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Giulio Romano

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Edited by Manfredo Tafuri, translated by Fabio Barry. Cambridge University Press, 1998. 338pp. £75

In 1989 an exhibition on the work of Giulio Romano was held in the Palazzo Te, Mantua, writes Ruth Slavid. It was the culmination of several years of scholarly endeavour and was accompanied by a book published by Electa in Milan on his activities as painter, architect, stage designer and draughtsman. Now an English translation has appeared of selections from the book, concentrating on the architectural aspects.

Magnificently illustrated, it provides a wonderful visual introduction to Giulio's work; the text however assumes an intimate knowledge of his entire oeuvre and of the period. When, for instance, Manfredo Tafuri writes: 'It is impossible not to recall the Polyphemus in the Sala di Galatea in the Farnesina,' the less erudite reader is forced to disagree. And the occasionally lumpen translation does not make the book an easy read.

But there is enlightenment and sensible analysis here. The perfect sequence is probably to be seduced by the images to visit Mantua and Rome (and the British Museum), and then, on return, to grapple with the discussion of the transgressive nature of Giulio's work, and his love of the playful. This book confirms that the strange juxtaposition of pieces of Aalto furniture with the elaborately frescoed rooms of Palazzo Te during the Aalto exhibition last autumn would have been a great amusement to Giulio himself.

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