[Paper:] Silvia Marin Barutcieff, Ștefan Barutcieff (Bucharest, RO): From Sacred Art to the Art of Politics. Mural Paintings and the 15th Century Iconographic Discourse of St. George’s Castle in Mantua

Mantegna Andrea, Camera Picta, Castel San Giorgio, Mantua (via Wikimedia)

In 1433, Gianfrancesco Gonzaga became the first marquess of Mantua, a title granted by Emperor Sigismund in recognition of his services to the Holy Roman Empire. Succeeding his father, Ludovico III Gonzaga ruled the Lombard city from 1444 to 1478, as the second marquess of Mantua. Having completed his education in the company of outstanding figures (such as the humanist Vittorino Rambaldini da Feltre, his tutor), Ludovico invited at his court in 1459, the Florentine architect Leon Battista Alberti (who had already been a guest at the court of the Duke of Ferrara) as well as Andrea Mantegna, his correspondent since 1456. The Mantua mural decoration, from the so-called Camera Picta (Painted Room) was conceived by Andrea Mantegna in the Castle of St. George (Castello di San Giorgio), one of the buildings that are part of the current complex Palazzo Ducale. This is the best-known extant work authored by the artist, who had also contributed to the religious wall painting in mid-15th century (a fragment at the entrance of St. Anthony Church in Padua and Capella Ovetari/Ovetari Chapel in Eremitani Church in the same city). The decoration of Camera Picta (1465-1474, dating from a period when Francesco del Cossa provided the frescoes adorning Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara), coincided with a major event in the family: the election as cardinal (on the 1st of January 1462), of Francesco Gonzaga, son of Ludovico and Barbara of Brandenburg (niece of emperor Sigismund).

The present paper will dwell on the manner in which the iconography employed by Andrea Mantegna highlights the authority of the Gonzaga dynasty. Later dubbed Camera degli Sposi (the Bridal Chamber), this chamber was a state room, hosting the meetings of Ludovico with diplomats and other important persons of the times. The mural paintings include the portraits of Gonzaga marquess and his wife, which accounts for the room’s designation as Camera degli Sposi, although it was not a bridal chamber proper. Our inquiry will also compare it to other similar halls of the Quattrocento, such as the Salone dei Mesi (Room of the Months) in the above-mentioned Palazzo Schifanoia, where the pictorial discourse of del Cossa provided a visual commentary on the political skill of duke Borso d ̓ Este, portrayed as an enlightened ruler, epitomizing the humanism of the epoch.

The paper will be accompanied by a digital presentation, designed to exploit not only the aesthetic virtues of a notorious visual discourse of the Renaissance, but also its extraordinary capacity to lend itself to reinterpretations and explorations by contemporary digital art.


biographical notice

Silvia Marin Barutcieff: PhD Lecturer, University of Bucharest, Faculty of Letters; Doctoral dissertation: Hagiography between text and image (2007); Author of Christopher: Faces of a Faceless Saint. Representations in Medieval and Modern Romanian Culture and Their Sources (Cluj-Napoca, 2014); Co-editor of the international conference volume Travellers and Travels. Seeing and discovering (Bucharest, 2016); Co-editor of From fiction to reality. Image, imaginary, imagology (Iasi, 2010); co-editor of Actes du XIVème Congrès International dʼÉtudes sur les Danses macabres et l’art macabre en général, (Bucharest, 2010); 16 years of field researches dedicated to Romanian and European iconography (over 30 studies published in scientific volumes and magazines). Area of interest: hagiography; religious iconography and politics; religious, confessional and ethnic otherness; cultural transfer through iconography, eschatology.

Ștefan Barutcieff: Creative director at Pilotfish Design, Munich; Master of  “Human-Centered Design”, Institute of Design, Chicago; Undergratuate degree from the University of Arts, Bucharest. Over ten years of experience in designing consumer and professional electronics for companies like Motorola, Bosch, Dell. He was awarded with many prestigious international design awards, including Red Dot and IF Award. Since 2008 he is focusing also on interactive installations for fairs or cultural institutions. In 2016 he designed together with Silvia Marin Barutcieff “Museum-line”, a platform solution to promote museums outdoors, targeted at the digital natives.


This paper will be presented at the international conference:

State-Rooms of Royal and Princely Palaces in Europe (14th-16th c.): Spaces, Images, Rituals – Lisbon/Sintra, 15-17 March 2017 (link)

which aims to put the Sala dos brasões in Sintra in its European context as a royal/princely state-room. It is a follow up to the “Heraldry in Medieval and Early modern State-rooms” held in March 2016 in Münster, which, for its part, focused on the heraldic décor of medieval and early modern state-rooms as such.

Cite this blog post
Torsten Hiltmann (2017, March 6). [Paper:] Silvia Marin Barutcieff, Ștefan Barutcieff (Bucharest, RO): From Sacred Art to the Art of Politics. Mural Paintings and the 15th Century Iconographic Discourse of St. George’s Castle in Mantua. Heraldica Nova. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/pi09

Torsten Hiltmann

Torsten Hiltmann is Juniorprofessor for the High and Late Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences at the University of Münster. He is interested in medieval and early modern visual communication and heraldry, the medieval notion of kingship and the methods and technologies of Digital Humanities.

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