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Paintings from the Cabinet of the Caesars c.1536–9

These five paintings were part of the elaborate decorative scheme for the Cabinet of the Caesars in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua, created for Federico Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, c.1536–9. They provided the setting for Titian’'s famous eleven portraits of Roman Emperors, destroyed in 1734 but known through copies. Each of Titian’'s Emperors had a scene from his life illustrated below. Flanking these scenes were paintings of Emperors mounted on horseback, two of which are shown here. The literary source, Suetonius’'s 'Twelve Caesars', reflects Federico'’s obsession with imperial themes. In 1530 he had received the title of Duke of Mantua from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The relationship between Giulio'’s inventive, sometimes irreverent, narrative scenes and Titian'’s grand figures recalls the hierarchy of an altarpiece with anecdotal scenes placed beneath majestic saintly figures. Giulio'’s skill lay in bringing together an illusionistic ensemble designed to complement Titian'’s work. Giulio organised his studio on the model of his master, Raphael. He gave his detailed drawings to assistants, who then executed the paintings. Landscape, still-life and architecture specialists probably contributed to each painting. Acquired by Charles I from the Gonzaga collection, Mantua No.39