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Reconstructing the Duke\'s private gallery

Determined to outshine his rival Renaissance princes, Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, created in 1529 the most magnificent private art gallery of his time. It featured several masterpieces by Titian, hung as an ensemble. Nobody has seen this gallery since 1598, when it was dismantled. Today, you can see the gallery once again, in this virtual-reality reconstruction.

  To walk around Alfonso’s gallery, place your cursor on the image and drag to right or to left.

The Duke’s gallery, or so-called camerino d'alabastro or studiolo, shone like a jewel box, replete with alabaster walls, a gilded ceiling, and the finest sculpture and paintings available. Alfonso commissioned paintings from the most famous artists then alive. The elderly Giovanni Bellini completed the Feast of the Gods in 1514, his last painting before he died. But both Fra Bartolommeo and Raphael died before completing their commissions. Alphonso then turned to Titian — Bellini’s student, barely 30 and not yet famous – to paint the Worship of Venus following Fra Bartolommeo’s original design. Delighted at the result, the Duke commissioned two further paintings from Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne and the Bacchanal of the Andrians.

Scientific examination reveals that the Feast of the Gods has been altered twice. First it was altered by Dosso Dossi (around 1520) to complement the other paintings in the camerino. Later, in 1529, Titian gave it a new background to match the paintings that he, Titian, had just completed for the camerino. Notice how the background of The Feast of the Gods matches the backgrounds of the paintings to the left and right of it.

Alfonso’s grandson produced no male heir; the d'Este line died out; by law, the d'Este title and property reverted to the Pope; and the priceless art was dispersed — one Titian now in Washington, one in London and two in Madrid. But the camerino helped to launch the career of Titian, now considered as one of the greatest painters of all time. For this Titian exhibition at the Prado, three of the four Titians, the Worship of Venus, the Feast of the Gods and the Bacchanal of the Andrians, have been brought together once again.

Alfonso was never modest. He took a new wife, as Bellini was painting the Feast of the Gods ... and we can recognize in Bellini’s painting a portrait of the newly-weds. Alfonso’s new wife was hardly unknown: she was the daughter of the Pope, and none other than Lucrezia Borgia.


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