A work of art can tell the story of a city and describe the prestige of a specific historical period.
Palazzo Ducale in Mantua recently acquired an extraordinary painting, a portrait of Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga by the famous Flemish artist Jean Bahuet.
This work, which portrays the duke on the day of his coronation as Duke of Mantua, is not only a masterpiece but also a symbol of the link between art and power.
In this post I take you on a tour of discovery of this painting that has finally returned home, bringing with it the stories and splendours of a golden age.
The Return of the Portrait of Duke Vincenzo I in Mantua
Recently, the Italian State enriched the collection of the Ducal Palace in Mantua with an important acquisition: a portrait of Vincenzo I Gonzaga, painted by the artist Jean Bahuet. This work, depicting the duke on the day of his inauguration, comes from the Maraini Guerrieri di Palidano di Gonzaga collection.
Its importance has been recognised and enhanced through various exhibitions, highlighting not only Bahuet’s artistry but also the luxury and power symbolised by the duke.
THE HISTORY OF THE PORTRAIT OF VINCENZO I GONZAGA
The portrait of Vincenzo I Gonzaga, depicted in sumptuous robes, reflects the magnificence of the day of his coronation. This historical event was described in detail by Federico Follino, court chaplain, who tells of the duke wearing a richly adorned suit and a ducal beret embellished with precious gems.
Bahuet’s work not only describes the elegance and pomp of the duke but also recounts his love of beauty and luxury.
On the ducal biretta, made of white satin lined with ermine, the duke wore a crown decorated with pearls and precious stones: the crown alone was valued at over 100,000 scudi. More than fifteen years later, the duke had himself portrayed in Rubens’ Holy Trinity altarpiece, wearing the same sumptuous cloak.
With Vincenzo I Gonzaga and his sister Margherita, a new style of portraiture developed in Mantua, characterised by a great variety of works. The portrait of Vincenzo I Gonzaga in his coronation robes, which can now be admired when visiting the Doge’s Palace in Mantua, is one of the earliest testimonies to this change, underlining the importance and influence of the duke in the art and culture of the time.
THE HOMECOMING OF A MASTERPIECE
Thanks to the joint efforts of the owners, the Mossini Gallery and the General Directorate for Museums, the portrait has finally returned to the Doge’s Palace in Mantua.
Stefano L’Occaso, Director of the Doge’s Palace, and Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums, expressed their satisfaction at the return of this masterpiece to Mantua, emphasising the ongoing commitment to the recovery of the artistic heritage.
The return of the portrait of Vincenzo I Gonzaga to the Ducal Palace is not only a major artistic event, but also an important moment for the Palace. This work, which now enriches the museum’s permanent collections, invites us to reflect on the intertwining of history, art and power, creating unforgettable pages in the book of Italian culture.