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Son of Two Fathers, The Renaissance and Andrea Mantegna – Camera Picta – Oculus

While writing the novel “Son of Two Fathers” – (2019 House of Anansi Press) – set in the Renaissance between 1536 and 1543, I plunged into the life of Isabella d’Este, ruler of Mantua, a brilliant, talented, highly cultured woman, an effective ruler, a promoter of women’s education, and one of the great patrons of Italian artists of the time, and, in particular, I had my hero, Danilo del Medigo, guided by an erudite & witty black servant girl, Sappho, visit the camera picta, or bridal chamber, in the Ducal Palace, and gaze at the paintings which turned a small rectangular room into a whole universe, and in particular at the false oculus, or opening in the ceiling, where the court painter, Andrea Mantegna exercised his virtuosity in creating a brilliant tromp l’oeil effect, the oculus itself, a cloudy blue sky, and a group of servants, and putti, looking down, on the putative bridal bed, and exercised his sense of humor in showing the servants joking, and smirking, and in the case of the mischievous cute little putti, possibly peeing or preparing to drop a turd or two on the sleeping, or possibly love-making, aristocratic couple, or, in the case of one of the servant women, a bucket of slops. The walls too are rich in spatial effects, and social commentary, and representations of the ruling Gonzaga family into which Isabella d’Este had married – her family ruled over the nearby town of Ferrara, and her sister-in-law was Lucrezia Borgia. Mantegna, like many Renaissance artists, possessed a multi-faceted talent, as a designer painter, and architect. He and Isabella, and other features, are worth a visit to Mantua – when, once again, travel becomes easier.