Palazzo Te in Mantua is a square building with a large internal courtyard, reminiscent of an antique rustic villa, with decorations inspired by antiquity. Even the atrium on the west side is reminiscent of ancient times: in fact, it was inspired by the atrium of the Roman domus, with a rectangular tripartite plan.
Palazzo Te was the brainchild of Giulio Romano and Federico II Gonzaga, who met in 1524 when the artist arrived in Mantua. The Marquis Federico II commissioned Giulio Romano to restructure the existing stables on the Isle of Te to build a palace devoted to leisure and recreation. The resulting design was so beautiful that the Gonzaga family would often use Palazzo Te to receive distinguished guests, such as the Emperor Charles V.
A tour of Palazzo Te will take visitors through some of the building's numerous rooms, all richly furnished and decorated, with remarkable painted decorations. Many of the rooms are named after the characters depicted there, like the spectacular House of the Sun and the Moon or that of Ovid and the Metamorphoses.
The most sumptuous room in the building, as well as the most representative of its function, is the Chamber of Cupid and Psyche: this hall was designed to host only the most distinguished guests at banquets. The painted cycle depicts 22 episodes of the story of Cupid and Psyche taken from the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, painted by Giulio Romano on the vault and lunettes, while the walls represent other myths on the subject of the challenges of love featuring both gods and men.
Another stunning room in Palazzo Te is the Chamber of the Giants, where Giulio Romano painted an experimental piece on the ceiling that was considered unique for centuries: the Fall of the Giants. A depiction of the story told in Ovid's Metamorphoses, this work pushes the limits in architectural painting by completely involving the spectator.