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Ludovico Gonzaga | The Court of Mantua

Gonzaga Court of Mantua (detail) by Andrea Mantegna, Italian Renaissance Art

The Court of Mantua
Andrea Mantegna
Detail. 1471-74, walnut oil on plaster,
805 x 807 cm, Camera degli Sposi,
Palazzo Ducale, Mantua

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Ludovico Gonzaga, condottiere and court ruler of Mantua, turned his castle named the Corte into a luxurious showplace for the visit of Pope Pius II in 1459. The most impressive room in Gonzaga's Mantua castle was the Sala del Pisanello, a great hall decorated with murals in an Arthurian theme by Pisanello in 1447-48. Mantua was home to a few holy relics, primary among them the "Most Precious Blood" and the lance of Longinus. The blood was supposedly collected from the lance which was used to pierce the side of Christ at his crucifixion.

Gonzaga initiated a campaign to improve Mantua's appearance after the pope visited his court and reportedly criticized certain aspects of the city. The court architect Leon Batista Alberti advised Ludovico on restoration of Mantua sites which housed the holy relics. Also foremost in these efforts was Andrea Mantegna who served the Gonzaga for forty-six years as court artist and was knighted by Gonzaga in the 1480s. Mantegna became an accomplished courtier and so revered was that he dominated the artistic scene of Mantua for many years.

Brenda Harness, Art Historian

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