GIULIO Romano

(c. 1499-1546)
As a painter and architect, Giulio Romano was Raphael's* heir and a founder of Mannerism. Romano was born in Rome, but as sources list his age at death as either forty-seven or fifty-four, his exact birth date is unknown. If the widely accepted date of 1499 is correct, Romano must have been a precocious talent, as he became Raphael's chief assistant at little more than sixteen years of age. Under Raphael, Romano worked on the frescoes in the Vatican's Stanza dell'Incendio and on oil paintings like Joanna ofAragon and St. Margaret for the king of France. He became so important that at Raphael's death in 1520, Romano was listed with Giovanni Penni as the artist's chief heir. Romano and Penni finished a number of works that their master had left incomplete, including the largest of the Vatican rooms, the Sala di Constantino. Romano also did some original work, such as the Naples Madonna.
Moving to Mantua in 1524, Romano avoided a scandal for which Marcantonio Raimondi,* who made a series of obscene engravings from Romano's drawings, was imprisoned. In Mantua Romano created one of his most important works, the Palazzo del Te, for Duke Federigo Gonzaga.* One of the first examples of Mannerist architecture, the palace retains ancient Roman forms while being so full of surprises that it parodies Donato Bramante's neoclassicism. The Man­nerist concept, in which the artist emphasizes his aesthetic idea over the imitation of nature, can be seen in that all elements vary slightly from the expected. For example, the building is a square block around a central court, with a garden opening off at right angles to the dominant axis, a departure from the standard practice of placing the main portal centrally to stress the building's main axis. The Sala dei Giganti provides an example of the unusual room decorations. The continuous scene painted in this square room, in which Jupiter throws his thun­derbolts from the ceiling, makes the spectator feel like one of the giants being repulsed as they try to storm Olympus. A streak of cruel obscenity, which often lurks beneath the surface of Romano's work, can be seen in the subject.
In later years Romano built himself a Mannerist version of Raphael's house (1544—46) and began rebuilding Mantua's cathedral (1543 onward). His work on the Reggia dei Gonzaga's Sala di Troia looks forward to the baroque's il-lusionistic ceiling decorations and may have been inspired by Andrea Mante-gna's work on the Camera degli Sposi.
In designs like that of the Palazzo del Te, Romano flouted classical rules of stability, symmetry, and order in ways deliberately designed to shock the ob­server. His devices contributed greatly to Mannerism's emerging repertoire of characteristic features.
Bibliography
F. Ambrosio, Giulio Romano, trans. R. Sadleir, 1991.
Kevin Lindberg

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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