Once used as a lecture hall for the meetings of the Accademia, one of the most important cultural institutions of the city of Mantua, this bell shaped room in time became the ideal space for performances. Here music and architecture come together and give life to extraordinary experiences.
A distinctive feature of the hall is that, though it is small, it gives the impression of unfolding and of become wider, no matter where the viewer is standing. Also remarkable is the use of colour, the way white and brown are made to alternate. All the decoration is superimposed on the underlying wall, so that none of it is weight-bearing. The use of wood and plaster, for instance, for the capitals, does not make the structure heavier; in addition it plays an important role in that it minimizes the echo and creates a magnificent sound box.
Looking at the stage from this position it is possible to admire the great scenic arch, composed of two parallel arches, embellished by spirals, that seem to be supported by high Corinthian columns in between which are other boxes. The Corinthian columns continue also behind the stage, ennobling the space for the representation.
The entrance to the room is on the long side. To the right and left the two shorter walls are each embellished by a Neoclassical pediment. Inside the tympanum are Apollo with his lyre, while in the other stands Minerva holding the shields with Medusa’s head. On the fourth wall, opposite the entrance, there is a fireplace with a plaque in honour of the Empress.
Joseph II, son of Maria Theresa and Francis I, is portrayed in an almost heroic pose. His features are painted with a certain realism and are very expressive. It is worth noticing the landscape behind him. Joseph II was also called Sacristan Emperor because of his efforts to exert also ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
Taking a step back it is possible to better appreciate the marvellous play of shapes. Everything comes to life thanks to the contrast between two colors, the white of the essential architectural elements, and the dark ocher of the most decorative parts. Above, more harmony and compositional effects are created by the intersection of the ceiling with big arches and with the structure surmounting the entrance.
Just like in the fifteenth century Camera degli Sposi by Andrea Mantegna, the sixteenth century Sala dei Giganti by Giulio Romano, the eighteenth century work by Antonio Galli Bibiena encloses in a small space a whole variety of artistic references. Like in the two previous cases, the author is here able to create a direct relationship between the space and the visitor, who comes into contact with the uniqueness of a place become universal.
Ideato e promosso da / Founded and Promoted by:
Mattia Palazzi (Sindaco del Comune di Mantova)
con Lorenza Baroncelli (Assessore alla rigenerazione urbana e del territorio, marketing urbano, progetti e relazioni internazionali del Comune di Mantova)
Coordinamento Scientifico / Scientific Coordinator:
Curatore testi e immagini / Superintendent texts and images:
Foto di / Photo by:
Gian Maria Pontiroli
Un ringraziamento speciale a / A special thanks to:
Emma Catherine Gainsforth
Custodi del Bibiena
Orchestra da Camera di Mantova - Ocm