His extraordinary Palazzo del Tè (1525–32), Mantua, one of the first Mannerist buildings, is a single-storey building around a courtyard. The vestibule of the main entrance mixes elements from the Basilica of Maxentius, Rome, and a plan taken from Giocondo's edition of Vitruvius (1511). In the courtyard finely finished ashlar is contrasted with deliberately ‘unfinished’ work, and on two elevations some of the triglyphs are designed to appear to ‘drop’ from the entablature, giving a feeling of instability, probably suggested to the architect by Roman ruins in which the frieze had broken up: such a ruin (the Basilica Aemilia in the Forum Romanum) had been drawn by Sangallo. The garden-front is composed of overlaid serlianas and the garden itself is enclosed, terminating in a semicircular pilastered colonnade. The plan is a clever mixture of an Antique villa and Raphael's Villa Madama (itself influenced by Roman thermae).
As a result of his success with the Palazzo del Tè, Giulio was ennobled and presented with a house in Mantua, on the façade of which (1538–44) he reworked the themes of the House of Raphael (Palazzo Caprini) by Bramante. His Cortile della Mostra (or Cavallerizza) in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua (1538–9), employs tortured, engaged, irregular spiral columns on pedestals carried on chunky rusticated consoles, while the rusticated façades have arches that are not quite semicircles, nor are they segments of circles. It is a distortion of themes from Bramante's House of Raphael and the Colosseum, with allusions to the Solomonic columns in San Pietro, Rome. Such preoccupations with Antiquity and with the gravitas of the great Bramante suggest that, far from acting with a disregard for Classicism, as some have sug-gested, Giulio was scholarly and witty, drawing on many sources to give his buildings authority.
He prepared designs for the market-square in Vicenza from 1542: the Palazzo Thiene, Vicenza, with its overt quotations from Ancient Rome, may owe more to him than to Palladio, who completed it. He restored the Abbey of San Benedetto al Polirone, near Mantua (1540–6), and remodelled the Cathedral, Mantua (1544–6), with double aisles incorporating massive Corinthian columns. The Residenz (Seat of the Court), Landshut, Bavaria (begun 1536), was influenced by his architecture, but was not by him. He was also a famous painter: his frescoes in the Vatican (Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo of 1514–17) and at Mantua helped to make him celebrated in his lifetime.
Ferrari & and Belluzzi (1992);
C.Fr et al. (1989);
Giulio Romano (1991);
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, xxx/4 (Dec. 1974), 267–93;
T. Kaufmann (1995);
Pettena (ed.) (1981)