palazzo del Tè, Mantua 1526-34



Courtyard of the Palazzo del Tè, Mantua 1526-34 Go to a discussion of this topic.



Casa Pippi, Mantua, c. 1540   Go to a discussion of this topic.