The Gonzago Principle

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Then, coming up the stairs on the right are some visitors who are coming to greet him, and that might be related to the function of this room, which might have been a kind of ceremonial greeting space. You see this extremely naturalistic, illusionistic painting that creates the fiction of architectural spaces.

Inscribing the Time

Look at how the curtain seems to be pulled forward and in front of the column, so sometimes it's really hard to distinguish between what's real and what's not. Female Voiceover: There's a lot of fun clearly in playing with those boundaries and using perspective to fool the eye. Male Voiceover: Right, because you are looking slightly up at these figures, they're standing on top of the fireplace, and notice that you actually do look up at them.

You can see slightly up into the bottom of their tunics, so you don't see the top surfaces of the stairs or the floor that they're standing on; so, Mantegna's painting it as if you're really seeing them elevated in that position. This is a part that's intentionally fun and humorous.


This is the oculus, this opening. Oculus means eye in Latin. Female Voiceover: That's not a real opening. Male Voiceover: Not a real opening; it's just painted from this Di sotto in su, from below, radical perspective. So, we see everything very foreshortened, the balustade, this railing that circles the oculus. The putti that are standing here, you seem them very foreshortened from below.

Here's a peacock that we see from below. You see several servants, including an African one, standing around and they're looking down and they're laughing. If you look very carefully, you'll notice that one of these women has her hand on this pole that's supporting this pot with a plant in it; and the suggestion, I think, is that she's about to pull that pole away and that potted plant is going to fall right on your head.

So, that's the joke; you're standing there looking up with your mouth hanging open, and suddenly you realize that there's the joke, the illusion, of these objects that are going to fall on you. Female Voiceover: In fact, there are other figures who look like they could drop things on us Male Voiceover: Out of their hands, or- other parts of their body.

Male Voiceover: Right, because look at these putti, not wearing diapers with their little rear ends sticking out, or the front of them facing us, and so there may be other things falling on you, too. On the one hand, this room gives us a serious subject matter of the marquis as a ruler of his domain, with this serious, imperial, classisizing imagery of the ancient Roman emperors on the ceiling, but at the same time, in a kind of marginal location, above your head, what you might not see right away, there's this puerile, humorous joking quality that lightens the atmosphere a little bit.