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Giulio Romano and 'The Birth of Jupiter': Studio Practice and Reputation

Larry Keith
Technical Bulletin Volume 24, 2003


Under the patronage of Federico Gonzaga, Giulio Romano was responsible for the decoration of the new apartments in the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, Italy. Giulio Romano and his studio painted a series of panel paintings depicting Jupiter's rule and power. One of the panels, 'The Birth of Jupiter' (Infant Jupiter guarded by the Corybantes on the Island of Crete), is described in detail after a recent cleaning and restoration. The painting is compared to another painting in the series, 'The Nature of Jupiter', in the Royal Collection, London.

Giulio Romano's documented use of drawings included making chalk drawings that were then transferred to another sheet to be outlined with ink. The ink drawings were then squared for transfer to larger cartoons and then transferred to prepared panels. An error in the transferred scale of figures in 'The Birth of Jupiter' appears to have been corrected in a late stage of painting. This observation has been correlated to Vasari's description of the studio model in which assistants transferred a drawing to the prepared panel and began the painting process, which was retouched in the final stages by Giulio Romano.

The provenance of the painting, including past restoration treatments, is presented. The historical decline in the appreciation of the painting is considered to be the result of the loss of its contextual relationship to the other paintings of arcane classical imagery as well as its compromised condition due to past restoration interventions.


art history, artists' materials, Giulio Romano, mural paintings, painting techniques, Palazzo Ducale (Mantua, Italy), previous interventions, Renaissance, transferring

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Keith, L. 'Giulio Romano and "The Birth of Jupiter": Studio Practice and Reputation'. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 24, pp 38–49.

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