Giulio Romano

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Giulio Romano
Titian - Portrait of Giulio Romano - WGA22947.jpg
Titian's Portrait of Giulio Romano (ca. 1536), oil on canvas, 101 x 86 cm
Born 1499
Died November 1, 1546(1546-11-01)
Nationality Italian
Known for painting, fresco, architecture

Giulio Romano, also known as Giulio Pippi, (c. 1499 – 1 November 1546) was an Italian painter and architect. A pupil of Raphael, his stylistic deviations from high Renaissance classicism help define the 16th-century style known as Mannerism. Giulio's drawings have long been treasured by collectors; contemporary prints of them engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi were a significant contribution to the spread of 16th-century Italian style throughout Europe.


The fall of the Giants, fresco in Sala dei Giganti, Palazzo del Te, Mantua
In the Palazzo Te, Mantua.

Giulio Romano was born in Rome; the "Romano" refers to this. As a young assistant in Raphael's studio, he worked on the frescos in the Vatican loggias to designs by Raphael and in Raphael's Stanze in the Vatican painted a group of figures in the Fire in the Borgo fresco. He also collaborated on the decoration of the ceiling of the Villa Farnesina. Increasingly he became the master's right-hand man, despite his relative youth. After the death of Raphael in 1520, he helped complete the Vatican frescoes of the life of Constantine as well as Raphael's Coronation of the Virgin and the Transfiguration in the Vatican. In Rome, Giulio decorated the Villa Madama for Cardinal Giuliano de' Medici, afterwards Clement VII.[1] The crowded Giulio Romano frescoes lack the stately and serene simplicity of his master.

From 1522 he was courted by Federico Gonzaga, ruler of Mantua, who wanted him as court artist, apparently especially attracted by his skill as an architect. In late 1524 Giulio agreed to move to Mantua, where he remained for the rest of his life. He thus avoided the disaster of the Sack of Rome in 1527, which hugely disrupted artistic patronage in Rome and dispersed the remains of Raphael's workshop. Vasari tells how Baldassare Castiglione was delegated by Federico Gonzaga to procure Giulio to execute paintings and architectural and engineering projects for the duchy of Mantua. His masterpiece of architecture and fresco painting in that city is the suburban Palazzo Te, with its famous illusionistic frescos (c. 1525–1535). He also helped rebuild the ducal palace in Mantua, reconstructed the cathedral, and designed the nearby Church of San Benedetto. Sections of Mantua that had been flood-prone were refurbished under Giulio's direction, and the duke's patronage and friendship never faltered: Giulio's annual income amounted to more than 1000 ducats. His studio became a popular school of art.

In Renaissance tradition, many works of Giulio's were only temporary. According to Giorgio Vasari:

When Charles V came to Mantua, Giulio, by the duke's order, made many fine arches, scenes for comedies and other things, in which he had no peer, no one being like him for masquerades, and making curious costumes for jousts, feasts, tournaments, which excited great wonder in the emperor and in all present. For the city of Mantua at various times he designed temples, chapels, houses, gardens, facades, and was so fond of decorating them that, by his industry, he rendered dry, healthy and pleasant places previously miry, full of stagnant water, and almost uninhabitable.[2]

Giulio Romano, selfportrait

He traveled to France in the first half of the 16th century and brought concepts of the Italian style to the French court of Francis I.

Giulio also designed tapestries. It is rumored that he contributed to the drawings upon which the album I Modi was engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi. He died in Mantua in 1546. According to Giorgio Vasari, his best pupils were Giovanni dal Lione, Raffaellino dal Colle, Benedetto Pagni, Figurino da Faenza, Giovanni Battista Bertani and his brother Rinaldo, and Fermo Guisoni.

Giulio Romano has the distinction of being the only Renaissance artist to be mentioned by William Shakespeare. In Act V, Scene II of The Winter's Tale Queen Hermione's statue is by "that rare Italian master, Julio Romano", although Giulio was not a sculptor.


Giulio was on the whole more influential as an architect than as a painter, and his works had an enormous impact on Italian Mannerist architecture. He learnt architecture the same way he learned painting, as an increasingly trusted assistant to Raphael, who was appointed the papal architect in 1514, and his early works are very much in Raphael's style. The project for the Villa Madama outside Rome, built by the future Medici Pope Clement VII was given to Giulio on Raphael's death, and already shows his taste for playful surprises within the style of Renaissance classical architecture. Planned on a huge scale, it was incomplete by the Sack of Rome, and never finished.[3]

The Villa Lante al Gianicolo (1520–21) was a smaller suburban villa in Rome, with a famous view over the city. Romano made the whole building suggest lightness and elegance to exploit the ridge-top position and overcome the rather small Roman footprint. The orders are delicate, with Tuscan or Doric columns and pilasters in pairs on the main floor, and extremely shallow Ionic pilasters above, whose presence is mainly conveyed by a different colour. Alternate loggia openings are heightened by arches above the entablature. Romano's willingness to play with the conventions of the classical orders is already in evidence; the Doric here has guttae but no triglyphs on its narrow entablature. The volutes of the Ionic capitals are repeated in the window surrounds between them: "The canonic orders here begin to be treated visually as independent from their structural purposes, and this liberation offered the architect new expressive possibilities."[4]

His last building in Rome, the Palazzo Maccarani Stati (it) (started 1522-23), was a considerable contrast, being a palazzo in the city centre, with shops on the ground floor, and a massive, imposing feel. The rustication and exaggerated size of keystones that were to be so prominent in his later buildings in Mantua are already present on the ground floor, which dispenses with any classical order, but the two upper floors have increasingly shallow orders in pilasters, somewhat in the manner of the Villa Lante.[5]

His first building in Mantua has remained his most famous work in architecture. The Palazzo del Te was a pleasure palace outside the city that was begun around 1524 and completed a decade later. Here Giulio was able, because of the function of the building, to indulge to the full his playful inventiveness.

Selected paintings and drawings[edit]

Madonna & Child, c. 1523


  1. ^ Vasari, Giorgio (1991). The Lives of the Artists. Oxford University Press. pp. 359–376. ISBN 9780191605482. 
  2. ^ Vasari, Vite
  3. ^ Talvacchia
  4. ^ Talvacchia
  5. ^ Talvacchia


External links[edit]

" At this time Giorgio Vasari a great friend of Giulio, though they only knew each other by report and by letters, passed through Mantua on his way to Venice to see him and his works. On meeting, they recognised each other as though they had met a thousand times before. Giulio was so delighted that he spent four days in showing Vasari all his works, especially the plans of ancient buildings at Rome, Naples, Pozzuolo, Campagna, and all the other principal antiquities designed partly by him and partly by others. Then, opening a great cupboard, he showed him plans of all the buildings erected from his designs in Mantua, Rome and all Lombardy, so beautiful that I do not believe that more original, fanciful or convenient buildings exist."
  • The engravings of Giorgio Ghisi, a full text exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on Giulio Romano (see index)