The urban landscape of Mantua is dotted with numerous buildings, some of which quite substantial in size, that once belonged to the nobility and whose variety of styles from different eras light up the city's streets.
Inscriptions that show the date of construction and the name of the owner can be found on the architraves of the portico with four columns, topped by beautiful floral capitals. Those capitals also display the family coats of arms, with the Z and the B of Zoan Boniforte quite apparent. But the beauty of this house is surely the curious harmony between a façade decorated with soft terracotta that combines Venetian and Tuscan motifs, and the sturdy portico - a symbol of the triumph of the Renaissance. The two rows with three windows on each that open out onto two Gothic arches clearly represent a unique feature of the city's artistic landscape for an almost oriental ethos.
The influence of the Fancelli architectural style can be clearly seen in the house's façade, which is marked by distinctive rectangular windows that open out from the pink surface. The interior features rooms on a number of floors that are adorned in part by decorations, rich in earthly details of the life of the Blessed, drawing on the influence of Mantegna or the later grotesque. Boasting a large, standout portico, the courtyard can be traced to the work of the attentive hands of Renaissance gardeners, who selected the right plants. This complex, then, is an authentic and complete Renaissance residence, with priceless charm and tranquillity - a place for diverse and regular cultural events. It was here that a few scenes from Ermanno Olmi's 2001 film "The Profession of Arms", which narrates the life of Lodovico de Medici, were filmed.
Various architectural additions were made to the building over time, lending it a diverse architectural feel. The halls of the palace are decorated with frescoes from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The next residence along on via Fratelli Bandiera, once a property of the Arrivabenes, boasts a vault of frescoes by Giuseppe Bazzani. The square courtyard, which can be reached by passing through an 18th century doorway, is Fancellian in its design, with 15th century capitals in the loggia, while the remaining decorative elements in the courtyard can be attributed to Geffels. At the corner between the two streets, a marble pillar bears the symbol of a serpent wrapped around a spear, while an epigraph testifies to when the place was founded: "concertedly, the brothers Giovanni and Giovan Pietro Arrivabene, on their own behalf and on the behalf of their dear son Alessandro and their grandchildren, residing at this house laid its foundation in the year 1481 A.D..."
Much like an instruction manual laid bare to the public, Bertani wanted his own architectural specifications to be imprinted on the base of the inverted semi-column. Next to the windows on the ground floor, there are two epigraphs with quotations from Vitruvius's De Architectura, which Bertani himself referred to in his book Degli oscuri e difficili passi dell'opera di Vitruvio ("On the obscure and difficult stages in Vitruvius's Ionic works").
Above the entrance door is a niche, which houses a statue of the god Mercury carved from original classic marble and probably restored by Primaticcio (1504-1570), one of Romano's pupils. Scornful, grotesque masks stand out from inside the arches at the top of the window tympanums. Although the exact number of original doors and windows still remains a mystery, there is no doubt that the house was lit up by colours, so much so that Vasari described is as having a "fantastic façade, crafted with colourful stucco". Today the house is in private ownership. The interior is also remarkable, not least the central hall and 16th century fireplace, which is embellished with frescoes by pupils of Giulio Romano.
Antonio Maria Viani's tastes would appear to attenuate even the most complex of architectural displays. At Palazzo Guerrieri, this effect is obtained by combining the geometrical elements of the windows and other decorative elements, shaped by the motionless, expressive qualities of the fictional, almost demonic figures.
The windows are almost Spanish in their design, illustrating how the development of the Baroque style increasingly moved towards the formal refinement of details.
But the architect's imagination is most evident in the stucco panels, which depict stylised landscapes of real or possibly fictional cities.
Now private property having once belonged to the City of Mantua, the interior is spectacular. The staircase above the front door is considered one of the most magnificent in Italy. Now almost completely lost, the frescoes that once adorned the halls were the work of the Bolognese painter Giovanni Battista Caccioli. Returning to the piazza, it is striking that the façades are lit up by inserts showing figures, landscapes and curious geometric patterns. In the 18th century, a house and portico was built at the behest of the Canossas at the bottom of the square. It incorporates the themes of the palace, but lightens them a touch.
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
Alessia Lodi Rizzini
Redazione / Editors:
Un ringraziamento speciale a / A special thanks to: