The biggest damage, apart the loss of human lives and the unease for those people (more than 10000) who can't return to their homes because they're not safe anymore, is the loss of a big part of the artistic heritage. Many churches have been completely destroyed and others have been seriously damaged. Those buildings that resisted the first earthquake (20 of May) fell down after the second one (29 of May), and it wasn't possible to intervene in order to prevent that.
Now, what devastated me the most is that the second earthquake damaged the beautiful Camera degli Sposi in the Ducal Palace of Mantua, frescoed by Andrea Mantegna between 1465 and 1474. Apparently, the tremors did not cause a new lesion but re-opened a pre-existing and previously restored one, a tiny crack in the Court scene. They also took down a section of painted plaster.
It looks like the damage can be restored, but the Palace is now closed to the public.
|The Ducal Palace|
Mantegna moved to Mantua in 1460 as marquis Ludovico Gonzaga's guest. Ludovico really admired Mantegna and tried to create a peaceful and relaxing ambient in order to make him comfortable at his Court.
Mantegna decorated a room in his Palace, the so-called "Camera degli sposi" (bridal chamber) or "Camera picta". Only two walls of the room are painted, because the other two were probably covered with golden drapes similar to those Mantegna painted in the scenes.
On a wall Mantegna painted the "Court scene": on the left there's the marquis with an open letter in his hands, his head turned to his secretary. We don't know if the letter represents an allusion to a particular fact: some think that it may contain the announcement that Ludovico's son Francesco had been elected cardinal. He sits with his wife Barbara of Brandeburg and many courtiers, and they are wearing informal clothes.
Looking carefully to the painting we notice that Ludovico's secretary is standing and yet he's tall as the sitting marquis, which is probably an heritage of the "hierarchic proportions", the habit of representing the important people bigger than normal. We can also see that the secretary has a quite ugly hooked nose, while every member of the Gonzaga family is almost perfect looking. This strongly contrasts with the chronicles that affirm that the Gonzagas were ugly, as many of them suffered from malaria and rickets.
On the other wall there's the "Meeting scene": Ludovico meets the cardinal Francesco in the countryside, surrounded by some courtiers. Almost everyone is painted turned sideways as a citation of the ancient coins.
Mantegna portrays real and usual people, he even underlines their physical imperfections, but he also gives them a monumental appearence, he immortalizes them and transforms them into history.
The most amazing part of the room is the ceiling, where Mantegna painted an oculus illusionistically opened to the sky, in which we see with a di sotto in su perspective some winged puttos and a peacock and some women leaning out. There's also a big vase on the verge of falling down, in an extremely accurate attempt of illusionism.
The whole scene is very playful.
The whole room is thought to be seen by an observer that's standing in the middle of it.