“Naturalia and Mirabilia. Sciences at the Gonzaga Court” in the Palazzo Ducale

“Naturalia and Mirabilia. Sciences at the Gonzaga Court” in the Palazzo Ducale: presents an unpublished collection reminiscent of the Gonzaga Cabinet of Curiosities

natural produce and Mirabilia. Science at the Gonzaga Court” is not alone an exhibition, but a series of relevant innovations that allow the public to continue to appreciate the museum’s already rich cultural offerings. The first concerns the Reopening of the Gallery of Metamorphoses near the Giardino dei Semplici: the area closed to the public since 2012 is now accessible again with the normal castle ticket. However, this is not a matter of simply reopening an area previously closed to visitors: The rooms will house a whole new collection – bought several times from the end of 2020 – aiming to evoke the famous Wunderkammer (“Wunderkammer”) the gonzaga. The Curious and Amazing Pieces – complemented by a large loan from Cosmos Museum of Pavia – be made available to the public a new, specially developed setup with the intention of fusing works and environments in an unprecedented synthesis. Like every museum wing of the building, In the coming months, the Wunderkammer will continue to present small and large adjustments, innovations and initiatives. Let’s go in order.

The Gallery of Metamorphosesso called because of the decorations inspired by the eponymous work by the Latin poet Ovid, it is also known as “Gallery Passerino”.: It is here that the Gonzagas kept – a macabre talisman – the mummy of the former Capitano del Popolo Passerino Bonacolsi, who was killed in 1328 to take his place at the head of the city. In fact, the corpse (covered with a veil so as not to frighten the ladies) seems to have been perched in an upright position over a large and clumsy animal, due to further and outrageous taunts: “A sea calf the size of an ox (…), a clumsy beast with a large head and wide jaws and four curved teeth“. The description of the hippopotamus comes from a German traveler, Joseph Furttenbach, who visited the Doge’s Palace in 1626 and was fascinated by the Gonzaga’s spectacular collection of animal, mineral and plant finds. You have cultivated for a long time the ability to surprise popes, emperors and kings with the magnificent display of artlavish banquets but also of a studied eclectic collecting, able to offer a “scientific taste” of the then known universe, but also to leave the guests speechless. These environments housed the naturalistic collections: a kind of science museum whose transformation will be permanent.

The new collection built ad hoc wants to conjure up such a three-dimensional encyclopedia of the visible world of that time, at a time when science, folklore and myth merged into a synthesis that may seem quaint and bizarre today. Hence the selection and purchase of a range of animal and mineral finds in 2020, 2021 and 2022 – a crocodile, an armadillo, a rare bezoar, a shark jaw, fossils, rocks, lapis lazuli and so on – which add Sources from the 16th and 17th centuries and in particular the descriptions of the Bolognese scholar were used for the mentioned Fürttenbach Ulisse Aldrovandi. The facility – designed by the architect. Massimo FerrariPolytechnic of Milan, territorial pole of Mantua – in fact it is deliberately unconventional, light and enjoyable, also designed to appeal to schools, but not without that austerity philological which hosted the memorable 1979 exhibition entitled “there jurisprudence‘, which was an opportunity to explore scholarly approaches between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and to uncover the use and function of this and other rooms in the Doge’s Palace.

The Gallery of Metamorphoses is of course also interesting in itself, different as it is in four environments, each evoking a natural element. The stucco work and paintings were designed by Antonio Maria Viani in the late 16th century and the four-part gallery has an exceptionally Central European aspect.

Also as part of the museum’s permanent collections This area will be enriched by other acquisitions that will be gradually presented to the public in the coming months. We can already give you a small preview: It’s about the famous narwhal toothwhich in ancient times was considered a precious and very rare example of a “unicorn horn” that will soon be among the exhibits. A cycle of conferences and a detailed publicationin which important scholars are involved, they are currently under construction and will enable the public and professionals to find out more about the contents of the new exhibition area and the subject of naturalistic collections in the Italian and European context. Part of the exhibition welcomes Paleontological Materials of the permanent collections: fossils and other finds community propertyrestored for the occasion and never before shown to the public. A small extension of the floor plan of the Doge’s Palacewith some unpublished finds, It will be open to visitors at Mantova Village in Bagnolo San Vito who offered to cooperate in promoting this exhibition event.

From the legendary naturalistic collection of the Gonzagas, which after almost two and a half centuries has returned adventurously to the Duchy, only the aforementioned hippopotamus remains today. Its origins are only partially reconstructed: it is believed to have been one of the two animals that came to Mantua from Egypt in 1603, hunted by the doctor. Federigo Zerenghiwhich the abbot tells us jan Girolamo Carli (1719-1786), perpetual secretary of the Virgilian Academy. It’s right one taxidermy (technique other than embalming) among the oldest currently known. Miraculously escaping the sack of Mantua in 1630, the hippopotamus was included in the naturalistic collections of the Virgilian National Academy in the 18th century, but since 1783 it has been preserved and exhibited in Pavia Cosmos Museum of Natural Historywhere it will return on October 9, 2022, when the loan period agreed with the Doge’s Palace ends.

As for the sad Passerino mummy, children and families can rest assured: it is no longer there. According to legend, he should get rid of it Susanna Enrichetta of Lorraine, last Duchess of Mantua: tired of the disturbing trophy, she had it thrown into the lake. In doing so, he questioned the prophecy of a sorceress who had predicted the loss of power to whoever disposed of the mummy: that is why no Gonzaga had dared until then to free our hippopotamus from Passerino’s slandered body. Naive superstition? Who knows, the fact is that shortly thereafter the power of the Gonzagas collapsed: the duke Ferdinand Carlo In fact, fleeing to Venice, he left the Doge’s Palace forever…

The opening of this new and important exhibit also allows you to visit other areas of the Doge’s Palace: To access the Gallery of Metamorphosis, from the Troia Apartment in Corte Nuova, the public can follow the path that includes the Gallery of the Months (currently under restoration) and the extraordinary Galleria della Mostra overlooking Cavallerizza’s courtyard. However, this significant increase in cultural offerings and the great effort of building management to make new environments usable has a small downside: a slight adjustment of the ticket cost, which goes from 13 euros plus presale to 15 euros including presale (the route without Camera degli Sposi also increases from 7 euros to 9 euros). An additional effort for the visitor who can nevertheless get an even more complete overview of the extraordinary historical adventure of the Gonzaga dynasty, its incomparable artistic heritage in Mantua and the amazing beauty of Italy’s monumental heritage.

Scroll to Top